In almost all of the job interviewers that you will have in your lifetime, questions about your resume will be asked. ‘Walk me through your resume’ is a common question of interviewers. Besides that it’s a functional question for them, it’s also used as an ice-breaker to start the interview off with. When this question is asked at the beginning of the job interview, it’s your first moment to actually make a strong impression. Therefore, make sure that you’re able to answer questions about your resume and you have a fluent walk-through ready.
Why the interviewer asks for a resume walkthrough
So, you landed the job interview at a company that you might be interested in working in. You sit across the interviewer, and he or she asks about a document that you already provided to them in advance. Why you may ask? The interviewer wants to go a little more in-depth on why you made certain decisions in your career. It’s therefore key that you can walk the interviewer through your resume effectively and efficiently. When you practice this, before the interview, of course, make sure that you have a walk-through story that takes approximately 2 minutes. This way, you keep it to the point, short and concise, which is exactly what the interviewer is looking for.
Another reason to ask this question is that the interviewer wants to find out if you fit the company culture. In most professions, it’s important that you are able to give a focused and substantiated answer to a question to demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about. In other words, can you differentiate between essential and irrelevant communication? Therefore, ensure that you are able to provide a solid story about your resume. Don’t underestimate this question because it could be a dealbreaker for an interviewer if you are not able to clarify what he or she is looking for.
How to structure your answer
A good way to start off is by telling where you grew up and where you attended your education (high school, community college, or university). When mentioning this, make sure that you substantiate why you chose that specific school, college, or university and what made you choose your major. When describing your college education, make sure that you highlight any relevant summer internships, even if they are not fully related to the position. Just make sure that the internships you mention are professional and in a business environment. In every internship, you gain general knowledge about how things work within a professional organization.
After discussing your education and internship(s), you can talk about your job history unless you applied to an entry-level position. If you held multiple positions in the past, it’s usually the best to discuss your two most recent positions.
In short, when walking through your resume, you should focus on your (academic) education, professional experience, and extra-curricular experience that show important skills related to the position you’re applying for. Highlight your skills, abilities, expertise, and accomplishments that can be matched to the information mentioned in the job description. Talk about a couple of key highlights of each position, what you’ve learned, and your accomplishments there.
In case you’re transitioning to another industry, you can talk about which opportunities and experiences led you to decide on a career change.
How to answer questions about your resume
As with any interview questions, there are ‘better’ answers to give and ‘poor’ answers to give to the interviewer. So, what should you say? And what should you leave out? Below good and poor answers are discussed.
A great answer, or story, of a resume walkthrough, is one that comes across as if you planned it out. Your answer should highlight important parts of your resume and the story, in general, should be chronological and consistent. A resume walkthrough is a common practice during a job interview, so make sure that you’re prepared to immediately do this if the interviewer asks you to.
To prepare a solid resume walkthrough, the best idea is to write out a story and highlighting the parts of your resume that you believe deserve attention. Finetune your walkthrough afterward to ensure that your answer is no longer than 2 minutes. You can do this, of course by practicing your resume walkthrough out loud and recording the time.
The basic definition of a poor answer is one that keeps on going. Once you start rambling the interviewer might cut you off before you even get to the most important things you want to say. You’re not there to tell your life story but to summarize your career decisions. Therefore, avoid this at all costs and ensure that you practiced and rehearsed your answers to common job interview questions in advance. It’s your job to answer interview questions in a way that suits the interviewer and gives him/her the information that he or she is looking for. Your goal is to show that you’re able to separate essential from non-essential information.
Besides that the interviewer wants to hear from you why you made certain decisions, interview questions, in general, are also used to monitor your ability to efficiently and effectively answer questions asked. For instance, if you’re applying for a position as a sales representative and you need to talk to clients on a daily basis, you should be able to formulate and articulate clearly and concise.
Here you can read more about common job interview mistakes you should avoid in general.
Below a basic sample answer of a resume walkthrough is described. You can use it as a guideline to structure your own answer. The main message should include why you pursued a certain study and career, what key skills and abilities you acquired, and what factors influenced your career steps.
‘I grew up in a town near London in a family that owns a hotel. My family has worked in that hotel for generations. As I got older, I used to assist my parents in the business. I always had an interest in the commercial side and helped with structuring marketing campaigns to get the occupancy rate up during the low season.
After graduating from high school for me the decision was easy: I would go to Business School at the University of Oxford. I chose Oxford because of the school’s strong academics and strong reputation.
During the summer I followed an internship at Goldman Sachs and the year after at Citigroup. Those experiences for me were very valuable to gain more insights into what I wanted in my future career. Holding analyst positions at Goldman as well as at Citi made clear for me that I wanted to get into investment banking. I enjoyed those internships a lot and passed the CFA level I exam soon after. The financial industry gives me the opportunity to demonstrate my quantitative and analytical abilities.
After I graduated, I got an offer at Goldman, and I’ve worked there for the last two years as an associate. I’m very experienced in financial modeling, and I was responsible for valuing equities, bond and developing investment strategies for mutual funds and other portfolios. My experience seamlessly matches the requirements of the job description. So that is what got me interested in this particular role and I feel it’s the right step to take in my career. I’m very excited to have the opportunity to interview for it. Thanks for the invitation and your time to chat with me today.’
Final tips and key take away points
- Be articulate and keep your answers brief (don’t ramble!).
- Stay professional without adding too many unnecessary or personal details.
- Make yourself clear and explain any questions that may follow.
- Anticipate what the interviewers want to hear.
- Discuss your unique skills and areas of expertise.
- Describe your goals relating to the position you’re applying for.
- Include and demonstrate that you understand the company culture.
- Describe how the position you’re applying for is inevitable in your career as a next step.
- Follow-up after the interview!
Job Interview Topics – Common Job Interview Questions & Answers
Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!
- Career Change
- Career Goals
- Conflict Resolution
- Creative Thinking
- Cultural Fit
- Customer Service
- Growth Potential
- Honesty & Integrity
- Job Satisfaction
- Entry-Level & No experience
- Prioritization & Time Management
- Situational & Scenario-based
- Stress Management
- Telephone Interview
- Work Ethic