A good MBA resume is the key to an impressive MBA application that gets you accepted into the program of your dreams. Along with your , your resume will create a narrative that will capture the admissions committees' eye. A resume for your MBA application is different than any other resume you would have previously created, whether for job applications or other educational programs. It’s not just about knowing . You have to customize your MBA resume to make it crisp, informative, and precise, to convey the unique value that you can bring to your chosen program.
In this blog, we will describe what makes MBA resume unique, what format and template to use, what to include, how to write it, and tips to make your resume stand out.
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The MBA resume is one of the key components of any business school application. According to many services, a lot of applicants focus on the other components of the MBA application process such as their transcript, GMAT/GRE scores, letters of recommendation, application form questions, or interview prep, while ignoring the unique nature of the MBA resume. A common misconception is that you can simply include your existing resume as part of your MBA application, without any customizations. However, an MBA resume is a unique document that has to be carefully crafted to maximize your chances of impressing the admissions committee. It doesn’t matter how impressive your application is, whether you’ve recently graduated from one of the or achieved amazing professional success, a stellar resume is essential to getting an acceptance letter from your dream MBA school.
An MBA resume is different from a regular job resume as it does not demonstrate functional skills or specific qualifications, but rather showcases your business impact, leadership potential, and collaboration skills. It is a concrete list of your achievements and experiences that tell a story about your suitability for business school and why you have chosen to apply to an MBA program.
In a resume for a job application, recruiters usually want to see technical skills and employment qualifications that prove you can do specific type of work. In that situation, you’re competing with other applicants with similar backgrounds. When it comes to MBA applications, you are competing against applicants from diverse professional and educational backgrounds, so there are no specific key words you need to highlight. This makes it all the more difficult to know exactly what to include.
MBA resumes aren’t scanned by machines, but are reviewed by members of the admission committee, who will judge the resume as a whole to get an impression of the applicant. That’s why an MBA resume has to present a holistic picture of your life, covering your achievements across different aspects of your personal life and professional career.
An MBA resume needs to be short and effective, ideally no more than a single page. Creating a memorable one-page resume that successfully highlights your unique suitability for business school is a difficult feat. In that single page, you have to be able to pack in enough information to create a clear, cohesive picture of the value that you are bringing to the business school you’re applying to.
Importance of an MBA resume in a business school application
Your resume is the central component of your MBA application. It serves as an introductory document that brings together all the key information about your life, experiences, achievements, and skills. It serves two important purposes in the application process. First, it works as an initial screening tool. Before reading your short answers, essays, or any other application components, admissions’ committees will first review your resume. They want to see if your general background, profile, and achievements make your application worth considering.
Second, if your application proceeds to the interview stage, the resume you submitted serves as a guide for the interviewers. This is because a resume functions like the blueprint of any MBA grad school application, and are typically based on the resume. Essentially, the resume content dictates the interview content, especially since a lot of MBA admissions interviews use the closed interview format. In this format, the interviewer only has access to your resume and does not see any other part of your application.
Now that you know what an MBA resume and how important it is in the MBA application process, let’s dive into how exactly to format and complete it.
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When it comes to your MBA resume, it’s extremely important to give it the right format and look. Remember that admissions committees review hundreds of resumes for each admissions cycle. Admissions committees for prestigious MBA programs in and may scan thousands. They won’t spend more than 5 minutes scanning your resume, and within the first 30 seconds, they will form an impression that’s difficult to change! In fact, they will also be judging your choices in terms of formatting and templates as an indicator of your professionalism and communication skills. What’s the point of having an amazing list of achievements if your MBA resume is rejected based on an off-putting aesthetic or formatting errors?
Let’s go over three key factors that can ensure the perfect look of your resume.
MBA Resume Format
Let’s start with the basics of how to correctly format your MBA resume. The key here is to create a clean, professional, compact, well-organized document. The following list captures important considerations to keep in mind:
MBA Resume Layout (Sections)
For the admissions committees, your MBA resume is the first indicator of your business acumen and communication skills . That’s why it’s important to have a logical layout with a clear flow of information and well-organized sections. The reviewer should be impressed by your ability to communicate effectively via your one-page resume.
The most appropriate way to organize information in your MBA resume is to arrange it in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent experience in each section.
The type of sections you include in your MBA resume will depend on your level of experience. Typically, there are two types of MBA applicants – experienced applicants with substantial professional achievements and experiences, and applicants with less than two years of professional experience, who recently graduated from another degree.
Click each tab to view the key MBA resume sections depending on your level of experience:
OK, so now you’ve got a great MBA resume template. What do you include? This part might seem obvious – if you’re thinking of applying for an MBA, you likely have an impressive list of business and/or educational achievements. You’ll just add it all in, right? Not exactly! When it comes to writing your MBA resume, what you leave out is as important as what you include. You can’t just blindly stuff in a list of every single thing you’ve ever done. You’ve got to carefully curate what information to add and how to communicate it.
Let’s go over each of the MBA resume sections.
This one is pretty obvious – include the following:
The above list can be tweaked depending on your specific profile. For example, if you have a portfolio of significant work that you want to highlight, such as your design portfolio on Dribble or creative projects on Behance, you may also choose to remove your portfolio link from this section and pull it out into its own separate section.
Here’s a sample of how this section should look:
Mary Elliot – Senior Marketing Director. 201-668-3292. [email protected] https://www.linkedin.com/in/mary-elliot-2837109
Essentially, your statement should be a succinct summary of your experiences, goals, and best achievements. It should grab the reader’s interest and make them read on. Most importantly, it should highlight what sets you apart as an applicant.
Follow this format:
Adjective + Detailed professional or educational title + Number of years’ experience (if applicable) + MBA application goal + top achievement (work or education) + (optional) what you bring to the table from your education/experience
Here, too, you can tweak the above format as per your specific profile. For example, an applicant with a pharmaceutical business profile who holds an M.Pharm degree, might want to include his/her educational degree along with his/her professional title, as both are significant to his/her MBA journey.
Here’s an example:
Driven Marketing Executive with 4+ years of experience in overseeing digital product launches and social media marketing campaigns. Developed and launched 7 online campaigns for Deluxe Products that resulted in 40% improvement in company revenue. Increased customer retention by 56% over a period of two years. Seeking to leverage Harvard’s knowledge framework to innovate new marketing solutions for the evolving digital landscape.
When writing this section, focus on concrete, important results and skills instead of just including a whole lot of adjectives. At the same time, this isn’t the time to get into too many details. Think about what defines your business goals and your experiences so far, and only add the most significant details. Though this section comes near the top of your MBA resume, ideally, you should write it last, AFTER you’ve already created your resume. That way you can review your overall resume and write a resume summary that perfectly highlights the key aspects.
For experienced applicants, this is a key section that should compromise about 2/3 of your MBA resume. As explained earlier, your professional experience should ideally be listed in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent experience.
Remember that this section should highlight your upward career trajectory and industry growth. So, start by adding the company name, position and time spent at each company as a sub-heading and underneath that, mention promotions as separate levels.
Under each sub-heading or level, cover only your most significant work achievements that distinguish you, expressed in precise bullet points, no more than 5 per level. As this is a resume to demonstrate your suitability as an MBA applicant, avoid talking only about responsibilities; instead, focus on concrete achievements that highlight your leadership and impact on business. The more specific details can be highlighted in your essays, , application, and interview.
Here’s an example:
Zyna Deluxe, Houston, TX
- Managed a team of ten to develop and execute successful social media campaigns resulting in client revenue gains of 40%
- Implemented a successful multi-platform SEO campaign that improved organic hits by 50% and brought 10,000 new subscribers in 1 year
- Increased conversion rates by 30% by innovating targeted campaigns based on qualitative data analysis models
This section will be more detailed for applicants with less experience, but even applicants with extensive work experience should include the key highlights of their education. These should include details of every degree you hold, including both undergraduate and postgraduate study.
Add a new entry for every degree and include the name of the degree, university, graduation date, major, minor (if applicable), GPA, honors, and achievements.
For applicants with more work experience, you can choose to keep each entry brief and highlight only the key achievements (if any) along with any research work, projects etc. that show your leadership skills or exemplary business qualifications.
If you have less work experience, then the education section is the main component of your resume. Such applicants should expand on their key projects, research work, meaningful coursework, and impactful extracurricular achievements.
It is highly recommended that you add your GPA for each degree, especially if it’s impressive. You can consider dropping it from your resume only if you have a less-than-average GPA that you’d rather not highlight or if you have obtained extensive work experience that proves your capabilities. However, most recent graduates will not have this option, as their GPA is a key indicator of their abilities. If required, you can mention the difficulty level of your coursework to provide context around your GPA. You can also include other key achievements to mitigate a poor GPA.
Here’s an example:
BA in English Literature, Minor in Business
University of California, Los Angeles, CA
- GPA 3.8, High Honors
- Winner of Dean’s Award for collaborative research paper “Evolution of Privacy in Advertisements and the Impact on Social Media Business Practices”
- Selected for the Adam Wright Business Leadership Program
Don’t add details of your education prior to your undergrad degree. This isn’t a ; details of your school life are not likely to be relevant to your business achievements at a later stage in life. If there are any significant achievements from this period that you wish to highlight, you can do so in your personal statement or essay. You can check our blog to understand how you can do this.
Additional Information and Achievements
This section is where you highlight your most significant extracurricular achievements. It should include a robust variety of activities that highlight the unique experiences you wish to convey to the admissions committee. Don’t just add any and all extracurriculars – focus on adding high-stake accomplishments that show your focus, ability to apply yourself, strong work ethic, leadership potential, and collaboration skills. Every point added here should be impressive and unique. These entries should also be verifiable and back up the contents of your personal statement, essays, and other components of your application.
These are some of the key significant achievements and experiences you can highlight in this section: business relevant certifications, high performing projects, associations/clubs with leadership roles, media pieces where you were positively featured, publications, awards, conferences where you presented, industry blogs/vlogs with a significant readership, languages and sports/hobby achievements or recognitions.
How do you know what’s worth including and what should be discarded? Think about whether this experience is unique to you or whether it is something many people have accomplished. For example, simply running a marathon isn’t a big deal; but climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is. Similarly, simply playing a sport recreationally isn’t an achievement – but did you start and grow your own team and/or lead your team to multiple victories? The latter would be considered as a relevant achievement for your MBA resume.
Here are a few examples for this section:
- Member of the American Marketing Association Presented at the AMA Annual Conference 2019 on the topic of Growing Cross-Platform Social Media Engagement via Quantitative Data Analysis
- Volunteer Marketing Consultant at the Center for Breast Cancer Awareness Implemented a social media donations campaign that contributed to 30% of the annual budget
- Captain of the LA Timberwolves Collegiate Gymnastics team from 2012-2014 Led them to two consecutive victories at the annual NCAA tournaments
This should be a bullet-form list of your key skills. Prioritize adding industry or business skills and avoid adding generic soft skills or functional/role-specific skills.
Here are a few examples of what you can add:
Remember, do not include too many skills or it will look like you’re just trying to stuff your resume. Only add the ones that are easily verifiable via your experiences and achievements.
While the above are the mandatory sections in all MBA resumes, there are a few optional sections you can add depending on your unique profile. For example, you might have numerous creative projects you want to talk about in more detail; or maybe, you want to highlight multiple significant volunteer experiences as the USP of your application. In such cases, rather than stuffing this information into the “Additional Achievements” section where it may get lost on the page, you can opt to add a separate section such as “Projects” or “Volunteer Experience”. Remember, the following sections are optional and work best for those with a unique area of expertise. If this doesn’t apply to you, consider adding this information in your “Additional Achievements” section.
(Optional) Volunteer Experience
Volunteer experience is not mandatory but is highly desirable for an MBA applicant. It can be a great way to prove your passion in a particular area and also to gain measurable leadership skills and collaboration experience. The key here is to link between your volunteer experiences and measurable business impact. So rather than just saying “Volunteered at Adult Literacy Awareness Society”, you should try and highlight what you achieved there, for example “As a volunteer at the Adult Literacy Awareness Society, created a system to leverage cross-platform user data to improve community outreach by 30%”.
If you didn’t have time for volunteer work, you can also choose to highlight the impact you had beyond your academic record and professional responsibilities. For example, you can mention if you organized university groups to help underrepresented communities, led a campaign to raise awareness of a specific issue, etc. Admissions boards love to see volunteer work on a resume application, especially if it aligns with the values and mission statement of the MBA program.
This isn’t mandatory, so many candidates skip this section in their MBA resume. But if you do have any worthwhile volunteer experiences, it can make you stand out from the crowd.
(Optional) Awards & Certificates
You should consider pulling this out into a separate section only if you have a significant list of stand-out awards and certificates such as honor roll, dean’s list, college fair or subject-related awards, volunteer certificates, industry awards, and so on.
(Optional) Portfolio/ Key Projects
This type of section might be more relevant for those who have a solid line-up of impressive creative, academic, or professional projects and want to highlight them. Otherwise, you can simply include a portfolio link in your contact information or add a couple of project related bullets in the Additional Achievements and Information section of your MBA resume.
Finally, after you have created your MBA resume, you should also draft an appropriate . It should demonstrate why you want to apply for this specific business school, why you are uniquely suited to it, a summary of your background, and your ultimate career goals. Avoid repeating your resume in your cover letter as much as possible. Let the cover letter be more of an introduction that leads into the resume.
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As mentioned earlier, the admissions committees at MBA programs look at an applicant’s MBA resume as an indicator of their communication skills. To impress them, it’s important to make your MBA resume substantive, economical, and precise. Avoid cluttering up the page with filler words. Stick to adding bulleted lists to convey the key achievements for each experience/project and don’t add more than 2-3 lines per bullet.
A good tip here is to make sure your bullets focus on actions, intentions, and results. Begin each bullet with impactful action verbs that highlight leadership, collaboration, innovation, strategy, negotiation, and achievement. This means that rather than leading with action verbs such as “responsible for” “was part of” and so on, try to use action verbs such as “achieved”, “created” “performed” “organized” “increased”, etc.
There should be an overarching narrative in your resume and each bullet should contribute to building the story. Leave out the functional responsibilities and, instead, focus on the key business goals and measurable results expressed in solid facts and figures. For example, rather than just saying “Responsible for monitoring the customer service department” try saying “Implemented a cross-department customer service protocol that reduced direct labor costs by 32%.”
If possible, try to talk about the long-term results of your achievements. For example, if a new management technique you suggested is still in use or if you created a new company organizational chart that demonstrably increased efficiency and productivity, make sure to include that in the resume.
Here are a few additional tips and tricks to help you refine and perfect your MBA resume!
- Avoid irrelevant job descriptions that will take up unnecessary space in your resume and add nothing towards conveying your unique value. Instead, focus on measurable, verifiable impact and results-oriented descriptions that demonstrate your value. For example, a bullet point like “Performed impact analysis for training projects” doesn’t really add anything to your resume. Instead, you can say “Completed impact analysis for training projects, highlighting gaps in training that helped to improve workplace productivity by 40%”
- Wherever possible, illustrate with examples, figures, and numbers. The rule to follow here is: “show don’t tell”. On a resume, numbers grab attention and stay with the readers. It really helps to quantify your achievements. For example, rather than saying “Completed website redesign for fashion merchandizing client that significantly improved sales” say “Completed website redesign for Happy Luxury Brands that helped to increase their SEO traffic by 35% and led to 20% increase in sales over 3 months”.
- Always focus on what YOU contributed rather than the general growth of companies you worked at. Avoid saying that you were “part of a team that achieved a growth of…”. Instead, point out exactly what you did that led to quantifiable results. For example, “Developed a cross-functional digital communication that reduced project completion timelines by 3 months”.
- Skip the technical jargon such as role-specific certifications, technical skills, etc. Remember that the person reading the resume may not even be from your field and technical qualifications are most likely meaningless to them. What they want to know is the business impact of your every achievement. So, try and highlight achievements that will be universally appreciated rather than focusing on a list of tasks and responsibilities.
- Focus on key differentiators wherever possible. What makes you unique? What did you do that no one else did? How do you stand out amongst your peers? Let this be the guide as you draft each section of your resume.
- Have an in-depth and holistic resume. Don’t just focus on one area such as education or professional experiences. Try to highlight your passions and achievements through many different activities and experiences.
- Don’t stuff your resume with impressive sounding words or exaggerate minor achievements just to fill the space. At the same time, there’s no place for modesty in your MBA resume. Be clear and direct in communicating what makes you unique.
- Be completely honest. Honesty and integrity are two qualities all admissions boards consider non-negotiable. All your achievements should be easily verifiable.
- Check your resume format, template, and language before submitting it. Keep it clean and simple, in keeping with the submission guidelines (if any). There should be no errors or typos. In fact, it's even better if you have services look it over!
- If you have NDAs with your workplace, you might find it tough to write about your professional experience without violating confidentiality. For example, you may be forbidden from mentioning client names or specific figures. If that’s the case, don’t fret. It’s just a chance for you to get creative with your language. Instead of saying the client’s name, you can say “top fashion merchandizing brand”. Instead of mentioning specific figures, convey information in terms of percentages and approximate figures.
- If you’re running out of space, prioritize your professional experiences first. Also, you should talk more about your most recent experiences, professional or otherwise.
Remember that some schools require students to use pre-defined resume templates and won’t accept any other resume formats. Business schools may also have other specific requirements like how to name your resume file, how to format it, required length, and so on. Make sure you check the admissions requirements to confirm the exact requirements on the website of the schools you are applying to.
1. Can I use my regular resume as my MBA application resume?
No, it is not recommended that you submit your regular resume as part of your MBA application without making some edits to customize it for the MBA application process. An MBA resume should not focus on specific skills or functional strengths. Rather, it should highlight your business impacts, leadership potential, and collaboration experiences. Admissions boards are looking for the applicants’ unique business vision and what value they can bring to the business school they’re applying to.
2. How important is an MBA resume in my business school application?
Your MBA resume serves two purposes in your business school application. First, it works as a screening tool as it helps the admissions boards judge the suitability of applicants for business school based on their experiences so far. Second, it serves as a guide for interviewers during the interview portion of the admissions process. Applicants will be asked questions based on the information included in their resume.
3. What should an MBA resume include?
An MBA resume should include contact information, a resume summary, professional experience, education, additional achievements and activities and skills. If required, additional sections can be added to cover key projects, volunteer experience, portfolio, etc. The resume layout can vary from one applicant to the next, depending on the amount and kind of experience they have. Ultimately, the applicant’s own journey will dictate what information to include in the MBA resume.
4. How can I make my MBA resume look good?
First, make sure you use an appropriate template with the right font, spacing, borders, and color scheme. The look should be professional, clean, and uncluttered, with no garish colors or confusing fonts. Second, make sure your information is neatly organized into logical sections that flow in everse chronological order. Finally, check your MBA resume multiple times to ensure there are no errors, spelling mistakes, or structural gaps.
5. How can I get accepted into an MBA program?
MBA programs are typically highly competitive. To get in, first, make sure you submit a well-crafted, coherent, substantiative resume with an accompanying cover letter that highlights your suitability for the business school you’re applying to. The admissions boards will also look at your application form, essays, personal statement, transcripts, GMAT/GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and interview performance before issuing an acceptance letter.
6. What template should I use for an MBA resume?
First of all, make sure you check the resume requirements of the school you’re applying to. Some business schools have specific requirements about the template and format for resumes accompanying MBA applications. If there’s no such restriction, you can check the templates for Experienced and Less Experienced applicants we include in our blog.
7. How long should my MBA resume be?
Ideally, your MBA resume should be no longer than 1 page. You can consider extending it to 2 pages only if you have more than 10 years of experience or a large number of substantiative achievements that add value to your application.
8. Should I talk about my education in my MBA resume?
Yes! In their MBA resume, all applicants should include at least the basic details of their educational background including degree name, university, major, minor, GPA and key achievements (such as honor roll or Dean’s List). However, applicants with less educational experience, for example, fresh graduates, can add more details about their education such as key research work, impactful projects, meaningful extracurriculars, and so on.