15 Resume Tips for MBA Students

by Matthew Kuo on July 14, 2013

in MBA, MBA Tips

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Use Numbers to Show Results

Using numbers is another way to draw attention to your bullet points.  Keep in mind, the use of numbers doesn’t always have to be a dollar figure indicating the amount of money you saved or gained for your company.  It could be the number of team members you led, the number of years that you managed a process, or the number of different business units you interacted with.  Percentages are particularly useful because you can put almost anything in a numerator / denominator format and potentially derive a favorable percentage figure.

Consider a Functional Grouping Instead of Chronological Order

While a chronological grouping is the default way to organize your resume, many people have backgrounds that don’t fit well with this structure.  This is especially true of people who come from a consulting background, where you are basically assigned random projects throughout your career.

If you fall into this category, you should consider using a functional grouping, where your bullet points are organized by a high level skill description, such as “strategic planning” or “project management.”  Doing so brings order to your resume even if your career progression was somewhat disjointed.  The functional grouping not only helps you directly message to recruiters which skillsets you’ve gained from your bullet points, but also allows you to put your most impactful skillsets near the top, even if they occurred early on in your career.

Don’t Stress About the Bottom of Your Resume

When I was building out my MBA resume for recruiting, I spent a ton of time tweaking and adjusting the “Additional Interests” section of my resume.  With MBA recruiting, you’re competing against a lot of talented people and recruiters have the ability to pick and choose.  Despite the advice given by most resume resources, within such a competitive environment, no respectable company is going to hire you because of your “cooking” or “scuba diving” skills.  Put something reasonable in this section and focus on the other areas of your resume that will actually get you the job.

Use Standard MBA Resume Formatting

While there is no official template across all business schools, the majority of MBA programs use a very similar resume format.  (Times New Roman 12 point font, bolded all caps text for company and school names, italics for job titles)  Within every school, the formatting is consistent and all students are advised to use it.

Don’t deviate from this formatting recommendation.  No recruiter is going to place additional value on your resume because you decided to use Arial font.  When your resume has significantly different formatting than all the other resumes a recruiter is looking at, it not only calls into question your ability to follow directions, but also makes your school look bad.

Get Several Different Perspectives on Your Resume

As I mentioned before, building your resume is one of the most important and valuable activities you’ll perform during business school.  To do this successfully, you need to go through a thorough review process.  When getting feedback on your resume, don’t just talk to career counselors and close friends.  Try to get new perspectives on what works in the document.  For every review that is done, you should expect to incorporate anywhere between 5% to 75% of the comments you received.  This percentage will obviously go down as you get closer to finishing the document.  Additionally, by offering to review the resumes of your classmates, you’ll get new ideas about how to setup your own resume.

No Spelling or Grammar Errors

When you consider how competitive MBA recruiting is, and the volume of resumes that companies receive, it makes sense that most recruiters are looking for a reason to get rid of your resume, at least during the initial review.  Having a spelling or grammar error is probably the easiest way to shoot yourself in the foot and get your resume tossed early on in the process.  I know that most consulting firms won’t give you the benefit of the doubt; if your resume has errors in it, they have no reason to expect anything better from the work you produce for clients.

The best way to prevent errors is to go through the previously mentioned detailed review process.  You should also read your entire resume aloud before you finalize it, as some written grammar errors can easily be glossed over.

Update Your Linked In Profile

Linked In is becoming more and more widely used during the MBA recruiting process.  This is especially true in the later interview rounds, when the recruiters start vetting your resume and looking for references.  Because of the numerous updates you have to make to your resume, it’s easy for your resume and Linked In profile to become out of sync.  Therefore, before you drop your resume for any job position, make sure that your bullet points tie exactly to your online profile.  Any discrepancy in employment dates, numbers, or educational history will call into question the integrity of your resume.

Channel the Recruiter’s Perspective Rather Than Your Own Pride

Many people think of their resumes as a brag wall, and to some degree, it serves this purpose.  It’s easy to become emotional about your resume because it’s intended to represent everything you’ve done in your career.  Usually, the bullet points you are most prideful about are pretty obvious.

The ultimate goal of a resume is to impress the recruiters who will be reviewing it.  Therefore, your personal perception of what’s important should take a back seat to what can improve your candidacy.  I’m not saying you should exclude things you are proud of.  Just make sure to get different perspectives about what actually stands out in your resume and take that into account when finalizing the document.  While it’s important to be passionate about the work you’ve done, it’s all for not if a recruiter doesn’t value it and tosses your resume during an initial review.

If Your Company Isn’t Well Known, Add a Descriptive Blurb

Job candidates who have worked for a Fortune 500 company or some other well-known private firm have a significant advantage over those who spent their time at smaller companies.  Their resumes essentially get to leverage the million dollar marketing budgets of those firms, and this branding acts as a point of validation for all of your accomplishments.

Many people entering business school don’t have the benefit of working for a well-known company all throughout their careers.  If you fall into this group, it makes sense to describe what your firm does and also list any significant accomplishments your firm has achieved.  Descriptors such as your company’s valuation, number of employees, revenue growth, or clientele can all bring additional credibility to your resume.

Use a Word Frequency Counter to Prevent Redundancy

You’ll undoubtedly spend a lot of time during the resume development process coming up with synonyms for common action verbs such as “managed” or “developed.”  It’s annoying but having word variety in your bullet points will definitely improve the aesthetics of your resume.

Preventing redundancy is simple.  Just go online and use a word frequency counter, such as the one from Text Fixer linked here.  You just have to paste your text into the input box and the script will tell you exactly how many times you’ve used each word.  If you have an action verb that shows up 2 times or more, consider using a synonym of that word.

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