MBA Versus Professional Resume or CV: How to Write a Great MBA Resume
Let’s get right to the point: you are not a list of job titles, awards, and degrees, you are a superhero with a mission! First and foremost, you must know who you are and the story you are telling. Throughout your application materials and in your interview, demonstrate your success in leadership, teamwork, growth, and innovation.
On both resumes, your title may be Lead Business Developer for an international telecommunications company, but for your MBA CV, your description embodies a person dedicated to the equitable distribution of the best telecommunication services to global citizens. Or, you’re a Project Manager at a top financial institution in your country, and as an MBA candidate, you’re a passionate advocate for raising funds for renewable energy companies.
Your work resume is geared towards the job description and lets your potential employer know that you can excel in that position. In the MBA version, you should establish your: fit with the program, unique view, ability to enhance classroom discussions, and social and emotional intelligence.
Think about your rivals in the two different scenarios. When you’re looking to advance your career, you’re competing against individuals working in the same field with similar expertise and accomplishments. Applying to an elite MBA program means that you will be compared to top performers from dozens of industries. Ultimately, you need to show throughout your adult life that you and the organizations you have been associated with have both benefited from the relationship. Be careful not to focus too much on one area (profession, education, etc.), present a holistic view.
Now, how do you very succinctly and effectively tell your superhero story in one page?
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The STAR (situation, task, action, result) method of responding to behavioral-based interview questions is a good place to start. Focus most on what you did (action) and the outcome (result), your impact and leadership, not roles and responsibilities, and don’t be afraid to incorporate some of the challenges you faced. First impressions are quick and lasting, so don’t just say you’re unique and valuable, prove it. This is most often the first time an adcom person ‘meets’ you, make sure it’s on your terms and memorable for all the right reasons.
Start with your professional experience, from most recent to oldest. Begin each bullet point with a specific action verb, keep your language very focused and ensure that it helps perfect your story. Ideally, stay within one or two lines per entry, but you can push it to three if necessary. Leave out any very specific industry jargon.
For example, your professional entry may look like:
Managed X member team in performing IPO, M&A, and MBO research and internal and external data presentation which culminated in project completion via PE funds of $XXX million to XX (green energy company).
However, your MBA description will be:
Spearheaded inter-departmental X member team in extensively researching best possible capital-raising strategy and execution, established strong relationships with viable funders which culminated in $XXX million investment in XX (green energy company) for construction of largest wind farm in XX country to date.
There are many different ways to organize the remainder of your information, and I won’t give you any hard and fast rules because it depends on your personal experience. Some applicants simply have an ‘Additional’ section after their career details. Others, separate the data into categories such as Community Involvement, Education, Additional Skills, etc. If you are very active in organizations outside of your work environment (entrepreneurial experience, nonprofit work, community activity involvement, etc) and have quantifiable results from this involvement, I strongly recommend you place this data in its own section. Substantial time and energy investments into spheres beyond career-oriented activities can really help you stand out from the crowd. However, if this isn’t you, don’t worry. There are many other ways to demonstrate your value to the school.
Your current resume may simply include the following statement in a list of private life activities:
Volunteer at oncology ward of XX hospital.
But your MBA document might say:
Active volunteer in oncology wing of XX hospital assisting siblings of cancer patients cope through art, games, conversations, and physical activities.
For your education information, include the standard information (degree, major, year, etc.), volunteer activities, clubs, sports, awards, etc. Whether or not to list your GPA is a point of contention for many people. Personally, I believe if you have a high GPA, include it, if not, omit it. Again, illustrate the give-and-take relationship between you and the various areas where you were involved. How did you grow? What was your positive impact?
This simply shows that you are a great musician:
Won best band at university competition.
An entry like this shows the role you played and the tasks you accomplished in order to achieve the final success:
As manager and lead guitarist: recruited musicians, organized rehearsals, orchestrated warm-up performance, created and distributed promotional materials. Won ‘Best Band’ out of 100+ entries voted on by 25,000+ attendees at annual university music festival.
Other skills and information may include extra educational qualifications (certifications for instance), hobbies, meaningful activities, etc. Do not just list items. Make sure that even if you can’t add all the details that you want, if you are asked about it during your interview, you have a great story that justifies its inclusion on your CV.
If I haven’t already convinced you how important an excellent resume written specifically for your MBA program is, consider the fact that when you’re invited for interviews if they are the blind/closed format, the interviewer will only have access to this document and nothing else you submitted in your application. That alone should inspire you to pull out all the stops and do whatever is necessary to make yourself shine in this piece of writing.
Finally, after you have finished your text, ask a mentor, colleague, friend, or family member (preferably, all four) to give you feedback. This is an important step in the process, do not skip it! As much as you might be tempted, refrain from explaining your mission beforehand. After they’ve carefully read your document, ask them specific questions to help you understand if you’ve achieved your aim. What do they think your goals are (based on the document)? Can they describe how you’ve grown as you’ve progressed through your education and career? What are your greatest strengths? What do they think you can contribute to the school? Have you forgotten to include any key information? It’s amazing how often someone will reply, “what about the time you…?”
Good luck on your MBA application journey. Get in touch if you’d like advice at any stage of the process. I hope you find the experience enlightening, educational, and successful!