Posted on October 6, 2013

MBA Résumé – Mistakes You Can Avoid

Résumé is a critical part of MBA applications, yet it is often the most neglected one. Your résumé demands as much of your attention as your essays do.  In fact, résumé 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 working with applicants on their résumés, I often quote Ross Admission Director Soojin Kwon.  “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,” Kwon said.

The analogy is so apt.  If your essays show a movie about you, your résumé shows the trailer of that movie.  True!!  Your résumé is a trailer of your career progression, accomplishments, leadership, and team working skills, interests, and extra-curricular 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.

You can build a strong résumé by avoiding the following most common errors.

1. Lengthy Résumé: First, resist the temptation of writing a lengthy résumé.  It’s about quality, not quantity, so make sure not to go over the one-page limit.  Most schools want to see only one-page résumés.  Let your résumé be short and sweet  The résumé should be the shortest document in your application but the most impactful one that provides an overview of not only your professional career and accomplishments but also your interest and extracurricular activities.

Please use 10 or 11 font, and do not try to squeeze in loads of information by using 8 font.

2. Omitting dates: 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.

3. Writing Sentences/Paragraphs: Please do not write sentences or paragraphs even if you have a lot of information to convey.  Instead, 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.

4. Use of Fancy Fonts: Typical fonts for a résuméare Times New Roman, Verdana, Cambria, and Arial, with Times New Roman being the most common.  The business résumé is not the place to use fancy fonts. So don’t use crazy fonts or intricate borders.

5. Use of Jargon: 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 résumé that you are writing for your prospective employer. This is your MBA résumé 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. So make sure to make your résumé jargon-free. The following example is jargon-free:


  • Created and implemented new checklists and guidelines, helping reduce the cost of the projects by 10-15%

6. Lack of Strong Verbs: Do not start a bullet point with nouns or adjectives (e.g. ‘responsible for’ or ‘in-depth understanding of’). Begin 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 like “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.


  • Collaborated with multiple stakeholders and built a team of 7 analysts that resulted in revenue growth of $ 400K/ year

7. List of job responsibilities: Another most common mistake some applicants make in their MBA résumé is making it 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 so your current professional experience gets the utmost attention.

8. Lack of Quantifiable Accomplishments: Résumés that do not quantify the outcome of your accomplishments fail to make an impression. So please make sure to quantify your impact on your company/organization with measurable results or achievements.

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?


  • Spearheaded a flagship project - “Change In Terms” for the company– built a team of 5 analysts, translating into a revenue of $100K

9. Details of 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 exceptional for your age. You have come a long way after high school; and you are applying for graduate school, not college.

10. Omitting 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, not only professionals with no interests beyond their work. So do not hesitate to include 2-3 hobbies that you feel passionate about and pursue in your non-work hours. Please do not include too many hobbies or interests. Also, include community service activities you have been involved in.

11. Beginning with Education Section: Beginning with the education section is one of the most common mistakes the applicants make. Please 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, accomplishments/ranking, etc.

12. 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.

13. Providing Personal Information: Please do not provide your height, weight, date of birth, or marital status on your résumé.  Also, there is no need to provide your picture on your résumé.

14. 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’.

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.

Do you have questions about your application? E-mail Poonam at or sign up here for a free consultation.