MBA, MBA Preparation

How to Write a Winning MBA Resume

September 19 2023 By The MBA Exchange
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Applying for an MBA degree isn’t actually that much like applying for a job, even though your success with both rests in part on the quality of your resume. You “apply” in both situations. That’s where the similarities end. The resume you use for an MBA application is a pretty different animal from the type of professional resume you’d use to apply for a job or gig. MBA resumes have to show off your candidacy, providing the admissions committee with an engaging snapshot of your career and life since the time you enrolled in college.

What is an MBA resume?

To start by defining terms, an MBA resume, sometimes called a CV (curriculum vitae) is a document that’s usually 1-2 pages in length. For the majority of candidates, it should be no more than 1 page. Your resume needs to impress MBA admissions committee members at a glance, while still providing enough in terms of depth and detail. At its best, your MBA admissions resume will highlight your key accomplishments, attributes, and interests in a way that leaves your reader – whether an adcom reviewing your application, an interviewer assessing your fit with the school, or a current student or alum of your target school with whom you’re networking – eager to know more about you. 

What an MBA admissions resume is NOT:

A complete biography 

An MBA admissions resume only shows you at your best. Since the target deliverable is, for most clients, a one-page document, you can’t include everything – so make everything you do include count! Include examples of specific times and places when you learned the most, shone the brightest and had the greatest impact. 

Some content to exclude: high school honors and activities (these are too far in the past to be worth highlighting, makes you seem “desperate”); non-leadership roles in college (if you didn’t actually lead others, then you can still mention your active membership and impact in substantial organizations); and the phrase “responsible for” (if you did something important, then state what you actually did, starting with an action verb.)

A list of all your official job descriptions to date

Avoid the mistake of describing your jobs rather than yourself. If you’ve had a “traditional” pre-MBA career (e.g., consulting or financial services), the AdCom will know the basic parameters of your job already. In that case, your task will be to demonstrate how you made your mark in the role. 

If you’ve pursued a less traditional career path, you’ll need to show how the skills you’ve drawn on and cultivated professionally correspond to the Six Pillars, the demands of a top b-school curriculum and – crucially – the rigors of the MBA internship and full-time job market.

A document to support a job search in your current industry

Avoid industry jargon, period. 

If your reader knows your industry, using jargon won’t distinguish you from the hundreds (or thousands) of other applicants with similar backgrounds. 

If your industry is less familiar, the jargon may be incomprehensible, and therefore alienating to your reader, who likely won’t appreciate technical terms they don’t understand. 

Strive to state your impact in language that most well-educated professionals in most industries can relate to. (A tall order, yes – but a worthy goal that your consultant can help you achieve.)

What an MBA admissions resume IS:

A heat-seeking marketing missile

In many cases, a resume is the first piece of information a reader will see about you. And, in the case of a “blind” admissions interviewer, it’s the only one! 

Your resume should include only information that answers the question, “What makes my candidacy truly unique and offers significant value for MBA classmates and this school?” If a piece of information doesn’t pass this test, consider leaving it off your resume.

A “teaser” document; a conversation starter

“Leave them wanting more” is another good mantra for resume writing. Ideally, each line on your resume will be the kernel of a story that a reader will want you to elaborate. Your opportunity to do so comes in the rest of your application and during your interview. (See “a complete biography” above.)

An accounting of all your time between the beginning of your undergrad studies and now

Leave no time unaccounted for on your resume. Periods of unemployment, travel, school, working on a startup, and so forth are okay; unexplained holes aren’t. Talk to your consultant about any questions you have on this front. 

The MBA admissions resume poses unique challenges. However, the time and thought you invest upfront in distilling, prioritizing and presenting your most meaningful achievements will pay off during the rest of the application process.

What to Include in an MBA Resume

Contact information

A good example of an MBA resume template begins with your personal information (name, address, email, LinkedIn link etc.).


List your education, major and GPA. Even if you’re not sure you have the GPA you need for MBA admissions success, you need to include this info. A resume for an MBA application typically devotes more space to job-related topics than education and activities. This makes sense since your career is probably going to be more unique than the other aspects of your profile. With that said, the objective for MBA resumes 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.

Work Experience

Next, you want to present your current work experience followed by your previous work history. Include details of your position, specific quantifications of your contributions, and active statements of your accomplishments for each position you’ve held.

Avoid unexplained gaps in your documented employment history. Regardless of the reason, if more than 60 days passed between jobs, explain that gap. Don’t try to avoid the issue by stating only years of employment. MBA applications usually ask for work history with specific start and end dates for each position. So, the resume must be consistent. Otherwise, the adcom may conclude that you’re trying to fool them and that’s never a good thing to do.


In addition to presenting facts and figures, you want your resume to tell a story about 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.

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.

Lose the laundry list of cases you worked on, deals you closed or research you published. Instead, choose a few items that showcase a range of skills from leadership to teamwork to analytic horsepower. Make each example impactful. Use action verbs, quantify results and relate back to a relevant business application when possible.


Business schools like applicants who make a measurable 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 shouldn’t take sole credit for an accomplishment that reflects the inputs of others, likewise, don’t shy away from describing a specific deliverable that benefitted from your contributions.

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. But be sure to minimize the use of jargon or nomenclature that most adcoms will not understand or take the time to research!

Skills and certifications

Close with active statements of your relevant skills, affiliations and certifications. Make it personal! 

Tips to Develop a Strong Resume for the MBA Application

Once you’ve selected the right MBA programs for you to target, it’s time to turn your eyes to your resume, and start making some changes! Your resume for MBA application needs to give the basics of your education, career and skills. Include graduation dates and other key time markers, and stack your promotions and advancements to demonstrate growth. We encourage our clients to minimize the use of articles “a,” “an” and “the” as they add little value. We also suggest that you ditch your “career objective” header, as many MBA adcoms consider this to be a waste of space. Besides, you’ll most likely be asked to discuss your career goals elsewhere in the application.

Opt for a Clean Resume Format

The best MBA resume format is clear, without clutter, and with strong headings that quickly guide the eye to the most important info. And, your MBA resume should tell a clear story that shows your ongoing progress toward concrete goals. Make sure you’ve got sufficient margins and spacing, or you risk readers bouncing off an inaccessible wall of text. Bullet points are a great way to condense and consolidate information that can otherwise clutter up your resume with repetitive text.

Unless the school’s application instructions specify a 1-page limit, don’t go wild with deleting core content that puts your candidacy in a positive light. But, conversely, don’t just fill the space with extraneous details. Reading a 2-page resume 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.

Ditch your “career objective” 

MBA adcoms consider this to be a waste of space. Besides, you’ll most likely be asked to discuss your career goals elsewhere in the application.

Eliminate or at least minimize industry jargon

The deep expertise and specific technical knowledge that impressed your current company will only irritate an MBA adcom. Your priority now is to explain what you do in layman’s terms, which is the exact opposite of what you were trying to demonstrate in a professional resume.

Selectively self-promote

If you earned a faster-than-average promotion or are being sponsored for your MBA, say so in your resume. If you received an exclusive academic scholarship, were accepted by a prestigious organization or were appointed to a leadership position over many other qualified candidates, write it down. The same goes for very high GPAs and test scores. Be succinct, but definitely include such achievements, honors and awards in your MBA applicant resume.

Focus on quality over quantity

Lose the laundry list of cases you worked on, deals you closed or research you published. Instead, choose a few items that showcase a range of skills from leadership to teamwork to analytic horsepower. Make each example impactful – use action verbs, quantify results and relate it to a relevant business application.

Make it personal

Instead of trying to “wow” the adcoms solely with your technical prowess and amazing computer skills, reveal your personality. List a quirky hobby, intriguing affiliation and/or challenging volunteer project that gives the b-school reader a sense of who you are outside of work.

Make sure you have your MBA resume polished up and strong by MBA decision dates!

The reality is that some MBA applicants misunderstand or even misuse the resume in ways that reduce their chances for admission. Don’t let that applicant be you!