10 Steps to Preparing Your Resume
1. Every word matters. From the personal interests and skills sections to college internships and extracurriculars, every line on your resume should have a purpose. If you list something, be prepared to talk about it in depth during your interview, as admissions committees love to focus in on small details.
2. Quantify each accomplishment. Seriously consider whether something should be on your resume if you can’t quantify it in some way. A good resume doesn’t just say its author had an impact on an organization; it demonstrates it through facts and figures. Anything else is just empty filler.
3. Avoid jargon and platitudes. Another good sign you’ve got too much filler on your resume: it’s overflowing with industry jargon and platitudes.
4. Drop adjectives and adverbs. While you’re deleting all the jargon and platitudes, drop those adjectives and adverbs, too. Instead of labeling something a “major” initiative, show it by quantifying how many people it affected. Instead of writing about the “extensive” report you published, demonstrate its reach by quantifying how many pages it spanned. If you drop the empty adjectives and adverbs, you’ll force yourself to make each accomplishment measurable.
5. Keep it to one page. If you’re applying to business school, your resume should be one page. There is no excuse for it to be longer. Focused and concise headline-style writing will allow you to stick to this rule and still convey everything you need to convey.
6. Be multifaceted. Business schools want to admit dynamic students that bring multiple perspectives into the classroom. If you’ve only worked at one company, make sure you highlight the other clubs or organizations you’re involved with outside of work.
7. Demonstrate growth. Your resume should have an arc to it, and that arc should demonstrate clear growth from where you started to where you are now. Within each organization and throughout your resume as a whole, focus on telling a clear story of how you evolved.
8. Communicate clearly. Don’t force the reader to search for simple facts like dates, locations, titles, and organizations. If a title seems a little ambiguous or an organization is relatively unknown, make sure you communicate it clearly by giving it context. Don’t leave the reader guessing.
9. Enlist reviewers. A second, third, and even fourth pair of eyes will go a long way to ensuring you’re communicating clearly and not overlooking any silly errors. In addition to just friends and family, try to enlist a few readers that don’t know you as well; they’ll be less likely to fill in gaps if something isn’t clear and to give you feedback on the overall arc of the resume.
10. Be honest. The easiest way to ensure you’ll be dinged from admissions is to get caught exaggerating or lying. Be honest about your titles, roles, and experiences.
Our Experience – From the Founders
Kyle’s Resume Writing Experience: My resume was probably one of the weaker parts of my application. I had spent my entire career within one organization, and so preparing a good resume wasn’t something I had a lot of experience with, and I only asked one person to review my draft. Since applying to schools, I’ve edited my resume significantly so it tells a much better story. I’ve been able to quantity a lot more of my accomplishments, and as a result it’s much better at showing the reader my strengths through examples rather than merely listing them on the page.
In hindsight, I also would have spent more time crafting the finer details of my resume. The first interview question I received at HBS was around one small bullet point (one that I almost considered a throwaway when writing my resume) in my education section. Fortunately, I handled the question well and was able to craft a good answer on my feet, but it made me realize how important it is to consider each word in each bullet when writing your resume.
Vincent’s Resume Writing Experience: Having changed roles and companies a couple of times already, I had a pretty decent resume that I could build upon for my application. Updating it took me a couple of hours, with most of that work consisting of quantifying my accomplishments and highlighting aspects of my experience that I thought each target school would value (I thus created various versions of my resume for different schools, the same way you would when applying for jobs). I added color to it by emphasizing non-work and non-academic achievements, which actually led to great discussions during my interviews.