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Admissions Tip: How to Write a Résumé That Will Get You Into Business School

Your résumé is not only an important component of your MBA application, it’s also a great place to start when crafting your overall positioning strategy.  This document forces one to distill a candidacy into a concise summary, focusing on key aspects and themes.  With that in mind, here are a few simple tips to get you started:

 

First things first

Because you’re applying to graduate school, it makes sense to lead this document with a section detailing your academic history.  This is also the format that many business schools’ career offices instruct students to use when applying for internships or full-time jobs post-graduation.

 

Keep it simple

While you’ll certainly want to describe your professional responsibilities and achievements in some detail, remember that this document needs to fit on a single page, with very few exceptions.  Rather than overwhelming the reader with information, try to identify three or four discrete projects or accomplishments to complement a few concise statements about your day to day responsibilities in each position.  Remember that it’s also important to be as specific as possible about the impact you’ve had on your organization by quantifying the results of your efforts.  You should also use active verbs to describe your impact.

It is important to remove any industry jargon that a typical corporate resume would contain.  Remember, the adcom readers of your file may not have worked in your industry.

 

Round it out

Don’t discount the importance of your interests and outside activities.  Schools like applicants who are well rounded and demonstrate a track record of involvement outside of work and the classroom, so formal extracurricular activities are a logical category to include.  At the same time, information about your less structured interests and hobbies is also relevant, as these details can lend some more color to your candidacy and help the adcom get to know you better.  Remember to be as specific as possible; many business school applicants are interested in “travel” or “film,” so specifying a region you especially enjoy visiting or your favorite movie genre will be the key to setting yourself apart.

We hope that these general guidelines serve as a good starting point for Class of 2021 applicants in translating their experiences and achievements into this brief but important document.  For more guidance, you can also read the Clear Admit Résumé Guide for a complete step-by-step “instruction manual” for crafting your résumé.

Posted in: Admissions Tips, Application Tips, Feature Small, Planning Tips

3 Comments

  1. Really awesome advice Alex!

    If I can add onto the “Round It Out” piece – I absolutely LOVE that you called out people for simply writing “travel” or “food” in their interests section. Who doesn’t love a beach in Bali or an amazing slice of pizza?

    That kind of stuff doesn’t help you stand out at all, however, if you use those universally loved topics (travel, food, hobbies, sports, etc.) and drill down a bit further you can really give yourself an advantage over other applicants.

    One of the main things I’ve noticed about B school applications is that people tend to be ultra-professional. While schools definitely want their students to be cognizant of their etiquette, they also want interesting people who will add to their class culture.

    Instead of writing travel on your resume, mention your favorite experience (snorkling with turtles in the barrier reef) or the #1 destination on your wish list (I want to spend 2 days on a ramen tour in Japan).

    Instead of writing “reading,” list two of your favorite books and authors.

    On my resume, I said my biggest interest was “foods that are vehicles for hot sauce” and people LOVED it.

    When you get more detailed, you increase the chance for a connection. Maybe the person reading your resume visited Japan and loves ramen, or maybe their favorite author is Malcolm Gladwell too. If so, you just made an instant connection and boosted your chances.

    If you don’t mind me sharing, I wrote an article that’s full of unconventional tips I’ve tested across the thousands of people in my audience. If you have a few minutes to check it out, I respect your opinion and would love to get your feedback:

    https://cultivatedculture.com/write-a-resume/

  2. >formal extracurricular activities are a logical category to include

    What do you think qualifies as a “formal” extracurricular activity, exactly? Or I guess it might be easier to ask, what wouldn’t qualify as formal, and should we list “informal” extracurricular activities?

  3. Your resume is meant to show off the amazing things you have done! Did you lead a team? Did you manage client relationship? Did you solve a complex problem that resulted in a major change to an organization, a new innovation, or cost reduction? There are a few nuances to the MBA resume.

    Think about your broader application – does the school you are applying to give you a chance to state awards you have won or organizations you have been involved in outside of work? If not, make sure to incorporate these in your resume
    Don’t go crazy with fitting everything in – don’t think about your resume from how much can I fit on one page, instead think about how to tell the stories that matter the most to understanding your professional experiences and how that fits into the larger picture of your application (I know we are saying this again, but its because its that important!)
    Get a sanity check – the person reading your application may not be from the industry you are coming from, have someone outside of your industry ready your resume and see if they can tell you what they think you did and the impact it had. If they can’t figure out where you’ve gone wrong and try again!

    Your resume is a snapshot of your professional experiences with some personal attributes (e.g., organizations involvement, academic institution attended, awards). It needs to be consistent with the things you write about in the rest of your application. If you say in an essay you loved working with the social sector, but your professional experience shows you have worked in banking for the last five years and did no community engagement that exposed you to the social sector the admissions committee is going to be really confused. Make sure you are telling a consistent story from your resume, your essays (e.g. I did X for the last three years but now I want to do Y because of Z), to the short answers, to even your letter of recommendations. Remember your resume is just one piece of the application, but it is the quickest snapshot of your experience the admission committee is going to see, so make sure it counts!

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