Walk Me Through Your Resume: Telling Your Story to Get the Job
How do I respond to “Walk Me Through Your Resume”?
This question is the most frequently asked question that I get when I start coaching a client.
I understand why it baffles everyone.
It is hard to talk about yourself. But that is what an interview is for. To effectively communicate your qualifications for the position you are interviewing for.
During coaching sessions, my client and I practice Walk-Me-Through-Your-Resume so she/he will be prepared to answer this question seamlessly.
When you begin any job interview, your interviewer is likely to start the conversation with some sort of introductory question. Like Tell me about yourself? Your interviewer may also begin by saying, “Walk me through your resume.” Here’s why interviewers will ask you to do this and how to respond the right way.
Why Interviewers Say, “Walk Me Through Your Resume”
When interviewers ask you to walk them through your resume, they’re looking to
- quickly learn about your work history
- understand your ability to communicate your “story” as it relates to the job you’re interviewing for.
They are expecting you to animate your resume, adding a human element to a list of experiences, jobs, qualifications.
It gives you an opportunity to connect all the pieces in your resume together to form a coherent narrative—one that hopefully leads seamlessly into this position.
Interviewers want to know about the skills and experiences you have that qualify you for the job you’re trying to land.
The hiring manager or recruiter is expecting you to connect the dots for them, relating the experience you have with the postition for which you have applied. The manner in which you approach this narrative is also a springboard for them to ask deeper questions – ones that are pertinent to the company and to the position. They are also assessing your ability to be succinct in your delivery: can you get to the point or do you ramble for 30 minutes?
The other advantage you have in providing the Walk Through is to provide information about any resume gaps. You will want to practice this before the interview so the communication is fluid. You want to come across as being in command of your career and your life at all times.
As a recruiter I like to hear why candidates made the decision to enter a particular field or role. When candidates show they are passionate about the industry and/or the job, it signals to me that they might stay in the position longer and be more fulfilled by it.
So how is a Walk Through [your resume] different from the classic interview-opener “Tell me about yourself”?
The truth is, it’s not too far off. Both are such tried-and-true ways to start an interview. You can answer both questions in similar ways and include a lot of the same information.
The slight difference lies in the framing: “Tell me about yourself” is more of a career summary that focuses on what qualities make you the best fit for the role, so you might choose to lead with how many years you’ve been a manager, what industries you’ve worked in, or a big career accomplishment. In other words, it’s a slightly more open-ended question that allows you to talk through your roles one-by-one but also leaves room for you to highlight themes first and foremost—whichever you think will make a better case for you as a candidate. Meanwhile, with “Walk me through your resume,” the interviewer typically expects a more structured answer that lays out your qualifications grouped by what job gave you that experience.
I’d definitely suggest being prepared to answer both. But you’ll almost certainly end up getting only one or the other in any given interview.
- Keep your answer direct and short don’t ramble
Answer the question with the information they need to continue the conversation without taking up too much of your allotted time. Avoid spending longer than five minutes responding to this question.
- Tailor Your Answer
If you’re wondering how you’re going to cram everything on your resume into a few minutes, don’t stress. They aren’t looking for a life story, only a synopsis of what your experience has been that lead you to their door. If you’re decades into your career, please don’t start with your first job out of college. Just stick to the past 10-15 years. However, as a new grad, you might consider touching on all your experiences to date including your internships.
Before any interview, take some time to carefully read the job description. Ask yourself which of your experiences and skills are most important for this position and this company. But also think about how you can emphasize your enthusiasm and excitement for the company or role. For example, if you’re interviewing for a front-end software engineering role for a fintech company that makes budgeting software, you should definitely highlight any programming work you’ve done using the same coding methods or project management frameworks this team uses, but you could also (briefly) talk about how you’re passionate about finance and budgeting to the point that you were the treasurer of a club during college.
- Go Beyond the Bullets
When you’re walking your interviewer through your resume, you shouldn’t just name your job titles or read through the bullet points. Instead, you can connect each job to a skill or experience directly needed for the job. “You can share, ‘at ABC company I really honed my problem resolutions skills…’ and share an example, or, ‘After only 6 months, I was promoted to assistant manager…’”
If you’re making a career pivot or you’re an entry-level candidate, you’ll want to focus on highlighting the transferable skills you gained in your current or previous job.
- Share the Right Information
Regardless of how you choose to order your answer, you’ll have to talk about your past, present, and future, and connect them to the job you’re interviewing for. Here’s how to talk about each phase.
- Past: Mention roles from your past and explain how they contributed to your qualifications for this role. Here is where you can talk about your education and/or training if it’s within the past 10-15 years, but unless you’re a recent graduate, you shouldn’t spend too much time on it.
- Present: This is where you talk about your current role and highlight key accomplishments from this job in a way that makes it clear how they’re relevant to the job you’re interviewing for.
- Future: Tie your past experiences and current role to what you’re looking to do next and why you’re a great fit for this job. This is especially important if you’re making a career switch.
Since Walk-Me-Through-Your-Resume is a common interview opener, it’s especially important to practice saying your answer out loud. It needs to come across strong and polished. If you don’t practice, most tend to ramble and it’s not a great first impression. Remember, concise and to-the-point.
Are you concerned that you have too much information and can’t boil it down into a reasonable narrative? Get on my calendar for a complimentary 30-minute call and we can talk through the appropriate points.