Writing a Strong MBA Resume: A Guide for Candidates | The best business schools

When putting together a resume for an MBA application, keep in mind that it should be different from the industry-specific resume you would include in an application.

Here are some expert tips on how to decide what information to include and omit from your MBA application resume.

What belongs in MBA application resumes, what doesn’t

A B-school application resume should demonstrate a wide range of skills, as MBA programs are designed to prepare students for management roles that require a wide range of skills, experts say. This type of resume should not overemphasize industry-specific capabilities.

“The main difference is that hard skills aren’t as important here,” says Jody Keating, resume coach at Fortuna Admissions, an MBA admissions consulting firm.

MBA resumes should focus on personal strengths that are valuable across industries, such as a collaborative spirit, a history of leadership of others, the ability to understand and prioritize the “outcome” goal of work assignments, and the ability to contribute to a business. “overall” goals, says Keating.

Sue Oldham, associate dean of MBA operations at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, says that when the school selects applicants for its prestigious full-tuition scholarship — the Dean’s Fellowship Program – he is looking for signs of long-term leadership potential, outstanding academic performance and at least one significant extracurricular commitment.

“I think the first thing we always look at is career progression,” she says, adding that success in the job market doesn’t necessarily mean working for a “brand company” or having a job. awesome job title. Where a person started their first job is less important than proof of career advancement, Oldham says.

Moments when “someone saw potential in you and gave you a chance to try something else” should be high on an MBA application resume, she points out.

Linda Abraham, founder and CEO of Accepted, an admissions consulting firm, says resumes for business school applicants should include leadership success stories — times when an MBA candidate made tangible improvements within a community or organization while in a position of authority.

For example, if MBA applicants have conducted fundraising campaigns, they should indicate the amount of money they have raised; if they’ve run corporate sales campaigns, they should report how much sales have increased, says Abraham.

Admissions experts say foreign language skills, international travel, and time spent abroad should be noted on an MBA application resume. According to experts, MBA candidates with an international background have an advantage in the business school admissions process because B schools want to enroll students who can become leaders of multinational companies.

According to experts, participation in elite competitive sports teams or reputable musical performance groups are strong assets in MBA applications, as these types of activities require significant discipline and teamwork – skills that matter in the business world.

Avoid the “laundry list”

However, a common mistake made by MBA candidates is to list all of their extracurricular activities rather than focusing on the most important or impressive activities, according to experts.

“We’re not looking for the laundry list — the laundry list that you might have to put into your actual app,” says Oldham. “We are looking for areas of interest and professional affiliations.”

If being asked about a particular extracurricular activity “made your face light up” during an admissions interview, that’s a sign it belongs on your resume, says Oldham.

MBA candidates should emphasize their critical thinking and decision-making skills, she adds. Certain highly marketable skills that are useful across multiple industries, such as data analysis skills, are also worth including on an MBA resume, says Oldham.

Experts say that in most if not all cases, an MBA application resume should fit on a single page. “It’s a snapshot of who you are,” Oldham says.

In fact, slipping superfluous details into a resume can be counterproductive.

For example, some MBA applicants list the number of hours they worked on a particular project in their resume, Keating says, while others note when they worked on weekends. Either way, applicants often mistakenly believe that the time they spend on an assignment will impress admissions officers, she says.

“Take it off permanently,” she says. “You just did your job, and if it took overtime, it took overtime.”

It’s also unwise for MBA applicants to include their high school accomplishments on their resumes because those are no longer relevant, Keating says.

Another common mistake in MBA resumes, experts say, is mentioning routine job duties and responsibilities that are unlikely to be of interest to admissions officers.

Abraham says one way to create an impressive MBA resume is to surprise admissions officers by displaying a high level of skill in an area that isn’t emphasized in your profession. For example, a salesperson who demonstrates quantitative abilities might wow the admissions team, as might an engineer who demonstrates communication skills.

“Combat the stereotype of your profession,” says Abraham.

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Scott R. Banks