The resume is an essential component of your business school application. It is a quick snapshot of your skills, experience, key accomplishments, and interests.
Difference between MBA Résumé and Job Résumé: The MBA résumé differs from a job résumé that you create for a specific functional area. The two serve different purposes and should be approached in different ways. For instance, a job résumé often begins with ‘career objectives,’ whereas a business school résumé starts with professional experience.’ In a business school application, you will discuss your career goals in application essays, not in the résumé.
Importance of Résumé in MBA Application:
Unfortunately, some applicants ignore résumé and focus all their attention on GMAT and essays. Please note that your résumé demands as much of your attention as your essays do. It is your first introduction to the Ad Com, so it should be impactful enough to make them want to know more about you through your essays. When assisting my students with their résumés, I often quote Ross Admission Director Soojin Kwon’s words- “For me, the résumé is just as important as your essays……. How you describe your experience matters. What you choose to highlight matters. Think of it as a trailer of the movie about you. It needs to show there is substance there. I find that many applicants don’t take enough care with their résumé.”
Well said! Your résumé is a ‘trailer’ of your career progression, accomplishments, leadership and team working skills, your interests, and extracurricular activities that will be shown in detail in the ‘movie’ of your essays. Therefore, in order to make a good ‘first impression’, you need to invest your time and effort to make your résumé strong and impactful.
Here are 20 helpful tips you can use to craft a powerful and effective MBA résumé. Some schools may allow more than one page as well. However, a one-page résumé is a standard length that we follow for students who have less than 10 years of work experience. For applicants with more than 10 years of work experience, a two-page résumé is also acceptable.
- Include Important Dates of your Professional History: Start each job history with the name of the company on the left side of the page. Under that company name, write your job title, and on the right side of that same line, write your dates of employment (just month and year). When listing job positions, sometimes applicants forget to mention employment dates. Without specific dates, the Ad Com will not be able to garner your career progression and your promotions. Give your most recent experience the most attention.
- Use Bulleted Points: Even if you have a lot of information to convey, please do not write narrative résumés. Instead of writing sentences or paragraphs, use bulleted points. Each bullet should be limited to two lines of text, and there should be no more than five bullets per job position. You may use 2 bullet points for listing job responsibilities and 2-3 for job accomplishments. Do not use more than 5 bullet points under each job position.
- Use Strong Action Verbs: Begin each bullet point with a strong action verb. Verbs make you sound like a dynamic individual who is always ready for action. Also, try to avoid overusing verbs such as ‘led’, ‘managed’ or ‘developed’, and consider using other verbs such as ‘accelerated’, ‘delivered,’ ‘established,’ ‘implemented,’ ‘initiated,’ or ‘spearheaded’ etc. Use verbs that demonstrate your collaborative attitude e.g. ‘assist’, ‘contribute’, ‘support’, ‘provide’ etc. Example: Collaborated with multiple stakeholders and built a team of 7 analysts that resulted in revenue growth of $ 400K/ year.
- Avoid Using Technical Terms: One of the most common mistakes applicants make is using technical terms of their industry. Do not assume that Ad Com will understand your industry jargon. This is not a job resume that you are writing for your prospective employer. This is your MBA resume that is scanned by the Ad Com of business schools for career progression, leadership qualities, team- working skills, initiative, and other interests/activities of future business leaders. Hence you want to make sure to make it jargon-free. Here is an example of jargon-free info: Example: Created and implemented new checklists and guidelines, helping reduce the cost of the projects by 10-15%.
- Avoid a List of job responsibilities: Some applicants make their MBA résumé a long list of job responsibilities. The Ad Com will not look at your résumé for the number of years you have worked or for your simple job responsibilities. Instead, they will look for the quality of professional experience i.e., the skills you have acquired and the impact you have made on your organization. When listing your professional experience, follow the reverse chronological order and give your current professional experience utmost attention.
- Demonstrate growth/ Quantify Accomplishments: Résumés should showcase your career progression. Demonstrate that over the course of your professional career, you have picked up new skills and have assumed new responsibilities. Also, résumés that do not quantify the outcome of your accomplishments fail to make an impression. So, make sure to quantify your impact on your company/ organization with measurable results or achievements. Wherever possible, use numbers to communicate your impact. Try to provide specific details such as:
- How much or by what percentage you reduced expenses?
- How many people were on the team that you supervised?
- How much or by what percentage you increased sales?
Example: Spearheaded a flagship project– ‘Change in Terms’ for the company– built a team of 5 analysts, translating into a revenue of $100K
- Focus on Leadership and Teamworking Skills: Take every opportunity to emphasize leadership skills and team working skills. Leadership can be demonstrated in a variety of ways, such as taking charge of a project, taking initiatives, going above and beyond your job responsibilities, meeting unrealistic deadlines, resolving conflicts within the team, providing motivation, etc.
- Use the STAR Method to explain your accomplishments: Using the STAR method, (Situation, Task, Action, Result) will give the Ad Com a clear idea of your accomplishments. For every project or engagement, describe the situation, your role(s), your task(s), your action(s), and then the result(s) (STAR). The situation conveys the context, the tasks, and actions convey your skillet and individual contribution, and the result shows your impact. Example: Supervised a team of 6 members during 2 crucial phases of the biggest ever merger/integration project in the financial services industry- a deal worth $5 billion in which (name of company) acquired (name of company) from Citibank.
- Don’t Include High School: Sometimes applicants fill precious space with high school accomplishments and grades. Please do not discuss your high school activities unless you did something truly exceptional for your age. Please remember you have come a long way after high school, and you are applying for graduate school, not college.
- Include your extracurricular activities/ interests: Sometimes the applicants get so involved in the details of their professional experience that they tend to ignore extracurricular activities/ community service and other interests/ hobbies. Please note that the schools are looking for well-rounded individuals, and not only professionals who have no interests beyond their work. Therefore, do not hesitate to include 2-3 hobbies that you feel passionate about and pursue in your non-work hours. Also, list organizations you have belonged to and include community service activities you have been involved in.
- Place Educational Information after Work Experience: Place your education section after the professional career section and keep it short. It should show the schools you have attended, the areas of study, and ranking/ accomplishments. However, some schools (Cambridge, Oxford, Sauder, etc.) require you to follow a certain template that places the Education section before the Experience section. So, you must check with your target schools if they need the applicants to follow a particular résumé template.
- Include Additional Information/Skills: If you have some certificates or awards, if you have learned some foreign languages, or if you possess advanced computer skills, you may use this section for this information. Also, if you have a long list of awards/ honors, you may create a separate section of ‘Awards and Honors’ to include that information.
- Do Not Provide Personal information: Please do not provide your height, weight, date of birth, and marital status on your résumé. Also, there is no need to provide your picture on your résumé. The Ad Committee members do not care if you are married or single, tall, or short.
- Do Not Use Fancy Fonts: Business résumé is not the place to use fancy fonts, so resist the temptation of using crazy fonts or intricate borders. Typical fonts for a résumé are Times New Roman, Verdana, Cambria, and Arial, with Times New Roman being the most common. Also, please use 10 or 11 font and do not try to squeeze in loads of information by using 8 font.
- Do not provide a List of References: An MBA résumé is not a place for providing references. So do not use precious space in providing references or even mentioning ‘References on request’.
- Do Not Lie: Be truthful and write only what you have accomplished. Making things up is not only unethical and unprofessional but also risky. If you are caught, you will be dinged.
- Be Brief and Concise: As with essays, brevity is the key here. You have to provide a lot of information on one page, so follow the principle of ‘less is more’ and be as concise as you can. Make each word count that shines a spotlight on your candidacy.
- Proofread, proofread, and proofread: Lastly, and most importantly, edit and proofread your résumé multiple times before you submit it. You do not want to ruin your first impression by careless spelling, grammar, and style errors. Get it reviewed by a second pair of eyes to ensure consistency and accuracy.