If you’re thinking of submitting a standard resume along with your MBA application, you’re missing an important opportunity to sell your candidacy to the admissions committee. Like a traditional CV, the purpose of the MBA resume is to make a good first impression and persuade the reviewer to take a closer look at you. However, the reader of your MBA resume will be different than the person hiring you for an investment banking job or an engineering position.
Rework your resume so that it functions more as a narrative about your career and outside interests—not a dry list of responsibilities and achievements. The MBA resume should focus heavily on MBA skills and traits such as leadership, teamwork and international work experience. Some admissions officers consider your resume just as important as the MBA essays, so the extra work you put into it could make the difference between a ding and an interview offer.
#1: Shows Career Progression
Illustrate career progression by highlighting promotions or showing how skills were cultivated after switching to a new job. For example, if you have worked for the same company for five years but were promoted twice, you should highlight all three job titles, with separate dates of employment and separate descriptions. The descriptions should reflect your increasing levels of responsibility.
Applicants who have been in the workforce for a number of years, possibly at various companies, may need to be selective in detailing professional progress. When deciding which experiences to include and which to ax, ask yourself if the work was meaningful and if it can be used to illustrate a specific skill set or important accomplishment. Consider if it supports your career path as well as your future goals, and include it only if it makes sense for your overall story.
Demonstrate that over the course of your career, you have picked up new skills, assumed new responsibilities and developed as an individual. Emphasize that this growth has been recognized by others.
#2: Provides Leadership Examples
Although you’ll further hone your management abilities during an MBA program, the admissions committee wants to know that a foundation of strong leadership skills is already in place. Show when you united people behind a common goal, made use of other’s talents and skills, instilled a vision, challenged the status quo, identified a new problem or prioritized the needs of the organization above personal needs.
It’s important to note if you manage one or more people. Even if you informally supervise and mentor someone, it’s worth including on the resume. Mention if you’ve taken a lead in recruiting, as it means you’re acting as the face of your company. This demonstrates that leaders at your company respect you and trust that you will represent them well. Remember, your resume is a tool to tell your story, so keep your resume focused on the experiences that highlight the story of you as a leader.
#3: Quantifies Results
It’s great to describe your responsibilities, but don’t miss the chance to quantify your results whenever possible. Managing a staff is interesting, but the fact that you managed a staff of over 30 employees and improved profitability by 25%, is something a reader can understand. By giving the reader a number, you give them the chance to see just what kind of leader you were, and will be.
Business school applicants often find it helpful to bullet point their accomplishments using the STAR method, which stands for situation, task, action and result. For each employment position listed on your resume, think of a project, initiative or transaction where you made a meaningful contribution. Then describe the situation, your task, the actions you undertook and the results.
#4: Avoids Industry Jargon or Acronyms
Never assume the admissions committee member reviewing your application is intimately familiar with your particular industry. Write for a lay audience, and avoid flowery or stuffy language – use familiar words instead. You do want to provide a snapshot of your functional skills, but the admissions committee will be more interested in the fact that you led a cross-functional team to develop a new version of your product than the fact that you coded in three computer languages to develop the new version.
To appeal to an MBA audience, an applicant must think beyond technical tasks. He or she must identify what lies behind those tasks that might reveal an effective business leader. Rephrase your accomplishments so that anyone could understand them. With hundreds of applications on their desks, the admissions staff has only a few minutes to review each resume. It should be immediately digestible.
#5: Looks Clean and Polished
Imagine someone scanning an MBA application resume for the first time on the 30-second walk down the hall to the interview. That person should be able to get a clear picture of the candidate – and that quickly.
Appearances matter when it comes to a winning MBA resume, so be sure to adhere to proper margins, spacing, and accepted fonts. Some applicants try to squeeze it all in by reducing font and eliminating margins. This is a good way to ensure that your resume is not reviewed, as no one wants to go blind scrutinizing resume number 207 of the day. Some business schools specify formatting requirements; if so, do not deviate from the requested format.
Since admissions committees and alumni interviewers look for people who others will enjoy being around both inside and outside of class, it’s also a great idea to include at least some brief mention of your interests and hobbies at the bottom of the document. A lot of times it’s this information that interviewers use to break the ice when they first meet you.
Never underestimate the power of a well-executed resume. Use this opportunity to create a powerful first impression on the admissions committee and show why you’d be an asset to their program, and, fingers crossed, your future MBA interviewer.