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How to Answer the Interview Question: "Tell Me About Something NOT On Your Resume"

June 27, 2021

So the interviewer has seemingly gone off-book and says, “tell me about something that’s not on your resume.” It’s such an open-ended question that you think “jeez, where do I begin?”  Be prepared to answer this question ahead of time because it’s your opportunity to shine as a job candidate, going beyond your professional experience. Read this article to learn why interviewers ask this question and how to properly answer it.

Why interviewers ask, "tell me something that's not on your resume?" as an interview question

Interviewers already know and are impressed by your hard skills--that’s why you were invited to interview in the first place. What your resume doesn’t provide much information on is who you are as a person. Are you someone with a bunch of cool hobbies? Are you an easy-going person to work with? Now is your chance to provide some insight into who you really are. This will help the interviewer determine if you will be a good fit in the company culture and team you would be working with.

How to answer this interview question

To effectively hit a home run with your answer, choose a relevant strength but keep it brief. Since the question allows for a bunch of wiggle room for how you can answer it, here are a few options you can take.

1. Share a skill

Your resume already has a tailored list of key skills on it. When this question is asked you can now share a secondary skill that isn’t listed on your resume but could help boost your performance on the job.

For instance, perhaps you have a story showing how you’re great at solving conflicts at work. Start by describing the issue you had at hand, giving the interviewer context, and how you were involved in it. Next, show how you logically solved the issue and saw a positive result from your conflict-resolution skills. Keep in mind your answer could be any skill that helps you stand out. Perhaps you’re a great teammate when playing soccer and now is the time to tell the interviewer how. Regardless of what you say, make sure to tie your story back to the workplace, describing how having such a skill has helped you succeed at work.

2. Share a personal story

You could also dig deeper into why you want the job you are applying for. If there is a personal reason why you want the job or to work in such an industry that has driven you to apply as it means a lot to you, tell it. For instance, if you’re applying for a software engineering job and working in the field of tech is meaningful to you because you had a connection with a  great computer science professor who deeply inspired you, tell that story. Memorable stories like this will make you stand out as a candidate as well as show that you are serious about the open position. Just remember to show, don't tell.

3. Share something about the company

If there is something that the company does that resonates with you, tell the interviewer what it is and the reason why. For example, the company may have a great educational program and this is something that you care a great deal about as it will help you achieve your long-term goals. Describe how the program is a great fit for you and something that motivates you.

What not to do when answering this interview question

  • Don’t see this question as an invitation to go completely off-script. Don’t ramble on about something that isn’t relevant to your resume or work experience. Keep what you say concise and relevant to the job you're applying for.
  • Though you are sharing personal stories, don’t get too personal. You need your answer to demonstrate that you are a great candidate and fit for the company, so make sure everything you say helps support that you are perfect for the job.
  • Don’t reach too far back into the past. Of course, if there is something that happened in your formative years that made you pursue this career path, go for it. However, if you start talking about a skill you haven’t used in years, don’t mention it. It’s not current nor relevant.

Want more interview prep? Check out our posts on: 

Interview prep for Founding Engineers

How to answer the interview question, what do you bring to the company

How to talk about a career change

How to talk about your long-term career goals

For other interview tips, check out our other posts on interviewing on the blog.

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