Your MBA resume essentially serves as a way of accentuating your career’s “greatest hits” for the adcom. On one to two pages, you have the opportunity to highlight your most impressive academic and professional experiences. For overrepresented applicants, older applicants, and applicants with other challenging circumstances (such as a criminal record), this is their first shot at grabbing the attention of top B-school admissions reps and eliminating their hesitations.
Answer these five questions to create a stunning resume that will highlight your competitive advantage and boost your chances of getting accepted:
1. Who are you?
Interview yourself and examine the jobs you’ve had, the skills you’ve acquired, and your “greatest hits” as a professional.
What are some of your most impressive skills or talents? What accomplishments are you most proud of? What have you achieved that gained you the most recognition? How have you affected your organization or influenced coworkers? What are some of your key successes?
Look through old emails that might jog your memory, read performance reviews or LinkedIn recommendations, and jot down notes chronicling your career achievements.
2. Where are you applying?
The best way to convince an adcom that you’re best for their school is to start by understanding the school’s mission, strengths, and ideals.
When putting your resume together, you’ll need to learn as much as possible about the program you’re applying to. Then, customize your resume to reflect the aspects of your background that are most relevant to your target school.
You want the language of your resume to match the school’s mission, strengths, and ideals, but be sure that you do not just parrot back what’s on the program’s website. Your goal is to internalize the school’s vision and present your complementary ideals, not to merely cut and paste or directly mimic its language.
3. What are some of your specific accomplishments?
Saying that you “led your team to success” just won’t cut it. Impact is measured in numbers, so you want to make sure that the numbers on your resume are impressive.
Details matter. Consider how much more impressive saying, “Designed $3 million IT strategy that increased revenue by 11% and attracted 7 new clients” sounds than saying, “Developed IT plan that was selected for implementation.” If you work for a private company and can’t disclose revenue figures, refer to percentage increases, or cite the improved industry ranking of the organization’s product or performance as a result of your contribution. Think of numbers and other hard details as proof that you can deliver.
4. Are you being honest?
If you dropped out of your CPA course just before finals, don’t say that you completed the course. If you were one of eight equally ranked members of a team, don’t say you were team leader. If you worked for four months at a company, don’t say you were there for a year.
You get the point.
Making up degrees, accomplishments, and other personal and professional facts is just a bad idea. Don’t do it; it’s unethical and potentially self-destructive. Schools won’t hesitate to show a student the door when they learn that their resume, or any other part of their application for that matter, is more fiction than fact.
5. Does your resume look good?
Yes, it’s important that your resume sounds good. But how does it look?
A slapdash job will portray you as a sloppy, careless person. A featureless, plain display will make you look uninteresting or boring. The solution here isn’t to use a hot pink background bordered by birds and flowers, but adding a few design elements will do wonders to spruce up your resume and show that you put some thought into your presentation.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Instead of the traditional circle bullet or dash, use the less common diamond- or arrow-shaped bullet.
- Use expanded text (kerning) to highlight a key term.
- Enclose certain sections of your resume in shaded boxes.
No matter what, keep in mind that less is more; you don’t want a cluttered resume that is difficult to read. And if your target school specifies format rules (particularly regarding margins, page number, and font), be sure to follow them to a T. This might mean toning down your creative flair for design to fit the school’s standard.
For personalized advice tailored just for you, check out our MBA admissions consulting and editing services, and work one-on-one with a pro who will help you discover your competitive advantage and use it to get ACCEPTED.
As the former executive director of admissions at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School and assistant dean of admissions at Georgetown’s McDonough School and the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School, Kelly Wilson has 23 years’ experience overseeing admissions committees and has reviewed more than 38,000 applications for the MBA and master’s programs in management of information systems, computational finance, business analytics, and product management. Want Kelly to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!