When an interviewer says, “Walk me through your resume,” they’re asking for a few specific reasons.
And there are some key mistakes that can cost you job offers if you answer incorrectly.
As a former recruiter, I’m going to share exactly how to walk an employer through your resume and what the interviewer is looking for. I’ll also provide some example answers to this question.
Hiring managers and other interviewers ask you to walk them through your resume to get a general sense of how you view your career and qualifications, and also whether you’re organized and prepared for the conversation.
While they can read your resume themselves, and likely have, they also want to hear from you about which experiences you feel are important, what you did in each role, and how your previous roles prepared you for the job you’re pursuing now.
Hiring managers want to know your career story and want to hear it directly from you, along with gathering their own impression before, during, and after the job interview.
When asked to walk an employer through your resume, it’s best to explain your background in chronological order, starting with your education or the beginning of your current career path. Then share the key career moves you’ve made, accomplishments, promotions, changes, and end with your current situation and what you’re hoping to do next.
Even if they don’t ask directly, I recommend ending your response by explaining what you’re looking for in a new job and why you applied to this position. Those are details that every interviewer wants to hear at some point in the conversation.
Also, focus on sharing information that’s relevant to the job you’re discussing now. Spend most of your time sharing skills and experiences that will help you step into this employer’s job and succeed.
You don’t want to share everything you’ve done when answering, “Walk me through your resume.” Instead, highlight your most relevant jobs, skills, and qualifications.
As a former recruiter, I can tell you that I’ve talked to quite a few candidates who weren’t completely familiar with their own resumes. So that’s the first big mistake to avoid.
If it’s been a while since you wrote your resume, it’s easy to forget what’s on the page. So before your job interview, go through your resume and practice your answer a few times so that you don’t hesitate when you’re asked to walk the hiring manager through it.
Another common mistake is to give an answer that’s scattered and long-winded. Similar to answering, “Tell me about yourself?” it’s best to keep your answer to one or two minutes maximum. The hiring manager isn’t looking for you to read every line of text on your resume when they ask this question.
Also, employers are looking to see that you can tell a coherent, organized story when they ask interview questions like this, so always be ready to give a focused, clear response to this question.
Don’t worry if this sounds difficult or complicated. Next, I’ll share multiple answer examples to help you practice and get ready to win more jobs.
I graduated from Boston University in May and have been focused on my job search since then. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in computer science and also completed a three-month internship with IBM focused on product testing and quality assurance. I think the ideal next step in my career is to obtain a full-time position with a growing technology company like yours, and your products interested me so I thought it made sense to apply for the Junior Fullstack Developer position to learn more.
I graduated from high school five years ago and immediately took an inside sales position with Everlite Software Company. My focus was B2B inside sales and I finished my first year in the top 5% of sales reps. The second year, I was promoted to Senior Sales Associate, began training new team members, and was in the top 2% of all sales team members. I then accepted a position with a competing company after being approached by a recruiter. Unfortunately, that company went out of business one year after I accepted the job, so I’m now searching for a new B2B inside sales position where I can continue to use my skills to bring new customers into a growing business. Your position looked interesting based on the job description, and I love the fact that I’d have the opportunity to train new team members here since it’s something I’ve done successfully in the past.
I started my career as a professional writer, first for a local newspaper and then an online news publication. In that second role, I was promoted to Managing Editor in my third year, when I took over managing a team of seven writers. I’ve been on this same career path since then, managing teams of between five and twenty staff for a couple of different online publications, all with millions of readers per year. I’m now interviewing for director-level positions as I look for the next challenge in my career. I’m still employed by my most recent employer on my resume and the job is going well; I simply feel it’s nearing the time to make a change in order to keep challenging myself and growing. We also had an investor back out recently which is putting our expansion plans to a halt and limiting my budget to hire and grow my team as well as the website. I’d like to take on a new challenge, and the Editorial Director position that you posted seemed highly relevant.
If you look at the final sample interview answer above, you’ll notice that since this person is a senior-level professional, they’re not explaining old, irrelevant info like their high school graduation date, etc. They’re beginning with how they got into their current profession and proceeding from there.
So when you answer, “Walk me through your resume,” keep in mind that you can be strategic about choosing the starting point of your story. However, if the job seems to require some type of educational background, then you should at least spend a few seconds pointing out the education section on your resume. I recommend doing this at the start of your interview answer.
This is one of the most critical questions to practice ahead of time because it’s complicated to answer and so open-ended that it’s easy to fall off track and lose focus.
So ensure that you’re practicing your answer multiple times at home with your resume in front of you. Ideally, look at the job description before practicing so you can focus on discussing the most relevant points, too.
In your job interviews, bring a copy of your resume for each interviewer and one for yourself, too. That way, when the interviewer asks you to walk them through your resume, you’ll have the document to refer to.
I mentioned some common mistakes above but I should mention one more here, too. As a recruiter, I’ve seen a few candidates contradict something on their resume when explaining their experience aloud. While an honest mistake, it still doesn’t appear great when a candidate does this. So when interviewing, have your resume in front of you and be familiar with everything you’ve written.
If you’re answering this question on a phone interview or Zoom/video interview, you could have your resume printed out in front of you, too. Take advantage of this opportunity so you can memorize less while still being better prepared to answer the question and win the job.
All of the above sample answers are under two minutes long, explain your career in chronological order, highlight key successes and pieces of career history instead of sharing everything, and conclude by clearly explaining what you’re looking to do next in your career and job search.
If you can give this type of response to this interview question, you’ll appear professional, well-prepared, and impressive so you can get more job offers.
Biron Clark is a former Executive Recruiter who has worked with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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