How to Write an Effective MBA Resume

Written by Coursera • Updated on

An MBA resume is often the first impression you make on an MBA admissions committee. Find out which MBA resume format is best for you and what details you should include.

[Featured image] A woman works on her MBA resume on a laptop while sitting on a sofa

When you apply to a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, you’ll likely be required to include a resume to support your application. MBA resumes are different from the resume you would submit when applying for a job. Understanding the purpose of an MBA resume and how to write an effective one can help your application stand out.

What is an MBA resume?

An MBA resume summarizes your qualifications for a Master of Business Administration program. Most business schools require a resume as part of the application process, and it helps shape the admission committee's initial impression of you as a candidate. This is why it is important to know what to include in the resume and take your time writing it.

Learn more about the MBA application process and how to get an MBA degree.

MBA resume vs. professional resume 

Although an MBA resume and a professional resume both list your experience and achievements, they each serve a different purpose. The professional resume highlights skills and experience that make you qualified for a specific job within an organization. For example, your professional resume likely includes the following:

  • Recent or relevant job history

  • Volunteer experience relevant to the job

  • Strong action verbs

  • Accomplishments relevant to the job

  • List of relevant skills and certifications

Each item on the professional resume relates to the job you're seeking. The resume's intent is to show how you're qualified for the position and can benefit the company.

An MBA resume should also include a list of accomplishments and experience, but they should highlight your leadership abilities instead of your skills. The admissions committee wants to see that you have leadership potential and the ability to collaborate and impact a group of people. Some of the best MBA resume examples have the following information:

  • Business achievements

  • Leadership roles

  • Most recent work experience relevant to a business career

  • Results achieved as a team leader or project lead

The information on an MBA resume and professional resume is similar, and you should customize each resume to highlight the value you bring. An MBA resume should tell the story of why you're the right candidate for business school.

What is the best MBA resume format? 

The format you choose for your MBA resume can impact your acceptance into the program. One of the most important guidelines to remember when formatting your resume is to keep it easy to read. Your resume may be one in a sea of thousands of applicants, and many of them will include similar information. An easy-to-read resume helps the committee members pick up on what makes you stand out.

How long should the MBA resume be?

Ideally, your MBA resume should fit on a single sheet of paper and should not require more than two printed sheets. Too much information on the page can feel overwhelming to the people reading it. This means you may need to delete less relevant information from the page in order to keep enough white space and use an adequate font.

MBA resume sections

The sections in your MBA resume will look similar to the ones you use on a professional resume. They may include the following:

  • Contact information: name, address, phone number, email address, and portfolio link

  • Professional experience: two or three recent jobs highlighting most significant achievements

  • Education: degrees earned with majors and minors, GPA, honors, and achievements

  • Achievements and additional information: extracurricular activities highlighting leadership skills

  • Selected skills and certificates: bulleted list of significant skills, such as business analysis or project lifecycle management

Choose the most relevant information to include in these sections, with details that highlight your leadership abilities.

If you recently graduated from school and don't have robust work experience, you can expand the education section to showcase your leadership ability in your classes and internships.

Tips for writing an MBA resume that stands out

The admissions committee will likely read thousands of MBA resumes. As you write, consider ways you can differentiate yourself from the rest of the candidates. These tips may help.  

Highlight your influence at work or school.

Business schools want students with a demonstrated record of positive leadership ability because they want graduates who run successful businesses. Successful leaders know how to influence people to bring about change within organizations.

For example, they prefer to see that you oversaw the implementation of a technology tool that boosted sales by 30 percent instead of a list of tasks you perform in your current job.

Include outcomes and results.

You should include concrete examples to demonstrate your leadership skills. For example, "I led a team of six people to develop an implementation plan for a customer relationship management system" is more specific than "I led an implementation team." Be sure to let the committee know what happened as a result of your leadership so they can see your work in action.

Make your resume easy to follow.

You may never know who reads your MBA resume. They may or may not be familiar with industry jargon. Keep the details you include as simple as possible and avoid industry-specific language that everyone may not understand.

Provide a broad look at your experience and skills. 

Let all facets of your character shine, including experiences outside of work and school like volunteering and community work. Don’t focus only on relevant skills and experiences.

The qualities that make someone a good leader extend beyond leadership roles at work. Showing the admissions committee that you're a well-rounded person can help. Include details about languages you speak, work you do in the community, sports and hobbies you have, and awards you've won.

Earn your MBA

After you've put together an impressive MBA resume, put it to good use. Explore the MBA and business degree programs available from top universities on Coursera, and take the next steps toward a new career.

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