How to write a résumé, and why
Résumés are like bonsai - you must craft your knowledge, skills and accomplishments to fit into the confines of a single sheet of paper. Please watch this video to learn more.
I advise all of my clients to create a resume at the start of their MBA admissions process. Some of you may already have an English resume, but I think it is good to redo it before you begin writing your "Why MBA?" goals essay.
Creating your resume is one of the best ways I know to learn about you.
The process also helps you clarify your strengths, which you need to highlight in order to prove to adcom readers and interviewers that you have the potential to realize your future goals.
As you prepare for our first resume counseling session, please read the resume tips below.
Then, create a list of your professional and academic accomplishments.
Do not worry about the formatting, and do not create a table. Just use simple text in MS Word, and send it to Vince.
As we finalize your content, I will use one of my time-tested resume templates to make your responsibilities, accomplishments and qualifications look professional and appealing.
The resume can be completed in one or two counseling sessions. We will continue to update it until (and even after) you submit your applications.
Remember: think "bonsai" when creating (and editing) your resume. Our work is never finished. A world-class resume requires and deserves constant care and attention to truly stand out.
In order to help applicants create competitive resumes, I ask questions covering three main topics:
- Why did you choose this university and this major?
- What was your undergraduate GPA? (If your university does not provide an official GPA, please kindly calculate your approximate GPA by using this handy tool ▸ http://gpa-calculator.net)
- How many hours per week did you spend on extracurricular activities during undergraduate university?
- Were you a member of any varsity sports teams (playing against other universities at an official level)?
- Were you a member of any intramural sports teams (called "circles" in Japan)?
- Did you hold any other undergraduate leadership positions? (clubs, volunteering, seminar)
- Were you the first person in your family to graduate from university?
- Were you employed full-time while enrolled in undergraduate university?
- Why did you select this industry and this company?
- What do you do on a daily basis?
- What objectives are you required to meet?
- Who to you report to, and how are you evaluated?
- What do you do that no one else does?
- Who is in your team, and how are your functions different from theirs?
- How does your performance compare to that of your peers?
- Where you promoted faster or given more responsibility at a younger age?
- What accomplishment are you most proud of?
- How do you add value to your team, your organization, and your industry?
- Do you have any formal or informal management tasks?
- Are you responsible for planning workloads and productivity goals (other than your own)?
- What do you like most about your current job / company?
- What do you wish you could change about your current job / company?
- Do you have international work experience?
ARE YOU FYOB?
Here are some follow-up questions that I ask my clients to help them demonstrate their qualitative impact and quantitative results:
- When have you been the first person to achieve something important?
- When have you been the youngest in a team?
- When have you been the only person representing your country, company, or team?
- When have you been formally or informally recognized as the best person in a project or team?
The keywords from the four points above are "first, youngest, only, best." As you can see, the first letters of these four keywords form a convenient acronym, FYOB.
In short, when revising your resume draft, try to demonstrate "FYOBness". In other words, always show impact and prove it with numbers whenever possible.
- What countries have you visited?
- What languages do you speak?
- What kinds of hobbies and activities have you done since graduating from university?
- How many hours a week on average do you spend in those activities?
- Do you hold any leadership positions outside of work?
I suggest you read the following resume advice, which I have gathered from several trusted sources.
Use these four tips to boost your résumé's chance of survival:
- Insert dates for everything. Don't try to cover up your age or a gap in experience by omitting dates. Use your cover letter to explain any peculiarities.
- Use buzzwords. Many HR folks look for certain buzzwords from the job description. Don't expect your generic résumé to make it through; customize it for each potential job.
- Be specific. "Assisted" or "worked on" is much fuzzier than "designed," "wrote," or "led." When choosing verbs, use ones that mean something.
- No typos. This goes without saying, but too many résumés are full of them nonetheless. Proofread, proofread again, and then ask someone else to proofread once more.
Your resume should be a concise summary of the high points of your education, work experience, and other qualifications relevant to your audience’s needs and to your employment interests, not a complete history of your life. It communicates your professional qualifications to employers, to interest them in interviewing you, and it creates their first impression of you. It is a marketing tool and an introduction to you and your experiences. Do enough research about the employer and the field to decide which messages are most important to your audience, and communicate these messages succinctly and clearly in a visually appealing format. Here are some guidelines to help you do this:
- Proofread to eliminate all spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors.
- Use action verbs and strong adjectives
- Make it future or present oriented, suggesting, "I am this kind of person, with these abilities, as my record demonstrates."
- Avoid repeating words or phrases.
- Leave out unnecessary words, sentences, and phrases such as "Duties included / Hired to / Project involved."
- Avoid stilted or confusing language. Ask yourself, "Would I talk like that?"
- Don’t use the first person I or any pronouns.
- Be consistent and use the same grammatical style throughout.
- Avoid self-flattering terms such as "highly skilled, outstanding, or excellent." Describe your accomplishments and let readers decide for themselves that you are well-qualified.
- Be honest and accurate, but not overly modest.
- Convey through the style and content of your resume an understanding of your audience’s needs, priorities, hiring criteria, and vocabulary.
- Stick to 1 page; use 2 pages if you have an advanced degree or extensive experience (10+ years).
- Make the page easy to scan and graphically-pleasing: leave sufficient white space.
- Select a format that suits your qualifications. Don’t automatically follow someone else’s, which may not suit what you have to say.
- Underline, bold face, and use bullets to emphasize your credentials.
- Put name, address, and phone number at the top of the page. If you have a 2nd page, repeat your name at the top.
- Highlight skills, accomplishments, capabilities, and work experience. Give evidence of your personal impact: show not only that you completed tasks but that you contributed to organizational goals.
- Include marketable and/or relevant data only; for example, include classes that have been most important in your education and are most relevant to the type of work you seek; don’t provide an extensive list of courses.
- Choose topic headings that invite your readers’ interest, e.g., "related experience, overseas experience, or skills" rather than "employment or other."
- Cite numbers to convey size and scale of project, budget, and staff supervised.
- Give examples that demonstrate desirable personality traits such as leadership, interpersonal facility, confidence, and independence.
- Minimize personal information and omit unrelated memberships, age, marital and health status, and information that is repetitive, implicit (e.g. high school graduation for a college graduate), or out-of-date. If you are a US citizen or hold a permanent resident visa, include this if readers might have reason to think otherwise.
- Generally, it is a good idea to exclude data relevant to salary expectations, religious or political affiliations, and geographic descriptions.
- References are usually omitted, although you should line up at least 3 (including 1 or 2 who are non-academic) at the beginning of your job search. They can be listed separately and made available when requested. Employers assume that “references are available upon request,” so leave this phrase off.
Use "Resume English"
Ignore some of the standard English rules of usage that you would otherwise follow in essays
To save space, we suggest you
- Delete the subject 'I'
- Use tenses in the past. Except for your present job. Example: Conducted routine inspections of on site equipment.
- Remove articles 'a', 'an', and 'the'
- Change all numbers to numerals (1, 2, 3). In essays, write numbers into words if below 10 (except $ or %). In resumes and app data forms, you can ignore this informal but standard / suggested "rule" in order to save space.
- More tips here https://techwritingtodai.blogspot.com/2014/08/what-is-resume-english-and-why-should-i.html
I encourage clients to think of a resume as a "greatest hits" compilation. Can you include only the best examples of each achievement? Can you highlight the breadth and depth of your technical, analytical and interpersonal skills?
If music metaphors fail to move you, I encourage you to analyze your resume using the MECE principle.
(ME) Mutually Exclusive - "must ensure that a list of items is mutually exclusive, or that every item is separate and distinct"
(CE) Collectively Exhaustive - "it must also be collectively exhaustive, that it includes every issue relevant to the problem"
The MECE principle, pronounced 'meesee', mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, is a groupingprinciple. It says that when data from a category is desired to be broken into subcategories, the choice of subcategories should be
- collectively exhaustive -- i.e., the set of all subcategories, taken together, should fully characterize the larger category of which the data are part ("no gaps"),
- mutually exclusive -- i.e., no subcategory should represent any other subcategory ("no overlaps")
This is desirable for the purpose of analysis: mutual exclusivity avoids the risk of double countinginformation, and collective exhaustion avoids the risk of overlooking information.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sources and more hints here http://bit.ly/MECE_res
My client recently sent me the Resume Format Guidelines he received from Kellogg's Career Management Center. I suggest you follow these helpful tips to make your resume clear and convincing to your future application readers and interviewers.
WHY A STANDARD FORMAT?
•The Kellogg format allows on-campus recruiters to focus on your resume’s content rather than stylistic differences
•We get consistently positive feedback from employers on our format
•“The Kellogg format is ideal. It is a concise one-page snapshot of a Kellogg student’s previous achievements, which allows us to review resumes thoughtfully and efficiently.” -McKinsey and Company
RESUME FORMAT GUIDELINES
• Resumes may be no longer than ONE PAGE (A4 or 8 ½ x 11)
• DO NOT use tables on your resume
• Tables cause difficulty both with the Kellogg resume database and company application websites.
• Margins can not be smaller than .7 inches on all sides
Tabs and Alignment
• Locations should be right-aligned
• Bullets should be left-aligned and should not spread to the right margin
• Size: 10 or 11 point Times New Roman. Do not make your name larger than the rest of your resume
• Caps and Bold: The following should be in BOLD CAPS. Do not use bold in other places on your resume
• Your name
• Section Headings
• School Names
• Company Names
• Italics: Job titles should be in italics.
Publications may be italicized if appropriate
• Lines/Underline: There should be no lines or underlining on your resume, except if you are listing “selected transaction experience” in your experience section
•Include the month and year you received your degree
OTHER DATA SECTION
•Capitalize the first letter of languages spoken if included
•You may want to include any certifications you have obtained
•Be specific in this section – do not just say “enjoy traveling and cooking” – instead say something like, “enjoy adventure travel” or “recently traveled to Ecuador and Indonesia” and “enjoy cooking Northern Italian cuisine”
•Your header should contain three lines
•All CAPS and Bold
•Street, City, State, and Zip
•Your phone number and email address
•Use your Kellogg email address
•Include only one phone number
•Include the date of your most recent update in the lower right corner
•Recruiters may receive multiple versions of your resume – help them determine which one is most current.
•The date should be Month/Day/Year
• Dates should be flush with the left margin
• Company names should be in CAPS and bold
• Job titles should be in italics
• Specific dates for different positions within the same company should be listed after the job title — the dates in the left margin for that company should reflect your entire term of employment at that company
• Don’t include internships completed in undergrad as part of this section. They should be included under Education as one bullet
•DO NOT include an objective on your resume
Use chronological format
•List education and business experience in REVERSE chronological order (most recent first)
•The “Education” section should be at the top of your resume
•Write out all years fully
•“2005-2009” – NOT “05-09”
•Do not include months
•Internship dates should be identified by season, e.g. “Summer 2009”
•Abbreviate all states for locations of employer and school, e.g. “IL” not “Illinois”
•Spell out names of foreign countries
•Spell out addresses
•Write out number one through nine.
•Use numerals starting with 10
•Do not include personal information on your resume (e.g. marital status, children, etc)
Your bullets should not read like a job description. They should feature skills, actions and results. Consider following this formula:
Strong Lead Action Verb + What You Did = Results
Quantify: “Designed and implemented new volunteer model in Tanzania, expanding volunteer base by 30%
•Increased (sales, profits, margins, value)
•Decreased (costs, inefficiencies, errors)
Scope: “Managed $82M divestiture of division with over $30M in revenue and 100 employees.”
•Define size (team, budget, business)
•Number impacted (people, businesses)
Qualify: “Presented final recommendation to CFO, recommendation ultimately implemented by client.” •Presented to (senior management, client)
•Delivered (on time, early, under budget) •Implemented recommendation
•A company first
•Adopted across business units
accelerated developed made revived accomplished devised maintained saved achieved discovered managed scheduled acquired discharged marketed secured adapted distributed mediated selected addressed documented minimized served administered doubled mobilized set up advanced earned modernized settled allocated edited modified shaped analyzed eliminated monitored showed anticipated employed motivated simplified applied enforced negotiated sold appointed established obtained solved approved estimated operated sponsored arranged evaluated ordered staffed assisted examined organized standardized assigned exceeded originated started attained exercised overcame stimulated audited expanded overhauled streamlined augmented extended oversaw strengthened brought financed participated stretched broadened forecasted performed structured built formed pinpointed studied calculated formulated planned suggested centralized founded prepared summarized clarified fulfilled presented supervised collaborated generated prevented supported combined guided processed surpassed completed halved produced surveyed conceived handled programmed sustained concluded helped projected tailored condensed headed promoted taught conducted hired proposed terminated consolidated identified proved tested constructed implemented published traded consulted improved realized transacted contracted increased recommended transferred contributed influenced reconciled transformed controlled initiated recruited translated converted inspected reduced trimmed coordinated installed re-established tripled corrected instituted regulated uncovered created instructed reinforced undertook cut integrated reorganized unified decentralized interviewed reported used decreased introduced represented utilized defined invented researched verified delivered investigated reshaped widened demonstrated launched resolved withdrew designated liquidated restored won designed located reviewed worked determined revised wrote
- ability: aptitude, capability
- adopt: use, utilize, employ , apply, mobilize, exert , restore revive, specialize in
- assist: dispatch, expedite, cooperate, maintain,promote authority command, charter, domain, scope, field, control, jurisdiction, commission, province ,circle, in charge of
- authorize: entitle, delegate, empower , qualify, invest , endow
- business: undertaking , pursuit, venture, affair, concern, interest, matter, negotiations, transactions
- carry out: discharge, execute, pursue, fulfill, perform, practice, exercise, undertake, transact, assume, accomplish, achieve, attain company: concern, enterprise, establishment, institution, corporation, firm, organization
- continue: keep up, remain, resume, persevere, persist, adhere to
- cooperate: collaborate, contribute to, support
- develop: originate, create, derive, cause, effect, generate, bring about, result in, give rise to, design, devise, make, build, construct, synthesize, form, prepare, organize, sponsor, prompt
- earn: merit, exceed, excel, surpass, better, top, progress, advance
- effective: forceful, potent, valid, strong, vigorous, productive, influential, dynamic
- emphasis: stress, accentuate, feature
- implement: execute, enforce
- job: situation, position, post, status, footing, appointment, capacity, occupation, calling, profession, career
- manage: handle, deal with, represent, operate, oversee, designate, engineer, execute, supervise, conduct, engage in, regulate, check, direct, administer, take charge
- participate: share, collaborate, coordinate, synchronize, combine, pool, take part in, contribute
- point out: indicate, exhibit, display, reveal, demonstrate, show credit with, assign to
- promote: evaluate, raise
- responsible: liable, accountable, answerable, account for, plan, design, project, proposal, scheme, outline, map, model, program, result, obtain, secure, method, means, system, policy, procedure
First, you need to know how far back in time to detail in this document. As a general rule, if you are applying to graduate school and have at least two years of work experience, your high school activities should not be included in your resume. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, if you won a prestigious national award in high school, you may certainly consider including this important recognition.
Other general rules for the resume:
- There should be no more than four bullet points beneath each position.
- Each bullet point should ideally be no more than two lines long.
- To ease the reader’s eye strain, the font should not be smaller than 10 pt.
- Margins should be as close to one inch all around as possible – no lower than 0.7 inches.
Limit the number of bullet points describing your early entry-level roles and instead expand the space dedicated to those in which you made the most impact. For instance, if you were promoted from an entry-level programming position with your company, then you don’t even need to dedicate a separate line to describe that first role. Instead, you can simply impress the reader by describing the fast pace of promotion in a line of the job description, like this:
Team Lead, IT Consulting Company 2007-Present
Twice promoted from Analyst (2007-2008) to Senior Analyst (2008) and then Team Lead in record 12 months, a full 4 times faster than the average rate of promotion.
What if one position has allowed you significant leadership opportunities and impact? Or what if you have been in your current role for several years? How can you detail all that you have accomplished in just four bullet points? The trick is to break that down into sections, like this for example:
Private Equity Associate, PE Firm 2008-Present
Lines of job description here…
Leadership Accomplishments Include:
- First point
- Second point
- Third point
- Fourth point
Financial Impacts Include:
- First point
- Second point
- Third point
- Fourth point
Keep in mind that the majority – if not all – of those bullet points should include quantifiable impact that you had on the organization. Breaking up a bulk of text with numbers and section headings makes the entire document more compelling.
Finally, to ensure that your document is easy to read and keeps the admissions officer’s attention, you need to include ample white space. To add some white space above each position in Microsoft Word, highlight the title line of each row (hold the Ctrl button down as you click to keep them all highlighted), then click on Format, Paragraph, then in the Spacing Before box try at least 4 pt. (if you have more space left on the page at the end you can go to 6 pt.). Do the same Ctrl highlighting for the bullet points throughout the document and try 2 pt. or 3 pt. spacing before each of those lines.
Check out this pdf file (viewable in Adobe Reader) to see the difference this little formatting trick can make.
Clerical or Detail Skills
Stronger Verbs for Accomplishments
From "To Boldly Go: Practical Career Advice for Scientists", by Peter S. Fisk
The use of action words / power verbs are essential in the promotion of your skills and experience. Using these words at the start of each bullet point under the details of your employment will assist the reader in noticing your key achievements.
The words you use will obviously depend upon your experience / industry so try not to just stuff your CV full of power words in the hope that this will look good. For example, a candidate applying for a managerial position will want to make use of words such as "oversaw, developed, improved and reduced", whereas someone looking for a more creative role will want to use words such as "designed, compiled and created".
Power verbs to accentuate organizational skills
Power verbs used to highlight achievements
Other power verbs