Very often in the interview a recruiter or hiring manager will put upon you the task of walking them through your resume or work experience. It’s a simple enough request, and yet it can still feel like a trick question since they usually have a copy of your resume in front of them.
Walking an interviewer through your work history is your two minute chance to develop a comprehensive view of who you are and why you should be hired. Many candidates overlook this opportunity to showcase themselves and have to work harder the rest of the interview to plead their case of being the perfect candidate.
The first step in responding to this question is to know your resume backwards and forwards. When you start interviewing for a job, your memory can be a little stale as to your previous positions. Take time to review the chronology of your career to date. Be ready to explain away any gaps in employment. And, know your experience so well you don’t have to use your resume as a reference.
The next step is to choose how you want to tell your story. Like any good story, you should have an exposition, some climactic points, and a resolution. You are the protagonist in this journey so don’t be afraid to speak up your achievements or discuss what you learned and how you grew out of troubled moments on your path.
Some people like to start with their education and explain how it relates to their career trajectory. Other people like to start with their most recent position and work backwards. There is no one right way; it’s all about telling a story—and this is your story, so be sure to tell it in a way that puts you in the best light and best positioning for the job you’re interviewing for. Try telling it different ways to see which sounds best to you.
Don’t be afraid to mix in outside leadership positions in volunteer work, personal interests that aid in your work, or discussing how you acquired certain skills that may not be apparent on the resume itself. Sometimes this slight diversion can create a connection with the interviewer that can lead to a larger discussion. (Perhaps you both held positions in the same sorority or are both avid sports enthusiasts.)
It’s also good to note any awards or recognition you’ve received, especially as a hiring manager may not be familiar with them and overlooked them on your resume. You can be humble and still be proud of the things you have achieved. Just be careful of treading the fine line between confidence and arrogance.
A good story teller also knows when to take it up a notch and express passion or what drives them, so be sure to use your personality to your advantage to draw them into your journey. You have a willing audience–captivate them with items of interest in a way that works for you.
After you’ve practiced walking through your story, now is the time to edit. Yes, edit! You only have a short time span to grab the interviewer’s attention and dragging on too long about your college years or problems at your first job can cause them to lose interest quickly and zone out. A good rule of thumb to shoot for is around two minutes.
Whether it’s recording yourself or jotting down an outline, create a frame of reference for the story of your resume that you can easily allow yourself to cross out or cut the filler information. Focus on what’s important to create a linear path that’s easy to follow that highlights your achievements leading up to the point in time that you are now ready to take on the new role you are interviewing for. (And don’t forget to emphasize why everything has led you to being ready to take on this new opportunity!)
Too many interviewees will quickly brush over their experience thinking that its filler time for the interviewer to get comfortable with them. The two minutes you have to walk a person through your experience is a chance to provide the subtext to your career that they may have missed reading between the lines.
The next time someone asks you to, “Walk me through your resume,” don’t miss this opportunity to guide the interviewer down a path that leads to you being the right person for the job.
If you get the opportunity to be in the driver’s seat to respond to this question go ahead and steer the course of the interview in your favor so that when they take back the wheel, you’ve set a clear path forward for the remainder of the interview.