Posted on June 12, 2024

Avoid These 10 Mistakes When Creating MBA Résumé

Avoid 10 Mistakes in Resume

When guiding students through their MBA application process, I often observe that some applicants ignore résumé and focus all their attention on the GMAT and essays. Please note that a resume is a critical component of the application package, so it demands the same level of attention as your essays. It is your first introduction to Ad Com, so it should be strong enough to drive them to read your essays and the rest of the application to learn more about you.

Following are the most common mistakes I see in résumés:

1. Lengthy Resumes with Technical Terms

Often, I receive 3-4 pages résumés that are filled with technical jargon with no mention of results achieved. MBA résumé is different from a job résumé that you write for your prospective employer. The Ad Com of business schools will look at your résumé to evaluate you for career progression, leadership qualities, teamwork skills, initiative, and other interests/activities of future business leaders. So, focus on these skills in a jargon-free language comprehensible to a non-industry person.

As with essays, brevity is the key here. Most business schools require a one-page resume, so, follow the principle of ‘less is more’ and be as concise as possible.  Make each word count that shines a spotlight on your candidacy. Also, please avoid writing complete sentences in your resume.

2. Crumpled Resume

In a desperate attempt to squeeze in all that they have done on one page, applicants often use every bit of the space, leaving no room between sections and on the margins. This makes their resumes look cramped and difficult to understand. Please note that admission committee members have to read thousands of résumés and cannot spend more than 2 minutes on each resume. So readability and appearance of the resume are crucial. Leave some white space between sections and on the margins to make your résumé easy on the eyes.

Example: Mentored & developed multiple vendors throughout the project life cycle ensuring on-time, under-budget project completion; resulting in 150K savings.

3. Lack of Impact/ Results

Applicants often create résumés as a laundry list of responsibilities, failing to show results or accomplishments. Please 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 did you increase sales?
  • Example: Managed a budget of $10-20MM/year for planning equipment and resources for onshore rigless operations

If you can’t disclose revenue figures, you may refer to percentage increases.

4. Failure to Demonstrate Growth

Some applicants who have worked for the same company throughout their careers mention only their most recent position. This doesn’t give the reader any clue about their professional growth. To demonstrate your career growth and the impact you have made in each position when working for the same company, you must list them separately. For example, if you have reached the position of Director of Finance and Analytics at a financial services company in 6 or 7 years, you must list all your job positions from financial analyst to the Director of Finance and Analytics. But your most recent job should get the most space. If you worked for the same company throughout your professional career, write the company's name only once. There is no need to use precious space by writing the same company’s name 4 times.

5. Omitting Additional Information Section

Usually, applicants get so involved in the details of their professional experience that they ignore the extra-curricular activities/community service and other interests/ hobbies. Business schools seek well-rounded individuals, not professionals with no interests beyond their work. In addition to interests/hobbies and community involvement, the Additional Information section may also include certifications done, awards won, and languages learned.

6. Lack of 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. Avoid overusing verbs such as ‘led’, ‘managed’, and ‘developed’. Consider using other verbs such as ‘accelerated’, ‘delivered,’ ‘established,’ ‘implemented,’ ‘initiated,’ ‘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, resulting in revenue growth of $ 400K/ year.

7. Using Fancy Fonts

A 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, use 10 or 11 font and avoid squeezing in loads of information by using 8 font size.

8. Not Mentioning Specifics of Nonwork Experience

Another common mistake is writing a laundry list of interests and hobbies under the extracurricular activities section. For example- table tennis, cricket, baseball, music, reading …… This fails to create an impression. The admission committee needs specifics of your interest. Instead of listing 8 interests, mention only 3-4, and provide the specifics of your involvement.

Example: Instead of ‘music and table tennis’, write ‘music enthusiast- performed in several concerts; table tennis-play table tennis twice a week’.

This will offer the admission committee insights into your passion for your hobby.

Also, most resumes I review lack timelines of the applicants’ involvement in extra-curricular activities or community work. Mentioning the length of your community involvement is as important as listing the period worked in specific job positions.

Example: Helped low-income individuals and families with their tax preparation and tax issues during tax season in 2012, 2013, and 2014.

9. Mixing up Key Information

Applicants often place excessive information in the Professional Information section and Education section which might not capture the reader’s attention. For example, putting awards in the professional Information section may not be effective. If you have won multiple awards in a professional capacity, it’s a great idea to create an Awards section to attract the admission committee’s attention. Placing all extracurricular activities in one section may not be a good idea as this will make your Education section lusterless. So to highlight your non-academic involvement during college, include extracurricular activities in the Education section.

10. Mentioning High school Activities

Sometimes applicants fill precious space with high school accomplishments and grades. Do not discuss your high school activities unless you did something truly exceptional for your age. Remember you have come a long way after high school and are applying for graduate school, not college.

To summarize, crafting a compelling MBA résumé is essential for making a strong first impression on the admissions committee. Avoid common pitfalls such as lengthy, jargon-filled résumés, crammed layouts, and lack of demonstrated impact. Highlight your career growth, use strong action verbs, and include additional information about extracurricular activities and community service. Stick to professional fonts, provide specifics on nonwork experiences, and organize key information effectively. By avoiding these mistakes, you can create a résumé that captures the reader's attention and showcases your qualifications as a well-rounded candidate.

For more details on creating powerful MBA résumés, you may refer to the following blog:

For more details on creating powerful MBA résumés, refer to the following blog: 20 Helpful Tips to Craft a Powerful MBA Resume

About MER (myEssayReview)

Poonam Tandon, the founder of MER (myEssayReview), is a Ph.D. in English with 13 years of MBA consulting experience and three decades of teaching experience in India and the US. Poonam has successfully guided hundreds of students from around the world to gain admission into the esteemed MBA, EMBA, and specialized Masters's programs in the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia. Throughout her four-decade-long professional career, she has reviewed 11,000+ essays written by applicants worldwide. Poonam was among the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club from September 2012 to December 2023.

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