Monday, November 25, 2013 at 12am

Writing a Powerful MBA Résumé

Writing a Powerful MBA Résumé main image

Micheal Cohan

Almost every MBA application asks for a résumé. Before submission, the questions you need to ask yourself are: who reads the MBA résumé, what should it contain, how long should it be, and how much time will be spent in reading it? 

Both MBA admissions committee members and interviewers often read your résumé. At the top level, an MBA résumé should contain professional, academic and additional sections that present the different aspects of your candidacy. 

Remember to keep the MBA evaluation criteria in mind, so you are concisely presenting your accomplishments, leadership, global scope/impact and promotions.  Why concisely?  First, many schools, like Wharton, want résumés of only one page, though certain schools, like HBS, allow two pages.  Second, and here is the shocker, readers might only spend a minute or two skimming the different sections and drilling down in certain places. 

So, here are 10 tips on how to write a powerful MBA résumé that engages these semi-interested readers wbo, nevertheless, make or influence the admissions decision.

1. Create section headers that best position your content.

Examples

Dividing experience into professional and entrepreneurial sections if you have significant experience in each area.

Creating a separate publications section if you have authored publications.

2. Prioritize your best résumé content first.

Example

“Directing a division of 20 people” would usually be prioritized over “training a department”.

3. Use the STAR method (situation, task, action, result) model for bullet items.

The STAR method is a useful tool in crafting your résumé. Having your résumé revolve around your accomplishments gives the admissions committee a clear look into your professional history and career goals. In each position you have held, think of an impactful initiative, deal, transaction, engagement or project that you have led or contributed to meaningfully. Describe the situation, your role(s), your tasks(s), your action(s), and the result(s) (STAR).

Example – Led a team of 15 specialists to an on-time product launch with 95% customer satisfaction after last-minute leadership change.

STAR is a holistic approach; the situation conveys the context; the role(s), task(s) and action(s) demonstrate your skill sets and individual contribution to the overall outcome; the result(s) show your impact. The STAR method also works well in interviews, allowing you to expound on the examples included on your résumé.

4. Utilize strong verbs to describe the actions, but vary these verbs throughout your résumé to engage the reader.

5. Avoid multiple line descriptions.  Doing so might mean you break up points into more than one item.

Example from a résumé sent to me – who wants to read this?

Take residential mortgage loan applications and offer, or negotiate terms for a home purchase or refinance loan on borrower's behalf with multiple lenders. For example, Fifth Third Bank, Wells Fargo, Pacific Union, and nine other lenders. Supervise all paperwork between lender and borrower for submission and underwriting. Review credit reports, flood and homeowner's insurance binders, income documentation; business, farm, real estate, and income tax returns; appraisals, mortgage notes, and title documents for closing and underwriting. Price out mortgage rates and lock them with lenders. Ensure compliance with federal RESPA requirements as well as Dodd-Frank Act requirements. Ensure secure transmittal and storage of all sensitive documentation.

6. Use multiple levels of hierarchies (bullets and sub-bullets; boldfaced or underlined).

Example

  • Direct overall CRM module test strategy.
    • Establish scope and nature of testing – including architecture, automation, performance, security and scalability.
    • Create project plans to ensure on-time delivery and track progress against milestones.
    • Negotiate with internal stakeholders to resolve dependencies.

7. Quantify the result with dollar amounts or percentages wherever possible.

Example

 “saved company US$2 million” or “increased operating efficiency by 10%”.

8. Write with parallelism  to express similar ideas (section headers, job functions, etc.).

Examples

Using consistent standards like periods at the end.

Having mini-sections of “selected transactions” to describe investment banking positions.

9. Eliminate or reduce résumé content that is redundant, immaterial or overly technical.  Use the guideline of whether the résumé content positively differentiates you from your peers.

10. Use whitespace to increase readability.  Readers will spend even less time reading a résumé packed with every morsel of content without regard to margins or line spaces.

For more advice on your MBA admissions résumé, see MBA Résumé.

By

Founder of MBAPrepAdvantage, Michael Cohan has been an MBA admissions consultant for 10 years. Besides writing as a guest blogger on QS TopMBA.com, Michael Cohan has been referenced as an expert on MBA admissions in many leading and domestic publications, including The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Financial Times and Crain’s New York Business. His analysis is also frequently featured in online media, such as MBAPodcaster. Michael earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and Communications from Northwestern University and his Master of Business Administration degree from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

 

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