Most universities ask for a résumé as a part of their application. This is especially true in case of business schools. The résumé is an opportunity for the applicant to showcase his or her academic profile, accomplishments and work experience in a simple format to the admissions officer. This helps the admissions officer assess the applicant’s merit amongst other students applying for its programs. The résumé also serves another purpose: business schools want to assess a candidate’s chances of employment after graduating from their program.
Résumé writing is an art and a skill. However, the good news is that it is not very complex and by keeping a few simple things in mind, you can make a very effective résumé.
Keep it concise and simple
The first tip is to keep your résumé concise. An ideal résumé is about one-page long and no more. This is often the biggest challenge that applicants face. Most résumés at first glance would run into two to three pages. This is because you think that you need to describe things in detail in order to do justice to your profile. If you can develop good writing skills, you will be surprised how much information you can convey just by the use of appropriate words. Somebody once said that if Jack Welch can fit his résumé in one page, so can everybody else!
Your résumé should contain the following:
- Personal details
- Work Experience
- Extra-curricular activities
Start your résumé by giving personal details. The next item should be education. Do not focus too much on school education unless specifically asked. The name of the university or college you graduated from, your degree and final marks should suffice. One need not get into the details of semester-wise or year-wise grade break up. If you’ve been a rank-holder at the university, you should highlight it. For example, you can effectively display your education qualifications in the following way:
BTech., Electrical Engineering, IIT Delhi, 2018, CGPA 8.4/10, Rank 8/60
If you notice, you have effectively covered information about your undergraduate degree in one line and yet given all the relevant information.
Achieve conciseness and highlight impact
Often the most challenging portion of the résumé is, highlighting your work experience. The following tips are important to remember:
- Focus on achievements and accomplishments
Rather than giving too many details of your responsibilities, focus on accomplishments. For example, saying:
Achieved 20% sales growth while leading a team of five people
is far more effective than saying:
I was heading a sales team in the company and five people were reporting to me…
Keep statements short
Statements describing your work experience should ideally be of one line each. These make them easy to read and have a greater impact. For example, saying:
Created complex software solution to reduce downtime by 10%.
is far more effective than saying:
Wrote a software code that was a part of an application for a client and helped reduce the client’s downtime by 10%
Statements should start with an action word
Use action words to start statements. This puts energy in your résumé and adds an element of dynamism to it. Add the following phrases to exhibit a can-do achiever behind the résumé.
- Achieved client satisfaction rate…
- Boosted sales by…
- Organized the department to…
- Mentored new recruits…
Using about five or six statements which are concise, highlight accomplishments and are action-packed convey your work experience in a very good manner.
Convey career progression
Your résumé should be able to convey a sense of career progression, especially if you have worked for more than two or three years. This is effectively done by breaking up your job responsibilities in two or more parts.
Let us say that you have been working in the same company for the past five years but in different job roles, then it would make sense for you to break up the entire experience into these different roles. For example, a typical sales profile with career progression can be broken up as:
Manager – Sales (June 2018 to present)
Assistant Manager – Sales (April 2016 to June 2018)
Marketing Executive (August 2014 to April 2016)
Notice that even though the employer remains the same, the applicant has managed to convey the progression in his/her career very effectively.
Think of your audience
While writing your résumé you have to constantly think of who is reading it. Think from their perspective and not yours. Think of the problem they are trying to solve by recruiting you. If you are applying for a specific job, then carefully analyze its JD and think of what the employer is looking for e.g. a particular skill, attribute, etc. It would help if your résumé demonstrates that you are a good fit for that position. Some research about the company also helps a lot.
Similarly, if you are applying to a business school, understand what the school is looking for. Most schools want candidates who have demonstrated leadership, have a fair number of accomplishments and possess a consistent academic record. Therefore, your résumé should highlight areas where you can demonstrate these attributes in addition to your unique qualities. Although good grades do make a strong application, they are not mandatory. If your academic grades are average, then you can supplement those by highlighting achievements at your college or workplace which demonstrate your skills in a meaningful way.
This section again should have 5 or 6 statements which highlight an extra-curricular activity or two. Do not try to put too many things here because it may come across as insincere or worse, fake. Also, do not make this section look too casual, otherwise it will have no impact. Your aim is to show that you are deeply passionate about a certain field and have corresponding accomplishments.
Format and Layout
Lastly, the format and layout of a résumé are very crucial. Stick to simple formats which are easy to read. Admissions officers are busy people and might be able to give only 30 seconds to each résumé.
In all probability they would just skim through the points written so painstakingly by you and would encircle only two to three points that might interest them. Therefore, your key selling points should really “pop” out. To do so they must appear in a font style and size that is easy on the eyes. Put two to three (not more) crucial words in boldface within the sentence. This breaks the monotony of the text and draws attention.
Remember, the decision to put a résumé in the “accept” or “reject” pile is taken in a few seconds. Those seconds thus, have the power to alter your life story. Presenting your achievements in the right manner could, hitherto, be the most important step for your career!