How to Craft a Killer MBA Application Resume

Philippe Barr, PhD
12 min readMay 1, 2023

If you’re on the MBA admissions train and ready to get your resume in tip-top shape, buckle up! Crafting a killer MBA application resume can seem like an intimidating process, but don’t sweat it — with a few simple tips and some creative effort, you’ll be sure to ace your way into the program of your dreams.

So grab yourself a pen (or laptop) and we’ll take it from there as we dive into how to craft what is arguably one of the most important documents in any aspiring business school student’s life — the MBA Application Resume

MBA Application Resume 101

MBA admissions consulting services suggest that many applicants prioritize other components of their business school application, such as transcripts, test scores, recommendations, application questions, and interview preparation, and often overlook the importance of the MBA resume.

It is a misconception that a pre-existing professional resume can be used as is for an MBA application. An MBA resume needs to be specifically tailored to improve your chances of impressing the admissions committee. Irrespective of your accomplishments, a well-crafted resume is critical to gain acceptance to top MBA programs, even if you have graduated from a reputed undergraduate business school or have experienced significant professional success.

An MBA application resume is unique in that it focuses on your business impact, leadership potential, and collaboration skills rather than specific qualifications or functional skills. It should showcase your achievements and experiences in a way that tells a story about why you are a good fit for business school and your motivation for pursuing an MBA.

When applying for a job, recruiters look for technical skills and work experience to evaluate your suitability. In contrast, MBA applications involve competing with diverse applicants from varying educational and professional backgrounds. This makes it challenging to determine which information to highlight or omit.

Unlike other types of resumes, MBA application resumes are not screened by machines. Instead, they are evaluated by members of a business school admission committee who will assess the overall content to form an impression of the applicant. Therefore, an MBA application resume should depict a comprehensive view of your life, highlighting accomplishments from various aspects of your personal and professional career.

How Important Is The Resume for Your MBA Application?

Your resume is very important for your MBA application. It’s a document that presents all the important information about your life, experiences, achievements, and skills.

Initially, the resume is used as a screening tool before the admissions committee reviews your other application components such as short answers and MBA admission essays. The committee assesses your general background, profile, and achievements outlined in your resume to determine the worthiness of your application.

If you are invited for an interview, your submitted resume will be used as a reference by the interviewers. This is because MBA interview questions usually revolve around the details included in your resume, which serves as a blueprint for your application.

Resumes should always be customized to MBA programs

Remember that you are applying for an MBA program, and hence, the admission committee would want to know if they are investing in the right candidate. By customizing your resume, you can ensure that it is relevant to the program and shows your expertise, skills, and achievements that align with the goals and values of the MBA program. Include information that is tailored to create a win-win situation, both for the program and you.

Highlight your unique selling proposition

What sets you apart from other MBA program aspirants? Is it your leadership abilities, problem-solving skills, or your experience in the industry? Highlight your best attributes that are unique and stand out from the crowd. Some aspects of your profile that you should emphasize include your thought process, interpersonal skills, and your ability to handle diverse situations.

Focus on Your Achievements, Not Just Duties

When it comes to showcasing your work experience, most people make the mistake of focusing too much on their past duties and responsibilities rather than showcasing their achievements. For example, instead of stating “managed a team of five,” you can say “developed and executed a strategy that led to a 15% increase in revenue through team management.” Be specific about your achievements, quantify them where possible, and don’t shy away from highlighting areas where you’ve excelled.

Remember that the MBA application committee is looking for people who have proven their capabilities and achievements, and not just someone who says it. Use numbers, graphs, and percentages to quantify your achievements in a tangible way. Use action verbs and power words that demonstrate your accomplishments and make your resume stand out

Include Relevant Extracurricular Activities

MBA programs look for well-rounded candidates, so don’t hesitate to include extracurricular activities that showcase your leadership, teamwork, and interpersonal skills. For example, if you’ve volunteered for a non-profit organization, led a fundraising campaign, or organized a networking event, make sure to highlight these experiences on your resume. Also, make sure to include relevant hobbies and interests, such as running marathons, playing a musical instrument, or learning a new language.

Having extracurricular activities is important when applying for an MBA. It’s an opportunity to showcase your dedication and acquire valuable leadership and teamwork skills. The trick is to demonstrate how your volunteer work has made a tangible impact in the business world.

If you were unable to participate in volunteer work due to time constraints, you can still showcase your impact outside of your academic and professional responsibilities. For instance, you can discuss organizing university groups to assist marginalized communities or leading a campaign to increase awareness about a particular issue. Having volunteer experience on a resume application that aligns with the values and mission statement of the MBA program is greatly appreciated by admissions boards.

Fine-Tune Your Resume for Each School

Not all MBA programs are created equal, and what might resonate with one school might not be as relevant for another. It’s a good idea to research each school’s mission, values, and program offerings to customize your resume accordingly. For example, if you’re applying to a school known for entrepreneurship, highlight your experience working with startups, launching a business of your own, or even volunteering for a local incubator. If you’re applying to a school that emphasizes sustainability or social impact, emphasize your involvement with NGOs, environmental organizations, or community service projects.

Ensure a Clear and Consistent Format

It is crucially important to format and design your MBA resume properly. Admissions committees, especially those from prestigious MBA programs such as UC schools and Ivy League schools like Harvard Business School, review hundreds — or even thousands — of resumes each admissions cycle. They typically spend no more than 1–2 minutes scanning each resume, and it only takes the first 30 seconds for them to form a lasting impression.

Your choice of formatting and templates on your MBA resume is just as important as your list of achievements. A professional and clear format reflects positively on your communication skills. Don’t risk having your amazing achievements overlooked due to unappealing design or formatting mistakes.

To create a professional and well-organized MBA resume, keep it to one page unless you have 6 or more years of business experience to justify a second page. Only include necessary details and don’t leave out any key achievements.

Layout and Composition

Admissions committees rely on your MBA resume to assess your business expertise and communication skills. It is crucial to present information logically and have well-organized sections for a clear flow of information. Your one-page resume should effectively showcase your communication skills and impress the reviewer. Additionally, the format should make it easy for admissions officers to quickly find the information they need, as they will likely only be scanning it.

To effectively arrange your MBA resume, start with your latest experience in each section, listed in reverse chronological order. The sections to include will depend on your experience level.

Style Guidelines

One useful tip for writing bullet points is to use action words that highlight qualities like leadership, teamwork, creativity, planning, communication, and success. The bullets should describe the actions taken, goals set, and results achieved.

To make your resume effective, create a storyline that connects all the bullet points. Avoid listing only functional duties and emphasize accomplishing important business objectives. Use quantifiable facts and figures to demonstrate your achievements.

Avoid using technical terms that only professionals in your field would understand. Instead, focus on the business impact of your accomplishments. This will help your resume stand out to a broader audience who may not have technical expertise. Be sure to highlight achievements that will be universally appreciated rather than just listing tasks and responsibilities.

Show Your Authenticity

Last but not least, don’t forget to infuse your resume with your authentic voice and personality. Your resume is a reflection of who you are, and the admissions committee wants to know the real you beyond your impressive achievements and credentials.

When creating your MBA application resume, it’s important to be honest and not use flowery language or exaggerate small accomplishments to make it seem like you have more experience than you do. However, you should also not be too humble and make sure to clearly communicate what sets you apart from other applicants.

It is important to be honest and have integrity when submitting your application. Admissions boards expect all accomplishments to be easily verified.

Proofread, edit and proofread again

A simple spelling or grammar error can make your resume look unprofessional and affect your application’s chances. Proofread your resume several times to ensure that it is error-free, and all information is accurate. You can also ask a friend or a mentor to read and give feedback on your resume.

Make sure to proofread your resume thoroughly, including the format, template, and language used. Ensure that it conforms with any submission guidelines and is clean and simple. Errors and typos should be avoided at all costs. Consider having MBA admissions consulting services review your resume for an even better outcome

MBA Application Resume Essentials

Once you have a reliable MBA resume template, it’s time to consider what to include in your resume. Even though you may have a long list of accomplishments in the field of business and education that you wish to showcase, you shouldn’t include everything without giving it careful consideration. Writing an MBA resume requires you to be discerning about what to add and what to leave out. Therefore, it’s not just about putting down everything you’ve done blindly. You need to be meticulous in your selection of information and the way you present it.

Contact Info

Should should provide the following information accurately:

- Your Full Name

- Phone number

- Email address

- Mailing address

MBA Summary

Your profile should be a brief but effective overview of your experiences, goals, and significant professional accomplishments. Make sure it captures the reader’s attention and encourages them to continue reading. Emphasize what makes you stand out as a candidate.

When writing this section, prioritize highlighting concrete achievements and skills instead of using excessive adjectives. However, avoid going into too many specific details. Consider what defines your business objectives and experiences, and only include the most vital information.

It’s recommended to write the resume summary section towards the end of your MBA application resume after you’ve completed the rest of it. This approach allows you to take a step back and review your entire resume before crafting a summary that effectively showcases the most relevant highlights.

Professional Experience

Experienced applicants should allocate about 2/3 of their MBA resume to this crucial section. As previously stated, list your professional experience in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent experience. You should devote 4–6 bullet points to your most recent two positions and keep all previous work to 1–3 bullet points.

To showcase your career progression and industry growth, create sub-headings for each company you’ve worked at with the position and period included. Separate each promotion into levels. It’s important to be prepared to explain any gaps in your MBA resume during your interview.

To make your resume effective, avoid including job descriptions that are not relevant. These take up space and do not showcase your unique worth. Instead, focus on descriptions that demonstrate your impact and achievements with measurable results.

To improve clarity in your resume, it’s better to use examples, figures, and numbers to showcase your achievements. This follows the rule of “show don’t tell” and helps to grab the attention of the reader.

If you have limited space, focus on listing your professional experiences first. Additionally, give more emphasis to your recent experiences, whether they are professional or not.

Education

Even if you have extensive work experience, make sure to give equal attention to the education section. If you have less experience, provide more details in this section. List every degree you have received, including undergraduate and graduate programs.

If you have more work experience, you may want to keep your job entries concise by showcasing only the key accomplishments, including any research, projects, or leadership skills that demonstrate your outstanding business qualifications.

It’s not necessary to include details about your education before your undergraduate degree on your business resume. These details are unlikely to be relevant to your later achievements, so it’s best to only include them in your MBA personal statement or essay if they’re important for your application.

Additional Recognition and Achievements

In this section, you should showcase your most noteworthy extracurricular accomplishments. Include a diverse range of activities that highlight your unique experiences to the admissions committee.

Each point you include in this section should be remarkable and distinct. Additionally, make sure they can be verified and support the information in your personal statement, essays, and other application components.

In this section, you can showcase your business-related certifications, successful projects, leadership roles in associations or clubs, positive media features, published works, awards received, presentations at conferences, and appearances on industry blogs or vlogs with a substantial readership. Additionally, language proficiency and achievements in sports or hobbies can also be included.

To determine which experiences to include on your MBA resume, consider if they are unique to you or if many people have accomplished them.

Skills

If you have room left to do so, you can add a list of your primary skills, prioritizing industry or business-related skills over generic soft skills or role-specific skills. Make sure to only include skills on your resume that you can easily verify through your experiences and achievements. Including too many skills can make it seem like you are trying to fill up your resume.

Conclusion

Crafting an effective MBA application resume and telling your story in the right way is no easy feat, but with the right strategies, it can be done! To set yourself up for success and ensure that you make an impression without ever showing up face-to-face, handle your resume as if each sentence defines you.

Get ready to stand out from other applicants in the same field with an MBA application resume that truly reflects who you are and why admission officers should pay attention to you.

Last but not least, if you don’t feel confident about your resume writing skills or don’t have much time on your hands to fit this task into the already hectic application timeline, consider getting help from some of our MBA resume services. We provide this service to encourage motivated individuals like yourself to pursue their dreams of getting accepted into business school. With a little hard work and help from us, we’re sure this could soon become a reality for all aspiring business school students! So check us out, try us out, and let’s get started on achieving those career goals! Got questions? Sign up for a consultation, or send us your draft for an estimate. It’s FREE!

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Dr. Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Dr. Barr spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Dr. Barr has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

Follow me on Instagram and TikTok for tips and tricks on navigating the grad school application process and weekly live Q&A sessions!

Originally published at https://admit-lab.com on May 1, 2023.

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Philippe Barr, PhD

I am Philippe Barr, founder of The Admit Lab, a graduate school admissions consultancy that helps students get admitted into grad school: https://admit-lab.com/