When assisting my students with their MBA applications, I observed that some applicants overlook their résumé and focus all their attention on the GMAT and essays. Please note that Resume is a critical component of the application package and demands as much of your attention as your essays do. In fact, it serves as your first introduction to Ad Com, so it should be strong enough to drive them to read your essays to learn more about you.
Below are five common mistakes that you should avoid when building your MBA resume:
1. Lengthy Resumes with Technical Terms:
Many times, I receive 3-4 pages long résumés that are filled with technical jargon. Most business schools require a concise one-page Resume, so it’s crucial to follow the principle of 'less is more' and present information as succinctly as possible.
Please note MBA résumé is different from a job résumé. The Ad Com of business schools evaluates your resume to gauge your career progression, leadership qualities, teamwork skills, initiative, and other interests/activities of future business leaders. So focus on highlighting these skills in a jargon-free language that is easily understandable to a non-industry person.
Brevity is the key here. Every word in your resume should shine a spotlight on your candidacy. So opt for clear, impactful phrases that concisely convey your achievements and abilities. Remember that admission committee members have to review thousands of resumes, allowing them to give 1- 2 minutes to each resume. Thus, the readability and appearance of your résumé are crucial. Create an easy-to-read format by leaving some white space between sections and on the margins, making it more visually appealing to the reader’s eyes.
Example: Mentored & developed multiple vendors throughout the project life cycle, ensuring on-time, under-budget project completion, resulting in 150K savings
2. Lack of Impact /Results
Often, applicants create résumés that look like a laundry list of responsibilities, failing to showcase their results or accomplishments. Please make sure to demonstrate impact and, whenever possible, quantify your impact on your company/organization with measurable results or achievements.
You can demonstrate your impact by providing specific details such as:
- How much or by what percentage did you reduce expenses?
- How many people were on the team that you supervised?
- How much or by what percentage have you increased sales?
Example: Managed a budget of $10-20MM/year for planning equipment and resources for onshore rig less operations
You may refer to percentage increases if you can't disclose revenue figures.
3. Lack of Strong Action Verbs
The lack of strong action verbs makes your resume ineffective. To present yourself as a dynamic individual ready for action, begin each bullet point with a strong action verb. Also, avoid overusing verbs such as 'led,' 'managed' or 'developed'. Instead, consider using other verbs such as 'accelerated', 'delivered,’ 'established,’ 'implemented,’ 'initiated,' or 'spearheaded' to demonstrate leadership skills. Demonstrate your collaborative attitude by using verbs such as 'assist', 'contribute', 'support', 'provide' etc.
Example: Collaborated with multiple stakeholders and built a team of 7 analysts, generating revenue growth of $ 400K/ year.
4. Failure to Demonstrate Growth
Sometimes applicants have worked for the same company throughout their careers, but they only mention their most recent position. This approach fails to showcase their professional growth over time. To demonstrate your career growth and the impact you made at each of those three positions you held for that company, you must list them separately. For example, if you have reached the Director of Finance and Analytics position at a financial services company in six or seven years, you must list all job positions in six years.
Highlight your most recent job by giving it maximum space but include the previous positions to provide a comprehensive picture of your growth. Also, you may write the company's name only once in such cases. There is no need to use precious space by writing the same company's name four times.
Name of Company
Director, Finance and Analytics
Director of Finance
Senior Manager of Finance
Manager of Finance
Senior Financial Analyst
5. Omitting or Ignoring the Additional Information Section
Applicants often get so engrossed in detailing their professional experience that they ignore the additional information section. This section allows you to showcase your extra-curricular activities/community service, and other interests/ hobbies. Business schools are looking for well-rounded individuals, so make sure to include these aspects to paint a fuller picture of yourself beyond your professional life.
However, avoid providing a laundry list of 8 interests, hobbies (e.g. table tennis, cricket, baseball, music, reading, traveling, cooking, gym, etc.) Instead, mention only 3-4 hobbies, but provide the specifics of your involvement. For example, instead of writing 'music and table tennis', if you write 'music enthusiast- performed in several concerts: table tennis-play table tennis twice a week'. This will offer the admission committee insights into your genuine interest/ passion for your hobby.
The Additional Information section should also include certifications, courses taken, awards won, and languages learned.
Remember that mentioning the duration of your community involvement is as important as listing the period worked under specific job positions in your professional career. Treat your nonwork experience as seriously as you treat your professional experience.
Example: Helped low-income individuals and families with their tax preparation and tax issues during tax season in 2012, 2013 and 2014
By avoiding these common résumé mistakes and following these tips, you can create a strong, impactful résumé that effectively presents your achievements and highlights your unique qualities as an MBA applicant.
For more details on creating robust MBA résumés, you may refer to the following blog: