Monday, September 09, 2019 at 12am

Writing a Powerful MBA Résumé

Writing a Powerful MBA Résumé main image

It’s unlikely you’ll apply for an MBA program without being asked for your résumé to be included as part of the supplementary documents.

Both MBA admissions committee members and interviewers will read your résumé, and as they will decide if your application will get to the next stage, you need to keep them engaged.

Readers many only skim the different sections and make bullet point notes, so you need to be concise from start to finish.

Keep the MBA evaluation criteria in mind, so you will present your accomplishments, leadership skills, global scope/impact and promotions effectively.

Many schools, like Wharton, want résumés of only one page, though certain schools, like HBS, allow two pages (if you’re advance in your career), but one page is usually the norm. So, keep it snappy and to the point. 

Here are 10 tips to write a powerful MBA résumé that engages the semi-interested readers who, nevertheless, make or influence the admissions decision.

1) Lead with your strengths

You shouldn’t treat your résumé as if it’s a shopping list – it’s your personal marketing document.

Of course, you need to be completely honest, but it would be worthwhile to arrange information to show off your best differentiators first.

Thereby, leading with your strengths. When explaining a position you’ve held, start off with the most impressive achievement/duty in that role.

Hear from an expert in the field

2) Prioritize your best résumé content first

Begin with the most compelling parts of your role.

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

3) Use the STAR method

STAR stands for situation, task, action, result – and it’s a useful tool when crafting a résumé. Ensuring your résumé revolves around your accomplishments gives the admissions committee a clear look at 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.

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 expand on the examples included on your résumé.

4) Use Stats

We’re wired to remember and focus on statistics – and MBA candidates have finessed this skillset.

Count the number of new deals you were responsible for; the revenue growth one of your projects generated; the number of new clients you brought in.

It doesn’t have to be exact numbers – you can use percentages and approximations if working with more sensitive information.

Obviously, admissions board members read countless applications daily. If you can give them a simple, powerful statistic to remember about your work, it will work to your advantage.

Top tips for writing your MBA application essay

5) Avoid multiple line descriptions

6) Focus on Action

It’s important to use active verbs when explaining a job on your résumé. Focus on what you accomplished in your role, rather than just providing a job description.

7) Balance hard and soft skills

MBA admissions boards are looking for candidates who possess both hard and soft skills – and your résumé needs to show this.

Your primary aim should be twofold:

  • Demonstrate you have the analytical skills necessary to complete rigorous quantitative coursework in business school.
  • Demonstrate you are a good teammate.

8) Create section headers

This will help you best position your content.

For example, you could divide experience into professional and entrepreneurial sections if you have significant experience in those areas. Or perhaps create a separate publications section if you have authored publications for admissions teams to peruse at a later time.

Five questions to ask before starting your MBA

9) Use multiple levels of hierarchies

Use bullets and sub-bullets; boldfaced or underlined elements to draw the attention of your readers.

For 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.

10) Eliminate or reduce excessive content

Anything that is redundant, immaterial or overly technical – cut it. Use the guideline to positively differentiate your résumé from your peers.

In this same token, don’t be afraid to use whitespace to increase readability. Readers will spend even less time reading a résumé packed full of content.

Main tag

Niamh is Assistant Editor of TopMBA.com, creating and editing content for an international MBA student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of the business world.  

Tags used in this blog post