2 Ways to Strengthen Any Resume
Act Like a Resume, Think Like an Admissions Officer
To write a great resume, you need to be empathetic and get into the mind of the reviewer.
Imagine that you are the person reviewing your resume. You’re trying to assess whether you’re qualified, unique and have potential to grow as a professional on paper. With so many candidates and so much material to go through, you don’t start by reading it through from beginning to end. Instead, you spend 10 – 15 seconds skimming the resume and deciding if the candidate looks interesting enough to want to dig deeper. Skipping over a lot of the text, you look for things like:
- Current employer and job title
- Length of time worked
- Promotions or advancement to larger roles
- School(s) attended and degree(s)
- Overall impression of whether the resume feels professional and polished
If the candidate looks promising, you start to look for interesting details on your second pass:
- Personal interests and activities
- Where you have lived and gone to school
- Experience leading people and initiatives
- Extracurricular activities
- Demonstrated skills and expertise
- Accomplishments and impact
If the resume you are reviewing is concise and well-organized, it is easy to find what you are looking for. But if the resume is dense and jam-packed with information, it is harder for you to find what you are looking for. So, when you write your own resume with the reader in mind, challenge yourself to be as brief as possible, focus on what is most important for them to know about you, and make sure there is a good reason for everything you include.
Shakespeare Your Resume
Now, let’s talk about telling your unique story in a straightforward, uncluttered and compelling way. The resume is a great tool for communicating your “personal brand” and the potential you represent as a candidate. Therefore, it is critical that you focus on the experiences and superpowers that will set you apart from the competition and earn you a spot in your dream MBA program.
To do this, your resume should:
- Quickly convey that you are unique, qualified and on a path to professional success
- Demonstrate how you have used your superpowers to get things done and make an impact
- Emphasize experiences that demonstrate leadership and team-oriented skills
- Highlight how and when you overcame challenges or needed to developed new capabilities
- Shows your personal side and your commitment to making a difference in society
Before you start, be sure to identify the most important experiences where you have made and impact or successfully taken on a significant new challenge. Next, identify the attributes you want to emphasize in your personal MBA brand. These should be demonstrable and clearly evident on your resume, emphasizing important professional qualities and skills like leading teams, problem-solving, analysis and communications. To make your story compelling, remember that these are things you need convey through your actions, rather than simply saying them.
Reviewers are unlikely to share your background or have expertise in your industry, so write simply and clearly in lay terms. So avoid jargon and write so that the importance of your experiences and the impact you had is easily understood.
Every word counts. If it doesn’t show impact, delete it! Ask yourself what experiences (work or extracurricular) have affected your life the most and how those experiences have shaped you as a person. It is important to expand on those keys moments but in a constructive way. For example, if you managed a marketing team, explain what value you brought to the team and how it impacted the teams results.
Start a Conversation
Connect with your reader! Use your resume as a conversation starter. In each story, their needs to be a hook that will pull in the readers and make them eager to learn more about the main characters/events. What can your bring to the table that will draw in the admissions officers? Maybe you have traveled across the globe, maybe you were the first in your family to go to college, or maybe you were a competitive bull rider…. Use it to your advantage and set yourself up for a successful interview!
Make Your Resume a Keeper
Now that you know what you want to say, here are some specific guidelines to help you build your resume:
Start with work: Top schools are looking for people with strong potential who already have some post-graduate work experience, so that should be the first thing they see (not education).
Emphasize actions, not roles: Highlight your impact and accomplishments, but don’t dilute their visibility by over-explaining the roles and responsibilities of each position; they are less interested in your job than what you DID in your job
Be selective: Rather than try to say too much, include those experiences when you produced meaningful outcomes, overcame significant challenges, or made a difference by demonstrating important skills.
Actions speak louder than words: Demonstrate, rather than state, your abilities and skills; this is particularly true in areas like leadership, strategic thinking, analysis, problem-solving and creativity.
Quantify your impact: Avoid being overly general and use numbers to quantify your impact and accomplishments wherever possible.
Highlight advancement: Show promotions and changes of responsibility as separate roles within a company to demonstrate growth and recognition.
Don’t say too much: Leave out details that may not be meaningful to someone outside your company or industry; focus on what you have demonstrated that is relevant and transferable.
Demonstrate your powers outside of work: Show your commitment to the community at large through volunteer work and other extracurricular activities; showcase where you made an impact or demonstrated initiative, leadership skills or teamwork.
Be human: Highlighting your personal interests, hobbies and passions can show what kinds of challenges you like, what you personally bring to the community, and what you do to care of yourself.
Like the Ultimate Selfie, Filter Your Resume
Now that you are ready to finish your resume, here are nine pointers to help you put it all together in a pleasing, easy-to-read format.
Elevator pitch? I am not a big fan of goals/objectives/mission statements at the top of a resume; however, if you choose to include one, keep it short and direct (1-2 lines).
Work experience first: Because business schools are looking for people with relevant experience, so lead with work experience and not your education.
Traditional format: Using a traditional format may be less unique, but familiar layouts make it easier for reviewers find what they are looking for.
Use bullets for impact: Bullets are great for highlighting important developmental experiences and accomplishments; be sure to quantify your impact wherever you can and write them in a way that does not leave the reviewer wondering “So what?”
Responsibilities are not accomplishments: Don’t write extensive descriptions of your roles or use lots of bullets to simply say what you do or did in a job; instead, use most of your bullets to emphasize your impact, accomplishments and key learning experiences.
Keep it short: A 1-page resume is best and is actually required by some schools; short bullets of 1 – 2 lines are also easier to read and will stand out more, particularly when they include numbers or percentages to highlight impact.
Thoughtfully thorough: Include everything you need to tell your story, but don’t pad your resume with information that does not add much value or help demonstrate your “brand” and qualifications.
Clarity is key: Don’t use a lot of industry-specific terms and jargon; avoid ambiguity and write in a clear, straightforward style that does not require any interpretation.
Easy on the eyes: Use a simple font in a size that is easy to read (no smaller than 10 point); format for skimming by right-justifying all dates and using things like bold and italics to help separate job titles, company names, sections of your resume, etc.
I always thought of my resume as a list of my qualifications and achievements. Once I change and add a few experiences, I think it will become a great conversation starter during interviews.
- Eric Allen expert Zari, I think a lot of people think like this. They want to use a resume as a job description or just a list of achievements, but that's selling yourself short. A resume should tell a story, demonstrate impact, and lead the reader into wanting more. Glad you found that helpful! Let us know what else we can do to help you through your journey. #resume