An excellent resume is an important part of your MBA application because it gives admissions committees (AdComs) a snapshot of your work experience, education, skills, and accomplishments. However, it is more than just an updated version of the resume you used to land your current job. Put in the time to make your resume exceptional. Here are several tips for creating a superb MBA application resume:
LENGTH: Cut it down to one page!
AdComs read 10,000 applications in the span of just a few months. Be respectful of their time and the sheer number of applications they receive by providing a one-page detailed summary that is easy to read and to the point. (Note: Applicants to executive MBA programs who have ten or more years of experience can have resumes up to two pages.)
Tips for trimming your resume:
- Complete sentences are not necessary, nor are words such as “a,” “an,” and “the.”
- Periods at the end of a line are optional. Use periods or don’t use them—just be consistent throughout.
- Font can go as small as 10 points, and your margins can shrink to 0.5 or even to 0.3 on all sides.
- The white space between sections can also shrink to be very tiny rather than taking the height of a full 10-point font character, and you can reduce the space between the bullet point and the first character of that line.
- Numbers can be presented as numerals (“4”) rather than being spelled out (“four”), and widely used abbreviations and acronyms are acceptable.
- Formatting is a great way to reduce length without cutting into the meat of your resume.
- Use standard fonts such as Calibri, Times, and Arial (or Arial Narrow).
STRUCTURE: Although the structure of an MBA resume is similar to that of a work resume, there are differences.
Remove the objective at the top of your resume because everyone has the same objective when applying to business schools—to get in!
- Dates are important on an MBA resume because schools expect continuous employment.
- If you have a gap in employment, use the optional essay to share a sentence or two explaining how you utilized your time when not employed.
- The dates should be easy for AdComs to find and follow. Line them up on the far-right side of the page, and include months and years for each entry.
EXPERIENCE: What should I focus on?
Your first bullet point underneath each job title should be the most significant. Remember that your audience is AdComs, and what is significant to them is leadership or interpersonal skills, analytical or problem-solving skills, and a show of career progression. AdComs are more interested in how a candidate managed a four-person cross-functional team than whether the candidate can code in 20 computer languages.
- Quantify it! When possible, quantify your experience. Strong resumes include numerical items such as size and scope of work responsibilities, the number of people managed, the size of the budget, or perhaps the measurable impact of a project in cost savings or share/revenue growth. Concrete numbers have a lot of power on a resume.
- Be a S.T.A.R. One way to concisely convey your accomplishments is to use the S.T.A.R. method. This stands for
- Situation or context
- Task: What needed to be done or the key objective
- Action: Your role, the time frame (if applicable), and the skills used
- Results: Quantified results, if possible (e.g., “Managed 5 engineers to successfully design $200 million living quarters project for remote offshore platform 2 months ahead of schedule.”)
- Highlight your strengths without pointing out your weaknesses.
- If you earned honors in undergrad/grad school, list them! This is always an asset.
- Your GMAT score, if an asset, should appear on your resume in the section where you list your university degree(s).
- Likewise, your grade point average, if an asset, should also be listed.
- These data points are in the online portion of your application, so simply leave them off if they are average or below!
- Consider your resume content with respect to your essays. This might seem a bit counterintuitive, but if you are going to write a significant amount in your essay(s) about an experience at a particular job, then you can include less about that experience on your resume. Rather than including four bullet points describing that position, you might only have two because the content of those bullets is more thoroughly discussed in the essays. This will free up some space to add unique content in other areas of your resume.
INTERESTS: Business schools look at their applicants in a holistic way.
Include a section that briefly covers your interests outside of work. In a blind MBA admissions interview, your interests are frequently conversation starters!
- Do you spend time volunteering? If so, what is your role, and with which organization do you volunteer?
- Do you play sports on a regular basis? If so, list them!
- Can you speak foreign languages? List your level of proficiency in each (and make sure to include English in your list!).
- Make your interests sound interesting! Instead of including “cooking,” write something like “cooking spicy Southeast Asian foods.” Specific details are more interesting.
LANGUAGE: How can I convey my experiences clearly?
Remember that you’re not applying for a master’s in English so don’t worry about the style as much as the substance. You want to clearly communicate your experiences in the fewest words possible to make space for as much as you can on your resume.
- Do not use jargon. AdCom members do not necessarily have experience in your field and are unlikely to understand industry-specific acronyms and jargon.
- Convert all of this type of wording to more universally understood business language.
- Avoid hedging words such as “may” and “might” that could make you sound unsure.
- Do not use contractions to save space even though it is very tempting to do so.
- Use action-oriented wording. Just as with a work resume, you want to use diverse wording that describes you as an active person.
- Start each bullet point with a strong active verb, and do not overuse a particular word.
- Pay attention to leadership/teamwork themes when selecting your wording for an MBA application (e.g., “collaborated,” “established,” “initiated,” “spearheaded,” “steered”).
- Tell the truth, but don’t provide TMI. It goes without saying that you should not lie on your resume. Most schools do a background check on applicants, and if caught lying, you will be in violation of honor code and your acceptance or degree will be revoked. That pointer is probably obvious to everyone, but what about the smaller things?
- Do not put a photo on your resume. Leave out personal details such as age and marital status.
- Do not include information pertaining to high school, high school jobs, or high school/college entry tests, such as the SAT.
PROOFREAD: Most importantly, proofread, proofread, and then proofread again!
Pay attention to capitalization, which many people overuse on resumes.
- Capitalize specific job titles such as Associate Brand Manager, team titles, brand names, and company names.
- Colleges and college majors should be capitalized, as they are proper nouns.
- The first word of every bullet and sub-bullet should be capitalized.
- Hobbies, skills, industry sectors, and general job titles should not be capitalized.
Following the above recommendations will set you well on your way to crafting a strong and authentic resume for your MBA applications.