The Do’s and Don’ts of an MBA Resume

What’s the most important component of your MBA application?

Some argue it’s the essays; after all, that’s your opportunity to show the MBA admissions committee who you really are.

Others say it’s your GMAT score since it’s the most universal gauge of your abilities.

And then there’s the interview, your one time to have a real interaction with the person who may (or may not) decide your fate.

But what about your résumé?

You know, the place where you list… uh… everything you’ve ever done? That single piece of paper that sums up your entire professional history? That document that you’ll use again and again, for every single application you submit?

Yeah, that one seems pretty important to us… and oftentimes people just sorta slap that thing together after they’ve used up all their time and patience getting the rest of the application absolutely perfect.

Bad move, friends.

Your resume is just as integral to your application as everything else, and it deserves just as much attention. Maybe even more. Think about it – do you really want some shoddy formatting or lack of pertinent details to keep you from b-school?

Didn’t think so…

So give that resume the TLC it deserves and make sure you’re not falling prey to one of these resume mishaps.

1) Poor formatting
Often we will find 2, 3, 4 page resumes.  Not for MBA apps, people!  Keep it to one page, two MAX.  And if you do require two pages, be sure that your background is SO impressive that you truly DO need more space than the guy next to you. 90% of all applicants will manage with one page. If you can’t, there better be a very good reason.

Beyond the page count, you need a PROFESSIONAL format. You don’t need to use the ones that b-schools pass out. No need to use the Wharton format for Wharton, and the Harvard format for Harvard.  But you DO need to make sure that your format is nice and professional.  Neat, clean, and impressive.

2) Jargon
In MBA essays, there is NO room for jargon.  In resumes, there is room for JUST a bit of it. We all know that in some cases you have no choice.  After all, if you explained everything you would surely be well over one page.  But keep it to a bare minimum; too much jargon is a deal breaker.  You need to write your resume in such a way that the reader understands who you are, what you do, how you do it. And if there is all kinds of technical mumbo jumbo, you will lose your reader.  Fast.

3) Nothing interesting
Too often, people write ONLY about work and school.  How boring!  All resumes should have an “Other Interests” section, where you talk about something…interesting.  Fun, even.  Surprising.  Do you love the Sopranos?  Are you an avid white water rafter?  Do you cook spicy Indian food?  Have you ever sung at Carnegie Hall?

These are GREAT ways to break the ice; especially if you are an international candidate, these interests are a great way to show that you are well-rounded, and interesting. Remember, b-schools accept PEOPLE, not profiles. Show those adcoms what kind of PERSON you are, inside the office and out.

4) No clear career progression
This is perhaps the MAIN goal of a resume: show that you are IMPROVING.  That you are PROGRESSING in your career.  Have you ever been promoted?  SHOW IT nice and clearly.  THAT is the most important thing that you do need to show.  Career progression is the NAME OF THE GAME in MBA applications.

And even if you haven’t been promoted, be sure to show that as you take on new jobs, you are taking on MORE responsibilities.  Even if it isn’t the case, you must show that your most recent job is also your BEST job, where you have the most interesting work.

5) “This isn’t really an MBA resume…”
Don’t just use the latest copy of your resume in your MBA apps!  Every single section needs to be revisited.  Why?  Because we all know that MBA apps are looking for leadership, problem solving, management… things that your last employer perhaps was NOT looking for.

Job resumes can be MUCH more laden with jargon, specific skills etc.  MBA resumes will be read by liberal arts majors–people without great backgrounds in business. You need to explain your work to someone who isn’t “in the industry,” and you need to explain it in a way that’s proves you’ve got what it takes to be successful in b-school and beyond… not another job. If you are submitting your last work resume to MBA programs…you’re doing it wrong.

Download our MBA Resume Guide here.

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