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Your 2023 Guide: How to Write an MBA Resume That Stands Out

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Writing a winning MBA application resume is your ticket to getting accepted to your dream MBA program.

Your resume is a chance to showcase your business acumen, education, and professional experience, as well as your soft skills.

One thing’s for sure: Putting in the time and effort to craft a strong MBA resume will stand you in good stead for competitive programs at top business schools like Harvard and Stanford.

But figuring out what to include in your MBA resume can sometimes feel overwhelming.

You’re probably wondering how long your resume should be, what you should include, and/or whether you need a different resume than the kind you’ve used for a job application.

This article will explain how to showcase your skills and create a competitive advantage that sets you apart from your peers and gives you the best chance of becoming a successful MBA applicant.

Read on to learn about the best MBA resume format and how to make your MBA application resume stand out, including:

  • What to include in your MBA application resume
  • How to structure your MBA resume
  • How to craft an MBA resume objective
  • How to best highlight your work experience, education, and skills
  • Real MBA resume example

How an MBA resume differs from a job resume

The first thing you might be wondering is if a resume for an MBA application is the same resume that you use to apply for a job.

The short answer is no.

While a career resume seeks to inform how you can meet a job description or fulfill certain roles and responsibilities, an MBA resume should communicate your value and impact on the business world, today and in the future.

An admissions committee wants to see that you’re a way-shower. They want to see your capacity for leadership and innovation, that you can work well with teams, and that you can use critical-thinking skills to achieve success.

Understanding this goal will not only help inform how you will structure your resume but also what to include and how much time to spend on it.

Why spend time on your MBA resume

Among MBA programs from across the globe, the MBA resume is second only to academic transcripts and entrance exams when it comes to the MBA interview process.

What to include in your MBA resume

When it comes to your MBA application, the MBA resume is your time to shine. You’ll want to focus on including the most relevant information about your past education and professional experience.

Xavier Arola Perez, head of career services and entrepreneurship at GBSB Global Business School, recommends including six basic components in your MBA resume:

1. Contact information

2. Objective/summary

3. Work experience

4. Education

5. Technical skills

6. Achievement/awards

Although you may have worked in a variety of jobs and volunteering roles before applying for your MBA degree, in this short document you’ll want to only select examples that highlight your business leadership, impact, and skills.

“Include specific accomplishments and achievements that set you apart and that are transferrable to the MBA program for which you are applying,” says Jerry Wang, associate director of career and leadership for MBA programs at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Concentrate on examples where you can demonstrate business leadership and growth to help admissions committees see the value you offer their MBA program and easily determine your aptitude for business school.

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How to structure your MBA application resume

You want your MBA resume to be clear, simple, and easy to read for admissions committees.

It’s best to structure your MBA resume with your contact information and objective at the top, followed by your education and most recent work experiences, and concluding with a desirable skills and accolades section.

List your education and work experience in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent accomplishments first.

Use bullet points, lines, and headers to clearly identify the different sections and articulate your applicable experience.

You can use lines and headers to break up your resume and bullet points can be used to summarize key points and stress important information as well as increase readability.

For example, you may use a bullet point for each of the schools in your education section, or a list of bullet points to highlight business achievements or technical skills.

How to write an eye-catching MBA resume objective

Think of your resume objective as your elevator pitch.

It’s a succinct paragraph (2-4 sentences) at the top of your resume that briefly describes your career history and what differentiates you from your peers.

Essentially a resume summary, your objective should describe the value you bring to an MBA cohort and how your experience will best serve the programs you’re applying for.

Consider adapting your objective for each application you’re submitting and be sure to use any applicable keywords that align with the program.

Overall, see this section as a way to differentiate yourself from the masses and stand out during the application process.

Example

MBA candidate and driven finance professional with over six years of experience designing successful investment portfolios for top-tier clients. Honored as top account executive for last three years based on an average return of 17 percent and a 100 percent client retention rate. Team lead, member of the negotiations committee, and founded sustainability initiative aimed at reducing waste and offsetting carbon footprint.

How to describe work experience on an MBA resume

The bulk of your MBA resume should be reserved to showcase your work experience and the growth of your career.

Start by listing the name of the organization, your job title, and how long you worked there.

Then, for each position, create a bullet point (2-6 bullet points) for each of your achievements in that role. Avoid making your list sound like a job description­—this is your chance to tell your story about the impact you’ve made and share important moments in your career.

“It's not your life story, but a summary of the key, relevant achievements,” notes Margaret O’Neill, head of careers at Cambridge Judge Business School.

Use key metrics and numbers that quantify what you’ve accomplished with the company, voluntary organization, or college society.

Focus on leadership, business administration, and how you contributed to the overall growth and success of the organization and use positive, action-oriented language to describe your outcomes.

“Try to clearly state the action you took, and the results achieved. Begin each bullet point with a strong action verb and be sure to highlight transferable skills and feature relevant keywords,” advises Beth Briggs, associate dean of career services at New York University (NYU) Stern School of Business.

A tried and tested MBA resume strategy is the PAR method, which involves stating the ‘Project’, ‘Action’, and ‘Result’ of each example you include as this can help to quantify your accomplishments.

Try to avoid these common MBA resume mistakes like including vague descriptions of your experiences that don’t present your talents in the best light.

Example

Oracle – Austin, TX | Product Marketing Manager | January 2018-Present

Increased annual product sales by 10% by designing, executing, and measuring integrated, multichannel marketing strategies that increase awareness, generate new leads, and nurture existing relationships.

How to write an education section of an MBA resume

If you feel that your work experience is less robust than you want, be sure to put your education section at the forefront of your MBA application resume. To start, include the following details:

  • School
  • Degree
  • Major/concentration
  • Any minors (if applicable)
  • Graduation date
  • GPA
  • Awards/honors (if applicable)

In addition, share any extracurricular activities, college societies, or study abroad opportunities that demonstrate your interests and business leaderships skills.

Discuss your studies and how your experience has prepared you for leadership in the business world.

Example

University of Virginia | Charlottesville, VA | Graduated May 2015

B.A. Economics, GPA: 4.0, summa cum laude

Study abroad: London, United Kingdom, January-May 2014

How to showcase your skills and awards

The final piece of your MBA resume is your opportunity to share the special skills and accolades that make you a desirable MBA applicant.

Discuss any awards you’ve received and how you earned this recognition.

List out any relevant certifications and your mastery level of the systems you utilize.

Make note of any publications that have published your work or quoted you for expertise.

This section can include highlights from either your education or work experience.

Use this section as a place to share the skills and accomplishments that make you unique and help distinguish your application from the pack.

Finally, make sure this section includes details that you’ll want to discuss more during your MBA interview.

Example

  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Fluent in English, Spanish, and French
  • Certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher

How to best format your MBA resume

Once you’ve added your information, it’s time to format your resume.

Since the average hiring manager spends just 7.4 seconds reviewing a resume, MBA admissions committees with stacks of MBA resumes to review are likely to take a similar approach.

The best way to ensure whoever is reviewing your MBA resume catches the most important details about you is to limit your resume to 1-2 pages.

Applicants with less than 10 years of professional experience may opt for a one-page resume, and two pages if you have more than this.

When considering your MBA resume format, remember that clean and concise is always best.

  • Font: Choose a legible font like Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial in 11 or 12 point size
  • Margins: One-inch margins
  • Line height: Approximately 1.0 line spacing
  • Details: Avoid complex charts or graphics that divert attention

This approach will stand you in good stead if the business school you’re applying for uses Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) systems or other software tools.

“You don't want the recruiter to spend time trying to orient themselves to your formatting. Boring is generally better unless you're applying for something in design or art,” says Jerry from UNC Kenan-Flagler.

If you want to add a pop of color at the top of your MBA application resume, then choose something that allows for a good level of contrast between the text and the page. Otherwise, a black and white MBA resume works perfectly well.

Differentiating your MBA resume for each business school

An MBA resume should always be specific and tailored to the program you’re applying for, so avoid handing in the same one you’ve used for jobs or other MBA applications.

Every business school has different values and specialties, so weave these elements into each resume to stand a good chance of impressing the MBA admissions committee.

For instance, if you’re applying for a business school that’s known for its strength in marketing, you might want to outline the targeted advertising projects you’ve worked on during your professional career as a marketing manager or how you oversaw a college society’s annual marketing budget.

Meanwhile, if you’re applying for one of the best MBA programs renowned for entrepreneurship, you’d want to focus more on the ways you’ve engaged with entrepreneurship or worked on a business idea with a colleague or classmate.

Tailor your resume to each application and highlight the experience and skills that prove that you’re one of the talented professionals that deserves a seat in this specific MBA program.

To get more top MBA resume tips and access MBA resume examples and templates, download the free BusinessBecause Resume Guide: 10 Steps To A Winning Resume.

Next Steps

Your MBA resume is a key component of the admissions process and is an opportunity to set yourself apart from the crowd.

See this as a chance to convince admissions committees that you’re the best candidate for their program by carefully crafting a story that shares your exceptional skills and experiences.

Ready to dive into the other components of your MBA application? Use this interactive tool to find out which aspects of your application carry the most weight when it comes to admissions decisions so you can focus your time and attention on the sections that matter most.

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