By Regina Borsellino | The Muse
When you begin any job interview, your interviewer is likely to start the conversation with some sort of introductory question. Because of this, “Tell me about yourself” is one of the most common interview questions in any job search. But 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 as well as your ability to communicate your “story” as it relates to the job you’re interviewing for, says Muse career coach and former recruiter Jennifer Smith, founder of Flourish Careers. “In essence, this question brings your resume to life,” Smith says, by adding a human element to a list of experiences, skills, and 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. And particularly if you have a work history that doesn’t directly relate to the position you’re interviewing for, it can be difficult for the hiring manager or recruiter to connect the dots on their own, Smith says. But an opening like “Walk me through your resume” can get them an overview of your qualifications right off the bat and help them decide what parts of your past they should ask more about. “This question can also provide background info for resume gaps,” Smith says. And it can give your interviewer a sense of your communication skills. “Is the candidate able to highlight their value in a succinct way or do they ramble for 30 minutes?”
When Smith asked this question as a recruiter, she says she “always liked to hear why candidates made the decision to enter a particular field or role.” When candidates showed they were passionate about the industry and/or the job, it signaled to Smith that they might stay in the position longer and be more fulfilled by it.
But how is “Walk me 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,” says Muse career coach Tara Goodfellow, owner of Athena Consultants. 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, Goodfellow says, 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 those qualifications.
“Id definitely suggest being prepared to answer both,” Goodfellow says. But you’ll almost certainly end up getting only one or the other in any given interview.