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Best Resumes For MBA Applications

Author: Jacob Taylor

The biggest difference between a regular job-search resume and a resume specifically aimed toward entry into an MBA program is sheer quantity. Just in term of pre-application review I look at hundreds per year, and we only do intake in the fall, says Katharine Travers, Admissions and Outreach Specialist of New York's Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College. I get several a day usually. Specifically, in 2014 Zicklin received 251 applications, of which just 121 were accepted. (See also Should You Head Back To Business School?)

And what resume catches a business school's attention? It should be simple and to the point, Travers says. Also, I don't think I've ever seen one arrive by mail. I rarely get a paper resume, maybe a couple of times at our open house sessions. Okay, few printed on paper, none by mail, and always short and sweet. For business school applicants, what are the other qualifications to stand out from the application crowd?

Formatting Your Application Resume
  • Rely on two typefaces: A bold sans-serif face for headers, and a standard serif face for body type. What's a serif, you ask? It's that tiny extension on the termination point of an individual letter, whose sole purpose is to make smaller text easier to read. After reviewing a few hundred resumes, the dean of admission's eyes desperately need serifs. Sans-serif letters are cleaner, and when they're large and few and bold the words really pop. Meanwhile, skip common typefaces like Times New Roman. By far it's the easiest to read – so everyone uses it.
  • Use the standard resume format – which usually means your name in large type, your mailing address on one side and your phone and email address on the other. Unless you're having it done professionally, you can always use a template like those available on Microsoft Word. Also, skip pretentiousness. Unless your name is John D. Rockefeller VIII, there's no need of a middle initial before your last name nor Roman numerals after it.
Presenting Yourself in One Page
  • Even though it's electronic, keep it to one page. For some schools it's a requirement, but also consider the poor dean of admissions who's poring over foot-deep stacks – er, poring through a few score messages in the departmental inbox. Also, remember to attach it as a pdf. file. That way all the cool typefaces and formatting you've selected will come through.
  • Using resume-speak throughout (never begin with I, always end with a period, and use plenty of action words in-between), and start off with your professional objective: that is, a line or two showing what you're giving to the world with your MBA, not what the world is giving you for having an MBA.
  • List your Professional Experience. Forget Employment. Employment means that maybe you punched tickets at the local amusement park. Professional Experience means you Supervised Admissions at Super Happy Funland, the regional theme park showcasing thrill rides, exhibits, and entertainment for kids of all ages.
  • For each company, quantify, quantify. How much was the company worth, how many people did you supervise, how much money did you handle, or make for the company – and always use digits. Compared with five thousand dollars per day, or five hundred thousand guests every year, or with a five-million dollar annual sales, the figures $5,000, 500,000 and $5,000,000 pop. If you were promoted say so, and list your accomplishments.
  • How do you make those lists pop? Easy: Use a bullet point before each entry, and shoot for at least three bullet points. Remember, emphasize personal growth. If you were hired as a custodial engineer at Funland, that regional theme park with $5,000,000 annual sales, when you were promoted to mechanical engineer of the water slides or roller coaster, that's another bullet point. Don't lie, but make your points strongly.
  • After Professional Experience, it's Education. Translation: college education. List each college or university and its address, followed by the degree or degrees you earned there, your GPA so long as it's 3.5 or higher, and any accomplishments at said college or university. (You may also be interested in Applying to Grad School: GPA Vs. Work Experience.)
  • By the way, it's a given that you're a high-school graduate. Listing that will only eat up valuable space that you could be using for bullet points. Listing the salary you earned is also superfluous, and so is the line References available upon request. Imagine writing No references available on request, and see if you ever get accepted. Instead, use the bottom of the page to list awards, honors, extracurricular activities and volunteer service.
The Bottom Line

Yes, brevity is the soul of an MBA resume. And yes, it's a summary of experience and qualifications to show why the program should want you. But your real goal is to make the program want you.

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