MBA resume guide: Tips for standing out and getting accepted
Your MBA resume is an important piece of the application package. It may be the deciding factor between you and an equally qualified candidate. While it’s tempting to simply update your existing resume and attach it to your program application, you should create a fresh, MBA-specific resume, and we’re here to help.
This guide will provide you with a better understanding of the purpose of an MBA resume, why it benefits you to have one, and how it supports the rest of your application materials. We’ll take you through the process of writing, editing, and polishing your resume so you can be sure to include everything you need.
An MBA resume: A representation of you
Just as you should tailor your resume to match a specific job listing, you should also create an MBA resume that speaks to the specific requirements of your chosen MBA program.
An effective MBA resume paints a picture of who you are as a student and professional. Examples of your leadership and collaboration abilities can help the admissions board determine how well you’ll fit into the program. Essentially, your MBA resume should tell a coherent story about your experiences and explain why this specific MBA program is the logical next step in your career path.
What’s included in an MBA application packet?
Generally, most admission applications include:
MBA resume: An MBA resume provides a summary of your skills, professional experience, work history, education, and, if applicable, volunteer experience. Make sure you know the difference between a resume and a curriculum vitae, also known as a CV.
Recommendations: Recommendations are letters written by individuals such as direct supervisors or former instructors who can provide concrete examples of your best qualities.
Education transcripts: A transcript is an official permanent academic record that informs admissions counselors of the courses you've taken, your grades, and honors you’ve received, if applicable.
Essay: An MBA application essay is a narrative that enables admissions officers to learn more about who you are, your interests, and why you belong in their MBA program.
General Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores: The GMAT exam tests the analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading competencies of applicants.
Completed application forms: These forms are completed by the applicant and provide factual information such as address, contact information, statistics, residency information, and more.
Ultimately, each piece of the application package should support the others and help provide complete context for who you are as an applicant. Just remember, it’s important for you to complete every part of the application.
Focus on your strengths
As you complete your application, you'll likely find yourself having too much information and not enough space. It’s a balancing act. Only include information that will position you as an ideal candidate and leave out anything that’s unnecessary.
When you’re applying for one or more MBA programs, you may find it difficult to decide what to cut and what to include. Fortunately, most institutions will directly tell you what they’re looking for. As part of your research phase, browse the institution’s program pages for information about the qualities and characteristics of its ideal candidates. Specifically, look for information about:
Academic and professional aptitude
Look at the specific language used in the admissions guidelines. Highlight phrases that seem important and then find examples from your history that demonstrate those qualities. For example, if the admissions committee is searching for candidates with peer leadership abilities, share anecdotes about your effectiveness as a team leader.
Top tips for aligning your MBA resume with other application materials
When viewing your complete application package, look for redundancies. There’s no need to repeat information on your resume that could be gleaned from your transcripts.
Keep these tips in mind:
Refrain from overexplaining work experiences that were shared in your application essay
Ask a friend, relative, or colleague to read through your application materials to make sure you covered everything
The elements of an MBA resume
Every MBA resume includes these basic building blocks:
Your grad school resume should start with a brief summary that provides a snapshot of your qualifications, skills, experience, and potential as a student. Think of this section as a quick reminder of who you are and what you hope to achieve.
Your personal summary should not exceed four lines. It should briefly highlight facets of your personality that directly relate to the admissions guidelines. For example, if the program is looking for professionals who have shown innovative thinking in their work life, this could be a good opportunity to frame your experiences as someone who is creative and open-minded.
MBA programs receive applications from many more candidates than they can accept. Your career summary should make it clear that you meet and exceed the minimum requirements of the program to avoid getting your application thrown on the discard pile.
It should also clearly outline your qualifications as a professional. As with a job resume, you’ll want to include relevant information about your work experience. Always list your most recent job first followed by any other positions that support your desire to enroll in the program, but leave out jobs you held for short periods of time.
Here are some quick tips to help you develop your career summary:
Emphasize major contributions: Every entry in your career summary should provide an example of how you made a significant contribution to your employer. Rather than simply listing your duties, focus on how you completed them and the value you generated.
Quantify your accomplishments: When possible, use numbers to provide additional context. Concrete examples of your contributions help the admissions committee get an accurate picture of your work performance. If you led a team, explain how many people you managed and in what capacity. Or, if your work led to an increase in sales, quantify it with a dollar value.
Include leadership examples: Program administrators look for applicants who possess the skills to lead. Your resume should demonstrate your aptitude for leadership by pointing to tangible examples of your ability to manage projects, lead teams, and demonstrate thought leadership.
Explain any gaps in your job history: If you’re worried about leaving a big gap in your job history, consider adding a line that explains what you were doing during that period.
The education section should help the admissions committee understand your level of foundational knowledge in your chosen industry or subject of study. Make sure to list all degrees you possess as well as any pending degrees you expect to complete before beginning the MBA program. You may choose to include training certifications and similar achievements, but only do so if they are relevant to the MBA program.
Accomplishments and achievements
If you belong to professional or academic organizations, you may want to include them on your MBA resume. In this section, you may also choose to include any achievements that do not fit into your career or education history, such as a notable community service triumph.
Professionals with a long history of employment should consider including a list of skills. This can help show your qualifications while keeping your employment history to a manageable length. For instance, if you have a long career history, you may want to cut down on the number of positions listed by only highlighting the best ones and including a list of skills to supplement your qualifications.
Consider including skills related to:
Only include volunteer work that reinforces your skills as a business leader. For example, if you lent your business skills to a nonprofit and helped it achieve exceptional results, that could be worth mentioning if you have space.
You don’t need to include your mailing address on your MBA resume. That information will be available on your completed application forms. Include your email address, phone number, and a link to your professional portfolio, if applicable.
MBA resume resources
Resources that provide further information about MBA resumes include the following:
Investopedia: This resource provides information about investments, financial management, and other topics of interest to MBA graduates. The article “Best Resumes for MBA Applications” shares tips on how to build an effective MBA resume.
Indeed: College graduates and experienced professionals use this resource to explore insights about careers and job opportunities. The article “Great Strategies to Use When Creating Your MBA Resume” highlights tips for creating resumes that garner attention from admissions officers.
The Economist: This international weekly newspaper reports on current world affairs, politics, technology, and international business matters, but it also offers GMAT advice. The article “Three MBA application resume pitfalls to avoid” offers tips on how to maximize your MBA resume.
Tighten up your resume by trimming unnecessary information like:
Hobbies: The admissions committee does want to get to know your personality, but there’s likely a better place on your application to discuss your interests. Leave hobbies and extracurricular activities off your resume unless they directly relate to the program for which you are applying.
Irrelevant work experience: There’s no need to list every job you’ve had since high school. Keep your most recent job on your resume, and then assess previously held positions to determine if they provide useful context about your career trajectory.
Long-winded education history: Provide a brief history of your education, but don’t worry too much about describing courses you’ve taken. Your transcripts will provide that information.
Personal information: Information about your physical appearance, age, religion, country of origin, or political affiliation isn’t relevant.
How to write and edit your MBA resume
Your grad school resume should focus on your professional and educational background, but it should also give the reader an idea of who you are as a person. Don’t be afraid to highlight your accomplishments ― your resume is not the place to be overly modest. Compared with a resume you might use to get a job, your MBA resume can be more focused on what you’ve learned and accomplished throughout your education.
When writing your resume, consider the following tips:
Use concise sentences and eliminate jargon
Eliminate prepositions and articles
Focus on describing achievements over listing duties
Use action verbs
Use numbers and statistics
After you’ve written your resume, set it aside for a day or two, then come back and polish it up:
Read the document out loud and mark places with awkward syntax or grammar
Make revisions and then have someone you trust proofread your resume for errors
Hire a professional proofreader who can help you apply up-to-date knowledge of resume best practices
How to format an MBA resume
If you’ve created a resume for a job search, the formatting process is very similar. Your goal is to produce a document that is professional in appearance and easy to read.
Order of information
Your name and contact information should always go at the top of the page. A brief personal summary should appear immediately below this information. Together, these sections should not exceed more than one-third of the page.
If you have three or more years of professional experience, your work history should follow your personal summary. If you have less experience, your education history should come next. Both sections should include subheads and bullet points.
Your achievements, volunteer experience, and skills should come last. Alternatively, you may choose to include a sidebar containing this information. If you do so, make sure your text is legible and each section is clearly defined.
Choose a font that is easy to read at a glance. It’s best to use a single font for all headers, subheadings, and body text. Choose a font that offers bold and italic variations.
Most resumes are read digitally and sans serif fonts are considered to be easier to read on a screen. With that in mind, recommended fonts include:
Keep your font size between 10 and 12 points. Headers should be 14 to 16 points, in bold, italics, or all-caps formatting.
If you have 10 or fewer years of work experience, your resume should be a single page in length. If you have more than 20 years of experience, you can extend your resume to another page to include relevant work history. However, if the application guidelines mandate that resumes should only be one page, don’t go beyond that limit.
If you’re including dates on your resume, only include months and years. Be consistent in how you format dates. For example, you could use 12-2020 or December 2020.
MBA resume formatting resources
Here are some resources that provide further information about how to format your MBA resume to make it easier for admissions officers to learn more about you:
In a challenging job market, employers see the MBA as an asset, according to the Financial Times. For those without an MBA, the first step is to apply to an MBA program. An effective MBA resume tells a story about your previous professional experience and frames it in a light that explains your ambitions for the future. Including relevant information about your work history, educational background, and personality will help the admissions committee determine if you’re a good fit for the program.
The process of applying for MBA programs can be confusing and time-consuming, which is why we’ve developed our recommendation engine to help you compare and apply to multiple programs at once.