A common misconception about applying to business school, experts say, is the idea that you need to have a certain type of work experience on your resume to get accepted.
Although MBA students often have a finance or consulting background and some work for well-known companies, experts say an elite pedigree is not a requirement for admission to a competitive MBA program.
“Every work experience you have can be extremely valuable,” says Barbara Coward, founder of the MBA 360 ° Admissions Consulting company, adding that a key factor is the level of insight you can share with future classmates based on your professional background – regardless of which business function you specialize in or what industry you work in.
“You don’t need to be a product manager at SpaceX to get admissions committees excited about your background,” says Coward, a former assistant director of recruitment at the Sellinger School of Business and Management at Loyola University Maryland. “Even regulatory trends in tax accounting are important for your classmates to know about.”
Tips for Constructing a Quality Resume
There is no rigid template for creating a compelling MBA resume, although some MBA programs prefer one-page resumes and a particular format. But it is vital that the resume conveys the impact of an applicant’s work, Coward emphasizes.
“A resume inherently is all about me, but in business school today, they’re looking for students who will be team players and contribute to the growth and learning of others,” she says. “So make sure that on your resume, you’ve shown it’s not just all about me and what I’ve achieved but how I have helped my group and my community.”
MBA hopefuls should design their resume to clarify about their identity and achievements, she adds.
“I always say that resumes should not be a scavenger hunt for the reader,” Coward adds. “Make it easy for them to make sense of your career so they can advocate for you. Be clear about your value proposition.”
Experts say that MBA hopefuls should identify their greatest selling points as candidates and use that information to determine which aspects of their work experience to emphasize.
J. Absinthia Vermut, a 2018 graduate of the Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College in Massachusetts, says when she crafted her MBA application resume, she chose to highlight her accomplishments as a business owner.
Vermut, the founder and CEO of Absinthia’s Bottled Spirits, a liquor company, tailored her resume to her audience at Babson, a top-ranked business school in the US News Best Entrepreneurship Program ranking.
Vermut adds that when she arrived at B-school, it was rare for her to encounter a classmate who had experience in her industry. “Having a consumer product goods company … was definitely a unique perspective, and it really helped me,” she says.
The expertise Vermut gained before B-school as a liquor company founder was especially beneficial when she took courses on supply chain and venture capital issues, she says.
Because Vermut was running a company while at an entrepreneurially oriented B-school, she was able to grasp the concepts taught in her classes faster than someone without that experience and could immediately apply the lessons learned in her courses, she says.
The key to writing a strong MBA resume is telling a compelling story, says Judith Hodara, co-founder of the Fortuna Admissions consulting group.
“I would say it is not necessary to be an entrepreneur to do an MBA focused on entrepreneurship, but you need to have a story that really shows why this makes sense for you as a next step,” explains Hodara, a former acting co- director of MBA admissions at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
Experts note that an MBA application resume needs to align with what is written in other application materials and said during the admissions interview. Such a resume must also be entirely truthful, without exaggerations or fabrications, experts warn, adding that dishonesty on a resume can have serious negative repercussions.
A Look at a Real MBA Resume That Worked
Below is the two-page resume Vermut used in her successful application to Babson. It is annotated with comments by Vermut about why she structured the resume as it appears, and it also includes expert critiques from Hodara and Coward.
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