“Walk me through your resume” is by far the most common interview question you will get.
Regardless of whether you are interviewing for investment banking, consulting, private equity, or product management, there is a 100% chance that you will get asked this. It’s pretty much the default starting point for all interviews and there’s very little reason for an interviewer to not begin with this question.
As such, you need to make sure you have a well-crafted, authentic-sounding answer that appropriately sets the stage for the rest of your interview. You want to make sure that you hit on all of your key accomplishments and accolades without the answer being too wordy or rehearsed.
Having been through multiple on-cycle recruiting processes and having helped hire a number of folks, I understand what differentiates a good and bad response to “walk me through your resume”.
Remember that most finance firms are looking for intelligent, well-spoken, hard-working individuals, so a good answer to this question will help communicate that you have all those factors.
Also note that this question is sometimes also asked as “tell me about yourself” and your answer will be the same. You should also check out our Resume and Cover Letter Course if you're interested in perfecting your resume for finance interviews.
A Good Answer to "Walk Me Through Your Resume"
1 Minute to 1.5 Minutes in Length
This is more than enough time to cover your background and relevant job experiences. Think about what you included on your resume and talk through the main aspects of the two or three most important roles. If you’re a career switcher or have had many jobs, then you’ll have to pick and choose what to touch upon.
Depending how interesting or strange your story is, an answer could potentially go up to 2 minutes. But any longer and you run the high risk of over-emphasizing experiences the interviewer doesn’t really want to talk about. As I recommend for all qualitative questions, give slightly less information and let the interviewer ask follow up questions.
On the other hand, if you’re a freshman with very little experience, you’ll still want to try and fill up to 1 to 1.5 minutes. You can go into slightly more detail about your different projects and club experiences. You can talk a little bit more about your personality traits, your ambitions, and why you think the firm is a good fit for you.
Highlight Experiences Relevant to Role
Think about what’s most relevant to the job you’re applying for and what information best conveys that you’ll be a good candidate for the role. Try to name a few specific projects or companies you worked with that will highlight that you have directly relevant knowledge.
Think about what neatly fits in a concise narrative. You don’t need to mention small, short-term projects that didn’t directly influence your career arc. For example, if you’re already at the MBA level, it’s unlikely you need to mention your college internships. It can also be confusing if you mention 4 or 5 different roles to your interviewer, because they definitely won’t remember everything you mention.
Explain Your Initial “Spark” and Why You’re Applying to this Job
A lot of great answers to this question will discuss how they initially got interested in finance in the first place. This is often referred to as the “spark”, or the experience that triggered your interest. Employers want to know that you have a valid interest in this career and a history of demonstrating that. It’s OK if this is somewhat manufactured, as long as it’s still believable.
The “spark” can be a pretty broad array of things… a notable internship, a mentor, a course you took in school, a side project, a book you read. The more tangible the better. If you're a university student who doesn't have a good "spark" yet, then there are a couple of things you should do.
Speak in Clear Sentences with A Normal Amount of Eye Contact
You don’t need to be extremely charismatic to do well in finance (though it can help). But you do need to be able to speak in clear, coherent sentences. This means not too many pauses, not too many “umm”s, and no muttering. You should be able to speak into a diction device (like Google translate) and have it pick up what are you saying.
What is a normal amount of eye contact? The 50/70 rule is that you should maintain eye contact for 50% of the time while speaking and 70% while listening. Every five seconds or so, look slightly away so they know you’re a normal person. Don’t look directly into their pupils. I don’t want to belabor this point too much, but it’s good to be mindful of if you spent most of your childhood playing video games like I did.
If you’re still confused or have trouble understanding basic social cues, try recording yourself in a mock interview and watching it back a few times. This helps you pick up your own weird mannerisms and potentially appear more normal.
Connect Points to the Job You are Applying For
You should also try to connect your own life experiences to the job you’re applying for and flatter the firm when possible. Applying to a tech PE firm? Mention your internship at a start up or the fact that you hold a lot of SaaS businesses in your PA. Applying for a search fund? Casually mention that you took an entrepreneurial finance course or read the Stanford search fund primer.
I also like to start answering “Why this firm?” for the last few sentences of my answer. They are probably going to ask you that question next anyways, so it helps also steer the flow of the conversation. Try to summarize your experiences in a few lines and then say how you think it’ll make you a good fit at the firm.
E.g. “My university internship at Framework Capital really introduced me the value of hands-on investment management, which is why I’ve been focused on landing an activist investing role and why I truly believe in the investment approach of your firm.”
E.g. “I’ve always been interested in the healthcare space, which I think is evident through my minor in biochemistry and my time in the healthcare group in the student investment club. It’s for those reasons why I think I’d be a great fit on the healthcare services team at your firm.”
Your answer should be structured somewhat similarly to the below. You have some flexibility, but you still want to be covering all of the content below. It’s generally best to move reverse chronologically.
1. A one or two-sentence introduction of your biography (10 seconds).
Your school and degree.
If you’ve graduated, include your current or most recent job.
I like to mention where your hometown, in the event that your interviewer has some connection or understanding of it.
2. (20 seconds) Explain your initial “spark”.
Discuss how you initially got interested in finance or the role that you’re interviewing for.
3. (30-45 seconds) Discuss your most relevant experiences.
Pick the two or three most relevant work and extra-curricular experiences you have and describe them.
Talk about the main projects or responsibilities you did at each role and try to mention one salient point of how it makes you want to work at the firm you’re applying for.
4. (10 seconds) Summarize your experiences and communicate why you want to work at the firm.
It’s a bit of meme, but lots of people end their answer by saying “and that’s what brings me here today” (including me). You can also say “and that’s what I want to work at [Framework Capital]” or something else to that effect.
Example Answers to "Walk Me Through Your Resume"
Here are a couple of sample answers that you can repurpose and steal from:
1. My “Walk Me Through Your Resume”, which I used for buyside interviews in university:
Q: Thanks for joining us today, Matt. Why don’t we begin by having you walk us through your resume?
A: Thanks for having me here and I’d be happy to. So, my name is Matt Ting and I grew up in Toronto, Canada. I’m a junior year student at the Ivey Business School, where I study business administration. I decided to attend Ivey because I was drawn to its case-based style of teaching and its exposure to finance roles.
At school, I spend a lot of my extra-curricular time as an investment analyst for the Western Investment Club. In this club, we apply a fundamental investing philosophy and valuation approach to invest in North American public equities. We invest out of a $200k fund and one of my investments has been Ambarella, a fabless video semiconductor company.
I have a strong interest for technology and investing, which I was fortunate to build on last summer at Auxo Management, which is a Canadian search fund. At Auxo, we invested and managed a remote surveillance company that helps businesses efficiently monitor and protect their physical assets. During my internship, I helped improve the inventory management system and assisted the corporate finance team with the cash flow modeling of the business.
From these experiences, I’ve continued to build my finance acumen and am now extremely interested in working in technology private equity. My exposure to fast growing technology businesses and private equity is why I am interested in interning at Silver Lake Partners and why I’m here today.
2. A sample “Walk Me Through Your Resume” that a university senior might have when recruiting for full-time investment banking positions:
Q: Will, thanks for joining us today. I see you’re interested in a full-time investment banking position in our New York office, could you maybe begin by telling me about yourself?
A: Absolutely. My name is Will Du and I’m a rising senior studying at Berkeley, where I double major in engineering and business in the MET program. I’m a born and raised Californian and have had a long interest in both capital markets and technology, dating back to a high school program where I got to sit in on a venture capital accelerator. I’ve found my double major to be a great way to blend my interests and I’m now confident that I want to pursue investment banking upon graduation.
I spent this past summer working as a finance and strategy intern at Salesforce and I helped support corporate development initiatives. I was exposed to the acquisition engine of Salesforce, which had already been working on its takeover of Slack. Specifically, I helped the acquisition team track public trading multiples of Slack’s peers in support of the company’s valuation.
It was this exposure to the M&A engine that really piqued my interest in investment banking.
Outside of my work, I’ve spent a lot of my time tinkering and programming other projects. I built an e-commerce plugin for the Shopify app store, which helps Asian business owners translate their stores and configure it properly for North American customers.
I’m extremely interested in working in investment banking full time. My deal exposure at Salesforce and my entrepreneurial endeavors outside of work leads me to believe that a fast-paced environment like banking is the best place for me to grow.