Applying for business school means crafting an outstanding resume that exhibits your talent, clarifies your work experience, and shows off your leadership roles, all while convincing them that you can handle the rigors of a top MBA program. Whew!
While schools are not going to reject you for minor details, like whether you list your work experience before your education, there are some legitimate dos and don’ts. Here are some responses to some of our commonly asked questions:
How much time must I spend finessing this? It’s just the resume.
Your resume makes the first impression in your application. In that moment, admissions officers develop a crucial first sense of who you are, what you do, what you’ve done, and how much value you added along the way. They get a glimpse into your organization skills (does it have a logical flow?), your attention to detail (is your punctuation consistent?), and your ability to communicate with someone outside your industry (is it written in Greek?)—all of which goes into their assessment of whether you’d fit in well to the business school environment.
How long should my resume be?
The rule is: one resume page for every 10 years of work experience. For the typical MBA applicant, this means your resume must be on one page. Don’t be thrown off by the multi-page CV that you may use at your consulting firm for internal project staffing. MBA admissions committees want to see one page resumes, with only rare exception.
To get there, don’t compromise on readability. 10-point font should be your absolute minimum (Times New Roman is always a good choice), and you’ll want to leave reasonable white space around the margins, section breaks, and entries. Instead, pare down your less important roles, such as internships and short-term positions.
Should I include an Executive Summary?
No. If your resume has done its job well, it should be able to speak for itself. You’ll have ample opportunity to explain your story further in your data form, essays, and hopefully interviews as well. (Then later in life, when you’re applying for jobs, your cover letter will serve this purpose.) Instead, use that precious new real estate to highlight additional accomplishments.
What section headers should I use?
Start with either Education or Professional Experience as your #1 and #2 (you decide which one is more impressive). From there, you can customize it to the story you’re trying to tell. If you have done substantial volunteer work, then you may want a Community section. You could also break out a section for Special Skills (language, computer, technical), Certifications, or Designations (CFA, Series 6). Just don’t miss the chance to include a Personal or Interests section at the bottom and potentially connect with your reader over your shared love of historical fiction, Italian cooking, or triathlons.
More to come on resumes in our next blog post. Stay tuned!
[For help with preparing a standout resume for business school, or for general MBA admissions advice, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org]
© Hillary Schubach, August 20, 2014, 10:00am MT