Tell Me Something About Yourself That's Not on Your Resume

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When you’re interviewing for a new job, interviewers want to go beyond what you have shared with them on your resume to uncover a more comprehensive picture of your background. Your resume states the facts, but the interviewer wants to know about the person behind the work history to determine whether you’re a good match for the job and the organization. The company wants to learn as much about you as they can, and there are different questions interviewers ask to get an in-depth view of your qualifications for the job, as well as of your personality.

How to Answer Interview Questions About What's Not on Your Resume

One way for an interviewer to gain this perspective is to ask you an open-ended question like, “Tell me something about yourself that isn’t on your resume.” Think of this question as an opportunity to choose the most compelling information to share that is not obvious from your resume. It is often asked as a follow up to one of the most common interview questions "Tell me about yourself."

For the applicant, questions that dig further into your background provide an opportunity to share more about the personal qualities and attributes that would enable you to be a successful employee if you were to be hired. There are several different ways you can answer the question.

Option 1: Share a Strength That Isn’t On Your Resume

Before every interview, you should itemize the core strengths that you want to convey during your interview. This type of question can provide an opening to emphasize an asset that is not transparent from your resume.

For example, public speaking might be an important requirement in the job for which you’re being considered. You may not have had the opportunity to speak in front of groups during your work history. However, you could respond that you were on the debate team in college, excelled at presentations as part of group projects in school, gave a talk at a volunteer dinner, or won a marketing competition as an undergraduate.

Option 2: Share an Intangible Strength

Sharing some of the intangible strengths in your background is one solid approach to take. Your resume should already list the accomplishments and the skills you used to generate these achievements. However, subjective assets like personal qualities are harder to incorporate into a resume.

You could say something like the following to emphasize your strong work ethic:

"You can see from my resume that my sales team exceeded its annual goal by 15%. One of the keys to that success was my willingness to go out on more sales calls with staff to help close deals with major clients. It meant more late evenings catching up on my administrative tasks, but it was well worth it."

Option 3: Explain Why You Want the Job

Employers are often just as concerned about your motivation for taking on a particular type of work as they are about your knowledge and skills. So this kind of question provides an opportunity to explain why the job is so appealing to you.

You can emphasize why you were inspired to apply for the job. You can also explain that you are willing to invest a great deal of energy if hired.  For example, if you are applying for a fundraising position with a medical research facility, you could mention that you developed a commitment to medical research because your mom or dad was a physician and had shared stories about how difficult it was for their patients with debilitating diseases.

Option 4: Share Something Personal

Finally, you can take this opportunity to share a hobby or interest that might positively reflect upon your character or make you a memorable candidate. This approach will make the most sense if you have already been able to convey your job-specific assets and motivations sufficiently.  

For example, if you are applying for a job that requires a great deal of intellectual firepower, then you might share your passion for chess, or if physical risk-taking is required, you might mention your interest in rock climbing.

What Not to Say in Response

This question may be open-ended, but that doesn't mean any answer is a good one. Here are some things to avoid in your response:

  • Rambling or talking for too long: Take a second before you begin speaking to gather your thoughts. You don't want to monologue for several paragraphs in your response. Keep your response clear and organized as much as possible. 
  • Reciting your resume: Your interviewer has your resume and is interested in hearing something a bit different. You can give an overview of your career, but make sure it goes beyond the facts in your resume by highlighting why this path interested you. And make sure to focus on the high points. Don't dwell on the early stages of your career, which might not be relevant to the position you're seeking now. 
  • Over-sharing: It's fine to talk about hobbies and passions, but keep in mind the interviewer is really most interested in your job performance. Stay away from overly personal responses, or sharing interests or hobbies that reflect poorly on you as a candidate.