Why do you even need an MBA admissions resume / CV? After all, don’t your essays, recommendations, and goals suffice? No, since the MBA admissions resume / CV, while only a small part of your entire application, is a critical document. MBA admissions committees don’t spend a huge amount of time on your resume, but it is often the first document they pick up when reviewing your application. After all, the resume contains (or ought to contain) an excellent overview of your entire profile, and should help the admissions reviewer understand most aspects of your candidacy. Even the aspects of your candidacy not highlighted in your resume, such as your career goals, are intricately connected, as your past education and work experience should have some relationship to what you wish to do in the future. Another key reason to create an excellent resume is that this document alone might well form the basis on which your interviewer conducts your interview later (strange, but true). An excellent resume can not only improve your profile as seen by the admissions committee, but also help you create that first critical impression.
What should the MBA resume not contain?
While there is no debate over what the MBA admissions resume should contain, there can be some discussion on what it should not.
Personal details (height, marital status, date of birth, passport number et al) can be left out from the resume, as these are not of any bearing on your admissions decision.
If any of these details are needed, they will separately be asked for in the online application by the admissions committee. Similarly, usually, just your email address and phone number are fine as contact details – no need to list down your physical address down to the last street and apartment number.
Also note that the resume is meant to be a document mentioning your skills, qualifications, and key achievements, not a detailed exposition of every experience you have had till date.
Only in very rare cases should a career goal be included, and even if it is, it should be a crisp, specific statement of what you wish to achieve. Long-drawn, vague career goals will not only take away from your resume, but might also lead the admissions committee to look unfavourably at your maturity as an applicant.
In general, it is important to remember that this resume is meant for MBA admissions, and not for seeking jobs, and so should be tailored accordingly.
Are skills summaries okay in an MBA admissions resume?
Skill summaries, that helpfully list out the key skills and capabilities that you have built over the years, are a different matter from stating career goals. Some schools such as Stanford will appreciate them on your resume.
Others will not require them. Before you jump into finalizing your resume, take care to see if the school you are applying to has a specific resume template. For example, LBS is known to recommend some resume templates for different programs.
Try and also avoid generic skill summaries. Leadership or analytical skills are today considered common denominators more than differentiators, so mention them as key skills only if they are otherwise apparent from your profile. If not, they will be seen to be generic descriptors and will simply be ignored.
Be brief, but be impactful in what you say
Brevity is the soul not only of wit, but also of the MBA admissions resume. Most professional resumes will be maximum one page in size; programs that allow an additional page of content (such as those meant for more senior professionals) will mention so explicitly. If they don’t, assume that one page is the limit.
The skill of expressing what you wish to say with fewer words will be invaluable in an MBA resume. As you will be listing out things you have done, remember that the subject of the sentence (‘I’) will be subsumed in the formation. ‘Led a team of 5’ is much better than ‘I was chosen to lead a team of 5 people’.
A quick caveat on brevity: use it only till the point that it does not impede understanding. Avoid acronyms that are not well-known standards.
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Not just about description, but about meaning
When describing your professional achievements and activities, think not just description, but also impact. Do not use the bullet points to re-describe obvious elements of your job.
For example, if your are a management consultant, using a bullet point to say that you scope client issues, engage teams in problem-solving, and create proposals, is a bit like saying that you are an artist and you like to draw and paint.
Similarly, try and bring out the impact of what you have done. Be careful though – stick only to facts, and do not overstate your achievements in the (false) hope that they will impress the admissions reviewer.
If you worked on a small part of the project, take credit only for the improvement related to that part, not the entire project.
Think about each line on an MBA resume
As real-estate on an MBA resume is so precious, and every line is so important in terms of its presence and impact, you need to work on your resume till it is perfect.
This might mean multiple changes, improvements, and iterations. The process is not about filling in a template, but about creating a masterpiece.
For example, we come across hundreds of resumes each year, which have a separate section on hobbies and interests, and then a simple one line within that section, listing out the hobbies as ‘Watching movies, reading, and travelling’.
Yes, you might as well include breathing, bathing, and sleeping as well! 🙂 That kind of a line or description is best avoided, if you have nothing better to substitute it with.
These are only a few perspectives to keep in mind when creating a strong MBA admissions resume. We will be back with further perspectives on this issue soon.