Tuesday, February 09, 2016 at 10am

How To Create a Standout MBA Résumé

MBA resume

In the competitive world of MBA programs, having a standout MBA résumé is essential for a successful application. An MBA résumé is usually the first document that most readers will look at when reviewing an application. As such, this résumé serves as a ‘first impression’. It goes without saying that this ‘first impression’ can influence the direction of the MBA application. One of the best ways to describe a résumé is that it is similar to a movie trailer. If it is prepared well, it will attract an audience and generate more interest. Conversely, a lackluster and short résumé may leave a reader feeling indifferent. Given this, creating a standout MBA résumé is critical.  

To understand the importance of a standout résumé, an applicant must recognize its role. The purpose of a résumé is to provide an overview of an applicant’s career, highlighting his/her responsibilities, skills, achievements, and contributions.  This summary is usually arranged into a structured one-page document. (A two-page document is generally acceptable only if the individual has had substantial work experience.) The MBA application résumé should be presented clearly and organized into four segmented groups.

  • Contact details
  • Professional experience
  • Educational background
  • Additional information

Beyond these categories, a standout résumé is also tailored to fit the career objective of the applicant. For example, if an applicant plans to enter a nonprofit organization (NPO) after his/her MBA, there should be some information on the résumé that indicates prior involvement, particularly if this individual is seeking a career change from a different industry.

In this sense, a résumé introduces the reader to the applicant and what he/she has accomplished thus far. Through this information, a standout résumé will provide the reader with an insight into the potential future impact of the applicant.

Although there are many ways to make a résumé stand out and vary depending on to whom an applicant speaks, the following three suggested strategies could be used to enhance any résumé.

Show career progression

Presenting strong career progression is important. As virtually all MBA programs seek candidates who have leadership potential, it is imperative to show gradual career advancement. The most obvious way to do this is by indicating career progression through promotions and changes in job titles. For example, if an applicant changes from an associate to a senior associate, this should be clearly identified in the MBA résumé.

For some people career progression is harder to show. They may have stayed with the same job title for a while. As such, another way to show career growth is through identifying changes in job responsibilities. For example, as an associate, in the beginning, an applicant may have just supported group projects; however with more experience, the same applicant may have started to manage projects and junior members.  By indicating these changes in responsibilities, it allows the reader to visualize the career progression of the applicant.

Use power vocabulary

When writing an MBA résumé, an applicant should pay particular attention to the vocabulary he/she uses with an emphasis on power vocabulary. Selecting active verbs and adverbs can elevate a résumé to a professional and sophisticated level. In contrast, using simple verbs and adjectives can potentially indicate limited experience. For example, instead of saying, “Obtained four contracts,” an applicant should write something like “Successfully negotiated and secured four construction contracts.” In this sense, using power vocabulary is a useful tool to construct succinct and concrete information regarding responsibilities and roles.

Another benefit of power vocabulary is that it inherently highlights the skills that an applicant has. Use active verbs such as:

  • Strategized
  • Advised
  • Collaborated
  • Initiated
  • Designed

Verbs like these reveal the applicant’s skill sets. Similarly, active adverbs provide the context to which the action was implemented. Adverbs such as efficiently and successfully among many others create the backdrop for the description, giving the reader an understanding of the intricacies of the activity.

Lastly, an applicant should diversify their power vocabulary. Instead of repeating the same words throughout the résumé, an applicant should consult a thesaurus. For example, instead of writing the commonly overused vocabulary ‘led’, an applicant could potentially use ‘directed’, ‘managed’, or ‘spearheaded’. This power vocabulary diversity breathes fresh air into the descriptions.

Demonstrate impact

One of the key strategies to make a standout résumé is highlighting the impact or contribution a role or project has had on a company. Indicating impact allows the reader to see the influence of the applicant. There are three ways to do this.  

The first is to show quantifiable evidence. This means using numbers to show impact. This method provides specific details for the reader and lets him/her comprehend the extent of the impact. “Efficiently managed five engineers to develop an operation plan to improve oil production by 40%,” clearly illustrates the impact you had with quantifiable evidence to back it up.

The second is to specify how a project itself has been utilized in the company. In some cases, an applicant’s unique approach to a project may have been standardized due to its success or a project itself may have been used as a point of reference when creating a company report. Demonstrating the value of the contribution highlights the importance of the project and adds weight to the impact.

The third is to indicate awards and recognitions related to the project. Often, applicants neglect or forget about the professional honors they received from projects that they led. These accolades may include receiving a certificate of accomplishment or being published in a magazine or even being promoted early. These various forms of achievement allow the reader to understand that others recognized the applicant’s contributions.

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With over a decade in teaching and training, Lee Moua spent another two years helping Japanese students get accepted to top MBA programs. At AGOS, he uses the same desire and drive that has garnered him rewards and accolades throughout his career. He was notably one of the founding members of the New York University, School of Professional Studies program in Tokyo.