The first exposure that a business school gets to your candidacy is usually your résumé — sometimes called a CV (curriculum vitae). Typically 1-2 pages in length, the résumé provides the admissions committee with an engaging snapshot of your career and life since the time you enrolled in college.
Sounds easy enough, right? Well, the reality is that some MBA applicants misunderstand or even misuse the résumé in ways that reduce their chances for admission. To help our clients make the most of this important opportunity, The MBA Exchange advises them to consider these 6 points when presenting themselves via a résumé:
1. Present substance, with clarity and succinctness
Unless the school’s application instructions specify a “1-page limit,” you should not delete core content that puts your candidacy in positive light. However, this also means that you should not just fill the space with extraneous details. Reading a 2-page résumé that should have been a 1-pager is not going to endear you to an overworked admissions staffer with a stack of apps sitting on his or her desk. So, make every word count. We encourage our clients to minimize the use of “articles” — a, an, the — as they add little value.
2. Balance professional/academic/personal
Traditionally, the résumé of an MBA applicant devotes more space to job-related topics than education and activities. This makes good sense since one’s career tends to be more “unique”– and require more detail — than the other aspects. But, the objective is to help the reader feel like he or she knows you before you even meet. So, be sure to include enough description of your college and personal background to paint a complete picture.
3. Use action verbs and active voice
Given the constraint of length limits, the style and tone of an MBA résumé should be telegraphic. Rather than a passive description of your various responsibilities and activities, emphasize what you’ve actually accomplished by starting each statement with an action verb — “led, planned, drove, directed, produced.” That conveys the kind of impact and confidence that truly resonates with an adcom.
4. Show quantified results and tangible outcomes
Business schools like applicants who make a measureable difference. This can be a particular challenge to individuals who hold support positions or analytical roles. However, regardless of your job, it’s likely that you are adding some value to a process that eventually has a quantified result and/or tangible outcome. While you should never take sole credit for an accomplishment that reflects the inputs of others, likewise you should not shy from describing a specific deliverable that benefitted from your contributions. Also, if you’re relatively new to your current job, it’s fine to include estimated, projected or expected results and outcomes for the work you’re currently doing. And be sure to minimize the use of jargon or nomenclature that most adcoms will not understand nor take the time to research.
5. Avoid unexplained gaps in employment
Regardless of the reason, if more than 60 days passed between jobs, you should explain that gap in the résumé. Don’t try to avoid the issue by stating only years of employment. MBA applications usually ask for a “work history” with specific start and end dates for each position. So, the résumé must be consistent. Otherwise, the adcom may conclude that you’re trying to fool them — and that’s never a good thing to do.
6. Convey growth and development
In addition to presenting facts and figures, the “story” that you want to tell through your résumé is how each item listed has contributed to this robust, high-potential MBA candidacy. This can be difficult if job titles don’t reveal an obvious progression or expansion of responsibility. So, be sure to describe your current position with evidence that you’ve earned advancement from previous roles and are achieving things that leverage the skills, experience and success that define your past.
One quick and easy way to confirm that your résumé is contributing to your MBA admissions campaign is to get some expert feedback. So, if you’d like to get our analysis, please be sure to upload the résumé and request our free evaluation of your strengths and vulnerabilities. As former MBA admissions professionals and interviewers, we can help you avoid submitting an off-target résumé that could seriously jeopardize your chances for admission.