Delve Into the Nuances of the MBA Resume

Most MBA programs require a resume submission as part of the written application. This single-page document should highlight important aspects of an individual and often is an untapped opportunity for an applicant to stand out.

Resume details can serve as icebreakers, or fuel the conversation during a business school interview.

"For me, the resume is just as important as your essays," Soojin Kwon, admissions director at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, wrote on her blog last fall. Distill your experiences down to a few meaningful lines of text, regardless of whether you submit a stand-alone CV or transfer that information to the application.

When crafting this version of your resume, keep in mind this audience is unique. The reader of your MBA resume will be different than the person hiring you for an investment banking job or an engineering position.

[See three ways to stand out in a competitive b-school applicant pool.]

Rather than focus on specifics, admissions representatives want individuals who will become successful leaders in highly collaborative work environments. They want to see skills that are transferable to almost any industry. Revise your resume to highlight the aspects that are important to an MBA program.

For instance, a typical resume for a lead engineering role would need to show proficiency in JavaScript - an essential skill to this specific job. But an MBA interviewer at Harvard Business School doesn't care if you can write code. That skill won't help you excel at leading organizations, build great companies or create innovative products and services.

Likewise, when interviewing for a transactional banking role, many candidates will list out specific deal names with dollar amounts. However, this type of detail won't be useful to the admissions committee at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. Kellogg will be much more interested in understanding how you worked with a team to close these deals.

Schools want to verify your overall quantitative skills. Beyond that, the fact that you collaborated with an international team, or developed and trained others on a new analysis technique will be much more relevant.

Avoid a resume chock-full of jargon. Speak the same language as the admissions committee and don't expect them to be experts in your particular niche.

Many applicants include an objective at the top of their resume. However, in the context of the MBA application process, everyone has the same objective: to go to business school. Thus, the mission statement is irrelevant and a waste of valuable real estate.

[Learn how to craft a well-balanced MBA admission essay.]

When considering which details to emphasize, remember the general qualities that most business school programs are looking for. In addition to telling the chronological story of your academic and professional career, focus on supporting three things: demonstrating growth and progression, showcasing leadership and highlighting other "MBA relevant" skills. These include traits like strong teamwork, collaboration and innovation.

Applicants who have been in the workforce for a number of years, possibly at various companies, may need to be selective in detailing professional progress. When deciding which experiences to include and which to ax, ask yourself if the work was meaningful and if it can be used to illustrate a specific skill set or important accomplishment. Consider if it supports your career path as well as your future goals, and include it only if it makes sense for your overall story.

Demonstrate that over the course of your career, you have picked up new skills, assumed new responsibilities and developed as an individual. Emphasize that this growth has been recognized by others.

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If done effectively, the resume reviewer can develop a good grasp of your abilities and responsibilities and understand how you have progressed in your career.

Sometimes, you can illustrate your leadership or other important skills through examples that are tangential to your basic job responsibilities. As you consider how to describe a certain job, don't forget to think about some of the following activities, which are all important even if they were not part of your core job.

It's important to note if you manage one or more people. Even if you informally supervise and mentor someone, it's worth including on the resume. Mention if you've taken a lead in recruiting, as it means you're acting as the face of your company. This demonstrates that leaders at your company respect you and trust that you will represent them well.

Perhaps you spearheaded that new filing system, created a template for a new and essential report, facilitated relationships with an important partner or streamlined routine processes. Anything that illustrates how you identified an opportunity and took initiative is a great thing to include. All of these examples highlight the skills that MBA programs value.

Don't underestimate the power of a well-executed resume. As the Ross admissions director puts it, "How you describe your experiences matters. What you choose to highlight matters. Think of it as a trailer for the movie about you."