Most interviews start with an introductory question like “Tell me about yourself” or “Why are you interested in this position?” One of the most common lead-off questions, which is really more of a prompt, is “Walk me through your resume.”
We’ll explain why interviewers ask this question beyond just getting a resume recap and share some tips for giving an answer that makes it clear you’re cut out for the job.
Why do interviewers ask you to explain your resume?
You came prepared for your interview, meaning you had a paper copy of your resume to give to the interviewer. So why are they asking you to explain it when it’s right there in front of them? Mainly, they want to hear about you and your career journey in your own words.
When you explain your resume, an interviewer will pay attention to what you emphasize. This can shed light on what’s important to you and which achievements you’re most proud of. Your response will help them understand what motivates you and why you want to apply for this job, which can indicate whether you’re a good fit for the position and company.
“Walk me through your resume” is also helpful when your background isn’t typical for the role or industry. For example, if you’re switching careers, your answer will help the interviewer follow your path and ascertain how your experiences have prepared you for this job.
What hiring managers are looking for when you walk through your resume
Primarily, interviewers are looking for a summary of your career thus far. Help them visualize your progression by explaining how one position led to the next and why this move makes sense at this point in your professional life.
They’re also looking for you to explain any anomalies on your resume, like employment gaps or short stints. This is your chance to head off any concerns about your candidacy proactively, so be sure you’re prepared to discuss these items (if you have any) and cast them positively.
How to answer, “Walk me through your resume”
Give a succinct summary
Think of it like an elevator pitch for your professional body of work. Keep it short, no more than a minute or two. Going chronologically from one position to the next usually makes the most sense.
You don’t need to explain every position if you have an extensive resume. Instead, give an overview of the beginning, middle, and most recent events in your career.
Hit the highlights
Your overview should be more than merely reciting the job titles you’ve held. For each job (or the most important ones), cite an impressive accomplishment or two. Choose examples that are relevant to the job you’re applying for now. You can see what this looks like down below in the example answers.
Proactively address pressing questions
If there’s a chance your resume will raise red flags, be upfront in addressing them. For example, if you were unemployed for many months, explain what you did to expand your technical skills during that time.
How not to answer
Repeat your resume word for word
A hiring manager can easily scan your resume to see where you’ve worked before now. They’re looking for the unique flavor you offer when you speak about your career in the first person, which tells them about your personality and character.
Give a disorganized recap
Avoid jumping between jobs haphazardly. Follow a linear progression, either from the start of your career until now, or from the present moment, working backward.
Sample answers to the question “Walk me through your resume”
By giving a confident, concise overview of your resume with personal tidbits thrown in, you’ll help the interviewer get to know you as a person while highlighting the skills and experiences that make you a great choice for the job.