What Is an MBA Resume?
The resume is one of the most important parts of your MBA application. Why?
1. It's the Backbone of Your Application
Admissions officers read the resume for a full view of your career, professional achievements, skills, and hobbies. For them, it’s a window into what you might be like as a student if they admitted you, and what you’ll be like as a leader in the future. So it’s imperative that you nail it!
2. It's Critical to Your Interview
Your resume will also come into play when you're interviewing, as a source of questions and discussion topics, especially in a blind interview, in which an interviewer will have only read your resume. Nailing the resume will set you up for success when you reach the interview, that final step in your application process
3. It's Your Chance to Show Off Your Writing Skills
Finally, the resume is your chance to highlight your communication skills—describing your accomplishments concretely and concisely will send the signal to the admissions committee that you’re mature, articulate, and insightful. Top MBA programs are looking for individuals who not only are accomplished but who can speak about those accomplishments in a coherent way. Show them you can do that, with your resume!
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What Isn't an MBA Resume?
Now, before we dive into our tips and tricks, it's important to note that the business school resume is categorically different than other resumes you might have previously created, whether for internships, job applications, or other graduate school programs.
Many prospective MBAs focus on other parts of the business school application, like the GMAT/GRE, or their essays, and think they can copy and paste the resume they have on file, or the one they recently sent to a recruiter. This, however, won't work.
An MBA application resume is a different animal. Its job is not to highlight industry knowledge, demonstrate skill proficiency, or even showcase professional experience. Instead, the MBA resume must be singly focused on illuminating your business credentials, teamwork skills, and potential as a future leader. Every bullet on your resume must tell the admissions committee: "This is a stellar MBA applicant who will shine in the future, and ultimately make your program look fantastic as a distinguished alum."
One last word here. When you're applying for jobs, generally speaking, you're competing with people whose experience and professional background match your own, so you're trying to stand out in a crowd of like applicants. This is why a professional resume can be easier to craft.
When you apply to business school, however, every single candidate is different. While you're competing against other applicants, you're not trying to outdo them per see; rather, you're trying to create a holistic snapshot of your career to date, one that fits on a single page, touches on all aspects of your personal and professional life, and demonstrates that you're a star candidate.
With that all covered, let's dive into the resume itself.
What Should an MBA Resume Look Like?
First and foremost, let's talk about how an MBA resume should look. It sounds small, but you don't want to put a massive amount of effort into your application, only to have your resume be formatted oddly, with odd font size and improperly laid out sections.
Here are 4 tips for nailing the perfect MBA resume format:
Get your MBA resume onto a single page — pure and simple. If you submit a three-page resume, or worse, a short novel, your application will go to the bottom of the admissions pile.
2. Font and Spacing
Don't get fancy — go with the classics: Calibri, Arial, or Garamond. Personally, we recommend Times New Roman. 11 to 12 point font is the go-to, with 14 for the headings. Keep the margins at one inch.
These are small things but remember: admissions committees will read thousands of applications, and you don't want them tripping up on your resume because of small formatting issues.
Black and white. Colors will distract from the entire point of the resume: communicating who you are as a professional and MBA candidate.
4. File Type
Most schools' application portals will specify the file format for your resume, but generally speaking, you'll be submitting a PDF. It's clean, clear, and looks professional.
Fantastic — now you have an idea of what your resume should look like! If you've done everything right, it should look similar to this:
To help you out, we've also included a redacted resume with the proper formatting, which you can use as an MBA resume template.
If you prefer to work in a one-on-one setting for personalized resume feedback, schedule an intro call with one of our top resume coaches. Here are some of our highest-rated MBA admissions coaches.
What to Include in Your MBA Resume
Now that we've nailed the format, we can talk about what actually goes into the resume — your contact information, and the different MBA resume sections. We'll take it step by step.
This one is pretty obvious. Include the following:
- Phone number
- LinkedIn profile
Separate the information by vertical lines, dashes, or bullets. It should look like this:
The next, and most important section, on your resume, will detail your professional experience. Expect for this block to take up roughly 2/3 of your document. Here, you'll list your professional accomplishments in reverse chronological order.
*Note that if you’re a deferred MBA candidate, you’ll follow the same instructions below; you’ll just populate your professional experience section with your collegiate internships.
A few tips and tricks:
- Start With Company, Role, and Dates
This sounds obvious, but the first thing you need to do is state where you worked, your role, and how long you were in that role. If it's not a name-brand company, include a single line explaining what the company is and does, including some stats about it (number of offices, number of employees, annual revenue, etc)
- Nail Your Bullets
For each role that you list, detail your most significant actions and achievements in bullet point format. These are not mere job descriptions; they're articulations of exact actions and specific skills you put in place in your job to drive your company forward. State what you did, any leadership elements, and the accompanying result to the business, to show the admissions committee that you have a track record of positive impact in your past professional roles.
Pro tip: Write all bullets in the past tense, for professionalism and consistency
- Highlight Leadership
Business school is all about leadership, so highlight this as much as possible. Whenever possible, spotlight instances where you led groups, teams, and projects. Even small things, like organizing a company-wide social event, matter.
- Managed 3 marketing interns; oversaw 3 summer-long intern projects resulting in 47% customer acquisition growth
- Led global IT team of 5 to automate semiconductor design; reduced cycle cost by 15%
For every bullet, be as specific about what you accomplished as possible. What numeric results did your actions drive? How much money did you make or save for your company? Each bullet should communicate tangible proof of your actions, as well as the significance of those actions to the company. The goal is to highlight to the admissions committee that you’re a change agent, someone who can bring about significant, measurable outcomes.
- Oversaw $171M annual R&D budget; provided data analytics for 5 R&D Vice Presidents
- Acquired $2M+ in real estate, realizing an average portfolio ROI of 35%
- Indicate Action
When describing your accomplishments, don’t settle for non-descriptive words like “worked” and “did.” Aim for more punchy verbs like “executed,” “spearheaded,” and “drove.” (Try not to use the same verb twice.) It sounds like a small thing, but the way you describe what you’ve done matters. When you’re competing against thousands of other applicants, every word counts!
- Spearheaded group of 10 to produce 2015 Super Bowl TV campaign
- Trained 15 new caregivers on COVID-19 protocols, reducing patient incidence by 34%
- Show Growth
Each of the roles you list should indicate an upward professional trajectory. If you started your career as an Analyst but were advanced to Associate and then Director, show that in separate headings within that company — admissions committees are looking for up-and-coming stars and quick risers. Promotions are a key signal of growth, of course, but taking on more challenging projects within a role and driving impressive results is just as important.
Now that you've nailed the professional experience section, you can tackle the education section.
For each degree, mention the university, degree/major, date of graduation, GPA, and any honors and distinctions (including impressive athletic or extracurricular involvement). As with your work experience, choose your bullets so as to showcase impressive achievements and leadership skills.
Add a new entry for every degree and include the name of the degree, university, graduation date, major, minor (if applicable), GPA, honors, and achievements.
For applicants with more work experience, you can choose to keep each entry brief and highlight only the key achievements (if any) along with any research work, projects, etc. that show your leadership skills or exemplary business qualifications.
When done right, the education section should look like so:
See our resume samples below for examples of how to outline your education on your resume.
Leadership and Other Involvement
Finally, this last section is the place you can detail any other leadership bona fides, extracurricular involvement, volunteer experience, and other personal accomplishments that might distinguish you from all the other MBA candidates.
When choosing these bullets, prioritize the ones with the greatest impact: where you led teams at your local charity, implemented a change at your alma mater, spearheaded the fundraising committee for your high school's 5th-year reunion, and raised several hundred thousand dollars, etc. As with the rest of the resume, your goal is to depict leadership potential, the ability to drive results, and a knack for collaboration.
Finally, select those bullets that no other candidates could possibly list on their resume: the book you wrote with your State Senator, the community garden you helped plant whose proceeds went to benefit HIV research, the Six Sigma Black Belt certification you earned in your spare time. Languages, sports, and hobbies make great bullets here.
(And of course, quantify and specify these bullets just as you did in the professional and education sections!)
Here's how your section might look:
See our MBA resume samples below for instances of well-done leadership bullets. You'll have to give some thought to which bullets you should or shouldn't include.
Additional Resume Tips & Tricks
Okay, we've covered the biggest parts of the resume — now, let's bring it home with a few final tips and tricks.
1. Don't Exaggerate
This goes without saying, but we’re putting it here, anyway. Many applicants are tempted to inflate their stats or give themselves promotions on their resumes. Don’t do it. If you get to the interview phase, you’ll be held accountable for every word on your resume, and schools conduct a thorough background check on each admitted candidate to make sure they’ve done everything they say they have. Again: don’t do it.
2. Focus on YOUR impact
Rather than indicate company-wide results, be hyper-focused on highlighting your own impact: what you did, and the results you drove. Business schools aren’t admitting a company, or your team — they’re admitting you! (And you’ll want to have concrete, ownable answers for when you arrive at your MBA interview)
3. Don't Use Technical Jargon
Remember, the admissions committee members reading your resume aren't experts in your given field. Don't bog them down with technical terms. Of course, you should explain what you did in your roles, but it's more important to indicate the impact you drove in that role than it is to get the scientific descriptions exactly right.
4. Double Check Everything!
This also goes without saying but make sure to go over your resume once before you submit it; it's really easy to overlook punctuation and spelling errors when you've been looking at your computer screen for hours on end, and you don't want to discover a typo the day after you submit your application!
5. Human Touch
Finally—and this one often gets overlooked—be yourself! As we said, admissions officers will read thousands of applications in a cycle, and if you can offer a hint of humanity, a breath of fresh air, it will stand out. The last section of your resume is a good place to include little human touches.
- Love reading (Asian American novels), animals (parrots), and films (romantic comedies)
- Avid hiker, cyclist, and whitewater rafting guide
- Mastered the art of banana bread (2020)
For more resume tips, read this article by a GSB MBA with years of experience reviewing resumes: An Expert’s Guide to Resumes: Five Tips to Make You Stand Out.
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