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  • Malvika Patil

10 Mistakes to Avoid in an MBA Resume



We roast a lot of resumes 🔥. In fact, every year we attend several MBA events where we meet hundreds of MBA applicants and give them constructive (and brutally honest) feedback about their business school resumes. 



And if there’s one takeaway from the Roast My Resume events, it’s that most applicants underestimate the work required to build a strong MBA resume.


For starters, your MBA resume should not be the same as your job resume. While your job resume focuses on listing your technical skills that you need for a target job, your MBA resume uses a different structure, and focuses on “MBA-related” skills, like leadership and strategic thinking, that you’ll need in the MBA classroom.


So, if you are thinking about applying for an MBA program in the 2024-25 admissions cycle, here are 10 mistakes to AVOID while adapting your resume for business school applications.


1. Don't forget to write bullets in the ACE structure 


The bullet points on your MBA resume should tell the reader which skill you used, where you used that skill, and a piece of evidence that shows how well you used it. That’s why we recommend using the ACE structure for each bullet point:


  • Action: Start with an action word in the past tense such as ‘Managed’, ‘Structured’, ‘Accelerated’, ‘Redesigned’, ‘Spearheaded’, etc, that demonstrates the skill.

  • Context: Add the context of the task/project you have contributed to.

  • End Result: Quantify the results of the project/task. Business schools appreciate outcome oriented leaders, so make sure you have data that backs up your achievements. 

2. Don't combine promotions into one job title


Business schools want to see career progression in your professional journey. So, if you held more than one position in a firm, it’s wise to enter them as separate roles in your resume. This clear presentation style makes it immediately obvious that you have been promoted, and helps to demonstrate how your responsibilities have grown over time.


3. Don’t over-emphasize your technical skills 


Applicants often focus their resume on technical skills, for example the number of different programming languages they can use. But business schools don’t really care about those details. Remember, you’re not applying to coding bootcamp!


The AdCom members screening your application want to see you as a ‘leader’, not an employee. They don’t need to know the technical specifications of the Operations software you created. Instead, they want to know how your work impacted the organization. For example, if it improved operational efficiency by X%, or if it saved your firm X+ manual hours. 


Additionally, don’t undermine your soft skills! Applicants often think that mentoring 2 juniors isn’t that impactful. Or that collaborating with cross-functional teams on a particular project doesn’t showcase their strengths. But that’s not true - leaders often collaborate with multiple teams and functions to get projects done. Let your interpersonal skills shine.


4. Don’t use jargon 


The AdCom may not be familiar with the technical terms and abbreviations you use in your daily job. Avoid these by asking a friend from a different industry to review your resume. Or, use the simple HR test: consider if someone from HR can understand your job responsibilities. If the answer is yes, your resume is ready. 


5. Don’t repeat the same skills across multiple job roles 


MBA resumes are typically 1 page long. But we often meet candidates who are reluctant to cut out content to fit one page. They write down everything they did in each role, which means that there is a good amount of overlap in their skills across multiple roles.


Don’t repeat bullet points in multiple roles. Even a promotion is relatively small and many of your responsibilities are unchanged, your goal is to show career progression. So, for each new role, add only the incremental new responsibilities of that role.


For example, if you’ve mentioned that you know how to set up marketing plugins once, you don't need to reiterate it in later roles. Move on to the next, more impressive skill. 


As a sense check, we often ask our clients whether a bullet point conveys a different dimension of their skill-set. If not, it’s a sign that we can edit that bullet point further.


6. Don’t list all your extracurriculars without details 


Applicants often add their Interests/Hobbies section like this: 


  • Interests: Going to the gym, Marathons, Badminton, Cooking, and Painting. 


This isn’t interesting or impactful. Make different bullet points for each of these and consider adding specific details to make your hobbies stand out. 


For example:


  • Followed a _____ fitness regime to bring my body fat percentage to 10%. 

  • Completed _____, _______ and _______ marathons to raise awareness about diabetes. 

  • Won the inter-departmental badminton championship in 2022. 


7. Don’t highlight or use bold in the middle of sentences


Applicants often feel the need to emphasize key projects or responsibilities by highlighting them or making the text bold. However, that’s counterproductive. It makes your resume look messy and distracts the reader. We recommend using the following formatting rules instead: 


  • Font size: Use font size ‘11’ for section titles such as Professional Experience, Education and Additional Information, font size ‘10’ for the rest of the text and font size ‘6’ for spaces to optimize spacing. 

  • Bold: Use a bold font for section titles, organization names, university names, and location. 

  • Italics: Use italics to write your job titles or your one-line company description.

  • Margins: Use a 0.5 margin on all sides to maximize the spacing on your resume. 

8. Don’t use complicated formats 


Many schools, such as HBS, Oxford, Columbia, INSEAD and Booth, have their own recommended MBA resume format that they ask applicants to use. If your target school doesn’t have its own template, don’t take this as free rein to use your own. We recommend using the standard Harvard Business School resume template to build your MBA resume. 


9. Don’t leave gaps in your timeline 


A consistent professional or academic history shows continuity and upwards progression. EMBA applicants in particular tend to overlook the job they held 10 years ago, as they feel it isn’t as impactful. But make sure that this doesn’t come across as a period of inactivity; check your resume carefully for any unexplained gaps.


10. Don’t embellish 


Resumes are not the place to use flowery prose. Avoid using words like ‘significantly’, or ‘successful’ and add specific, quantified achievements or outcomes instead. The more you quantify details like the size of the project, timelines, team size, revenue and time commitments, the more impact you can convey in your resume.


Want more resume tips? Check out our free Resume Builder with easily downloadable resume word templates on MBAConsultant.com.



 

Get started with your MBA resume by booking a free chat with our team. 



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Hi, I'm Sam.  I'm the founder of Sam Weeks Consulting. Our clients get admitted to top MBA and EMBA programs.

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