Ten Ways to Improve Your MBA Application Resume In Ten Minutes

So far in our six-part Essay Writing Boot Camp Series, we have discussed MBA admissions essay writing at length and provided a timeline of how to invest your time wisely throughout the MBA application process (check out our three-part MBA Application Timeline Series). With all of the time and effort that you’ve devoted (or plan to devote) to these crucial applications, don’t let an average resume hurt your admissions chances. Your resume is meant to be a compelling executive summary of the experiences and accomplishments that make you the perfect fit for top business schools. Your MBA application resume is of central importance in building your case for admission; thus, it should be given as much thought and effort as your essays. We at MBA Prep School have pulled together a set of tips that our resume editors use to help our clients create a superb MBA application resume. Read on!

  1. Submit a one-page resume (for most applicants):

When it comes to MBA resume lengths, the accepted rule of thumb is that you should have a page for every 10 years of work experience. As such, most MBA resumes should be a single page. If you have 20 years of post-college work experience, you can usually get away with an extra page on your resume. However, check the application policies because some of the top schools insist that you only submit a one-page resume. If you have several employers and/or many years of work experience, you will need to prioritize your most relevant accomplishments and experiences to stick to the one-page limit.

  1. Order resume sections from newest to oldest:

List your experiences in reverse chronological order, meaning you’ll place your current employer at the top of your resume and title and work backward to previous employers and roles. One exception is continuing education coursework. In standard practice, it is best to list the schools where you earned your undergraduate and/or graduate degrees as the first entry in the education section of your resume.

  1. Cut your summary & objective section:

Given the space constraints imposed on an MBA application resume, it has fallen out of vogue to include a summary section or an objective statement. Even without the shift in convention, including these sections in your resume often takes up space without adding much value. The entire resume is already considered to be a concise summary of your experience and candidacy. Save your summary statement for your LinkedIn profile and devote the space on your resume to showing rather than telling readers about your skills and industry experience.

  1. Don’t sacrifice readability for more information:

Reducing your font size to pack in more accomplishments is fine to an extent. However, we recommend that you don’t go below a 10-point font. The discipline of having to revise your materials to fit on one page forces you to cut out extraneous information and think strategically about where to focus your career story. When it comes to choosing a font, we recommend you pick a simple font like Calibri, Arial, or Times New Roman that is still legible at a smaller size.

  1. Proofread:

Proofread your resume on your own and also send it out to professional editors or trustworthy friends who are willing to scour your resume for mistakes. Sloppy grammar or typos in your MBA resume will definitely spoil the impression you are trying to make on the MBA admissions officers.

  1. Quantify your accomplishments:

Enrich your resume by quantifying your achievements. Did you save your firm lots of money by catching an accounting error? Tell your reader how much. Did you design a sales initiative that boosted revenue? Post the percentage sales growth that resulted. By quantifying accomplishments, you add credibility to your resume claims; plus, impressive metrics can make your accomplishments more concrete and memorable for your reader.

  1. Include your extracurricular activities:

While top business schools are primarily focused on your professional and academic experience, they are also impressed when you have a track record of leadership and achievement across other dimensions of your life. Remember to include information about your extracurricular activities to show that you are more than your grades and job title. Comment on the length of time that you have been involved with the activity as well as your role in the organization and your achievements while involved.

  1. Use excellent action verbs:

Rather than using passive terms like “worked on” or “responsible for,” use active verbs that illustrate your core strengths, such as “led,” “designed,” and “implemented.” Each of your bullets should begin with an action verb. This will allow you to best demonstrate the impact that you have had on your organization during your time there rather than simply listing generic responsibilities. You’ll often have a chance to describe your daily responsibilities on the application form.

  1. Stand out from the competition:

In a large pool of talented applicants, consider what points of difference will set you apart from the competition. Does your resume reflect your passions, interests, and the causes and communities that are important to you? Have you shown off experiences, expertise, and talents that will convince admissions committees that you can bring a unique viewpoint to their MBA program? For example, you’ll want to include cross-cultural experiences, impressive awards, and significant hobbies to stand out from other applicants.

  1. Create a resume for your future (not current) career:

To an extent, a business school’s reputation depends on how well their recent graduates do in the job market for their chosen fields. Therefore, admissions committees are looking for the applicants who are most likely to be compelling candidates for the careers described in their application essays. Thus, adding information about your career readiness to your application resume helps to show admissions officers that you have the foundation to be successful in your future job search. Our advice: design your resume to impress recruiters for the post-MBA position you want rather than for the recruiter that hired you for your present job.

Up next from MBA Prep School: Tips on Recommendation Letters. The majority of schools will ask you for two letters of recommendation, with one letter required from a direct supervisor. We’ll help you figure out the best person to write your second recommendation letter as well as how to work with your recommenders so they focus on the fit qualities schools care about.

Learn from Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and the other top MBAs how they wrote essays that got them in!

Tyler Cormney  is the co-founder of MBA Prep School, a full-service, boutique MBA admissions consulting firm that specializes in helping aspiring MBA candidates realize their dream of attending an elite business school. As a graduate of both Harvard Business School and USC’s Professional Writing Program, Tyler draws upon his unique blend of creative writing, strategic thinking, and coaching skills to help applicants stand out from the competition for a place in the most selective MBA programs, including Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.