Section 6: Your Résumé (and your own custom fonts)

from How to get into a Top-15 MBA Program by Tim Darling

Why is working on your résumé so important? Because schools want students who can get the best jobs when they graduate. When you graduate and look for jobs, your résumé will look identical to the one you apply with.. except you'll have an MBA. The MBA will make a bit of difference, but the rest of your work experience, education, goals, awards, etc. will still be a determining factor. Therefore make sure your résumé when you apply is one that you'd be proud to hand out to recruiters when you are looking for a job upon graduation. Along these lines, I've heard that consulting firms often care more about your undergraduate GPA than your graduate GPA (possibly because full-time job offers can be made even before you start your second year as a graduate student). The top consulting and investment banking firms have been known to ask for SAT scores!

Work on your résumé a few minutes a night, twice a week, for many months. You'll be surprised how much you can improve it. What are you missing? What wording can be improved or shortened? How can you better format the look of it? What are you saying that you don't need to say -- leave out most technical details. Work on it and then don't look at it for a couple weeks. Then come back and review it as if you are on an admissions or hiring committee. Talk about the consequences of your actions and projects. Use good action words: Orchestrated, constructed, architected.

Does your résumé show growth, consistency of purpose, and a significant amount of work in a given, relevant field?

It took me months of work to get my résumé to a point where I thought it was the best it could be. I removed some of the technical jargon and details I had in there initially: if you're thinking of getting an MBA, you're thinking of moving more into management positions and you need to sell yourself that way.

You résumé for MBA Admission will probably be a little different from the résumé you will use to apply to jobs. Many things will be the same. Here are some differences:
  1. Make it one page. Some schools, like MIT/Sloan require that. If you don't have the 'executive summary' ability to sum up yourself in 1 page, you will probably be rejected. (It's OK to keep a similar résumé around that's 2 pages for future use).
  2. Do not include your salary on your résumé. MBA programs want successful people who have scaled up the corporate ladder and led people and innovated... and who make $30k/year. That way, when they make $150k/yr after graduating, the school can say that they added the huge difference to the pre- and post-salaries. Regardless of whether you make a lot or a little, don't put it on your résumé.
  3. Incidentally, the Business Week online pages about each school sometimes include the salary information of incoming students. For Michigan in 2005, it was $56k (average 5 year's work experience) for full-time and and $75k (average of 7 years' work experience) for part-time.
  4. Put on your extra-curricular activities and service activities. You shouldn't just 'list' them in your essays, so if you don't put them here, where will the committee see them?
Your MBA résumé and any other résumé you use in the future should be similar in these ways:
  1. Use a standard heading and chronological format. Put your name in bold in the middle, your address on one side, your phone number and email on the other.
  2. SHOW GROWTH! Say if you were promoted. Say if you moved from a team member to a team leader. It's better to say you started out small and grew than to 'pretend' you started at the top.
  3. Quantify! "Directed the merger of 2 companies totaling $1.5 billion". "Generated over $1,000,000 in funding".
  4. Use 'numerical' numbers. Usually in formal text, you write 'two' instead of '2'. This rule applies up to and including 'one hundred and one'. However, you want your numbers to JUMP off the page on a résumé. Which of these two leaves the biggest impact on a quick glance?:
  5. The rule of 3 - if possible, try to group 3 bullets at a time together, it's the most appealing number to the eye.
  6. Use résumé-speak. Leave off the "I" at the beginning of sentences; start with action words; always end each line with a period (even though, with no subject, they're not technically sentences). Use lots of bullets.
  7. Use these sections, in this order when applying for an MBA:
  8. For your name at the top of your résumé and similar: don't be too formal or "stuffy". If you go by "Jim Smith" instead of "James Smith III", then use the shorter version of your name.
  9. Buy Adobe Acrobat Full version and convert your Microsoft Word résumé into PDF on your computer. Then send out the PDF version. Many MBA online applications will convert Word to PDF for you, but why rely on them?
  10. Another reason for using Adobe Acrobat's converter on your computer is that you can tell it to embed fonts. If you want a really cool-looking résumé, find a font or two that you like on www.adobe.com (Font page) and buy it and install it on your computer. Then use it in your résumé and essays.

Section 7: Essays (page 1)

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All text and pictures copyright © 2005-2006 Tim Darling.