The admissions director sips her coffee and stares at the intimidating collection of applicants before her. The deadline for applications was last week and since then she’s been reading dozens, if not hundreds, of applications every day. And for all that, the stack doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller. Well, if it were easy to craft the perfect incoming class for one of the nation’s top ranked programs, anyone could do it. Another hit of coffee, this one more determined than the last. It’s time to get to work. She picks up the first application and pulls out the resume…
Application after application, program after program – this is the way almost every admissions director in the nation begins reviewing an application. The resume is the cover sheet to your application. Before they read the essays or review the recommendations, they look to your resume as the cliff notes of your life. And, like most others who read your resume (i.e. recruiters) what they feel about your resume paints their perception of the rest of “you”.
Your resume matters – and yet, year after year, applicants put forward resumes that would be hard pressed to impress a recruiter, much less an admissions committee. Just like most directors view the resume first, most applicants tackle this part of their application first and most of the times to get it out of the way. After all, they’ve written a resume before – they’ve got this! So what better place to start than here?
We agree actually – you should work on your resume first (after you figure out your strategy, of course!). It helps you distill and prioritize your experiences. It also gives you an easy way to communicate these components to your recommenders. It’s a logical place to start.
Well, if you’re going to write a great resume there are some things you need to keep in mind. A great resume isn’t just a collection of your experiences and accomplishments. It’s art. It’s eloquent. It’s bespoke. It’s specific. It’s engaging. So here are some recommendations and tips.Be Honest:
This should be obvious but it bears repeating. Your resume should accurately capture your accomplishments. Not only is it unethical, it could also be your downfall if the adcom looks into it or a recommender contradicts it!New, Then Old:
The latest experiences go at the top and they should be the most detailed. Don’t waste too much space on your internship from undergrad.Be Impactful:
Adcoms are looking for impact and scope, not some generic bullet stating a particularly uninteresting job responsibility. Details! Avoid Jargon:
You may use acronyms every day, but the adcom doesn’t. Find a way to simplify it. Be Personal:
Don’t be afraid to include hobbies, awards, and passions – adcoms want to see who you are as a person!Diversify:
We get it, you led a lot of activities. That doesn’t mean every bullet should start with “led”. Use a thesaurus!AND LASTLY…1 Page:
No, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working. 1 page.
The resume may be the shortest document in your application, but it shouldn’t be what you spend the least amount of time on. It is a critical component of your application and deserves your undivided attention.
Applicants almost always get their essays reviewed but if the adcom doesn’t walk away from your resume wanting to learn more, you’ve already put additional pressure on your essays. Often times people ignore this step.
After you’ve written it, make sure you get it reviewed by someone who knows how to read resumes. The truth is just because your undergraduate career services department said you had a great resume doesn’t mean you necessarily do. Their comments are based on relativity and at the top MBA programs, it’s a whole different level.
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