“Walk me through your resume” is a request you are certain to hear at various stages of an interview process, whether you're an experienced candidate or a more junior or even fresher candidate.
Below, you'll find four different ways you can answer this question, with example answers to illustrate each.
You'll also see common pitfalls so you know what to avoid.
Here's an overview:
- General tips
- 4 ways to answer "Walk me through your resume" (with examples)
- Common pitfalls
- Practice answering common behavioral questions
Ready? Let's get started.
You're almost guaranteed to be asked to "walk me through your resume" during at least one stage of your interview process. But many candidates treat this question as an ice-breaker and say the first thing that comes into their heads.
This is a mistake, as this question represents a great opportunity to get your interview off to a powerful start. In this guide, we'll show you how to prepare a relevant, compelling, and concise answer to "Walk me through your resume."
Before we look at the different ways you can answer this interview question, let's go through the things that you MUST do, no matter which approach you choose to take.
#1 Be concise and relevant
Focus on key experiences directly related to the role you're applying for. Don't try and run through your whole resume or career so far. Instead, pick out key highlights.
Time yourself when you're practicing your answer and aim for under 2 minutes, or 1 minute if you're not very experienced.
Of course, the interviewer may well want to delve deeper into certain parts of your resume, so you should also be prepared to go into more detail when prompted.
#2 Tailor to the role
Highlight experiences, projects, or skills that align with the specific job description. Showcase how your background prepares you for success in the position.
#3 Demonstrate progression
Showcase growth and development throughout your career or education. Highlight how each step led to the next and how you evolved both professionally and personally.
#4 Highlight achievements
Emphasize accomplishments and impact rather than just listing responsibilities. Quantify achievements wherever possible to provide a clear understanding of your contributions.
#5 Express passion and motivation
Showcase enthusiasm for your field and the position you're applying for. Connect your experiences to why you are passionate about this industry and role.
#6 Be positive
Stay optimistic throughout your answer. Discuss challenges you've overcome, framing them in a way that shows resilience and growth.
Right, let's take a look at the four different ways you can attack the question. The various approaches share and overlap in certain ways, but each has a slightly different focus.
Think carefully about which one works for you, and feel free to combine approaches.
Strengths: Easy to communicate sense of progression, straightforward to use.
The chronological approach is perhaps the "default" approach for candidates who haven't spent too much time preparing their answers. But that doesn't necessarily mean you should avoid it.
It's a simple way of giving the interviewer an overview of where you've come from and where you're going. It should be straightforward for them to join-the-dots and get a sense of your career trajectory.
Junior or fresher candidates using the chronological approach will want to start by talking about what they studied and why, before highlighting any relevant work experience and then looking ahead to their career ambitions.
Experienced candidates would probably want to skip studies and start with relevant work experience.
Let's see some examples of the chronological approach in action.
2.1.1 "Walk me through your resume" example answer (chronological approach)
"My first job in consulting was as an associate at the firm X, where I worked with various clients in streamlining their supply chain processes. My early projects involved analyzing data and recommending process optimizations, resulting in a 15% cost reduction for one client.
I progressed to become Engagement Manager meaning I was overseeing project teams and coordinating with clients. Notably, I managed a project for a retail giant, leading a team in implementing an advanced inventory management system. This reduced overstocking by 20% and significantly increased inventory turnover.
In my current role, as well as taking on increased leadership responsibilities - I manage a team of 8 - I've been specializing in change management strategies. My team helps organizations transition smoothly during mergers or process overhauls.
Now I'm looking to move in-house and drive long-term positive change in an organization that I can get passionate about."
Notice how the experienced candidate doesn't go all the way back to university, but instead starts their story at the first relevant role.
Let's see an answer from a fresher candidate.
2.1.2 "Walk me through your resume" example answer (chronological approach)
"I've been interested in finance since I was 12 and used to play at investing in stocks with my father, just for fun. So I never doubted that I wanted to study Finance at college. I recently completed my Bachelor's in Finance with a strong focus on banking operations and risk management. During my studies, I interned at Bank XYZ, gaining insights into customer relationship management and financial analysis.
Throughout my studies, I consistently maintained a top-level academic standing. For my capstone project, I analyzed the impact of regulatory changes on banking practices and I was graded in the top 5th percentile of my course.
Of course, although I've studied hard, my knowledge is mainly theoretical, so what I'm really looking for is a role at a bank where I can get my hands dirty and gain real, on-the-ground experience over the next few years and learn as much as possible. I am particularly interested in risk assessment and risk management, which is why this role especially appeals to me."
Since the candidate has very little relevant work experience to talk about, it makes sense to start with how they gained an interest in this profession and go into detail in the most pertinent parts of their studies.
Strengths: Highlights relevant competencies, focused on what you can bring to the role.
The skills-based approach is all about placing your abilities and strengths at the forefront. It can be particularly useful when your career trajectory doesn't follow a conventional or linear path. It allows you to direct the conversation towards your skill set and how it aligns with the position you're seeking.
This approach is effective for both experienced candidates, as it emphasizes their extensive skill repertoire, and for junior candidates, as it highlights their educational achievements and potential.
Let's take a look at some examples employing the skills-based approach:
2.2.1 "Walk me through your resume" example answer (skills-based approach)
"My career has been built around strong project management and leadership skills. Starting as a business analyst at YumFoods, I demonstrated proficiency in organizing teams and resources, leading to successful project deliveries and a promotion to project manager.
In this role, I refined my abilities in stakeholder communication and risk assessment, ensuring project objectives aligned with business goals.
My transition to WeSellCars.com as an operations manager allowed me to further elevate my skills in team management and strategic planning. I implemented a more streamlined operations process that resulted in a 30% improvement in project timelines.
Currently, as a program manager at Z-bay e-commerce platform, I lead cross-functional teams and manage complex, multimillion-dollar projects. My ability to effectively navigate project complexities has been instrumental in consistently exceeding client expectations and fostering long-term relationships."
Notice that this candidate's career path hasn't been a straight line - they've bounced around different industries and varying roles. However, by focusing on skills they make the content of their answer more relevant to the role and manage to convey consistent progression in terms of project management and related skills.
Let's see another example.
2.2.2 "Walk me through your resume" example answer (skills-based approach)
"I pursued a degree in Computer Science, with a strong focus on software development. During my studies, I gained comprehensive knowledge in programming languages like Java, Python, and C++. I honed my problem-solving skills through various coding projects, particularly enjoying the challenges of algorithm optimization and data structures.
In my internship at Tech Innovators, I applied my skills in creating efficient and scalable applications. I was actively involved in enhancing the user experience, and collaborating with the development team to streamline processes. My proficiency in debugging and troubleshooting became evident during this period.
After graduation, I joined GigaTech as a junior software engineer, where my abilities were put to the test in a fast-paced environment. I further developed my skills in agile methodologies and gained experience in full-stack development. My passion for creating robust and user-friendly software has propelled my career, and I look forward to contributing my skills to innovative projects."
Notice that you can still tell your story chronologically - the difference is that rather than just going from A to B to C, you put more focus on the specific skills you developed at each stage.
Strengths: Showcases tangible achievements, aligns with specific projects for impact.
The project-based approach centers the conversation on your tangible achievements and contributions in previous roles. It's an excellent strategy for showcasing your hands-on experiences, the outcomes you've delivered, and how these align with the prospective role.
This approach is especially effective when your resume boasts impactful and notable projects.
Let's see some examples using the projects-based approach.
2.3.1 "Walk me through your resume" example answer (projects-based approach)
"Sure, let me highlight some of the most relevant projects I've worked on.
My journey started at TechGenius, where I played a crucial role in the development of a cutting-edge e-commerce platform. I led a cross-functional team in designing a seamless user interface, resulting in a 25% increase in user engagement and a 30% boost in sales. This project not only honed my technical skills but also showcased my ability to lead a team towards a common goal.
Moving on to my tenure at Soft Solutions, I was responsible for revamping an outdated CRM system. Collaborating with a diverse team, we successfully migrated the entire database to a cloud-based solution. This project streamlined operations, improving efficiency by 40% and reducing costs by 20%. It was a valuable lesson in the power of collaboration and the impact of technology on business outcomes.
In my current position at CyberInnovate, I had the opportunity to lead a project involving the development of state-of-the-art cybersecurity software. We utilized advanced algorithms to enhance threat detection, resulting in a 50% reduction in security breaches for our clients. This project reinforced my passion for leveraging technology to solve real-world problems and allowed me to further develop my expertise in cybersecurity."
Notice how the candidate quantifies their impact on each project. This should be easy because you should already be quantifying your impact on projects on your resume, so you'll just need to lift the numbers from there.
2.3.2 "Walk me through your resume" example answer (projects-based approach)
"During my time at university, I was deeply involved in a research project focused on analyzing renewable energy solutions for remote communities. We successfully implemented a solar-powered energy system in a remote village, providing them with reliable electricity for the first time. This experience ignited my interest in sustainable technologies and the profound impact they can have on communities.
Following my graduation, I interned at GreenTech Innovators, where I was part of a project team developing an IoT-based smart waste management system. My role involved programming the device to optimize waste collection routes, reducing fuel consumption and operational costs. I learned a huge amount about how to improve operational efficiency.
In a recent project at FutureFin, I was a key member of a team tasked with developing a mobile banking application. The project involved intricate coding and problem-solving, resulting in an app that garnered over 1 million downloads within the first three months of its launch.
I'm now looking to challenge myself on lots more large-scale, complex projects like that and that's why I'm applying for this role."
The narrative arc approach is basically the chronological approach with bells on. Rather than just going from A to B to C, you make sure to tell your story in a way that is 1) more engaging and 2) best sells you for the role.
Here's how to do it, step-by-step.
Step 1: Create a one-line description of yourself. This will be the core message that you want to convey with your answer. Research the company, re-read the job description, and work out what kind of professional the company is looking for. Then think about what your particular strengths and experiences are, and try to come up with a one-line description that aligns with these things.
Example: "Adaptable, data-driven product manager who grasps challenges head-on."
Remember, you will probably never speak the one-line description aloud in the interview. Instead, it's the core message that you want all your answers to point towards.
Step 2: Start your story with the foundations. If you're a fresher/junior candidate, these will likely be academic achievements. If you're more experienced, start from the first role that seems relevant.
Step 3: Add an element of conflict or struggle. Make your story more engaging by emphasizing at least one tough moment or hard challenge you overcame.
Step 4: Bring it to a climax. Focus on one great achievement and explain why it was so important for you.
Step 5. Look ahead to the next chapter. End your answer by explaining how this job would help you take a great, exciting step forward in your career.
Let's look at a couple of examples to illustrate this approach.
2.4.1 "Walk me through your resume" example answer (narrative arc approach)
(one-line summary: adaptable, data-driven product manager with a strong bias for action)
"My journey began with a strong academic focus on computer science and statistics, sparking my enthusiasm for data-centric product management.
My first PM role was at X, a fast-growing start-up in the logistics space. The company was growing so quickly that there was a real lack of structure and hierarchy and at first I found the chaos difficult to work in.
However, I quickly learned to "embrace the chaos" and to take advantage of the freedom it gave me to drive meaningful projects. I started to flourish in the role and in my second year there I led an intensive data insights project to achieve a 30% growth in user engagement Y-on-Y.
That success helped me achieve promotion to the role of Senior Product Manager and I've enjoyed the change in perspective and responsibilities, focusing solely on high impact projects.
Earlier this year I initiated and led a product recommendation feature based on feeding huge amounts of data into an ML algorithm. It improved product CTR and activation by +10%. This was a huge deal for us and I was proud to have owned the project.
For my next challenge, I would love to join XYZ Corp, aligning my expertise with your data-driven ethos. I've always wanted to work on large-scale problems with millions of users around the world, and I use several XYZ products myself - it would be very exciting for me to have the chance to work on them."
By having a one-line description to work towards, the candidate has made sure that his achievements consistently drive home a core message: that he is data-driven and gets things done in difficult circumstances.
Here's another example.
2.4.2 "Walk me through your resume" example answer (narrative arc approach)
(one-line description: driven account manager capable of solving complex problems to satisfy her clients)
"I started my journey as an account manager at CompanyX, learning the ropes of client engagement and relationship-building. It was a crash course in understanding the client and their needs.
At FirmY, things got more complex with a broader portfolio and diverse clients. It was a challenge to adapt and cater to various industries, especially when their demands sometimes conflicted with each other. However, this conflict pushed me to develop strategies that could reconcile these differences and find win-win solutions.
Now, at EnterpriseZ, I'm handling substantial accounts. It's not always smooth sailing; understanding intricate business structures and coming up with innovative solutions is tough. But that's what keeps me going—the thrill of problem-solving and helping my clients succeed. I pride myself on client satisfaction and I'm happy to say that 80% of the clients I work with have renewed their contracts with us since I took over their account.
Now I'm looking to specialize in large retail accounts as those are the clients I find most interesting to work with, and I think my skillset would open up some really exciting opportunities for me there. Fashion has always been a passion of mine and so it would be very exciting to take my next career step with Firm A."
Right, now you have four ways of attacking this question, Let see some common mistakes candidates tend to make.
There are some very common pitfalls when answering "Walk me through your resume", so make sure you avoid them.
#1 Being overly detailed
While providing an overview of your career is essential, avoid getting lost in minute details. Focus on essential experiences and achievements.
#2 Lacking relevance
Ensure every point you mention is relevant to the role you're applying for. Tailor your narrative to highlight skills and experiences important for the position.
#3 Not aligning with company values
Your story should align with the company culture and values. Ensure your narrative reflects your fit within the organization.
#4 Rushing through it
Balance brevity with detail. Avoid rushing through your resume; take your time to explain important experiences and achievements.
#5 Forgetting future goals
Include a brief mention of your future aspirations and how this job aligns with your career goals. Show your enthusiasm and vision for growth within the company.
The information above should have you well on the way to crafting a great answer to “Walk me through your resume”.
Then you’ll just need to practice answering that and other common interview questions.
1. On your own
A great way to practice your answers is to interview yourself out loud. This may sound strange, but it will significantly improve the way you communicate during an interview.
You should be able to tell your leadership story naturally, neither missing key details nor memorizing them word-for-word.
Do the same for the other common behavioral interview questions.
Play the role of both the candidate and the interviewer, asking questions and answering them, just like two people would in an interview. Trust us, it works.
2. With someone else
Practicing by yourself will only take you so far. Try to do some mock interviews with friends or family. This can be especially helpful if you know someone with experience with behavioral interviews, or is at least familiar with the process.
3. With expert ex-interviewers
You should also try to practice behavioral mock interviews with expert ex-interviewers, as they’ll be able to give you much more accurate feedback than friends and peers.
If you know someone who has experience running behavioral interviews at a top company, then that's fantastic. But for most of us, it's tough to find the right connections to make this happen.
Here's the good news. We've already made the connections for you. We’ve created a coaching service where you can practice 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from a range of leading companies (Google, McKinsey, JP Morgan, etc.). Learn more and start scheduling sessions today.