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Advice / Job Search / Resumes

3 Secrets for Crafting a Great Business School Resume

It’s September, and if you’re applying to b-school, you’re probably beginning to feel the pressure of admissions deadlines. If you’re applying in Round 1, there are only a few precious weeks left before hitting “submit.” If you’re thinking about Round 2, GMAT scores, recommendations, and essays are likely all at the top of your mind.

With everything else on your plate, it’s likely that your resume will fall to the bottom of your packed to-do list. After all, you’ve written resumes in the past—why re-invent the wheel now?

Well, there are at least two good reasons to spend extra time making your resume b-school-ready. First, the audience receiving it is completely unique from a potential employer. The admissions committee is going to be on a strict schedule, may be unacquainted with your industry, and really wants to understand you, beyond a specific job or function. Committee members need a clear, concise document that gets to the heart of who you are and what you’ve accomplished. Second, your resume is often the first thing that an admissions officer sees. It’s the first impression you make and—as the saying goes—you’ll never get a second chance at it.

With that in mind, grab the latest draft of your resume, dust it off, and get ready to stand out from the pile with these three tips.

1. Focus on Results

While each business school is unique, all are looking for candidates who will make a difference—in the classroom, on campus, and out in the world. Your resume should reflect this mentality and show how you’ve made an impact, both in college and in your post-grad endeavors.

To do this, swap the descriptions of what you did for powerful statements that focus on results and achievements. For each job or activity, ask yourself: What was the end goal and how did my work contribute to reaching it? Beef up these phrases with strong action verbs that signal leadership (for example, created, directed, established, and spearheaded), and quantify your accomplishments to make them more tangible. Figures relating to the size of your clients, the value of your projects, or the revenue that your recommendations generated all help to make your accomplishments more real and explain, in concrete terms, the value you provide to teams and projects.

A resume that focuses on results lets the admissions committee know that you’ve incited change before and that you’ll do the same at your dream school.

2. Position Your Past

Business schools care about your post-MBA goals—but they also want to see evidence in your past that supports your ambitions. So your resume should not only show where you’ve been, but also how you’ve prepared yourself to get where you want to go.

Even if your background doesn’t directly align with your post-business school dreams, look for ways to connect the dots. For example, say you’ve spent two years in finance and want to move into corporate strategy. While your job likely revolved around modeling and analysis, you may have met with senior team members to discuss the big-picture ideas behind your work—and that demonstrates your interest in and natural mind for strategy. Highlighting this type of evidence will show admissions officers that you have the capacity and drive to achieve your long-term goals.

3. Clarity is Key

Admissions officers may only have a minute to spend on your resume, so it’s critical to create a document that expressly highlights your accomplishments. You can make your resume more reader-friendly in a few ways.

First, keep it to a single page. It may seem tough to fit the last few years onto one sheet of paper, but remember that the interview is an opportunity to dive deeper into your experiences. Leave details that are not essential to your story off of your resume. Second, kill the jargon—stories involving industry-specific terminology may impress your colleagues or a potential boss, but they can confuse admissions officers. Limit any words or phrases that an everyday reader wouldn’t recognize. Finally, have your friends and family (not only the ones applying to b-school) take a look to ensure you’ve created a representation of yourself that’s crisp and coherent.

Although crafting your resume is a familiar process, it’s important that you make the most of your first impression on admissions officers. Take time to ensure that your resume is easy to understand, impact-oriented, and focused on both your past and future. Because if you do it well, your resume will serve as a welcoming gateway to the rest of your application.

Photo of Harvard Business School courtesy of Shutterstock.

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