10 Ingredients of a Strong MBA Resume

Demonstrate Potential on an MBA Resume

Painting an attractive self-portrait is hard, but that's the key to crafting an MBA resume.

A powerful resume grabs admissions officers' attention, experts say, which may bring applicants closer to an acceptance letter. Here are 10 tips on how to create an intriguing MBA resume.

1. Provide Examples

Experts say the best MBA resumes tell applicants' success stories, showing how they achieved results for clients and advanced in their careers.

MBA applicants should give admissions officers a reason to say yes by demonstrating strong character on their resume, say admissions officers and consultants. They say they enjoy applicants' stories about overcoming obstacles and learning from adversity.

2. Show Leadership

Proof of leadership ability is a necessity on an MBA resume, according to U.S. News columnist Stacy Blackman, founder of an MBA admissions consulting firm and author of the MBA Admissions: Strictly Business blog.

"Business schools want to see applicants who already have strong leadership skills," Blackman said in a blog post. "You'll further groom your management abilities during your MBA program, but the admissions committee wants to know that the foundation is already there."

3. Offer Specifics

An MBA resume should describe accomplishments in detail using concrete language, experts say -- admissions officers are rarely swayed by unproven assertions about strong performance.

Blackman wrote in a blog post that being able to quantify results adds heft to MBA resumes. "Admissions committees like to see results-oriented phrases in resumes, so for every bullet point, try to quantify results in dollar amounts or percentages whenever possible."

4. Keep It Short

Experts say an MBA resume should ideally fit on a single page and not exceed two pages.

Stephan Kolodiy, a senior admissions officer for the business school at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey--Newark and New Brunswick, told U.S. News last year that some misguided MBA applicants submit exceptionally long resumes. "Sometimes we get a resume that's five to six pages long, and that's way too much information."

5. Tell the Truth

Experts say a big part of MBA admission officers' job involves judging applicants' credibility. It is foolish to inflate credentials on your resume.

Experts say that deceitful MBA applicants who are caught during the application process are automatically rejected, and those who are mistakenly admitted are typically expelled if their lies are discovered.

6. Avoid Listing Activities

Experts say admissions officers don't care how many activities you've participated in -- what matters is whether you made a meaningful impact on the organization or community.

Don't list a large number of activities without explaining your accomplisments or admissions officers will suspect that you're either padding your resume or stretching yourself too thin, experts say.

7. Remove Jargon

Eliminate any industry jargon from your resume and translate the information into terms MBA officers can understand, experts say.

Army combat veteran and Harvard Business School graduate Ben Faw told Blackman in a 2014 blog post that military jargon can be confusing to civilians and doesn't belong in any part of the MBA application. Faw, who served as an officer, says it is important for military MBA applicants to clearly state the difference they made through their service.

8. Highlight Soft Skills

According to experts, the best MBA resumes are focused on soft skills, which are essential to business leadership and useful in a variety of jobs. They say teamwork skills are also worth highlighting.

"Think of examples of when and how you united people behind a common goal, capitalized on others' talents and skills, instilled a vision, identified a new problem or prioritized the project's needs above personal ones," Blackman said in a post about teamwork in MBA applications.

9. Focus on Career Advancement

Keep a resume streamlined. Experts say applicants with significant work experience should focus on positions that were most critical to their professional success.

"When applying to a top-tier business school, you'll need to show the admissions committee a clear path of professional growth," Blackman wrote in a post on MBA application tips. "Avoid looking stagnant, as the admissions team wants to admit students who continually seek to learn and advance their skills and leadership abilities."

10. Add Value to the Application

Your resume should add new information but maintain the consistent impression you've given throughout the application.

"It's the applicant's job to make sure each part of their application demonstrates value," Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted, a California-based admissions consulting group, told U.S News in a recent article about sharpening the focus of an MBA application.

Become Informed Before You Apply

Hear more expert advice on applying to business school and identify your target schools using the U.S. News 2017 Best Business Schools rankings.

For more information about MBA programs, use the U.S. News Business School Compass, and follow U.S. News Education on Twitter and Facebook.

Ilana Kowarski covers graduate schools for U.S. News. You can reach her via email at ikowarski@usnews.com.