The last two articles explored the importance of the academic portion of your MBA application, including your undergraduate performance as well as your GMAT. This article will focus on the other, equally important, side of the coin: your work experience.
Although more schools are now open to considering candidates without post-college experience, most top MBA programs still strongly prefer candidates who have worked a solid two to five years. Schools believe that students with work experience are able to take advantage more fully of the MBA experience, and that they can contribute more to the classroom and to their peers.
What part of your work experience is the most important? Based on my experience as an admissions consultant and previously as Admissions Director, I can point to the following elements:
1. Leadership. More than the type of company you work for, or the type of work you do, the most important element of your work experience is your leadership. This is one of the elements that is given the most weight. Your resume should be packed with concrete evidence of leadership: how many people you supervise, the teams you lead, the size of the budget you manage, and the impact you have had. It’s not enough to say that you are a leader; you must back it up with concrete numbers and achievements.
2. Professional development. In addition to leadership, it’s important to give evidence of growth through promotions within the company or movements to another company for higher responsibility. Besides describing the change in roles, it is important to give evidence of growth and dynamism. Again, specifics matter.
3. Stability. Even though adcoms will want to see progress in and out of the organization, they will also value your professional stability. This means that you should change jobs only when it represents an advancement for your career. Changing jobs every 12 months (or less), for example, shows instability and leads to suspicion about your ability to hold a job—or appeal to on-campus recruiters. Although changes in employment are often necessary and inevitable, try to keep them to a minimum, and if possible, avoid long lapses between jobs, as you will find them difficult to explain in an application later.
Your resume must display your professional accomplishments with numbers and details. The resume is not a never-ending list of duties and responsibilities, but a quantified record of your achievements. Spend time and attention in building your resume. It is an essential part of the application and consequently one of the keys to your admission to business school.
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Esmeralda Cardenal is a Former Associate Director of Admissions at Yale SOM, Director of MBA Admissions at MSU Broad, and consultant at Cardiff Business School in the UK. Since 2014, she has guided Accepted clients to acceptance in various graduate programs including MBA and master's in finance, business analytics, data science, sustainability, and public policy. Want Esmeralda to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• Leadership in Admissions, a free guide
• What MBA Hiring Managers Look For
• How an Admissions Committee Views MBA Work Experience