How To ‘Walk Me Through Your Resume’

There’s a 2,000 year old trick to nailing this classic interview opening.

Back in the 4th century B.C. our ‘ole friend Aristotle wrote a piece called ‘Poetics’ dissecting the art of Greek tragedy. Good stories, he said were about interesting events happening as a result of previous action.

Histories, on the other hand were just a chronological account of everything that happened within a given period of time, which is why they were so boring (e.g., that slide show from family vacation).

The purpose of ‘Walk Me Through Your Resume’ is not to generically recount your history. It’s an opportunity to tell a good, concise story specifically about how you became the perfect candidate for this role.

So how can we live up to Aristotle’s bar? There are three keys.

First off, go chronological.

Second is relevance. Think of your story like a line of dominoes. Strip away the events that aren’t in line with how you became that perfect fit. You don’t need to list every job responsibility you had in your first internship, just the applicable ones.

You’re not going deep into examples here - that’s for the question and answer portion. You’re shooting for less than two minutes.

Lastly, show deliberate transitions at the major decision points in your life: why you chose your major in college, why you went to that first job, why business school, and most importantly why it makes perfect sense that you’re interviewing here today. A quick backstory from growing up can be an interesting way to set the stage for what put it all in motion as long as it’s relevant and concise.

If you’re like most of us and wanted to be a baseball player growing up then you’ll want to demonstrate your curiosity. Talk about your rigorous pursuit of knowledge and how the new information you picked up along the way contributed towards the next step and the next that eventually led you here.

I want to hire the person that the universe has delivered directly to my doorstep.

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David Mamet the renowned screenwriter and playwright (‘The Untouchables’, ‘Glengarry Glenross’) refers to Aristotle in his Masterclass on dramatic writing. He emphasizes that the ending of stories has to be inevitable[1].

In the movie of ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ Alec Baldwin shows up at the real estate office and delivers the famous line “ALWAYS BE CLOSING!”. It’s pretty clear why all the agents want to get their hands on the Glengarry leads, the good leads, by the end.

We humans love stories. The best of stories are the ones about folks who take action and the best of endings are the ones that make sense. I’m not saying your interview is a Greek tragedy but it never hurts to borrow a few good ideas.


[1] Mamet actually stresses that they must be surprising and inevitable but in the context of interviewing we can hold off on the twist ending for now ;)