Many of my clients seek help with their resumes. I am frequently asked about length and formatting, how to modify industry specific resumes for the business school application process and what type of content will impress the admissions committee. Here is background information and some basic guidelines that will help you submit a resume that enhances your MBA application:
- Understand why you need a great resume.
Schools use your resume to get a quick snapshot of your professional progression and persona. In many cases this is their first impression of your accomplishments and potential. Schools assess how you come across to recruiters, your level of seniority and your growth. In addition, schools that conduct blind interviews rely solely on your resume to shape that very important conversation. Schools also use your resume when deciding whether or not to invite you to events like diversity conferences and other affinity group preview days, which are great opportunities for you to meet the admissions team and to explore each school’s culture.
- Appearances matter.
Please do not use font smaller than 11 point, pink paper or other creative touches. The focus needs to remain on you and your accomplishments. Furthermore, unless you have been out of college for more than 5 years try to stay on one page – and even then, one page is often more effective than two. Under no circumstances should you submit a three-page resume.
- Be Clear and Concise.
It is very important to make your resume clear and easily understandable, even to people who do not work at your company or in your field. Be sure to avoid jargon and overly technical terms – you want the reader to get a complete picture of what you do, not to feel overwhelmed by unfamiliar metrics and phrases. I also recommend eliminating extraneous information and overly cumbersome sentences.
- Start with your most important accomplishments.
Within each position, list your most impressive accomplishment first, and then go down in descending order. If you want schools to know that you led a team of 15 people and that this team was recognized as the top performer in your division, mention this first, even if it is not the most recent thing that you did while in this position.
- Quantify everything that you can.
To the extent possible, you should quantify your contributions so that the committee understands the scope of your organizational impact. This is possible even in non-traditional fields, or if the exact dollar amount or accomplishment is proprietary. For instance, you can say that you exceeded your revenue targets or that you increased sales or efficiency or client satisfaction by x%.
- Consider your overall candidacy.
Think carefully about the professional story that you are telling in your application. Do you want to switch careers or advance within your field, and how has your past experience prepared you for this? Have you had 10 jobs in 5 years and might this raise some flags for the committee? Conversely, have you had the same job at the same firm for a long time without progressing? It is important to highlight your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses, so construct your resume to demonstrate continuity, progression and transferrable skills in a way that is congruent with the rest of your application.
Karen Marks has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Columbia, MIT, Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Wellesley, and more. Over the last three years, clients have been awarded more than $8.5 million in scholarships, and more than 90% have gotten into one of their top-choice schools.