One of the most common mistakes business school applicants make is paying superficial attention to writing their resumes (or CVs).
Although, in general, business school admission officers spend about 20 to 30 seconds looking at one resume (and when it comes to employers, it may be even less), it does not mean that this document is not important for your application.
In fact, it works the other way around: a resume plays a pivotal role, as it helps you stand out from thousands of applicants with a similar background. That is why a well-designed resume should provide its readers with a quick and informative snapshot of who you are and highlight your key skills and experiences, telling a chronological story of your development.
Here’s eight tips to writing a winning MBA resume:
1. Focus on your achievements and results, instead of job duties
In fact, throughout the years admissions officers review MBA applications, they have probably met applicants possessing background similar to yours. That is why saying that you ‘prepared analytical reports’, for example, will be simply a waste of space.
2. Use details to quantify your impact on the organizations you have worked for
Include by what percentage you reduced expenses, specify how many people were on the team that you supervised and highlight if this team was international. Demonstrate your impact by using specific numbers or even companies’ names, if your client was an industry leader and if the information is not confidential.
3. Rank your accomplishments in order of decreasing relevance
The strongest and the most recent material should be put at the top of your resume. Your current position should receive the most space and include more bulleted achievements than previous ones, as it will provide a compelling image of who you are and what you can do at the moment of submitting an application.
4. Include resume ‘extras’
Like honors, publications, presentations, patents, hobbies, and relevant volunteer experiences. Indeed, you should not limit yourself with your professional and academic background only. Giving an overview of what you do apart from day-to-day responsibilities would show you as a well-rounded individual that schools are looking for.
5. Resume design should be as important as its content
Stick to a one-page resume for your MBA application, as meeting this standard will demonstrate your ability to prioritize accomplishments and cut off irrelevant information. Imagine that you have to make an elevator pitch – a one-minute presentation of who you are. Basically, a resume is a written and structured version of it.
6. Never make things up
This includes changing employment dates to eliminate gaps in your experience, inflating your level of responsibility, or including skills you do not possess. While some information may be revealed during background checks (in this case your offer will be canceled, and your candidacy ― black-listed), the other, such as “outstanding communication skills” will be tested already on the interview stage.
7. Do not use clichés like ‘dynamic,’ ‘self-starter,’ or ‘goal-oriented’
Always add a reason to believe: it is better to show, not tell. Telling about developing and implementing a new work practice in all the company’s representative offices, for instance, will characterize you as a true leader and innovator, while simply writing these words in the summary section without any proof will be useless.
8. Proofread and edit
Given the CV format, every word counts and makes a difference, and you certainly don’t want to spoil an impression about you by a tiny typo. Spell check, grammar check, and style check. Finally, ask a friend to have a close look at your resume to identify errors you may have missed.
Alternatively, you may want to collaborate with an admissions consultant, and both receive an expert’s opinion about your resume content and design and have your resume spell-checked by a native English speaker.