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.