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How to craft a great MBA application resume - FAQ Edition

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How to craft a great MBA application resume - FAQ Edition  [#permalink]

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New post 25 Jul 2018, 12:49

How to craft a great MBA application resume - FAQ Edition


We chatted for an hour with Maria from ApplicantLab and I thought it was too insightful not to archive. So instead of an article, here are 20 rapid fire questions that we threw at a jet-lagged Maria! Also she did a YouTube video on our channel so check that out first!




Good morning / afternoon / evening everyone! My name is Maria, I’m an ’05 grad of Harvard Business School and the founder of ApplicantLab, the interactive self-guided admissions platform that teaches you how to become your own admissions consultant, and therefore replaces the need for you to spend thousands of $$$s. Our topic today is MBA application *RESUMES*....

...the Resume is the single-most important document you submit with your application; it’s actually even more important than the Essays (per a 2015 GMAC survey of over 100 admissions officers), so...

what are the best sections of a perfect application resume?


Ah, great question -- so for 99% of applicants, the sections are: Work Experience; Education; and "Other". If you are currently working full-time, then that’s the order they go in. If you also have a significant side-hustle (that is, if you have a notable start-up you do on the side of your full-time job), then that could also go in its own section, such as "Entrepreneurship", between Work Experience and Education. Education DOES NOT GO AT THE TOP unless you are a current full-time student.

please also tell us the format for the resume (# of pages; type of font and size; margins; etc.)


So, the MBA application resume should be only ONE PAGE long. While it’s true that some schools say that they welcome a 2-page resume, they would still strongly prefer a 1-page resume, since their lives are super-hectic and ALSO part of what the written application is judging is not ONLY your accomplishments but ALSO your ability to communicate POWERFULLY and CONCISELY in writing.

In terms of the format, font size, etc. I have a sample resume that is available for free download if you are sign up for a free trial at ApplicantLab.com


Question: Should you group all co-curricular activities together? What if it’s related to one specific job, is it ok to describe it under employment section?


Q3: For co-curricular, if it’s *related* to a job, e.g. if you’re leading an employee resource group, or if you help with hiring new Analysts, etc. then I would put that as a bullet-point under the job itself.


Q- Should a resume be colorful and involve graphics or properly formatted formal one?


Q4: Muditcc, while it’s tempting to show some artistic flair in the application process, under no circumstances should the resume be WHIMSICAL -- the resume is a professional document, and part of what they are judging in the application process is not only how you present yourself (in general), but they are also trying to guess what a a *recruiter* will think of you. If you’re really artistic, the good news is that several schools’ applications (NYU, Cornell, and the just-released Rotman question) give you plenty of chances to show those skills off!

how far back is experience relevant? For example, during undergrad (about 4 years ago) I had the opportunity to work for a foreign company to construct a go-to market strategy to enter the US, including researching legislation requirements, methods of shipping, pricing etc. Is this something that’s worth bringing up given how long ago it happened?


Q5: For collegiate internships / part-time jobs, it’s really up to you if you want to leave them on or not. You’d need to ask yourself: "What is the ROI [Return on Investment], or, put another way "ROS" [Return on SPACE] that listing this job gives me?". If listing the internship adds a new dimension to your application, then do include it. If it’s just "meh", then don’t. Note that if it was, say, a part-time job while you were studying, you could also consider listing it as a bullet under the Education Space, like:

UNIVERSITY NAME,
*Academic stuff*
*Extra-curricular leadership*
*"Held part-time job for 1 year working with CompanyCo, helping with ______"

The reason I say this is because personally, I find it much easier when certain resumes group things together chronologically. That way, I don’t get whiplash as I try to piece together the different time-frames. OF course, if it was a significant job, you could also list it under the Employment Experience section.


Do we need to specify gap years in resume ?


Q6: No, you don’t need to *specify* a gap year in the resume, since it will be obvious when there are some missing dates in there. Note that any significant amount of time out of the workforce (say, 6+ months after college graduation, or 3+ months after starting to work full-time) WILL need to be explained in the application itself. Many schools provide a mini-essay you can write specifically about employment gaps... if they don’t have a specific space for that, then you’d use the "Optional Essay" .

does the ad-com expect me to write dates of participation for all the volunteering activities in Resume?
should I put dates of involvement regarding my volunteering activities?


Q7 & Q8 (are similar, so here’s one answer for both!): So, YES, the dates of participation for all things in the resume DO need to be there, but... NOT *ALL* activities merit being in the resume. MOST applicants end up LEAVING STUFF *OFF* of the resume, since otherwise it’s just too cramped. Please watch my video about why this is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcsnmHRWIBo&t=2s

How do you deal with weak/non-existent extra curiculars?


Q9 (part 1 of 2): The good news is, I have seen time and time again (my own candidacy attests to this too): weak / non-existent extra curriculars while working *do not matter AS much* as having strong WORK accomplishments. Extra-curriculars (while you’re working full time), I have only seen move the needle for people whose jobs do not allow them to have significant work impact. This *IS* "BUSINESS" school after all, NOT social work school. So yes, volunteering while you have a full-time job is great, since it shows that you aren’t completely evil / narcissistic, etc., BUT the primary benefit of extra-curriculars is to prove to them that you’re a strong leader. If your job already allows that, then you might be OK. (My own personal example: I was living in Hong Kong when I was applying and so my ability to volunteer was basically Nil since I didn’t speak Cantonese, but my work accomplishments more than made up for it).

Q9 (part 2 of 2): Now, if you have NO history at ALL of doing any extra-curriculars (e.g. even in college), then the onus is on you to prove "Brand Traits" like empathy, initiative, etc. via the other facets of your application. To be very clear -- people think that "Oh, I once tutored a kid for 6 months, I should totally put that on my resume since it will make a big difference!" <-- it won’t. Extra-curriculars only move the needle if an "almost strong" candidate needs to prove leadership, *OR* if the extra-curricular is A Truly Big Deal.

Question: For a small Business owner, is it necessary to cite revenue figures or any client citations in the resume.


Q10 (part 1 of 2): So -- first of all, you MUST disclose revenue figures in the application form itself, so there’s no getting around that...

Q10 (part 2 of 2): In terms of whether or not you list it on the resume, YES, my preference would be to put revenues on the resume if they are significant (e.g. let’s say... over US $1 million / year).... And Big Name Clients are an ABSOLUTE MUST if your business does not have a strong brand name, since it signals to me as a reader that your business must be doing SOMETHING right if it was able to attract big-name clients. Listing important clients, revenue size, employee size, and/or big-name VC investors is often the only way that start-up employees can prove their company is strong vs. people working for Big Name Companies.

Q11 - how does it affect your app if your resume does not reflect blue-chip companies?


Q11 (part 1 of 2): Similar to people who have their own companies, working for a no-name company is, YES, a challenge but NO, is NOT necessarily application death...

Q11 (part 2 of 2): Business schools are looking for people who have made an IMPACT. So if you work for a smaller company, things might still be OK *IF* you have really moved the needle at that place. Think of the application like a see-saw / balance-scale: The smaller the company you work for, the bigger of a splash you need to have made there. Having had a lot of impact (e.g. being able to say: "I helped increase revenues 20%") will be useful since you will be expected to be a "Big Fish in a Small Pond".

Q12 - Should you have an objective in the resume? - I will get this one Maria. NO! - your objective is to get into the school.


HAHAHAHA -- thanks Souvik, re: Q12 -- yeah, your "objective" is obviously to get into b-school... so, uh... no need to waste precious real estate on that :)

Hello Maria, I would like to know your view on a older candidates resume who has 12 yrs of exp and applying for full time program. what does older candidates need to be cautious about in resume.


Q13 (part 1 of maybe 2 or 3): So, as you know, candidates with over 8 years of experience rarely get accepted to full-time MBA programs. This is for a million different reasons, but the key ones is that post-MBA recruiters don’t want older employees at the post-MBA job level (and vice-versa -- as a 34 year old MBA grad, how would you feel about reporting to someone who’s, say, 29?).

Q13 (part 2 of 3): Also, the expectation for impact is MUCH higher for older candidates. Since MBA programs are looking for people who are *already* on a rocket-ship trajectory (Business School is meant to add fuel to someone who is already on a rocket-ship; it is NOT meant to put people on to a rocket-ship for the first time)... the tricky thing with older candidates is that if you are TOO accomplished, then what will you get out of the program? And if you aren’t accomplished enough, then "Well, um, not to be rude but what is wrong with this person that they are 12 years post-graduation and yet are at the same level as our other candidates with only 4 years of experience?)

Q13 (part 3 of 3): SO, therefore, more seasoned candidates need to show a LOT of leadership impact... to show that you are indeed on a rocket-ship, BUT then the BIG IMPORTANT PART of the application for you actually is NOT the resume (I mean, yes, it’s still super-important, but)... for YOU the "Why MBA?" part of the application will be key. Specifically, "Why a full-time MBA program where you will be surrounded by 27 year old kids who have a lot less experience than you do and, um, aren’t they going to irritate you? What are you going to learn from them?" vs. "A part-time MBA program with people who are more like you?"

Is significant amount of social work very important in anyone’s resume?


Q14: I touched upon this in my answers to Q9, but I will differ from other admissions consultants when I say that no, I don’t think a ton of social work really matters AS LONG AS the professional accomplishments are jaw-dropping. Professional impact >> Social impact any day of the week. NOW, here’s the thing: A lot of people have awesome leadership potential, BUT for whatever reason, their jobs do NOT allow them to "prove" that they are leaders (e.g. if the company is super-stringent about who gets to lead projects). In *THAT* case, then yes -- using an extra-curricular experience to PROVE LEADERSHIP can be wonderful. I just had a client get in off of the waitlist at Wharton a few days ago -- this person’s work experiences were solid (but not, like "top 1%" mind-blowing, to be honest), HOWEVER, they had taken on a SIGNIFICANT leadership role with a well-known non-profit for several years, and IMHO I am guessing that this made the difference. So in sum, it’s not strictly necessary, I don’t think, but... the reason SO many people focus on it is that it’s the only chance they have to prove to schools that: "Yoo hoo! I am SUPER leadershippy, but it’s just that I work for a company that won’t let me shine as much as I COULD be shining!"

Q: Do you need a short summary section on top?


Q15: After the chat, you can watch the YouTube video I created for GMATClub in preparation for today’s chat (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcsnmHRWIBo&t=24s), but NOPE, there is NO need for a summary section for, I’d say, 95% of candidates. The ONLY time I would advocate a "Summary" section is if someone has REALLY zig-zagged All Over The Place professionally, and feels the need to write a ~2 line explanation that connects the dots. Note however, that the *ESSAYS* often provide a way to connect those dots, so even career zig-zaggers don’t even need it, most of the time.

And NOBODY SHOULD HAVE A "SUMMARY OF SKILLS" section, since the skills you have now aren’t relevant for what business school AdComs are looking for. Nobody cares that you are good at BOTH PHP *and* SQL.

Is resume the place to explain major change in work field ? Lets say that in year 1 I was working in tech and in year 2 I started working as a teacher. Where should I talk about this change ?


Q16: Hi workout! I think your question came in before I wrote my answer to Q15 :) That explanation would probably go into the essays. If it was only ONE job change in your career, then that’s SUPER DUPER common and so it’s not worth explaining in the resume, but would instead go into the career narrative you construct in the essays.

What ’Education’ information should be included on a resume for applicants 5 or more years removed from graduating? (e.g. GPA, academic distinctions such Dean’s List, Magna Cum Laude, etc.) Should undergrad leadership positions such as VP of an organization or student legislator be included?


Q17: So, GPA will only go on the resume if it’s "at or near" a school’s average (e.g. 3.6+). Honors definitely go there, BUT if someone won SEVERAL academic honors, no need to list every single one, since they may all appear on the transcript. YES, school leadership positions go there too, but again , do not list every. single. thing. you. did. ... but rather only the ones where you made a real impact. SO, e.g. "Member, marketing club" should probably not go on there, but "VP, ClubName: expanded club membership by 80% by creating a new mentorship program with alums" is more "Resume-worthy"

Any reason to include a hardcore engineering research paper?


Q18: in general, no, I would not include a hardcore engineering paper, since you are applying to business school, not engineering school :) On a less-flippant note, usually engineering studies are done as a SOLITARY pursuit, and so therefore do not show "leadership" in terms of "Oh, I helped make a big positive change around me." Now, if the paper did create deep change in your field, OR if, say, your adviser wanted you to do X because that is industry practice but you invented an innovative new idea and then persuaded her to let you pursue it, then perhaps mention it (since it does show leadershippy traits), but be sure to focus on the "EQ" aspects of it. Usually though, engineering research is not relevant to me, since it doesn’t answer the questions I have about your business leadership potential.

A follow-up, can you give a sense (or examples) what are super leadership creds for various levels of school? (Top 10, 20 etc.)


Q19 (part 1 of 2): So, if someone needs strong extra-currics to make up for a weaker professional profile, I know that "IMPACT" is a word I’m using a lot here, but, in sum....it’s all about impact.

Q19 (part 2 of ...oops! looks like I’ll need 3 parts here): So, I’m not going to say: "What sorts of extra currics do people who get into top 10 schools have", since it ranges from "zero" to "huge", BUT... what I will give are examples of times I think extra-curricular involvement has helped tip the scales in favor of a candidate who would not have otherwise gotten accepted...

Q19 (part 3 of 3): The candidate I mentioned earlier in the chat did some volunteering with a non-profit that, while it’s NOT a "household name", *IS* a non-profit that is in the higher education space and therefore AdCom members are familiar with it. This non-profit puts on about 3 major events per year. This person not only held increasingly important leadership roles in that non-profit over the course of 4+ years, but took on leadership of 1 of the 3 major events and helped triple its results. Another example that occurred to me off the top of my head is a candidate who helped launch a significant multi-national initiative with a well-known regional non-profit. That is, the non-profit was well-known in New England, but this person, who lives on another continent, helped spearhead a New Partnership with that non-profit that expanded it into a new part of the world and I think ultimately doubled or tripled its impact.

People are often too limited when they think of "involvement" as being "volunteering for a non-profit". But "involvement" can also happen in the work-place as well, e.g. "I convinced my company’s HR department to re-evaluate our hiring practices for women to try to find and eliminate sources of unconscious bias. % of women hired increased by 3x" <-- and yes, this was a male engineer who pushed his company to change how it hired such that gender bias could be reduced, and when the company implemented those practices (e.g. coding exercises without a name attached; removing names from resumes so that gender was not immediately obvious) it found (UM HI, NO SUPRISE HERE), that the % of women engineers it hired sky-rocketed. This person did NOT have a lot of "Extra-curriculars" in the standard sense, but this is an example of "community engagement" that got him interview invites at 4 out of 5 top schools and a top 3 acceptance.


For Military/Veteran applicants, is there a most common or most detrimental mistake you’ve seen when it comes to crafting a resume that is digestable by adcoms unfamiliar with the military?


The final question about military candidates: the biggest mistake is assuming that I, as a civilian, have any idea whatsoever about 1) what the different titles mean 2) what the different acronyms mean. I think a big challenge for military candidates is that often, people in the military do "Well" when they follow orders.... but business schools aren’t necessarily looking for "rules-followers", but more people who raise their hand to propose a new idea or make a cool suggestion. Since the rigidity of the military does not often allow for this, then instead military candidates need to focus on things like: # of people you oversee, or the $$$$ of budget overseen (if applicable). In sum, it will be about synthesizing your accomplishments and *explaining* them in a way that highlights size of impact and/or leadership potential. You may also need to provide some explanation for what different acronyms mean. For example, I once worked with someone who was part of a DoD division that *he* assumed was a household name, but I can assure you, it was not... and so we had to include in the resume: "Work for the ABC divison of the DoD, which is responsible for __________ "
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Re: How to craft a great MBA application resume - FAQ Edition  [#permalink]

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New post 30 Jul 2018, 22:13
My major take-away from this conversation would be-
1. Make a 1-page resume
2. Keep it professional
3. Check if points put on the resume have good ROS (Return on Space). I will also look at opportunity cost. What do I have to exclude to include a point!

souvik101990 wrote:

How to craft a great MBA application resume - FAQ Edition


We chatted for an hour with Maria from ApplicantLab and I thought it was too insightful not to archive. So instead of an article, here are 20 rapid fire questions that we threw at a jet-lagged Maria! Also she did a YouTube video on our channel so check that out first!




Good morning / afternoon / evening everyone! My name is Maria, I’m an ’05 grad of Harvard Business School and the founder of ApplicantLab, the interactive self-guided admissions platform that teaches you how to become your own admissions consultant, and therefore replaces the need for you to spend thousands of $$$s. Our topic today is MBA application *RESUMES*....

...the Resume is the single-most important document you submit with your application; it’s actually even more important than the Essays (per a 2015 GMAC survey of over 100 admissions officers), so...

what are the best sections of a perfect application resume?


Ah, great question -- so for 99% of applicants, the sections are: Work Experience; Education; and "Other". If you are currently working full-time, then that’s the order they go in. If you also have a significant side-hustle (that is, if you have a notable start-up you do on the side of your full-time job), then that could also go in its own section, such as "Entrepreneurship", between Work Experience and Education. Education DOES NOT GO AT THE TOP unless you are a current full-time student.

please also tell us the format for the resume (# of pages; type of font and size; margins; etc.)


So, the MBA application resume should be only ONE PAGE long. While it’s true that some schools say that they welcome a 2-page resume, they would still strongly prefer a 1-page resume, since their lives are super-hectic and ALSO part of what the written application is judging is not ONLY your accomplishments but ALSO your ability to communicate POWERFULLY and CONCISELY in writing.

In terms of the format, font size, etc. I have a sample resume that is available for free download if you are sign up for a free trial at ApplicantLab.com


Question: Should you group all co-curricular activities together? What if it’s related to one specific job, is it ok to describe it under employment section?


Q3: For co-curricular, if it’s *related* to a job, e.g. if you’re leading an employee resource group, or if you help with hiring new Analysts, etc. then I would put that as a bullet-point under the job itself.


Q- Should a resume be colorful and involve graphics or properly formatted formal one?


Q4: Muditcc, while it’s tempting to show some artistic flair in the application process, under no circumstances should the resume be WHIMSICAL -- the resume is a professional document, and part of what they are judging in the application process is not only how you present yourself (in general), but they are also trying to guess what a a *recruiter* will think of you. If you’re really artistic, the good news is that several schools’ applications (NYU, Cornell, and the just-released Rotman question) give you plenty of chances to show those skills off!

how far back is experience relevant? For example, during undergrad (about 4 years ago) I had the opportunity to work for a foreign company to construct a go-to market strategy to enter the US, including researching legislation requirements, methods of shipping, pricing etc. Is this something that’s worth bringing up given how long ago it happened?


Q5: For collegiate internships / part-time jobs, it’s really up to you if you want to leave them on or not. You’d need to ask yourself: "What is the ROI [Return on Investment], or, put another way "ROS" [Return on SPACE] that listing this job gives me?". If listing the internship adds a new dimension to your application, then do include it. If it’s just "meh", then don’t. Note that if it was, say, a part-time job while you were studying, you could also consider listing it as a bullet under the Education Space, like:

UNIVERSITY NAME,
*Academic stuff*
*Extra-curricular leadership*
*"Held part-time job for 1 year working with CompanyCo, helping with ______"

The reason I say this is because personally, I find it much easier when certain resumes group things together chronologically. That way, I don’t get whiplash as I try to piece together the different time-frames. OF course, if it was a significant job, you could also list it under the Employment Experience section.


Do we need to specify gap years in resume ?


Q6: No, you don’t need to *specify* a gap year in the resume, since it will be obvious when there are some missing dates in there. Note that any significant amount of time out of the workforce (say, 6+ months after college graduation, or 3+ months after starting to work full-time) WILL need to be explained in the application itself. Many schools provide a mini-essay you can write specifically about employment gaps... if they don’t have a specific space for that, then you’d use the "Optional Essay" .

does the ad-com expect me to write dates of participation for all the volunteering activities in Resume?
should I put dates of involvement regarding my volunteering activities?


Q7 & Q8 (are similar, so here’s one answer for both!): So, YES, the dates of participation for all things in the resume DO need to be there, but... NOT *ALL* activities merit being in the resume. MOST applicants end up LEAVING STUFF *OFF* of the resume, since otherwise it’s just too cramped. Please watch my video about why this is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcsnmHRWIBo&t=2s

How do you deal with weak/non-existent extra curiculars?


Q9 (part 1 of 2): The good news is, I have seen time and time again (my own candidacy attests to this too): weak / non-existent extra curriculars while working *do not matter AS much* as having strong WORK accomplishments. Extra-curriculars (while you’re working full time), I have only seen move the needle for people whose jobs do not allow them to have significant work impact. This *IS* "BUSINESS" school after all, NOT social work school. So yes, volunteering while you have a full-time job is great, since it shows that you aren’t completely evil / narcissistic, etc., BUT the primary benefit of extra-curriculars is to prove to them that you’re a strong leader. If your job already allows that, then you might be OK. (My own personal example: I was living in Hong Kong when I was applying and so my ability to volunteer was basically Nil since I didn’t speak Cantonese, but my work accomplishments more than made up for it).

Q9 (part 2 of 2): Now, if you have NO history at ALL of doing any extra-curriculars (e.g. even in college), then the onus is on you to prove "Brand Traits" like empathy, initiative, etc. via the other facets of your application. To be very clear -- people think that "Oh, I once tutored a kid for 6 months, I should totally put that on my resume since it will make a big difference!" <-- it won’t. Extra-curriculars only move the needle if an "almost strong" candidate needs to prove leadership, *OR* if the extra-curricular is A Truly Big Deal.

Question: For a small Business owner, is it necessary to cite revenue figures or any client citations in the resume.


Q10 (part 1 of 2): So -- first of all, you MUST disclose revenue figures in the application form itself, so there’s no getting around that...

Q10 (part 2 of 2): In terms of whether or not you list it on the resume, YES, my preference would be to put revenues on the resume if they are significant (e.g. let’s say... over US $1 million / year).... And Big Name Clients are an ABSOLUTE MUST if your business does not have a strong brand name, since it signals to me as a reader that your business must be doing SOMETHING right if it was able to attract big-name clients. Listing important clients, revenue size, employee size, and/or big-name VC investors is often the only way that start-up employees can prove their company is strong vs. people working for Big Name Companies.

Q11 - how does it affect your app if your resume does not reflect blue-chip companies?


Q11 (part 1 of 2): Similar to people who have their own companies, working for a no-name company is, YES, a challenge but NO, is NOT necessarily application death...

Q11 (part 2 of 2): Business schools are looking for people who have made an IMPACT. So if you work for a smaller company, things might still be OK *IF* you have really moved the needle at that place. Think of the application like a see-saw / balance-scale: The smaller the company you work for, the bigger of a splash you need to have made there. Having had a lot of impact (e.g. being able to say: "I helped increase revenues 20%") will be useful since you will be expected to be a "Big Fish in a Small Pond".

Q12 - Should you have an objective in the resume? - I will get this one Maria. NO! - your objective is to get into the school.


HAHAHAHA -- thanks Souvik, re: Q12 -- yeah, your "objective" is obviously to get into b-school... so, uh... no need to waste precious real estate on that :)

Hello Maria, I would like to know your view on a older candidates resume who has 12 yrs of exp and applying for full time program. what does older candidates need to be cautious about in resume.


Q13 (part 1 of maybe 2 or 3): So, as you know, candidates with over 8 years of experience rarely get accepted to full-time MBA programs. This is for a million different reasons, but the key ones is that post-MBA recruiters don’t want older employees at the post-MBA job level (and vice-versa -- as a 34 year old MBA grad, how would you feel about reporting to someone who’s, say, 29?).

Q13 (part 2 of 3): Also, the expectation for impact is MUCH higher for older candidates. Since MBA programs are looking for people who are *already* on a rocket-ship trajectory (Business School is meant to add fuel to someone who is already on a rocket-ship; it is NOT meant to put people on to a rocket-ship for the first time)... the tricky thing with older candidates is that if you are TOO accomplished, then what will you get out of the program? And if you aren’t accomplished enough, then "Well, um, not to be rude but what is wrong with this person that they are 12 years post-graduation and yet are at the same level as our other candidates with only 4 years of experience?)

Q13 (part 3 of 3): SO, therefore, more seasoned candidates need to show a LOT of leadership impact... to show that you are indeed on a rocket-ship, BUT then the BIG IMPORTANT PART of the application for you actually is NOT the resume (I mean, yes, it’s still super-important, but)... for YOU the "Why MBA?" part of the application will be key. Specifically, "Why a full-time MBA program where you will be surrounded by 27 year old kids who have a lot less experience than you do and, um, aren’t they going to irritate you? What are you going to learn from them?" vs. "A part-time MBA program with people who are more like you?"

Is significant amount of social work very important in anyone’s resume?


Q14: I touched upon this in my answers to Q9, but I will differ from other admissions consultants when I say that no, I don’t think a ton of social work really matters AS LONG AS the professional accomplishments are jaw-dropping. Professional impact >> Social impact any day of the week. NOW, here’s the thing: A lot of people have awesome leadership potential, BUT for whatever reason, their jobs do NOT allow them to "prove" that they are leaders (e.g. if the company is super-stringent about who gets to lead projects). In *THAT* case, then yes -- using an extra-curricular experience to PROVE LEADERSHIP can be wonderful. I just had a client get in off of the waitlist at Wharton a few days ago -- this person’s work experiences were solid (but not, like "top 1%" mind-blowing, to be honest), HOWEVER, they had taken on a SIGNIFICANT leadership role with a well-known non-profit for several years, and IMHO I am guessing that this made the difference. So in sum, it’s not strictly necessary, I don’t think, but... the reason SO many people focus on it is that it’s the only chance they have to prove to schools that: "Yoo hoo! I am SUPER leadershippy, but it’s just that I work for a company that won’t let me shine as much as I COULD be shining!"

Q: Do you need a short summary section on top?


Q15: After the chat, you can watch the YouTube video I created for GMATClub in preparation for today’s chat (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcsnmHRWIBo&t=24s), but NOPE, there is NO need for a summary section for, I’d say, 95% of candidates. The ONLY time I would advocate a "Summary" section is if someone has REALLY zig-zagged All Over The Place professionally, and feels the need to write a ~2 line explanation that connects the dots. Note however, that the *ESSAYS* often provide a way to connect those dots, so even career zig-zaggers don’t even need it, most of the time.

And NOBODY SHOULD HAVE A "SUMMARY OF SKILLS" section, since the skills you have now aren’t relevant for what business school AdComs are looking for. Nobody cares that you are good at BOTH PHP *and* SQL.

Is resume the place to explain major change in work field ? Lets say that in year 1 I was working in tech and in year 2 I started working as a teacher. Where should I talk about this change ?


Q16: Hi workout! I think your question came in before I wrote my answer to Q15 :) That explanation would probably go into the essays. If it was only ONE job change in your career, then that’s SUPER DUPER common and so it’s not worth explaining in the resume, but would instead go into the career narrative you construct in the essays.

What ’Education’ information should be included on a resume for applicants 5 or more years removed from graduating? (e.g. GPA, academic distinctions such Dean’s List, Magna Cum Laude, etc.) Should undergrad leadership positions such as VP of an organization or student legislator be included?


Q17: So, GPA will only go on the resume if it’s "at or near" a school’s average (e.g. 3.6+). Honors definitely go there, BUT if someone won SEVERAL academic honors, no need to list every single one, since they may all appear on the transcript. YES, school leadership positions go there too, but again , do not list every. single. thing. you. did. ... but rather only the ones where you made a real impact. SO, e.g. "Member, marketing club" should probably not go on there, but "VP, ClubName: expanded club membership by 80% by creating a new mentorship program with alums" is more "Resume-worthy"

Any reason to include a hardcore engineering research paper?


Q18: in general, no, I would not include a hardcore engineering paper, since you are applying to business school, not engineering school :) On a less-flippant note, usually engineering studies are done as a SOLITARY pursuit, and so therefore do not show "leadership" in terms of "Oh, I helped make a big positive change around me." Now, if the paper did create deep change in your field, OR if, say, your adviser wanted you to do X because that is industry practice but you invented an innovative new idea and then persuaded her to let you pursue it, then perhaps mention it (since it does show leadershippy traits), but be sure to focus on the "EQ" aspects of it. Usually though, engineering research is not relevant to me, since it doesn’t answer the questions I have about your business leadership potential.

A follow-up, can you give a sense (or examples) what are super leadership creds for various levels of school? (Top 10, 20 etc.)


Q19 (part 1 of 2): So, if someone needs strong extra-currics to make up for a weaker professional profile, I know that "IMPACT" is a word I’m using a lot here, but, in sum....it’s all about impact.

Q19 (part 2 of ...oops! looks like I’ll need 3 parts here): So, I’m not going to say: "What sorts of extra currics do people who get into top 10 schools have", since it ranges from "zero" to "huge", BUT... what I will give are examples of times I think extra-curricular involvement has helped tip the scales in favor of a candidate who would not have otherwise gotten accepted...

Q19 (part 3 of 3): The candidate I mentioned earlier in the chat did some volunteering with a non-profit that, while it’s NOT a "household name", *IS* a non-profit that is in the higher education space and therefore AdCom members are familiar with it. This non-profit puts on about 3 major events per year. This person not only held increasingly important leadership roles in that non-profit over the course of 4+ years, but took on leadership of 1 of the 3 major events and helped triple its results. Another example that occurred to me off the top of my head is a candidate who helped launch a significant multi-national initiative with a well-known regional non-profit. That is, the non-profit was well-known in New England, but this person, who lives on another continent, helped spearhead a New Partnership with that non-profit that expanded it into a new part of the world and I think ultimately doubled or tripled its impact.

People are often too limited when they think of "involvement" as being "volunteering for a non-profit". But "involvement" can also happen in the work-place as well, e.g. "I convinced my company’s HR department to re-evaluate our hiring practices for women to try to find and eliminate sources of unconscious bias. % of women hired increased by 3x" <-- and yes, this was a male engineer who pushed his company to change how it hired such that gender bias could be reduced, and when the company implemented those practices (e.g. coding exercises without a name attached; removing names from resumes so that gender was not immediately obvious) it found (UM HI, NO SUPRISE HERE), that the % of women engineers it hired sky-rocketed. This person did NOT have a lot of "Extra-curriculars" in the standard sense, but this is an example of "community engagement" that got him interview invites at 4 out of 5 top schools and a top 3 acceptance.


For Military/Veteran applicants, is there a most common or most detrimental mistake you’ve seen when it comes to crafting a resume that is digestable by adcoms unfamiliar with the military?


The final question about military candidates: the biggest mistake is assuming that I, as a civilian, have any idea whatsoever about 1) what the different titles mean 2) what the different acronyms mean. I think a big challenge for military candidates is that often, people in the military do "Well" when they follow orders.... but business schools aren’t necessarily looking for "rules-followers", but more people who raise their hand to propose a new idea or make a cool suggestion. Since the rigidity of the military does not often allow for this, then instead military candidates need to focus on things like: # of people you oversee, or the $$$$ of budget overseen (if applicable). In sum, it will be about synthesizing your accomplishments and *explaining* them in a way that highlights size of impact and/or leadership potential. You may also need to provide some explanation for what different acronyms mean. For example, I once worked with someone who was part of a DoD division that *he* assumed was a household name, but I can assure you, it was not... and so we had to include in the resume: "Work for the ABC divison of the DoD, which is responsible for __________ "

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Re: How to craft a great MBA application resume - FAQ Edition &nbs [#permalink] 30 Jul 2018, 22:13
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