Tag Archives: mba resume

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.

MBA Essays: Your Bud Becomes a Jack, but Nothing Changes

So, July 1 it is, and the 2014 MBA admissions season is definitely now upon us. Having been in this industry for 11 years now, I feel it might be useful to open this season’s posts with a few short thoughts on the fads and fashions in MBA admissions, and how while lots of things change nothing fundamental changes.

Let’s start with what doesn’t change, which is that an MBA from an elite school is, for most, a dramatic career boost both in terms of opportunity and earnings. What also stays exactly the same is that the incremental relative career boost from an elite school (global top-15, more or less) is far greater than merely a good school – and everyone knows this, including recruiters.

Therefore what also doesn’t change is that elite schools are massively oversubscribed by admissions-seekers, and so MBA Adcoms are forced to screen out most of the hopefuls (which is of course exactly what they want. This is how they create “classes of the best,” which attracts recruiters for top jobs, an obvious reinforcing cycle.)

What does change is how Adcoms go about screening. But even this has not changed much over the years. File data, GMAT (or GRE) score, MBA resume, recommendations, extra-murals, and allied personal and professional boxes to check stay effectively the same from year to year (with some test score and general achievement inflation, undeniably).

The application element that is constantly in motion is the way MBA Adcoms ask you, the applicant, to talk about yourself via essays, or what stands in for the essays.

Time was you had to write a long description about yourself —something like the INSEAD application remains to this day. But then two things happened. First it became not-so-clear that applicants were doing their own writing, which led to Adcoms shortening the writing obligation.

Second, technology got more sophisticated, allegedly offering multi-media or social-media ways of capturing the quality of an applicant, which also led to lower word counts on average, while the more adventurous admissions committees such as those at Georgetown McDonough or Chicago Booth experimented with offering the opportunity to submit PowerPoint presentations, tweets, audio uploads and the like. NYU has long invited creative expressions of self, but famously had to draw the line when they were faced with two-week-old sushi…

The jury is out on how well this alternative communication works, not least because it judges applicants’ “flashness” with social- or multi-media rather than what Adcom really needs to judge, which is how good a b-school player, and subsequently how great a manager you will turn out to be.

Don’t let the tapering off of overall essay text-length obligation lull you into a false sense of security. As I’ve written in my book, and here on this site in previous posts, the essays play a singular role and this is not usurped or ursurpable. Essays package you for the admissions committee. They bring your file factoids to life. They provide the juice that gets the committee to notice you specifically from among a mass of competitors who present similar file achievements and scores.

So less bulk doesn’t mean less important. In fact, less space makes the essays harder. Now more than ever, every single word matters. Think of it like exchanging a beer for a tot of Jack Daniels. Less space, not less kick.

 

The little story of the business school and the avocado

In my book ‘MBA Admissions Strategy’ I offer the following advice: ‘Proofread to show your hunger’ (that is, hunger for admission, a real desire to be selected.) Typographic or other careless errors in your text immediately clues Adcom in as to how (un)careful you were with your text, and this tells them not only how organized and detail-oriented you are — whether you are a ‘finisher’ — but also how much you actually really care about your application to their particular school.

In this sense MBA admissions works just like a resume you send out for a job. If there’s one error in it, eyebrows will be raised. Two errors and you may as well not have sent it.

The longstanding ‘pet peeve’ across all schools is that the wrong school name often appears in the text. That is, Stanford GSB Adcom gets essays that say: “I would contribute to my peer learning environment at Wharton by …” Ouch.

Famously, the spellchecker will help you a bit, but is not foolproof. It will happily let you say your first mentor was your high school principle. It will not replace Booth with Tuck. Nor does it know that Haas is a business school, but Hass is an avocado.

The tricky thing is that you, the essay-writing applicant, can’t proofread your own work. Obvious errors will go undetected because you will be focused (rightly) on content and value delivery. The MBA Admissions Studio does not offer this service either, for the same reason. Proofreading should be done by someone who is seeing the essays for the first time, and who is tasked with looking for errors (not reading for content or value assessment.)