This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com
The MBA resume is a whole other animal from the standard curriculum vitae designed to land you a job. The resume you tailor specifically for business schools should offer a quick snapshot of your significant work experiences and accomplishments in three areas that showcase your MBA-relevant skills.
• Leadership: Business schools want to see applicants who already have strong leadership skills. You’ll further groom your management abilities during your MBA program, but the admissions committee wants to know that the foundation is already there.
Give evidence of 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.
If you formally manage one or more people, don’t leave that information out. Even if you supervise and mentor someone informally, that should go on the resume as well. If you have played a role in training peers, subordinates or even those senior to you (perhaps on a new type of software), include that on your resume. Anything that shows how you identified an opportunity and took initiative is a great thing to include.
My client, George, was concerned because he did not have a title change throughout his four years at a defense contracting company. Because he worked in an engineering function, increase in responsibility was marked by a raise instead of a new title. My colleagues and I took a look at what George did outside of work to see where he could highlight a leadership role.
George had participated in an annual charity bike ride for the past five years, and we suggested that he volunteer to coordinate the next ride. The event became this bullet point on his resume: “Led annual bike ride to raise money in support of autistic children. Recruited volunteers, coordinated vendors and managed finances. Resulted in 14% increase in revenue over prior year.”
The brief yet compelling example showed the admissions committee not only his leadership abilities, but also his emotional intelligence and service to the community – a winning trifecta every time.
• Communication: With a tech-native generation of applicants as comfortable texting, tweeting and Snapchatting as they are breathing, recruiters often gripe about mediocre writing and speaking skills of today’s newly minted MBAs.
Your MBA resume is prime real estate for showcasing savvy communication skills through crisp writing and well-chosen words. You can make even the most mundane tasks shine as you bullet-point your professional accomplishments.
Here’s a real example of a blah bullet point in a client’s first draft: “Helped with new software implementation.”
Now, a brilliant bullet point: “Spearheaded software upgrade in the San Francisco field office by coordinating with software developer, leading training sessions and facilitating implementation schedule.” The second example offers a much more comprehensive understanding of the scope of the accomplishment.
Getting rid of any technical jargon in your MBA resume also demonstrates effective communication skills. One client originally listed this bullet point on his resume: “Created VA1 Business Acquisition.” Once we translated that into something the MBA admissions audience would understand, the resume said: “Devised and launched outbound communications plan for our premier voice activated product. Product was well received and became cash flow positive within 14 months.” Much better.
• Innovation: You need to make it clear that over the course of your career, you have picked up new skills, assumed new responsibilities, developed as an individual and that all of this growth has been recognized by others.
You can convince the admissions committee that you have a track record of moving the needle by showing continual progression on the job, and by giving examples of when you went above and beyond your expected duties and delivered quantifiable results.
Some applicants have very traditional pre-MBA jobs. If you have been working as a staff consultant at Bain & Company, or as an analyst at Goldman Sachs, chances are the admissions committee will have a pretty good feel for your overall job description.
But this is also an opportunity to illustrate the things that you have done that may set you apart from the typical analyst. In addition to outlining some of your standard activities, you may want to include that you trained a newly hired analyst, led college recruiting efforts or organized an office-wide volunteer initiative. These activities may have taken less of your time, but they are a bit outside of traditional responsibilities and give great insight into how you have made a difference for your firm.
The resume is an important first step in the MBA application process because it forces applicants to take stock of their progression and think about how to articulate that in a succinct way. By focusing on these three goals, you’ll show the admissions committee exactly how you will add something new, exciting and different to their community.