Certain business schools, such as Harvard, Wharton, and Tuck, have reduced the number of essays thus making your resume and biographical data a more critical part of the process. Often overlooked, or reduced to an uninspiring list of dates, places, and job titles, or qualifications, the resume is a critical component and overview to your professional experience.
In little more than one page, you have the opportunity to feature what you’ve accomplished, share the qualities you’ve demonstrated, and prioritize the attributes and experiences that underline your future potential.
We’ve read thousands of resumes and we’d like to share the following recommendations:
Pay attention to the details and focus on progression. Just like you adjust your resume depending on the job you’re applying for, tailor your application for each school. Highlight how you fulfill the criteria the school is looking for through your experience, skills, and personal qualities. Include accomplishments or activities that led to specific results, not just roles and responsibilities.
Explain how your work impacted your organization, whether it was improving efficiency, saving costs, building market share, or some other outcome. Numbers have a great impact, sometimes more than words, so quantify results when you can. For example, include the number of people you supervise, the size of your budget, or the percentage growth you attained.
Use similar language to that used by the school, Admissions officers will make the connection and be more likely to view you as a “fit” for their program. But avoid tiresome industry jargon as well as technical terms that they might not understand.
Present a pattern of leadership. Schools look for recurring evidence of your success when taking charge, not just a one-off situation. So highlight leadership examples in all job functions as well as extra-curricular and volunteer activities.
Keep it simple, to the point, and make it easy on the eye. Use concise wording; avoid long-winded or overly complex sentences. Include no more than three to five bullet points under each position, using 11-12 point font. If you can fit everything on one page, even better. So remember what you’ve included on the biographical data form to avoid unnecessary repetition.
Don’t forget about life outside of work. Schools want candidates who can demonstrate a history of involvement in extra-curricular activities, whether volunteering, athletics, or sitting on a board. Focus on those activities that matter most to you and be prepared to talk about them during an interview. Sometimes what a candidate lists in the “Activities” or “Other” section of a resume can be a great conversation starter or a way to connect with an interviewer.
Finally, edit, and then edit again. It’s essential to have a third party review and provide feedback on your resume.
As the next step of this series, we’ll look at the MBA essays – starting the process.