Business School Resume – Getting It Right

Written by Kelly Granson. Posted in MBA Admission

If the difficulty of a project would be judged only by its length, then your business school resume should be a cinch. However, the resume, a document that should be no more than one page in length, presents a number of challenges to applicants.

For starters, the very size of the document itself makes things tricky. After all, the resume is meant to present your professional, educational and personal credentials in an engaging way; that's a lot to pack onto one page written in size 11 font.

With this in mind, let's go over some general rules and guidelines for resume writing after which we'll get into particular tips for getting your resume to stand out.

Basic Guidelines

You business school resume should have three sections: Professional, Education and Additional Information.

In the Professional section list your employment experience, remembering to emphasize leadership and communication skills above all. These are the raw ingredients that most business schools like to see in applicants. It's the stuff proactive, successful people are made of.

Education should include only college and post-graduate work. High school diplomas are more or less assumed at this level and your success on the debate team and glee club are not really relevant, so skip it.

Finally, the Additional Information section is where you can let your hair down a bit and get personal. Often what you write here will be referenced by the interviewees to lighten the mood during your interview.

This section should be no more than three lines and may include special talents, travel experience and community work. A tip: what you include in this section should somehow balance or compliment your professional experience and demonstrate your multi-faceted qualities. For example, that you are both a risk taker and careful when you need to be, or a high achiever who still maintains connections to community, etc.

When considering your resume, the admissions board will pay as much attention to style as they will to content. What do I mean by this? I mean that word choice, succinctness and formatting are three absolutely necessary components of a five-star resume.

Of course, choosing words carefully is important in any kind of writing, but the resume writing process can be particularly challenging seeing as you're so limited in space. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your resume is using passive language when writing about your professional roles and achievements.

Stay away from words like helped or was responsible for. Instead, use words that have more pizzazz such as conceived, managed, implemented, directed and analyzed. They call these "action words," and using them can take you resume to new heights. This style point allows for your writing to have maximum impact within a limited amount of space.

An example:

"Helped to develop and implement a restructuring of employee work distribution that generated a higher rate of productivity" is no good. Here's the proper alternative:

"Conceived of and directed a corporate restructuring program that, over the course of six months, drastically increased employee productivity."

When you read these two descriptions, pretend you're sitting on the board of admissions and ask yourself which applicant you would consider for an interview, the one who wrote the first or the second statement? Ask yourself this question again and again when reviewing your entire resume.

Stay away from using the pronoun "I"-- it does not belong in your resume.

Use bullet points and impressive statements, like the one written above, to draw in and impress your reader.

Some More Formatting Points

There are a few differences between business school resumes and job application resumes. One of the starkest differences is that the business school resume does not need an "Objective." If you're applying to business school your objective is clear: to get into business school. Furthermore, the content of your resume should be streamlined to include only the information that will be considered important and relevant to your application.

Keep margins between .5 inch and 1 inch on all sides.

Remember to list all the dates related to your education and employment.

Remember to list all instances of honors and special recognitions.

You may include a "highlights" section at the top right of your resume. This optional section should list some of the professional and personal achievements you're most proud of, particularly those that involve leadership and assumption of responsibility that went beyond your current age and status.

Facts and figures can really jump off the page. If you lead a group of people, how many did you lead? If you helped eliminate costs, what was the exact amount you slashed? Be sure to include these numbers (write the actual numbers – you lead 4 people, reduced costs by 25%) for your resume to achieve its maximum impact.

These days, business schools usually have an online application system you can use to upload all the necessary documents for your application, including your resume. When doing so, the file name for the resume you upload should include:

Your name, the word "resume," the company you work for and the name of the school you're applying to. Use the underscore_key to make spaces between these terms if necessary. This gives the impression that the resume you're sending is somehow personally tailored to this particular school.

Example: "Sam_Trager_Resume_Goldman_IB_Schulich_R1_2010.pdf"

Final Tips

Some final thoughts about the resume writing process:

Let go of the desire to write a perfect resume. There is no such thing. Instead focus on getting the most important information down as presentably as you can, following the formatting guidelines. After that, go over the resume again and look for places where you can change words, replacing passive language with action words.

Then look it over again and ask the following questions:

Do you sound confident or brash?

Are you ready to back up and explain every item in your resume if it's brought up in the interview?

Does the resume sound too good to be true?

Is there anywhere else I can improve my style and formatting to really get my readers' attention?

Can I do anything else like add a highlights paragraph or list another achievement that will make my resume look meatier?

Once you've gone through these revisions, it might be a good idea to cross reference your resume with some sample resumes you can find online.

If you really want to make sure you aced this part of your application, seek some professional advice. However, proceed with caution. Be sure you only enlist the services of qualified and reputable consultation services; there are a lot of people out there just trying to turn a buck.

Working on and perfecting your personal business school resume is good experience for any aspiring business professional. Go through it calmly, giving yourself enough time for the task at hand. Crafting a well-worded and carefully formatted resume is the best way to give voice to your many achievements to date.


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