Do I Need Management Experience on my CV to Apply for an MBA? |

Do I Need Management Experience on my CV to Apply for an MBA?

By Julia G

Updated February 2, 2021 Updated February 2, 2021

It should come as no surprise that to get accepted onto a top MBA program, you will need an impressive CV. Many schools cite managerial experience as a big tick on your application, as they want to craft students into exceptional managers. But just how important is having management experience on your CV?

Generally, management is defined by leading a team of people (large or small) and having a title that reflects this (such as ‘manager’ or ‘director’). However, when it comes to applying for an MBA, managerial experience on your CV is a plus for the admissions team as it demonstrates you have one of the qualities most sought after in a prospective student: leadership. However, a ‘manager’ title will only impress admissions officers if it’s backed up by actual examples of management.

What level of management experience will my fellow students have?

Bear in mind that an MBA isn’t exclusively for people who are managers already, it’s more for those who aspire to become senior managers/c-suite executives further down the line. Consider the average age of people applying for your program – this is usually younger for US based programs (where the average age is 28, compared to Oceania’s 35, for example). If you are a younger applicant, you’re obviously less likely to have management experience as you will have been in the workforce for a shorter time. If you had years and years of management experience, you’d likely be considering an EMBA over an MBA.

Many applicants to MBA programs don’t come from senior management positions, such as banking analysts who have highly pressured jobs and show they can thrive in competitive and stressful environments. Consultancy is also a popular career path taken by many prospective MBA students, and junior consultants will often have little to no professional managerial experience, often undertaking an MBAs to get to management level (as a senior consultant).

How can I demonstrate my leadership potential?

Although not every business school will specify that they require prospective students to have managerial experience, almost every school will note that they want students who can demonstrate leadership. They are looking for students who have management potential, not just management experience.

In a professional capacity, thinking about ways in which you’ve demonstrated leadership when you aren’t a manager with people reporting to you can be difficult. Focus on how you have demonstrated excellence in your position and taken full advantage of any leadership opportunities offered to you. Even if you only managed a small project for a short amount of time, use this to show your management potential.

You can also consider this study from the Harvard Business Review as a guideline. The HBR found, in a study spanning 10 years, that the highest performing CEOs shared four key leadership qualities:

1)      Deciding with speed and conviction [decisiveness]

2)      Engaging for impact [motivating and engaging others]

3)      Adapting proactively [able to adapt to change]

4)      Delivering reliably [producing results]

Even if you haven’t held higher level management positions you should be able to demonstrate some of these qualities. Maybe you’ve thrived in a fast-paced environment or through structural organizational changes; or maybe you’ve worked in a team where morale was low, and you had to motivate your co-workers to get good results. These can be fantastic examples of leadership potential even if you don’t have ‘manager’ in your title.

Figuring out how to display management potential when you’re from an unorthodox, non-business background can also be something of a headache. However, institutions such as Saïd Business School and INSEAD specify in their full-time MBA program FAQs that a business background isn’t essential for getting in, as management potential can be demonstrated in a range of sectors, such as the arts, law, medicine, government or non-profits.

Military MBA applicants are often captivating for admissions officers, as even if they haven’t been involved in management in the traditional sense, they will often have leadership experience, be hardworking, and disciplined. Prospective students who run their own businesses (even if they are the only employee) are also attractive candidates.

It’s also important to consider your extra-curriculars as examples of leadership and management. Being the captain of a sports team at university or holding a role such as president or treasurer of a student club also demonstrates that you can be comfortable in a managerial position. Other extra-curriculars that are great to include are volunteering for an organization – perhaps you organized a fundraising activity such as a bake sale. Tutoring experience is also looked on favorably as it shows you can motivate and teach people to get great results in an academic context. Extra-curriculars and activities in your free time are a great way to boost the leadership side of your application without having to drastically change your career.


Managerial experience is a huge bonus when applying for an MBA – it shows leadership skills, ability to work in a team and initiative – but if this hasn’t been an option in your career so far, demonstrate why you’d be an asset through your learned skills, and the admissions board will take a shine to you.

This article was originally published in February 2019 . It was last updated in February 2021

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Written by

Julia is a writer for, publishing articles for business students and graduates across the world. A native Londoner, she holds an MSc in Marketing Strategy & Innovation from Cass Business School and a BA in Classical Studies & English from Newcastle University.


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