How to Create Strong MBA Resume
All MBA programs require a 1-2 pages resume for MBA in their applications. Schools use your CV/resume to get a quick snapshot of your professional progression and persona. Your MBA candidate resume should focus on your professional and educational background, and highlight your achievements in these areas. In many cases this is their first impression of your accomplishments and potential. The MBA CV is quite different from a traditional business resume in that it should focus heavily on MBA skills and traits such as leadership, teamwork and international work experience.
Here are some tips from ARINGO for creating a strong MBA CV, as well as an overview of an appropriate MBA resume format:
1. Less is more:
- Drop any word that is not likely to promote any admission driver.
- If you can say something in two ways, say it in the shorter way.
2. In CV’s, use “word economy” as much as possible. For example:
- Instead of: the largest bank in Canada –> Canada’s largest bank
- Instead of: a project worth $1 million –> a $1 million project
- Instead of: the financial status of the company –> the company’s financial status
- Instead of: negotiations that lasted one year –> one-year-long negotiations
3. Words such as “of”, “for”, “in”, “which”, “that” should raise a flag: here’s a place where you may be able to change the text to “word economy” structure.
4. In “CV Speak” you may omit “a” and “the” although it’s grammatically incorrect. This is common practice for resume-type documents, to keep them short. For example: “Led company’s negotiations” instead of “led the company’s negotiations”.
5. However, in about half the cases, it’s impressive and better to keep the word “the”.
- We keep the word “the” when we want to emphasize that something or someone is “The real thing” (singular).
- Examples: “Received the Distinguished Soldier Award”, “Presented the company’s annual plan to the CEO”
6. Try to use the word “and” as little as possible. We need the sentences to be brief and crisp.
- Instead of using “and”:
Either say just one of the things instead of two – one is often enough.
Break one long sentence into two short sentences. We need the sentences to be short.
- For example:
The candidate wrote: “Negotiated deal terms and structure with the CEO”.
The word “and” raises a flag – maybe there’s room for improvement here.
1. One wing is enough: “Negotiated deal terms with the CEO”
2. Break into two sentences:
Negotiated deal terms with the CEO.
Negotiated deal structure with the CEO.
- Obviously, in this case alternative 1 is better.
7. Try to avoid using words such as “I”, “my”, “our”
1. Work experience is comprised of responsibilities (less important) and achievements (more important).
2. The responsibilities and achievements usually start with a verb.
3. Avoid using subjective terms such as “excellent” or “fast”, use facts and objective terms only.
4. If the numbers related to the responsibility/achievement are large/impressive, provide them. Otherwise, don’t.
- Often you can turn an unimpressive number into an impressive number by using %.
- For example, if sales went up from $10,000 to $30,000 – these numbers are not impressive, you don’t want to use them.
- Instead, you can say: “sales went up 200%”. This is true, and more impressive.
5. Consider including work in the family business (if there is any) – part time or full time.
6. If a person was only doing projects, one after the other, there may be no responsibilities, just achievements.
7. Try to describe any position in laymen terms. Avoid technical/professional explanations.
1. Responsibility examples:
- Manage a team of 4.
- Conduct development review meetings.
2. Responsibilities in the current position start with verbs in the present simple tense (“manage”).
3. Responsibilities in past positions start with verbs in the past tense (“managed”).
4. Teaching assistant positions: if a teaching assistant position included leading class sessions of 50 students – say it (gives us points on presentation and leadership skills).
1. Achievement example:
- Achieved a 120% increase in Department’s net income within 18 months.
- Reorganized the three import activities to fit with the new zero inventory model.
- Re-structured the costing, pricing and financing models of the activities.
- Re-negotiated supplier and client contracts.
2. Achievements are a critical component in the CV. We need strong, impressive achievements.
3. Achievement bullets usually start with verbs in the past tense.
4. An achievement is often connected with a specific project.
5. An achievement is comprised of “action” and “result”.
6. You may use sub-bullets, which are sub-components of the general action or of the result.
7. The result part of the achievement
- The result sentences are specific facts.
- The result should include numbers if possible.
8. Placing the Result in the Achievement – Four recommended options for placing the result:
- Option 1: The main, upper bullet will be short. It will hardly include anything but the result. We often use this option if the result is exceptionally impressive. Example:
- Led the second largest sale in the company’s 20-year history.
- Option 2: Put both the action part and the result part in the main bullet and connect them with words such as:
- that cut
- that generated
- which saved
- which netted
- which created
- which increased
- that decreased, etc.
- Option 3: Put both the action part and the result part in the main bullet. Put them in two separate sentences. For example:
- Led post-merger strategy development [[action]]. Net income increased by 15% within two years [[result]].
- Option 4: if the result is not that impressive –
Either include the result in a sub-bullet, Or do NOT mention the result at all.
If the action part is also not impressive, consider dropping the achievement.
9. Try to avoid “spoon-feeding” words such as “resulting in” and “leading to” (“…resulting in a 20% increase in annual profits”).
10. Which of the above 4 options to choose?
- The more impressive the result, the more conspicuous (glaring) it should be.
- Use your judgment and practical (content) considerations.
The Best Results
1. The best descriptions of results are relative (descriptions that compare the result to other results).
- “Fastest promotion in the Division’s history”
- CEO Alan Corey cited project as “one of the three most successful projects in the company’s history” (company’s annual conference, 11/02/09).
2. If needed: develop, together with the client, a metric that measures the result.
- “defect occurrence rate”:
- Reduced defect occurrence rate by 50%.
- “on-time delivery ratio”: Increased the on-time delivery ratio from 70% to 90% within one year (2002).
- “labor costs”: Led a training program for customer integration teams which generated support-labor cost savings of 50%.
The following table shows the formal CV requirement and limits at the top MBA programs: