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MBA Admissions Edge step 6: How to craft the MBA résumé and data form

Caroline Diarte Edwards of Fortuna Admissions - August 03, 2017

MBA Admissions Edge
Step 6: How to Craft the MBA Résumé & Data Form

A well-tuned and polished résumé and biographical data form are more essential than ever. Many top tier MBA programs, such as HBS and Dartmouth Tuck, have reduced the number of required essays. (This year, Berkeley Haas framed one of its essays as a “six-word story,” a Hemingway-esque prompt undoubtedly sending many a quant-leaning candidates running.) And if you’re lucky enough to make it to the interview stage, schools like Stanford GSB, Wharton and Columbia send the interviewer with only your CV in hand.

As a scannable snapshot of your professional history, your CV delivers an important overview of your experience and expertise. Yet, it’s too often reduced to a lacklustre roster of qualifications, jobs titles, dates, and places.

Instead, think of it as the opportunity to showcase what you’ve accomplished and where, while conveying the skills you possess and prioritizing the experiences that demonstrate your future potential—as powerfully and concisely as possible.

Having evaluated thousands of CVs as former admissions directors and business school insiders, my colleagues at Fortuna Admissions and I have distilled our best advice down to the following:

  • Pay attention to detail and focus on progression. Just as you adjust your CV depending on the job you’re applying for, customize your application to each school. Have a solid understanding of each programme’s focus points and highlight the skills, experience, and personality traits that demonstrate that fit.
  • Orient towards outcomes. Don’t just list roles and responsibilities, but convey how your work drove results, whether it was saving money, building market-share, increasing efficiency or other favourable outcomes. This is where numbers dazzle more than words. Include the number of people you managed, percentage growth you achieved, and/or the size of your budget (when possible).
  • Reflect the language used by the programme. Done artfully, an admissions officer is more likely to make the connection and see you as a programme “fit.” But avoid insider idioms, like unnecessary acronyms and financial jargon.
  • Demonstrate a pattern of leadership. Schools look for consistency of leadership potential, not one-off situations. Raise every demonstration of leadership, from the office to extracurricular activities, or volunteer positions.
  • Make it digestible and attractive by staying on point. Use succinct phrasing; avoid wordy sentences or unnecessary adjectives. Use 11- or 12-point font, and self-edit by limiting descriptions to three to five bullet points. Remember that business schools greatly prefer a one pager. Remember what you’ve shared on the bio data form to avoid unnecessary duplication.
  • Don’t overlook life outside work. Programmes want well-rounded applicants who can demonstrate a track record of involvement in formal extracurriculars, whether community, athletic, or board service.
  • Edit, proofread, and review again. It’s strategic to have a second pair of eyes review and offer feedback on your résumé before it’s finalised.

I won’t pretend that polishing your CV isn't a drudgery (especially after reading countless times). But when it’s well crafted, it’s an impressive snapshot that conveys a holistic picture of your MBA candidacy.

The Fortuna Admissions team are former admissions gatekeepers from top-tier institutions including Wharton, INSEAD, Harvard Business School, London Business School, Chicago Booth, NYU Stern, IE Business School and Johnson Cornell.

This is the fifth in a 12-part series for Prodigy Finance by Fortuna Admissions on how to boost your chances of getting into a top business school (see below). Stay tuned for more.

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