In Part 2 of our video series on Creating Your Application Resume, we turn to resume tactics. The resume is, in fact, an executive summary of what you've accomplished, the skills you possess, important life experiences, and what you've learned. Your resume needs to feature your most important achievements professionally, personally, and academically.
You'll learn how to use your resume building blocks developed in Part One to create a highly professional, strategically sound resume. We will also take you through the resume, section by section, going over recommended resume styles, formatting tips and best practices developed over years of advising MBA applicants.
Welcome to Part 2 of our Resume lecture, everyone. I'm sure you're excited to start crafting your resume, so let's jump right in.
On this slide, I've listed MBA Prep School's three steps for building an outstanding resume. In a nutshell, you will
--first, brainstorm your professional, personal, and academic achievements
--next, you will choose the top achievements with the guidance of your strategic resume building blocks
--finally you'll craft your resume section-by-section, bullet by bullet, keeping in mind advice we'll give you about structure, style, & formatting
So your first step is to brainstorm all of your achievements: professional, personal, and academic.
The resume is in fact an executive summary of what you've accomplished, the skills you possess, important life experiences, and what you've learned. Whether you're using your resume for an MBA application or to get a job, let's face it, it's essentially an entry form for a competition, and the person that is the most accomplished (in ways the judges care about) is going to win the competition. With that in mind, there's no room for modesty and little room on the resume for the times you took second place or simply earned a check-mark for doing your job. Your resume needs to feature your most important achievements professionally, personally, and academically.
Your professional achievements are really the heart of the resume so begin by brainstorming your professional accomplishments. I've found with my clients that it works best when they brainstorm professional achievements for each position they've held so far. You should start each achievement with an active verb like learned, managed, authored, presented. You can see on the slide that the applicant listed his achievements in his current job as a brand manager in Europe. Do this exercise for all your jobs. And focus on the times where you achieved results – this is going to be important later.
Personal and academic achievements are also very important – so continue your achievement brainstorming in those areas as well.
Once you have a list of achievements that you're satisfied with, it's time to choose the achievements that you will present in your resume.
The work you did in the strategic building blocks stage of your resume will now pay big dividends.
You will use the strategic building blocks to choose those accomplishments that best communicate the strategic messages you decided were important to MBA admissions officers in the exercise from Part One of the course-- including your key leadership capabilities, valued qualities, cross-functional expertise, and unique life experiences.
In the table on this slide, we continue the example from the prior slide of a client who was a young Brand Manager in Europe for a Fortune 100 consumer products company. You'll notice that he added some additional detail to his achievements before he started analyzing them to figure out how well each one might communicate his strategic resume building blocks.
We'll take a closer look at an excerpt from his analysis, but first why don't you pause the slide and read through the three achievements in the first column?
OK, so what this applicant did was to go through each achievement one-by-one and "tag" the strategic building blocks that would be brought out by this achievement. You can see those listed in the right column of the table.
Let's look at his analysis for his first achievement about leading a new product taskforce in Europe. In terms of valued qualities, he decided that this experience would definitely show off his "Global viewpoint."
His taskforce assignment would also feature his leadership capabilities of adapting to new situations and creating and innovating -- he was an American working in Europe and he was introducing a brand new product.
From a functional expertise standpoint, he demonstrated skills such as product development, pricing analysis, and retail strategy.
Finally, he asked himself whether this achievement would demonstrate his career readiness, which as you'll remember was the 5th resume building blocks. (pause) His career goal post-MBA was to become Director of Business Development for an Internet company'; so the answer is yes this accomplishment shows career readiness because, during the project, he developed skills such as negotiation, competitive analysis and contract drafting – skills he'd definitely need in his future business development role.
As you can see from this analysis, this achievement is very rich and supports a number of the strategic messages that will be important to his MBA candidacy. There's little doubt that it will be one of the achievements that he focuses on in the Professional Experience section of his resume.
By way of contrast, let's look at the second bullet to further illustrate how this exercise can be useful. In the second achievement, he conceived a "Baby Safety Week" promotion and had started to implement the idea.
Although he exhibited Creativity again and the Creating and Innovating leadership theme, he decided upon reflection that this achievement was not nearly as strong as the first one. As it turns out, he left his job before the impact of his Baby Safety Week was rolled out and so there were no results to speak of. Also, he would already have exhibited his skill in retail strategy with the product launch achievement. Given the short comings he identified in his analysis, it appears that this second achievement might not end up making his short-list of resume bullet points.
Before we move on, some quick observations on the third achievement as Captain of the Varsity Tennis Team. This achievement looks very promising by comparison because it, not only adds some dimensionality to his resume and features a Point of Difference he wants the admissions committee to know about, but it also highlights teamwork and a collaborative nature in a leadership role. In essence, it covers some strategic building blocks that his professional achievement doesn't, so it ranks highly in the candidate's achievement analysis.
The key point to take away from this example is how your strategic building blocks will help you choose the achievements that will best support your candidacy and differentiate your resume from thousands of other MBA candidates.
When you're completing your own achievement brainstorming and analysis remember that you can also use your strategic building blocks to spur your memory for achievements you may have overlooked. If there is a key message you want to get across to admissions officers, push yourself to come up with an additional experience that exemplifies this strategic quality or skill.
Your resume strategy is now ready for execution. When you're done brainstorming achievements and choosing the best-of-the-best through careful analysis, you'll be have everything you'll need to craft a resume that provides admissions officers with persuasive evidence of your leadership capabilities, valued qualities, functional expertise, points of difference, and career readiness.
As I have said, there are plenty of great resources out there for general guidance on how to write bullet points and format your resume. Keep in mind that although there are similarities between a resume for a job and an MBA application resume there are also some important differences. In this final series of slides, we'll offer what we believe are some best practices for crafting an MBA Application Resume.
Before we jump into our resume tactics best practices, we suggest you download the sample resume from the self-study area below this video. As we talk about resume structure, section by section, you'll be able to follow along more easily.
The true dividing line between strategy and tactics is writing the bullet points for your resume. For those of you who haven't been introduced to the concept of the bullet point, I guess I should say that on a resume you'll rarely, If ever, write complete sentences. Instead, you'll use bullet points -- short, descriptive phrases that convey the essential elements of an achievement or experience.
As you'll see writing great bullet points is an art form, and now we're going to introduce you to the "art of the bullet point."
First, let's talk a little about the structure of these critical little descriptive phrases.
Each bullet begins with an action verb. When possible that action verb should be leadership-oriented. Verbs like led, ran, spearheaded, managed, and directed are all powerful and active leadership verbs. We'll post some links of some great action verbs in your self-study materials below this video. A quick editorial note here -- don't repeat the same verbs within the same job title section or overuse a particular verb in your resume. Repetition might viewed as laziness, a lack of creativity, or a weakness in your communication skills.
The second best practice is that you should distill your bullets down to 1-2 lines as a rule of thumb, that's approximately 30 or 40 words. Remember that admissions officers are looking at hundreds of resumes a week. You need to get to the point and you need to ensure that every single point on your resume makes an impact. This doesn't happen in one try – you need to devote a number of sessions to editing and re-editing your resume bullet points until every single one hits the target.
When creating and editing your bullet points, another best practice is that specificity is key. You should include specific names and numbers whenever possible. If you worked on a banking transaction, how big was it, and can you list the company sold? If you led a cross functional team, how many people participated in the effort, and over how long a period? MBA admissions officers are turned off by generalities and empty claims on a resume. Specifics will engage your readers and are always more convincing. Vague descriptions of an achievement won't just bore your reader, they may start wondering if you really accomplished the things you're claiming.
Next, the most important part of every bullet point is the phrase at the end – the results you achieved. Think about how you feel when you read a story without an ending. A bullet point without an ending is not any better. Admission officers want to know how things turned out. This all comes back to proving to the admission committee that you are a leader. Leaders move the needle. They get things done and make a tangible difference that can be observed and measured. Therefore, you must show how you delivered results.
Another best practice that goes hand-in-hand with including results is to "quantify, quantify, quantify". If the impact can't be measured can you really claim an impact? If you were in charge of building strategic alliances, how many partners did you sign up? If you presented a customer segmentation strategy, was the strategy approved and implemented? If you designed an online customer satisfaction survey, how much did the recommendations you came up with improve customer satisfaction? Specific results that have been quantified are absolutely critical to making your resume complete and compelling.
This is a good spot to answer a question my clients often ask me when crafting their bullet points, "What degree of self-promotion is acceptable in a resume?" My answer is that modesty is not a virtue when it comes to resumes. Give your team credit when its due, but don't be afraid to trumpet your successes too– that's actually the point. Just remember to back up your claims with quantifiable results. Definitely share awards, accolades and promotions. That's what admissions committees expect to see from applicants who have distinguished themselves as leaders early in their careers.
One final note on your bullets and resume as a whole. While it's okay to aggressively self-promote, never pad your resume and never stretch the truth. You should be aware that an increasing number of schools are employing agencies to verify the validity of your statements. You must be 100% accurate about employment dates, promotions and any quantification of the results you achieved. Admission officers have finally-tuned B.S. detectors, and they also have your reference letters from supervisors for a sanity check of the achievements you claim in your job. If you are a young analyst at an Investment Bank, nobody is going to believe that you alone saved a deal or single handedly led your firm to market leadership. A single bullet point that doesn't ring true could undermine the credibility of your entire application and your future career. Your reputation is everything, so guard it.
Our next series of best practices has to do with the overall aesthetic design and layout of your resume. We'll share some guidelines on style, layout, and formatting, and then move onto some tips for crafting each section of your resume.
The first thing we want to cover is the length of your resume – We believe resumes should be one page in length. Given the average age of entering MBA students is 27-28, one page should be sufficient space to summarize both your most significant accomplishments and any points of difference you feel are compelling. Keeping your resume to one page displays that you understand the strategy of quality over quantity and that you're a skilled communicator. The reason we spent so much time on Resume Strategy is to help you achieve this quality over quantity.
In terms of resume lay-out and style guidelines. There are no universal standards on the design format for MBA resumes or resumes in general. Some schools do post guidelines in their application instructions that you'll need to follow for your resume. If so follow these to the letter! If no guidelines are provided you are free to use any number of styles. [Self-Study Materials] We'll post a few links to some resume style examples in the self-study materials.
While there is no rule book to follow, there are some general guidelines we can offer you. Your resume should be simple to read, and not so crammed with information that the density is overwhelming for the reader. There needs to be a reasonable amount of white space on the page. If your resume is so densely crammed and the font size is so small that the admissions officer needs a magnifying glass to read it then chances are they probably won't read it. Again, your Resume Strategy should help you achieve this best practice.
Speaking of fonts -- Avoid unusual fonts or designs- MBA resumes should be done in standard fonts like Arial or Times New Roman. I have seen others use somewhat more modern fonts like Calibri or Helvetica. Those can work. What you certainly want to avoid is any really odd typeface. If you love Old Gothic, save it for your personal emails. In addition, avoid using any graphics or icons. You're applying for an MBA not a Master's in Fine Arts!
Whatever style you choose, you must stay consistent with margins and fonts from section to section. ]
Regarding style and format, another opportunity to stand out versus the average applicant and demonstrate your passion for the school, is to access a copy of the schools resume books for current student. You can sometimes find links to these resume books online. Turning in a resume that fits a school's published style is a great way to send the subtle message that you fit with the program and are dedicated to becoming a student.
Resume structure, style, and formatting is very important – don't undermine all the hard work you've done designing your resume strategy by turning in a resume that is sloppy or dense. The look of your resume makes an impression and style does count.
Now that we've talked about overall design let's talk about resume structure and I'll offer tips on each of the four primary sections of the resume: Header Information, Professional Experience, Education, and Leadership and Other Involvement.
At the top of your resume, you'll include your name in a larger font and probably in bold face. After your name, it is standard to list your contact information including your address, phone number and an email address. Our best practice here is to include only your permanent address, phone numbers and email address. Don't leave an admissions officer wondering which number to reach you on or where to send your acceptance letter. Nobody cares if in addition to California, you can also be reached in Aspen. In fact, that sort of thing might appear pretentious and work against you.
Next, some resume coaches will tell you you need an introductory line or two that summarizes your career objective, your ideal job, or your top skill sets. Our strong recommendation is that these introductory sections are not needed in an MBA Application Resume. Your objective is obvious---you want to go to business school.
Second, in terms of a skills summary, as with your essays it's always more powerful to show than tell. If a guy tells you he is really funny, that's kind of annoying. You can judge for yourself how humorous he is. The same goes for Admissions Officers who are reading. Your accomplishment bullets are the evidence of your skills and capabilities – they need prove you possess the skills without you needing to tell the admissions officer you do.
Now we come to the heart of your MBA resume -- your employment history and professional achievements.
Each section of your resume needs a header, so start your employment section off with the title "Professional Experience".
After this section heading, you will list your jobs in order of your current position to the oldest job on your resume. Start with the name of your most recent employer, adding your job title, the city in which you work, and the dates of that specific job title from your start date to present. Year or month and year are sufficient. You will do this for each employer. Reverse chronological order puts emphasis on the most important position which is the one you hold currently.
Each organization you list, whether a public company, a private enterprise, or a non profit, should also have a 1-2 line description. This is very critical if you haven't worked for companies that are household names. Put some effort into describing the firm accurately and specifically.
If you've been promoted inside the firm, we recommend you group your bullet points under the relevant job title, listing your current title first. Organizing the section for each job in this way will allow admission officers to see quickly that you've been promoted and will demonstrate that your responsibilities have increased over time. As a rule of thumb, you will want to choose anywhere from 3-6 bullets per position. Refer back to your analysis of your achievements to choose the bullet points that best convey your strategic messages.
An additional tip is that you should list all the jobs you've had since college, no matter how brief. You certainly don't want to raise any red flags by having big gaps in your resume.
One last tip, as a general rule, we advise our students that it's not necessary to list jobs in college unless they held a high-profile internship or unless the job is somehow relevant to your story and might be of particular interest to MBA programs
Your Professional Experiences are the heart of an MBA resume, but your Academic Profile is also extremely important, and your resume is a chance to highlight your academic achievements and leadership experiences as a student.
This section should be labeled with a simple header: "Education".
As with professional experiences, your educational institutions should be in reverse chronological order. List the name of the school in bold face font and include the location of the school, the degree you were awarded, your major or concentration, and the year of graduation.
You can also list bullets to feature any academic awards, prizes, recognitions or scholarships. These would include things like making Dean's List, Phi Beta Kappa, Honors in your major, a Watson Fellowship, or being chosen to address your graduating class.
I'm often asked if one should always list your GPA on a resume. I think it's a great idea to list your GPA if it's 3.5 or above or it's equivalent if you went to a school that didn't use the 4.0 standard.
Last, if you have any college activities that are worth noting, I suggest you start a new line called "Activities", and then below on the next line, bullet these leadership experiences and achievements. Did you play a Varsity sport, did you manage the acapela group, did you run a mentoring program for high school students in the neighboring community? If you only have one activity, don't start a separate section, but place it in the main education section.
Given that college was some time ago, it's not necessary to mention every activity and club to which you belonged. The idea is to only mention activities that will trigger an interview discussion or that could be interesting to cover in one of your application essays. In activities worth mentioning often, it is ideal if you played a leadership role, or achieved degree of stand out success. Study abroad is also appealing to admissions officers because exposure to different cultures is seen as an asset.
Following these guidelines should give you a solid Education section, and you'll be ready to move to the last section of your resume. "Leadership and Other Involvement".
This final part of your MBA resume is a kind of miscellaneous section to capture other significant experiences, skills and interests that have not been covered elsewhere. I advise my clients to use the header "Leadership and Other Involvement".
This section can include major community service involvement and leadership outside of work. Board positions, books published, patents registered, courses at a famous cooking school, popular blogs you've written, appearances on television or the radio might all be fair game. You get the idea. The test of whether or not to list an activity in this section is whether or not it would make for a great discussion in an MBA interview, or on your application.
If you only have one relevant activity to share, it's best not to create an entire section for that one activity. Putting a section called Leadership and Other Involvement that has only one bullet point sends the wrong message.
An alternative would be to end the resume with a single line called "Personal" or "Interests". On this line you could list this activity along with a few other interests, activities, and languages spoken.
Well, we wanted to leave you with a few final thoughts about your MBA resume.
First, don't just sit down and start writing your resume as an afterthought to your application. We've argued that your resume is a critical step in the application process.
Second, develop your resume strategy based on your own content building blocks. Listing which qualities and skills you want to highlight will allow you to decide which bullet points should stay and which don't make the one page limit.
Third, follow our best practices for resume formatting and bulleting. Appearance and consistency really count.
Next, come across as a leader by starting bullets with active verbs, sharing specifics, and closing with results.
Whenever possible, avoid repetition of verbs and functional expertise. Come off as broad and creative.
Make sure you know your resume well. During your interview, you should not be sharing accomplishments and figures that differ much from what's on your resume.
Similarly, your essays should tie into your resume. Your application needs to feel whole and consistent.
Last, it's a great idea to have respected peers and mentors review your resume and offer you suggestions. Everybody benefits from a second set of critical eyes.
Also, remember that MBA Prep School offers one-on-one private tutorials with me or another experienced MBA admissions consultant, to help you develop your resume, your application essays, and even your interview skills.
Your resume is a critical component of your MBA Application, and we are here to help.
So good luck writing your resume, and PREPARE TO BE ACCEPTED!
Reference: Lecture Slides and Speaker Notes
Reference: Leadership Capabilities Dictionary
Tool: Functional Skills Template (PDF Version)
Tool: Functional Skills Template (Word Version)
Reference: Functional Expertise Areas
Reference: Resume Bullet Points that Kick Off with Powerful Verbs
Reference: Sample Resume (Word format)
Reference: Sample Resume (PDF format)