Category Archives: MBA Recruitment

MBA Resume: Look To Your Future

Business schools ask for a resume as part of the application package because they are professional schools and they want to see your professional record. But MBA admissions resumes are subtly different from ordinary work resumes and it’s important to distinguish the different requirements — see below.

Much is also identical in a normal resume and an MBA admissions resume, so you should start by getting yours as good as it can be as per conventional requirements. There many guides to this, free on the Web. I won’t dwell on the principles at length here, but be certain to take note of at least these basic points.

A resume should:

  • Be in reverse chronological order, education last
  • Contain tight clauses rather than full sentences, and not use the first person singular
  • Start items with the verb: Say “Managed team of…”; “Assigned priority to …”; and so on
  • Contain evidence, particularly quantitative records of budget managed or people supervised, etc.
  • Not contain obvious age, gender, race or other similar bio-data
  • Be easy on the eye (text at readable point size; layout not too dense)
  • Be absolutely, completely error-free

Those are the basics. And this is first base for Adcom too. They want to see you can do this common business communications task effectively.

Once you have that, then it’s time to adapt it to the needs of MBA admissions particularly. Adcom wants to be sure you are recruitable at the end of your stay on their campus, so your resume is the part of your application pack that most directly reassures on this. Good resume builders advise you to show as much experience relevant to the job you are applying for as you can, to reassure recruiters, and this it true of an MBA admissions resume too — only doubly so, because doing an MBA heavily implies that you will be transitioning to or accelerating quickly along a management path. Your resume needs to look forward to this (or to whatever you plan to do on MBA graduation.)

Look to the Future
The mistake that many of my clients make on their first draft is to proudly present their past experiences and achievements, which are very often technical or specific to the field they are exiting. Success is always good, but MBA Adcoms don’t really care whether you cracked a complex software conundrum or isolated a biological compound or developed prefabricated housing units. What they care about is whether you will make a good manager or leader, that is, the management portion that is there (or is implied potential) in what you did.

So that is where you should focus: the management, leadership, organizational (teamwork) or innovation implications of your past experience, that suggest future recruitability as a manager. Don’t say: “Developed molecular compound BN2P4R in 3 months using ‘BitsProDev’ software analytics.” Say: “Was part of team that developed unique molecular compound; led presentation to the Board; liaised with PR in media announcement.” And so on.

Augment don’t Repeat
The other key part of making your resume an MBA admissions resume is to work carefully with the knowledge that, unlike a typical employer, Adcom has various overlapping sources of information about you — not least all your file data. So you want to augment that rather than simply repeating it, in order to get your file data, resume, and essays to elegantly dovetail rather than simply overlap.

Your resume should not leave out basic resume attributes: dates, places, company names, and so on, even if this is already in your file data. But there are often ways to cut out repeating subsidiary information — names of products or service units and so on — that often just “jam up” a resume. This should leave space to go longer on quantitative evidence of management-oriented experiences and successes. In fact, I counsel admissions clients to put as much quantitative data in the file data and resume as they realistically can which, in turn, frees up the essays to be a little more personal and reflective.

Top-3? Top-6? Among elite MBAs does it really matter where you go?

I found myself following a discussion on the Businessweek “Getting into B-School” forum. The thread is headed: “Does rank really matter among top 6?”

I select extracts to present here because the comments — before they descend into the flaming and slanging that bedevils these forums — deal with important (and corrective) thinking about what matters with rankings, and to whom, and helps understand how US program rankings are perceived internationally too. It finishes with common sense that I endorse.

Original question: “Does rank really matter among Top Business schools? With my European point of view, I consider that there are only 6 Top Schools (in descending order): HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, Booth and Kellogg. Actually, I don’t really care about rankings here: my only criteria is prestige (which in my view is the only thing you can’t ignore when applying to business schools). In Europe, these schools are famous: if you say Stanford or Columbia, everybody knows what you’re talking about. [But]If you say Tuck business school (at random), very few people will have heard of it regardless of the quality of the school.

“So my question is: among this prestigious top, does is REALLY matter if you go to one or another? On this forum we can often read that if you go to HBS it is infinitely better that if you go to Wharton but Wharton will change your life so much more than Kellogg, and so on and so forth.”

Response: “In France [among] 100 person taken randomly in the street and educated in France, 100 will know about HEC, 90 about Harvard, 3 to 5 about Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, Columbia and 10 maybe will know about INSEAD. But I would say that 90 will know about Yale, Princeton, 100 about Oxford, Cambridge.”

Response: “As a Frenchman I feel the need to throw in my 2 cents on this one. INSEAD is hands down the strongest MBA brand in France. Does every random person on the street necessarily know the name? No, but who cares? The employers do.”

Response: “I would like also to add that the education at the top business institutions is quite the same. I highly doubt that you will learn better investment management in Chicago or Wharton than in Yale, Haas or Fuqua. If you visit those schools, you might get surprised by the background of the faculty. You might take a class at Berkeley taught by a Yale alumni or even receive Michael Porter at Tuck.”

Response: “Although I agree with the notion that the value of an MBA drops as the ranking drops, I do not agree that there is a substantial difference between similarly ranked programs. Every objective metric I can think of (starting salary, quality of recruiting companies, average salary of graduates after 20 years etc.) clusters most top 15 programs closely together. The main exception seem to be HBS and Stanford. Another objective metric are the GMAT and the GPA. Those two metrics are hardly distinguishable in the top 15 programs, including HBS and Stanford.”

Original: “I’ve reached my conclusion I believe: go where you think you belong regardless of what people say/think. I chose to apply to Wharton and CBS finally even if i totally agree HBS/GSB are more famous and Booth/Kellogg are great schools simply because i think it will teach me what i want to learn in my specific field…And education among them is NOT that different, apart from some specialties that should ultimately lead your choice.”

Look ahead and count the Carey School among the top-10 MBA programs

The Carey School? Never heard of it? It is Johns Hopkins University’s school of business, as renamed in 2006 when the university received a $50 million endowment from banker William Polk Carey.

It’s well known that JHU has been a bit of an oddity — a top-tier university with relatively little offering in business management. It has had a part-time program available at its Washington, D.C., campus, but nothing that attracted serious attention. Now that’s all changed. As reported in BusinessWeek, Johns Hopkins University is launching a new MBA program in August, in Baltimore, and it intends to become one of the world’s best.

The admissions implications are this: for a while — a few years — Carey will be relatively easy to get into. It will quickly move up the ranking based on the stellar JHU brand (it is particularly renown medical and public health schools) and soon will be as hard to gain admission as at any top program. If you’re prepared to think a little creatively, and move quickly, you can have a top-tier MBA ticket even if you’re likely to face a lot of dings from the established schools.

As BW reports, the Carey School is seeking to distinguish itself by designing a curriculum that will capitalize on Johns Hopkins’ strength in medicine and public health, have a focus on emerging markets and ethics, and encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.

Yes, there will be challenges. As a prospective student you should be aware that the Carey alumni network will be nascent at best, and career services won’t have a lot of clout in the market. The school’s inaugural dean, Yash Gupta, is busy recruiting top faculty and still working on AACSB accreditation, and this could all fail. But, brand capital in the bank says chances are it will succeed. And, as with Oxford-Said and Cambridge-Judge in the early days, top-tier admissions is currently there to be had even if you’re a long-shot applicant.
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