Your resume is one of the most critical pieces of your business school application: it is the first component that admissions committee members review, and it is often the only information that they provide to interviewers before your interview. Quantifying your value on your resume is worth the extra effort because doing so adds credibility and helps you stand out—which can give you an edge in the competitive world of MBA admissions.
If you are having trouble identifying powerful data points to add to your resume, you are not alone. This can be particularly difficult to do if you are coming from a position without highly analytical or financially driven responsibilities. Here are some tricks and techniques to help you along the way!
1. Show your impact in business terms.
If your business school resume doesn’t already show your business impact, can you calculate it? This can be easier said than done (which is why I’m discussing it first!), and you may need to spend some time thinking about your impact or even getting information from your colleagues.
For example, a recent Stratus client was proud of the analytical tools he’d built and launched in a recent role. In his resume, he described how one tool was a big time saver for call center agents, but he didn’t really provide any details beyond that. After talking to the call center management team, he soon learned that the tool saves each agent about an hour per week on a specific report. There are 30 agents, so he revamped his bullet from
“Designed and implemented new innovative analytics tools.”
“Designed and implemented 4 new innovative analytics tools, including an advanced call center platform that saved 30 labor hours per week.”
To revamp your resume bullets to focus on business results, think about how your work has directly (or indirectly) increased sales/revenue, decreased costs, improved the customer or employee experience, and saved time through efficiency gains or process automation. If you need to, do what my client did and go ask some of your coworkers how your work has contributed to their success.
2. Quantify volume and frequency.
Consider how often you do a task, how that adds up over time, and what it helps achieve in business terms. When I first started working with a client, one of her resume bullets was
“Created reports for leadership to make decisions based off data insights.”
After learning how often she created reports (one to two per week), how long she did it (roughly 20 weeks), to whom she delivered them (about 30 senior executives), and how they used the reports (to make product decisions based on updated competitive activities), the bullet was updated to
“Created 25+ reports for ~30 senior executives to make product decisions based on updated competitive intelligence.”
When using this technique, ask yourself questions like “How often?,” “How many/much?,” “For how long?,” “Who does this help (and how many of them are there)?,” and “How does it help them and by how much?” Just continue going deeper—asking questions and writing down any metrics or business impacts along the way.
In a related scenario, many people who are at an early stage in their career have experienced leadership without formal management reporting and therefore struggle to demonstrate this with numbers. For example, maybe they trained new hires (enabling them to onboard more quickly than expected to start delivering impact of their own), ran an internship program (allowing interns to execute projects in a time-constrained environment), or managed a client project (whose success can be validated by the results of a customer satisfaction survey). If this is you, use this technique and ask yourself these same questions to help quantify your leadership.
3. Highlight your performance relative to peers.
Admissions committees like to see how you’ve progressed relative to your peer group, so think about where you’ve outperformed your peers. Some roles tend to have big peer groups (think about the big “incoming class” hires where everybody starts at the same time). I’ve seen people highlight their milestones in ways such as
“Fast-tracked promotion to Associate due to performance (18 months to promotion versus 2-year average among peers).”
“Selected as 1 of 10 (out of >1,000 qualified applicants) for ABCco’s Leadership Program.”
Some questions to consider are “Were you the most junior in a peer group?,” “Are performance metrics shared that indicate where you did well?,” and “Did you achieve milestones at a fast pace?”
4. Come up with a best estimate.
If you don’t know your impact specifically, estimate it—but be realistic, and NEVER embellish! One way to be transparent about the numbers not being exact is to add the term “estimated” or even just the “~” symbol. To describe his experience as a health clinic volunteer during his undergrad years, one of our clients changed his resume bullet from
“Cared for and served patients.”
“Provided care for ~10 patients weekly at a homeless shelter.”
Adding this metric gives the admissions committee a sense of your impact. So, if you don’t know exactly, apply some logic (or recollection) and come up with your best estimate.
5. Provide a range.
Things change from week to week or year to year, but don’t let this derail your metrics efforts. If you’re omitting metrics because you don’t know how to concisely describe something that changed over time, providing a range can be a good tool. This can be especially helpful for annual activities that fluctuate for various reasons. Consider someone who is involved in organizing community events as a volunteer (extracurricular):
“Provided community support throughout the year including holiday outreach.”
“Organized 4-6 fundraising events annually, each with 100–150 attendees, primarily focused on holiday outreach.”
What happens if you are asked during an interview about a range you provided on your resume? In the example above, you could explain the variance in the number of annual events by simply saying you had work or family commitments that conflicted for an event during the second year.
6. Share your ratings.
If you have an annual performance review or have received feedback and grades from courses, this is a great opportunity to document your achievements. Even without an actual number, you can still demonstrate your accomplishments. One recent client took a leadership development course during college, which initially was outlined in the following resume bullet:
“Leadership Development Course”
After revamping the bullet, it read:
“Completed month-long course focusing on leadership in small team environments. Received ‘Excellent’ rating for ability to lead.”
If you have visibility into how many employees received a similar strong review or rating, you could leverage this in a bullet point to indicate your truly standout performance.
7. Provide context and importance.
Without a comparative number, it’s hard to say whether you’ve done something meaningful. Did you work on a high-profile project or with an important client? If so, share specifics. For example, was it “the largest client” or a “high-profile project for the CEO”? Additionally, you can provide context by using the “from this to that” framework. For example, a recent client included the following bullet in his resume:
“Helped company open 2 new offices to handle growth.”
To put the “2 new offices” into perspective, he revamped the bullet as follows:
“Managed growth from 5 to 7 offices by leading operations integration and re-organization.”
Showing growth at this scale is more meaningful than growing from 105 to 107 offices, for example.
You can even apply this technique to the “Interests” section of your resume to draw attention to unique hobbies or skills (e.g., “Traveled to >35 countries on 4 continents” versus “Traveling”; or “Hiked in 20 US National Parks” versus “Hiking”).
8. Optimize formatting with numerals and symbols.
Numerals (“5” versus “five”) and symbols (~, <, <, $, %) will stand out more than words. Plus, this tactic also saves space on each line, allowing you to include a greater number of meaningful accomplishments.
As you consider these tips and techniques, remember that you may use them individually or combine them. Check out “How to Create the Best Possible Resume for Your MBA Application” for more comprehensive tips from Stratus!