The interview is going really well. You’ve got a good rapport with the hiring manager, you’re getting your key points across, you’re speaking clearly and confidently—and then comes this question:

“What should I know about you that’s not on your resume?”

And you’re stumped, because huh? I know the feeling, so I thought I would break down this question for you so that answering doesn’t seem quite so tricky.


Why They’re Asking

On the surface, this question seems weird. After all, you’ve worked hard to condense all your relevant information onto a single page so that everything the interviewer should know is on there!

But hiring managers ask this question to get a sense for your personality and character, rather than just your work experiences and accomplishments.

They’re also giving you a chance to tell them something that’s important but doesn’t fit within the traditional resume format—like what drives you or what you’re passionate about outside your 9-to-5.


What to Say

There are three basic “themes” for your response that you can choose from.

First, you can discuss one of your positive traits. Think: your creativity, your enthusiasm, your tenacity, your dedication, the one word that makes you you.

Alternatively, you can share a story or detail that reveals something awesome about you and your accomplishments. For example, maybe you’ve climbed a few major mountains, which shows how persistent you are when you put your mind to it.

Lastly, you can talk about your motivation or overall goal. Maybe you want to work in hospitality because you want to recreate the same sense of joy and wonder you’ve experienced on vacations for as many guests as possible.


What Not to Say

If it’s on your resume, don’t say it! Regurgitating what’s on that paper will make you seem unimaginative, or worse, like you don’t understand the question.

The same rule goes for your cover letter. If you mentioned it, you can’t use it again.

And of course, as during the rest of the interview, avoid overly personal information or anything that’ll raise a red flag.

For example, you might be super eager to get this job because you’ve been unemployed for six months—but telling the interviewer that? Not a good idea. Instead, bring up the work ethic you cultivated while simultaneously getting your degree and working a full-time job.


Structuring Your Response

There’s a very simple format for your response.

Begin by explaining your trait or story. Then, summarize why it’s important for the interviewer to know this. Make sure you connect your answer to the job, the company, or both.

Here’s the template:

  • I’d like you to know [strength/anecdote].
  • This is important because [explanation of what it shows about you].
  • I believe this will help me with [aspect of the job] because [something that connects your answer back to the position].

And here’s a sample answer:

Well, one thing you won’t find on my resume: the time I had to administer emergency CPR training. Last year, I was at the lake when I saw a young girl who looked like she was drowning. I was a lifeguard in high school, so I swam out, brought her to shore, and gave her CPR.

Although this was—hopefully—a one-time event, I’ve always been able to stay calm during stressful situations, figure out a solution, and then act. This characteristic would make me a valuable member of your company. After all, obstacles are inevitable, especially in a startup environment.

As your account manager, I’d use this trait to quickly and effectively resolve issues both within the team and externally. And if anyone needs CPR at the office beach party, well, I’m your woman.


I’d love to hear what you’d say to this question! Let me know on Twitter.


Photo of job interview courtesy of Shutterstock.