Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova
During a job interview, one of the first questions the interviewer is likely to ask is “Can you tell me something about yourself?” or “Can you walk me through your resume?” This is your time to shine and convince the interviewer that you’re the right person for the job!
Whenever an interviewer says, “Walk me through your resume”, there’s a specific reason behind that. If you don’t answer this question properly, you might end up creating a negative perception about yourself, even if you have the right skills and aptitude for the job.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss:
Why employers want you to walk them through your resume
What’s the best way to walk someone through your resume
When a hiring manager wants you to walk them through your resume, they’re looking to assess your communication skills and storytelling ability. While the interviewer has already reviewed your resume and has a fair sense of your skills, they want to hear your experiences from you. Which job experience are you going to talk about first? What did you do in each job role? And how did each job role help you prepare for the role you’re applying to now?
Interviewers want to know about the previous job experiences and skills you might have that qualify you for the job you’re applying for. This is especially true when you’re switching careers or don’t have sufficient work experience. When walking the interviewer through your resume, you should take this opportunity to explain any employment gaps on your resume.
For all practical purposes, there’s not much of a difference between these two types of interview questions. If an interviewer wants to know about you, they’re looking for answers that showcase your job-related skills and expertise.
The only difference lies in your approach to answering these questions. If the interviewer wants to know more about you, don’t just stick to your resume. You can also talk about your hobbies, volunteer activities, and passions, as long as they align with the job you’re applying to.
In contrast, your answer to a question about your resume should stick to your resume. Focus on your past job roles, key accomplishments, and any awards and recognition you’ve achieved at work that will help you stand out among other job applicants.
When you’re discussing your resume with an interviewer, your goal is to make a good first impression and be memorable. If the interviewer enjoys their conversation with you, they’re likely to qualify you for the next round of hiring. Here are a few tips on how to walk someone through your resume.
“Can you walk me through your resume?” is likely to be the first question the interviewer will ask you. While it’s good to delve into the details and talk about your experiences and accomplishments, don’t get carried away.
You should provide the interviewer with sufficient information about yourself without being repetitive. Don’t spend a whole lot of time explaining your resume to the interviewer because you’ll have plenty more to talk about as the interview progresses.
When you’re writing your resume, you probably list your job history in a reverse chronological sequence - with the most recent (or current) job details listed first. However, when you’re walking the interviewer through your resume, you don’t necessarily have to follow the same order.
You can start with your earliest job. For example, you can say, “I started my career in copywriting as an intern at a local ad agency. I got to take part in writing a script for an ad shoot, which further piqued my interest in creative writing.” This approach is helpful when you have fond memories of your earliest job roles and you want to show the interviewer that it’s not just a job for you - it’s your lifelong passion and interest.
Another way to answer this question is to take the present-past-future approach. Under this method, talk about your latest (or current) job role, then take a trip down memory lane to discuss your previous job roles. Top it off by discussing your future career plans and aspirations. Remember, the key is to tell a story that presents you as the ideal candidate for the job.
Your interviewer is not interested in learning about your entire life story. They’re only interested in anecdotes that showcase your job-specific skills and help them determine whether you’d be a good fit for the role.
If you’re applying for an executive-level job and you’ve had more than two decades of experience, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to talk about your first job right out of college. Similarly, if you’ve worked in a different industry, consider talking about specific job duties and transferable skills that apply to your target job.
The best way to tailor your answer is to carefully read the job description before the interview. Find out which experiences and skills mentioned in your resume are essential for this job role and the company you’re applying to. Think about how you can emphasize your excitement and enthusiasm for the job.
For example, if you’re applying for a programmer role at a software company, you should talk about your previous programming experience using the same coding and project management methodologies as your potential employer. To make a positive impression, briefly talk about your passion for coding and your keen interest in the employer’s core product.
Regardless of how you structure your response (most recent job experience mentioned first or last), you need to connect your job experiences and skills to the job you’re applying to. Here’s how you can provide the right type of information.
Past experiences. Talk about your past job roles and how they contribute toward your qualifications and skills for this role. You can mention your education and initial training (if it happened within the past 20 years) and what you learned. However, if you’re a fresh graduate with little-to-no past experience, don’t spend too much time talking about it.
Present employment. Make sure to focus on your day-to-day responsibilities and accomplishments that align with the job you’re applying to.
Future outlook. Connect your past experiences with your present job role and talk about what you’re looking to do next. Why do you think you’re the right fit for this role? How will you contribute to the new role? What do you bring to the table? Future outlook is especially important when you’re making a career switch or applying for your first job.
During the interview, try not to simply name your previous job titles and other resume entries. Try to make a conversation with the interviewer instead of blankly reading off your resume. When discussing your past and present job roles, your focus should be on transferable skills.
Instead of just talking about your promotion at a previous role, tie it with a transferable skill. For example, you can say, “My passion for creative problem-solving allowed me to devise a new dashboard to track and measure key productivity metrics. As a result, I was promoted to an Assistant Manager role in six months and made in charge of monitoring and continually improving the dashboard.”
Here are a couple of responses to the interview question, “Can you walk me through your resume?”
Example #1: (For an experienced professional)
“I’m currently working as a Financial Analyst for Michaels & Michaels. Our company offers financial advisory and wealth management solutions to a wide variety of high-net-worth clients. One of my primary responsibilities was to identify new ways to empower our clients with the right tools and resources needed to make smart investment decisions. I conducted extensive market research and was able to aid in the development of a comprehensive, end-to-end investment management app for our clients with a detailed breakdown of their portfolios, investment strategies, and stock performance. As a result, we were able to streamline business operations, reduce operating costs by 45%, and improve communication with our clients.
Before working at Michaels & Michaels, I worked as a Finance Executive at Warwick International, where I learned a lot about financial management and corporate reporting. During my first year at the job, I oversaw the implementation of QuickBooks and SAP-integrated tools to facilitate electronic data entry and improve the accuracy of financial statements.
My interest in finance goes all the way back to my college years when I graduated with a degree in applied accounting. During my first year, I interned at the local library and helped them upgrade their accounting software.”
Example #2: (For a fresh graduate)
“Well, as you can see in my resume, I’m a recent graduate from the University of Chicago with a degree in education. I have been passionate about teaching from a very young age, with my first experience being tutoring my brother! During my senior high, I worked part-time as a TA and assisted other students with their assignments. When I was in my third year at the university, I traveled to Brazil and taught ESL at a local school. It was an enriching experience that reinforced my passion for teaching. With your school, I’m looking for an opportunity to teach and mentor eighth-grade students, provide them with a theoretical framework for English, devise a comprehensive and engaging learning experience, and help them hone their written and verbal communication skills.”
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When an interviewer wants you to walk them through your resume, they’re primarily assessing whether you’re the right fit for the role.
One of the best ways to provide someone with a walkthrough of your resume is to leverage a storytelling approach and discuss your relevant job experience and skills.
The trick to making a lasting impression during an interview is to link your resume with the job role you’re applying to and identify your transferable skills.
Asad's writing expertise lies in the fields of HR and marketing—putting him in the unique position of understanding the job-search process: both from the side of the applicant, and the side of the hiring managers. With this valuable blend of perspectives, he’s able to help his clients position themselves as top candidates for their desired roles.