How to Create the Best Possible Resume for Your MBA Application

An excellent resume is an important part of the MBA application because it gives Admissions Committees (AdComs) a snapshot of your work experience, education, skills and accomplishments. However, it is more than an updated version of the resume you used to land your current job. Put in the time to make your resume exceptional. Several tips for creating a superb MBA application resume follow.

LENGTH: Cut it down to one page! AdComs read 10,000 applications in the short time span of just a few months. Be respectful of their time and the sheer number of applications by providing a one-page detailed summary that is easy to read and to the point.

Tips for trimming your resume:

  • Complete sentences are not necessary. Nor are words such as ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the.’
  • Periods at the end of a line are optional – use periods or don’t use them – just be consistent throughout.
  • Font can go as small as 10 points and your margins can shrink to a 0.5 or even to 0.3 on all sides.
  • The white space between sections can also shrink to be very tiny rather than take the height of a full 10 font character and you can reduce the space between the bullet point and the first character of that line.
  • Numbers can be ‘4’ rather than ‘four’ and widely used abbreviations and acronyms are acceptable. Formatting is a great way to reduce length without cutting into the meat of your resume.
  • Use standard fonts, such as Calibri, Times, Ariel (or Ariel narrow).

STRUCTURE: While the structure of an MBA resume is similar to a work resume, there are differences. Remove the objective at the top of your resume because everyone has the same objective when applying to business schools (to get in!).

  • Dates are important on an MBA resume because schools expect continuous employment.
  • If you have a gap in employment, use the optional essay to share a sentence or two explaining how you utilized your time when not employed.
  • The dates should be easy for AdComs to find and follow. Line them up on the far-right hand side of the page.

EXPERIENCE: What should I focus on? Your first bullet point underneath each job title should be the most significant. Remember that your audience is AdComs and what is significant to them is leadership or interpersonal skills, analytical or problem-solving skills, and a show of career progression. AdComs are more interested in how a candidate managed a 4-person cross functional team than whether the candidate can code in 20 computer languages.

Quantify it!  When possible, quantify your experience. Strong resumes include numerical items such as size and scope of work responsibilities, the number of people managed, the size of the budget or perhaps the measurable impact of a project in cost savings or share/revenue growth. Concrete numbers have a lot of power on a resume.

Be a S.T.A.R: One way to concisely convey your accomplishments is to use the S.T.A.R. method. This stands for Situation or context, Task – what needed to be done or the key objective, Action – what was your role, the time frame (if applicable), skills used Results – quantified results if possible. Example: Managed 5 engineers to successfully design $200 million living quarters project for remote offshore platform 2 months ahead of schedule.

Highlight your strengths without pointing out your weaknesses: If you earned honors in undergrad/grad school – list them!  This is always an asset.

  • Your GMAT score, if an asset, should appear on your resume in the section where you list your university degree(s).
  • Likewise, your grade point average, if an asset, should also be listed.
  • These data points are in the online portion of your application so simply leave them off if they are average or below!

Consider your resume content with respect to your essays: This might seem a bit counter-intuitive but if you are going to write a significant amount in your essay(s) about an experience at a particular job then you can include less about that experience on your resume. Rather than four bullet points describing that position, you might only have two because the content of those bullets is more thoroughly discussed in the essays. This will free up some space to add unique content in other areas of your resume.

INTERESTS: Business schools look at their applicants in a holistic way. Include a section that briefly covers your interests outside of work.

  • Do you spend time volunteering? If so, what is your role and with which organization?
  • Do you play sports on a regular basis? If so, list them!
  • Can you speak foreign languages? List your level of proficiency in each (and make sure to include English in your list!).
  • In a blind MBA admissions interview, your interests are frequently conversation starters.

LANGUAGE: Do not use jargon. AdCom members do not necessarily have experience in your field and are unlikely to understand industry-specific acronyms and jargon.

  • Convert all of this type of wording to more universally understood business language.
  • Avoid hedging words like “may” and “might” that could make you sound unsure.
  • Do not use contractions to save space even though it is very tempting to do so.

Use action oriented wording:  Just as with a work resume, you want to use diverse wording that describes you as an active person.

  • Start each bullet point with a strong active verb and do not over-use one word.
  • Pay attention to leadership/teamwork themes for an MBA application. Examples: Collaborated, Established, Initiated, Spearheaded, Steered.

Tell the truth but don’t provide TMI. It goes without saying that you should not lie on your resume. Most schools do a background check on applicants and, if caught lying, you will be in violation of honor code and your acceptance or degree will be revoked. That pointer is probably obvious to everyone, but what about the smaller things?

  • Do not put a photo on your resume. Leave out personal details such as age or marital status.
  • Do not include information pertaining to high school, high school jobs or high school/college entry tests, such as the SAT.

PROOF READ: Most importantly – proof read, proof read, and then proof read again! Pay attention to capitalization, which many people overuse on resumes.

  • Capitalize specific job titles, team titles, brand names, company names.
  • Colleges and college majors should be capitalized as they are proper nouns.
  • The first word of every bullet and sub-bullet should be capitalized.
  • Hobbies, skills, industry sectors and general job titles should not be capitalized.

Following the above recommendations will set you well on your way to crafting a strong and authentic resume for your MBA applications.