An MBA application resume is only as good as the candidate it represents, but it is certainly possible for an otherwise great candidate to create a mediocre resume. We have worked with some exceptional candidates over the years whose original resumes did not adequately represent their strengths and achievements.
Most resume preparation resources in books and online are written from the point of view of creating a resume for a typical job search. Our resume guidance was written specifically with the admissions officer and the MBA application in mind. We will help you understand exactly what admissions officers are looking for in an MBA application resume.
The resume building approach you will learn in this MBA Prep Step™ is designed to move you another step closer to earning an acceptance letter at a top-tier MBA program. If you follow our step-by-step process, you will be able to create a resume that really stands out from the competition.
We decided to cover creating the application resume before the essays, recommendation letters, application forms, and interviewing because every year we see candidates waiting until the last minute to create a resume for their MBA applications. Consequently, they do a rush job on the resume with little forethought as to what they want their resume to achieve and how it fits strategically with their overall application. This is a definite mistake.
As you’ll see in the next two units, your resume plays an important role in a complete application strategy. For schools that conduct “blind” interviews, the resume is particularly critical. In a blind interview, your interviewer will not have read your application and essays and will only have your resume. Therefore, your resume will be the sole basis for your interview, so a weak resume is likely to lead to a weak interview.
We have divided this website module into two units: 1) Select Your Resume Building Blocks and 2) Create Your Resume.
To help you formulate your resume strategy, we will examine the key strategic building blocks that go into a top notch MBA resume, and we will take you through some exercises to help you craft your own resume strategy.
In the second unit, we will progress to resume tactics and show you how to create your resume. You will learn how to assemble your strategic building blocks into a highly professional, strategically sound resume. We will then take you section by section through the resume and will recommend best practices for resume structure, style, content, and formatting.
A “weak resume” tends to list generic roles and responsibilities and fails to highlight the qualities that MBA schools value most. The candidate’s resume leaves the impression that he or she did not really impact their organization in measurable ways, branding the applicant as a supporting player and not a leader. Our goal in this MBA Prep Step™ is to teach you how to build an exceptional resume, one that will convince admissions officers that you are in the top ten percent of your peer group and that you have obvious management and leadership potential.
The first step in building an exceptional resume is to understand the mindset of the people who will be evaluating your resume – admissions officers. What exactly are they looking for when they review your resume? They are looking for:
- Employer Reputation
- Career Progress
- Career Readiness
- Fit Qualities
- Diverse Background and Interests
- Communication Abilities
Without a doubt, the most important thing admissions officers or an admissions interviewer will be screening for is evidence of your leadership capabilities. The contents of your resume, right down to the action verbs you use in your bullet points, will reveal a great deal about if you have been either a leader or a follower. Remember too that admissions officers want to see a “habit of leadership,” which means that it is important to highlight leadership outside of work in community service organizations and other settings.
An admissions officer is interested in the reputation and quality of the organizations on your resume. Name brand firms on your resume, such as McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, PricewaterhouseCoopers and General Electric, will definitely help. If you have not worked for blue chip firms, you will just have to work harder to convince the admissions committee that the quality of your professional experience is comparable to that of candidates from the name brand firms. A compelling description of the size, scale, and business focus of the firms you have worked for is a good start.
Where you have worked matters but what you have accomplished in your job matters even more. Admissions officers will be looking to see the extent of your responsibilities, what exactly you have achieved in each role, and whether or not your responsibilities have increased over the course of your career. A general manager must manage people from many different disciplines; therefore, demonstrating via your resume that your skills and knowledge span different organizational functions will give you an advantage when applying for an MBA.
In the section of the website on defining your career goals, we introduced the idea that an MBA application is, in part, a job application. Basically, when you are applying for an MBA , you are also, in a sense, applying for the jobs you write about in your Career Goals Essay. It follows that an admissions officer will review your resume with your career goals in mind to determine if the skills, knowledge, and experiences on your resume support your career goals or not. The admissions officer acts as a proxy for future recruiters who work for the kinds of firms you say you want to work for. Your resume must clearly indicate that you have the capabilities (i.e., skills, knowledge, and relationships) to be competitive in the career arena you plan to enter after graduating with your MBA.
As we discussed in the last section, every top-tier MBA program values qualities such as analytical aptitude and a collaborative spirit. Beyond those attributes, admissions officers will be looking for evidence in your resume of their school’s Fit Qualities. To prove to admissions officers that you will be a great fit in the program, your resume needs to feature the qualities the school values above all others.
Diverse Backgrounds and Interests
Admissions officers are filling precious seats and they know that candidates who have a variety of passions, interests, and hobbies will prove to be more dynamic classmates, enriching the MBA community they will join. Showcasing some of your top Points of Difference on your resume is critical to convincing admissions officers that you are well rounded and have unique things to contribute to the class.
As with your essays, your resume serves as an example of your communication abilities. The design and wording of your resume is a reflection of these skills. Admissions officers will be evaluating whether or not the messaging is clear, the content is persuasive, and the style is refined. Future leaders must be excellent communicators. If your resume is confusing, sloppy, or inconsistent, then your candidacy will be undermined.