Your two-page resume doesn't cover everything that you'll bring to the table for a new company

You are nailing your interview. The conversation is flowing; it doesn't feel like a question-and-answer session. You feel like you've got this job in the bag. Then, the interviewer hits you with, “Tell me something that's not on your resume.”

Stop the press! Excuse me, what?! 

It may seem like a question that came straight out of left field, but, in reality, it's a valid question. Think about it. Does that two-page resume really represent everything you have to offer? There are some things about you that you likely had to leave off in the interest of keeping the resume to the requisite page count and tailoring it to the job description

As you are preparing for your interview, take a moment to consider unique facts about your background that didn't make it into your resume. When you explore your history – professional and personal – what you have to offer goes beyond your resume content. 

What's the point of talking about something that's not on your resume?

Most companies want to know that they're hiring well-rounded people who have a host of skills, abilities, and passions outside of work that can be leveraged to benefit their team. When they throw, “Tell me about something that's not on your resume” at you, they've built up enough interest in your qualifications to want to get to know you better. 

They're interested in getting to know more about things like:

  • Your personality

  • Your character

  • Your interests

  • Your experiences in and out of work

  • Your soft skills (creativity, problem-solving, and intuitiveness)

  • Something that's uniquely you

How to approach the question, “Tell me about something that's not on your resume?”

As with any of the other questions that can pop up in your interview, the first step in answering “Tell me about something that's not on your resume” is preparation. So, here's hoping you haven't already stumbled across this one without having an answer prepared. 

The goal isn't to just vomit a response to the hiring manager. You want to give a concise answer just like you would for any other interview question that succinctly describes your background in a way that benefits the company. 

Pick your topic

You have to decide what you're going to talk about. HINT: don't pick something that's already on your resume. The point is to talk about something that's not on your resume. Whatever you choose, it should add value to you as a candidate for the position. 

Perhaps you choose to talk about how you love to decorate cakes. Unless you're going for a job as a pastry chef, this doesn't seem like it would have any place in your interview. However, you had to take time to learn how to pipe icing. There was probably a learning curve in getting the icing to come out of the piping bag without air bubbles. You probably also had to figure out how to mix colors to get the shades of icing you wanted onto your cakes. 

All of that means you overcame a challenge to perfect a skill. Overcoming challenges is a big deal in most companies. So, you could easily tie the learning process back to something you can bring to the table for the new company. 

You don't have to talk about a hobby; there are a bunch of other topics you can pick, including:

  • Travel

  • Creative projects

  • Volunteer work

  • Sports or fitness achievements

  • Personal or professional development

  • Cultural experiences

No matter which bucket you pull your topic from, be sure you can tie the skills you have from that topic back to how you're a great candidate for the job.

Announce your topic

Go bold here. Get their attention. Say something like, “I'm a locally famous cake decorator,” or “I achieved a personal best in a triathlon in Hawaii.” The idea is that you want something that showcases a unique aspect of your background. 

Then, pause and let them respond. The response will probably be something like, “Oh really?” This way, you'll know that you have their attention and can proceed to the part where you demonstrate why your topic matters in the context of your interview. 

Expert Tip: Use the STAR method to help you structure your answer in a way that is concise yet comprehensive.Share your story

As you craft the meat of your story, keep in mind the relevant keywords from the job description so you can inject the right skills into the narrative. After all, the hiring manager doesn't really care that you know how to decorate cakes; they only want to know how you'll succeed in the role they have open. 

Bring up talents you've acquired, qualities you've honed, and passions that you've explored. How do these things make you a great candidate for the position? 

Connect your story to the position

Think back to the job description. What is the company looking for in a new employee? Perhaps something has come up during your interview that gave you a deeper insight into something the hiring manager is looking for that didn't make it onto the job description. 

Tailor your response to “Tell me about something that's not on your resume” to the needs of the company. Not only will you be able to demonstrate that you understand what the role requires, but you can inject some notion that you'll be a good fit within the company culture, which can be important because your ability to get along at work is just as important as your capacity for completing the tasks assigned to you. 

Common pitfalls to avoid

One of the reasons that preparation is so important is that it can help you know what NOT to say. When you think about it, the things you don't say in an interview can make or break your success just as much as the things you do say. 

So, when you're answering “Tell me about something that's not on your resume,” stay away from things like:

  • Irrelevant information - stuff you can't tie back to what the company needs

  • Details that are too personal - things that indicate your marital status, health issues, or age

  • Negative experiences - the interviewer isn't giving you a green light for bad-mouthing ex-employers or managers

  • Rambling - remember to keep it concise

Tell me something that is not on your resume sample answers

In the spirit of ensuring that what you say in response to “Tell me something that's not on your resume” has value related to the skills and qualities prospective employers are looking for, here are some sample answers. 

1. Creative skills

About five years ago, I took on the task of learning how to decorate cakes. You may not be looking for someone who can make cakes pretty, but the skills I learned, like attention to detail and patience, translate quite well into this role. In fact, one of my cakes was photographed for a local parents' magazine. It required hours of planning, meticulous care in mixing colors, and precise attention to detail based on things like lighting, angles, and potential camera zoom. 

Not only did I have to use creativity to come up with the design, but a great cake decorator knows how to creatively hide mistakes within the design. The fact that you need someone to oversee projects means that my ability to manage tasks to this level of precision will serve the team and the company very well. 

2. Leadership and resilience

Last year, I tackled and completed one of the most challenging rock climbing peaks in our region. As you can imagine, the climb tested my physical endurance, but it also took a lot of mental resilience because of how much planning and teamwork went into it. There were three of us, and I was named the group's de facto leader. I made sure the team was safe and had to make a lot of quick decisions under tremendous pressure. 

This experience taught me how to remain calm in spite of challenges and helped me hone skills in being adaptable and flexible. Now, I lean on that experience to guide my subordinates at work through challenges.

3. Cultural awareness

One thing that's not on my resume is that I studied abroad during my last year of college. I went to Southeast Asia, immersed myself in the local culture, and became very good at navigating unfamiliar environments. While there, I stayed with a local family and had to adapt to their way of life and learn how to communicate with them having no prior knowledge of the language. 

By the end of my time with them, we were like family. In fact, I'm still in constant communication with them, even though it's been more than ten years. Overall, that experience taught me to be more in-tuned with the differences among people I work with, even if they're on the other side of the world. 

Skills are skills, even if they're not on your resume

When you're presented with the opportunity to talk about something that's not on your resume, the goal should be to find something you can relate back to the job you want. If you can do that, then you're well on your way to getting the job offer you want. 

Before you can get the interview, though, you have to have a stellar resume. TopResume would love to take a look at what you have and review it for you for free. Upload your resume to get expert feedback on what you need to update in alignment with your career goals.

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