This MBA Insider content comes from Sharon Barrett, Director of Working Professional & Executive MBA Admissions.
When evaluating your application, our MBA Admissions Committee aims for a complete picture of your qualifications and fit with the program. It’s all about perspective. We look at your application as if we are holding a scale, balancing all the parts.
When considering the specific experience on your resume, on one side there’s a raw number of years (Quantity), and on the other is your job experience (Quality).
Say that you are the CEO of a mid-size corporation. Wonderful! Oh, you just started in this position? That’s an amazing accomplishment, but perhaps you’d still admit that your knowledge and expertise in such a new position wouldn’t be as developed as someone who’s been doing it for a few years.
Or maybe you have been in the same job for 10 years. Wow! No doubt you are a go-to person when it comes to that role, but could it mean that perhaps you didn’t take as much initiative or demonstrate leadership qualities required to launch you to the next level? Or perhaps you have only had a project manager role for a year, but in that time you’ve produced measurable results and demonstrated leadership. In these cases, the quality of your work experience matters more.
A general job title like “Project Manager” may seem lackluster, but could actually be pretty exciting. Don’t let us make assumptions. Take every opportunity on your application to illustrate just WHAT about your job made your experience rich and rewarding.
On the flip side, a Chief Operating Office title sounds impressive, but what kind of company did you work for and how extensive were your duties? An impressive title with naught to back it up won’t move the needle in your favor when it comes to work experience.
The take-away on work experience: Years, titles, and accomplishments are not, by themselves deciding factors. To help you provide us with a clear picture, here are our top tips for highlighting the quality and quantity of your work experience on your resume:
- Tailor Content – You may have heard the adage that your resume should be tailored to your audience, which is true. But customizing your resume may simply entail reordering or swapping out bullet points. Remember, a resume is a summary of your relevant experience, not necessarily all of it.
- Emphasize Results – We don’t just want a summary. We want to know whether you generated results from your work. If the person replacing you could copy and paste your resume bullet points into their resume, that’s probably a sign your bullet points need to better emphasize your individual contributions in the role.
- Avoid Redundancy – Think of each line on your resume as a valuable piece of real estate. Consider the incremental value that each line on your resume provides for you as a candidate. If you have performed the same task in multiple roles, is it necessary to list that same task more than once on your resume? Likely not.
- Show Balance – We want to see a “balanced” candidate – someone who has been strong in the classroom and in the workplace while participating in extracurricular activities and having unique interests outside of work. Consider creating an “Additional” section to detail your activities and interests for use as a potential conversation starter.
- Utilize White Space – Great resume content can only be great if a reader can easily access it. That’s where resume readability comes into play. Don’t forget to use your white space effectively. A resume is not about cramming as much you can onto the page. Rather, give your content some space to breathe.
- Enlist Proofreaders– Perhaps the most important element of a resume is that it is free of errors. A single spelling, grammatical, or formatting error can hurt even the most impressive resume. Have multiple individuals proofread your resume.
- Convey Personal Brand – What do you think of when you think of great global brands like Apple, Nike, or Google? What words come to mind? Now, when we read your resume, what words do you want to come to mind about you? Have a peer give your resume a 30-second review and see if the words you want to pop for a reader, actually do.
Remember, your resume is important, but it’s only one data point for you as a candidate. Years of work experience give only one sense of you as a candidate, so use your resume to make the quality of those years really stand out. Hook ’em!