Part 3 of “Breaking down the interview”: on strong starts (and how to profit from the “walk me through your resume” question)

Champions or those en route to be champions (with the right momentum) seem to be striking hard since the first minute and after a few minutes in the game they are up by some significant margin, be it tennis, basketball, soccer or whatever sport you like. Personally, I remember that after a tough month seriously preparing for “hell week” of interviews with investment banks in December 2007, I started the marathon of interviews with banks and funds and after a few lukewarm interviews, I nailed systematically the first round interviews, establishing an early advantage at the onset of the interviews.

It was not only because they were remarkably similar, but also because I used correctly the initial “walk me through your resume” question. Is there a magic answer? In my view, it is the time when you drop your perfectly rehearsed, and naturally flowing, “elevator pitch”, maybe in its longer version of up to 5 minutes.

This is “your story”, or the essence of Part 2 of our BIF Individual Program. There are no shortcuts to this; just the hours spent on

  • Getting your end goals right, and writing them down
  • Working backwards the plan on how you will get there
  • And then, re-writing your story up to date, to show the interviewer why you studied what you studied, how you changed jobs and made a series of decisions that led to who you are today.

A few “must do”

  • At all times convey the message that you made each decision.
  • Avoid at all costs talking badly about past or current employers, or your schools
  • Put all things in positive light and be energetic (if you don’t show energy at the beginning, then what can we expect in minute 45?)
  • Avoid talking about confidential information of your current or past jobs (this speaks badly about you as a trustworthy individual).

A strong opening to an interview might clear the way for smooth sailing in the rest of the interview. For those of you familiar with path-dependent exams like GMAT, if you are successful in the initial questions, then an easier set of questions await for you. And as in GMAT, on the contrary, if your answer to the “walk me through” question is a disaster, you show weaknesses, lack of energy or clarity in your goals, it can just open the gates to a nightmare interview.

Let me also add that it is a great confidence booster. So if you nail the first 10 minutes, you will then feel more comfortable in trying “difficult shots” a la Federer, while if you struggled initially, you will just be defensive and try to have the interview finished. And that is sensed by the experienced interviewer (I can see that now on this side of the table). Let me tell you that when I was in Argentina, I used to be one of the interviewees willing for the meeting to end; but once I learned the basic tricks and, above everything, started rehearsing appropriately, I started having occasions in which I actually wanted the interview to continue. I felt many times that I was on a roll, connecting with the interviewing party, hitting all the right buttons and levers. And this is exactly what you look for in an interview.

And you can get to that by starting with the right foot (or nailing the answer to “walk me through your resume”). So keep drilling that elevator pitch, keep rehearsing your interviewing skills and get in touch as you continue to make progress in this 2020/2021 interview season.