Do you plan to submit a standard resume along with your MBA application in Round 1? If so, you’re missing a valuable opportunity to sell your candidacy to the admissions committee. Like a traditional CV, the purpose of the resume for business school is to make an excellent first impression.
It should also persuade the reviewer to take a closer look at you. But, 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. It should focus heavily on MBA skills and traits such as leadership, teamwork, and international work experience.
Some admissions officers consider your resume just as crucial as the MBA essays. The extra work you put into a resume for business school could make the difference between a ding and an interview offer.
#1: Shows Career Progression
Illustrate career progression by highlighting promotions or showing how you continued to cultivate your skills after switching to a new job. For example, if you have worked for the same company for five years but received two promotions, you should highlight all three job titles, with separate dates of employment and descriptions. Those descriptions should reflect increasing levels of responsibility.
Applicants who have been in the workforce for several years, possibly at various companies, may need to be selective in detailing professional progress. But how do you decide which experiences to include and which to ax?
First, ask yourself if the work was meaningful. Then, determine if it illustrates a specific skill set or a significant accomplishment. Also, consider if it supports your career path as well as your future goals. Only include it if it makes sense for your overall story.
Show that throughout your career, you have picked up new skills, assumed new responsibilities, and developed as an individual. Emphasize that others have recognized this growth.
#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 abilities, 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 for business school. Mention if you’ve taken the 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. Sure, managing staff is interesting. But the fact that you led a team of over 30 employees and improved profitability by 25% is something a reader can understand. By giving the reader a number, you provide them with the chance to see just what kind of leader you were and will be.
Also, keep this point in mind, shared by the admissions team at the Tuck School of Business.
Focus on achievements, not responsibilities. One way to differentiate between the two is to ask yourself—“If I Ieave this job, will the next person who takes my place be able to write exactly the same bullet point?” If the answer is yes, then there is room to improve.
Applicants often find it helpful to bullet point their accomplishments using the STAR method. This acronym 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 common words instead. You do want to provide a snapshot of your functional skills.
Still, 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 build the latest 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 your 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 resume for business school. Make sure to adhere to proper margins, spacing, and accepted fonts. Some applicants try to squeeze it all in by reducing the font and eliminating margins. Avoid that tactic. No one wants to go blind scrutinizing resume number 207 of the day. Also, note that some business schools specify formatting requirements. If so, do not deviate from the requested format.
Finally, remember that admissions committees and alumni interviewers look for people who others will enjoy being around both inside and outside of class.
Therefore, try to include at least some brief mention of your interests and hobbies. 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 for business school. Use this opportunity to make a compelling first impression on the admissions committee and show why you’d be an asset to their program, and, fingers crossed, your future MBA interviewer.