The odds are good that there’s someone applying to your target school with the exact same job title as you. Applying for an MBA at a top tier school means you’ll be competing with a swarm of other high-achieving wunderkinds with similar profiles, particularly if you happen to be working in finance, consulting or tech. That’s why your resume needs to show exactly why you’re better at your job than someone else with an identical job or similar profile.
How important is your resume to your business school application, anyway?
First, your resume gives the admission committee a succinct view of the important parts of your professional and educational development. It gives a much fuller picture of what you might bring to their business school community. It also shows that you have the communication skills to condense your career to one page and still make an impression.
Second, if you’re invited to interview, your resume will often take the stage. Given about 30 minutes (or less) to tell your story in person, your resume offers vital background and a starting point for conversation, particularly in blind interviews in which the interviewer will have read only your resume. Delivering a resume that’s substantive, specific and succinct positions you to stand out in a sea of excellence, and – as a bonus – even just going through the exercise of revising your resume can give you the answers to the tough interview questions when the time comes.
Your target business schools are a distinctly different audience than potential employers, so your MBA application resume is different than a professional one in several important ways:
- Very likely to be read by a real person, versus scanned first by a machine
- Competing against candidates with similar profiles versus more diverse backgrounds
- More focused on extracurriculars, volunteer work, academic achievements versus primary or sole focus on career achievements
- Should emphasize collaboration and success in working in a team environment versus job specific technical skills such as programming languages and software
As a career coach at Wharton and in my current role at Fortuna Admissions, I’ve helped hundreds of future business leaders identify and shape profiles to their best advantage. So what can you do now to get started?
Top five key tips – with before/after examples – for making your MBA resume stand out:
#1: Avoid unnecessary job descriptions.
Admissions committees will review hundreds if not thousands of applications. They know what an Analyst, Associate or Consultant does on a daily basis. Keep your resume focused on how you do your job better than someone else with the same title – if a bullet would also apply to the person who sits next to you at work, delete it. Readers will know that you do more than what is on the paper – stick to key, impactful examples and avoid general descriptions of your day to day work.
#2: Show results which demonstrate your value to your employer.
Why was the work you did important to the company? Get specific, offering numbers and relevant details. Demonstrate your understanding of the bigger picture as well as the bottom line. This is also about showing you can transition to a management role post-MBA. From non-traditional backgrounds this can be difficult – keep asking yourself why your work was important to your boss or department head.
- BEFORE: Performed cost analysis for companies in the IT industry.
(Yep, you and everybody else. How specifically did you make money for your boss, your client, or your company, and how much?)
- AFTER: Performed cost analysis for five Fortune 500 companies in the IT industry, saving them an average of $300k per year; generated $20M in follow-on business for the firm from these clients
#3: Quantify, quantify, quantify.
If results are hard to generate, use numbers to show the scope of your work, the size of your clients – anything you can to demonstrate impact, and outcomes if you can. Things such as budget amounts, number of people involved, monetary value to the firm of your client, number of visitors to your website – these kinds of metrics make your resume stronger. Even descriptive numbers and values give the visual impression of analytical ability.
- Completed interviews with senior- and mid-managements of major corporations, synthesized findings and suggested improvement opportunities
- Project managing a cyber security project
- Conducted internal training classes to adopt new CRM software
(You did these jobs because it was how you got paid, but did you do them well, and did it matter?)
- Completed interviews with over 200 senior- and mid-management executives of Fortune 100 clients; drafted white paper based on results distributed to client base of 1,000 companies
- Project managing a cyber security benchmarking project worth ~$400K/yr, covering 30 leading higher education institutions across the US
- Conducted internal training classes for over 250 new hires to adopt new CRM software. Oversaw $20k training budget for new CRM system estimated to save the company over 45 hours per week
#4: Use project examples to show specifically how you contributed.
Be as precise as you can. Consider using a “selected projects include:” sub-header. Remember, it’s okay to leave out parts of your day-to-day job – better to have two awesome bullets than six boring ones. Don’t forget #2 (results) and #3 (quantify).
- Developed several high-value data visualizations and Excel models for C-suite clients to help them make evidence-based decisions
- Developed and maintained effective pricing analysis data models
(How do I know your models were high-value or effective? Give me some evidence of this.)
- Designed and developed a geo-spatial data-driven visual dashboard for First National Bank, increasing visibility to all 600+ branch offices across the globe by at least 80%
- Created and implemented a large consumer survey to help a large media company with $1.2B annual revenue determine its pricing elasticity across multiple segments for its newest product, with projected revenue estimated at $35M annually
#5: Show, don’t tell, your skills and abilities.
A reader needs to know if what you are saying is true or just your opinion. Use evidence to make your achievements objective and fact-based.
- Demonstrated strong technical skills using VBA, SQL, Python
- Built strong relationships with clients due to excellent communication skills
(Are you that person in the office that thinks they have great people skills but really doesn’t?)
- Developed and maintained a risk management data model valued at $50M using SQL and tracked key risk indicators
- Presented to C-level client executives weekly on project status; sole consultant invited to attend internal strategy development meeting with key client lead after presenting recommendations
Stay tuned for the second part of this series on crafting your MBA resume, “Do’s and Don’ts every candidate should know.”
DON’T MISS: PART 2: MBA RESUME BEST PRACTICES AND PITFALLS
Jody Keating is an expert coach at admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and a career advisor at Wharton and Georgetown. She has more than 15 years of experience in resume development and reviews more than 100 resumes a year for Fortuna.