I spent a lot of energy crafting a resume specific to my application, consistently with my essays and profile. I did not simply reuse an up-to-date resume put together for a different goal. I thought that demonstrating a successful professional trajectory, even at my early career stage, with evidence of impact on an organisation, leadership and innovation, was very important in the application process. The resume is where I tried to make all this information shine. [Side note: how you should interpret this series of posts on the application process.]
In my career to date I have hired a half dozen people (at junior level), and reviewed about a hundred resumes. I learnt from that experience. Some CVs were not impressive, to use a euphemism, in the way the information was presented, and perhaps blew the chances of being hired for an otherwise good candidate. The book “Your MBA Game Plan” and lots of feedback from my trusted friends were further key sources of inspiration and confidence. Here are some key learnings I would like to share.
- I did my best to summarize all the information in one page. I still remember the horrified face of my Harvard friend when I asked him about a two-page version! I believe that concision and prioritization are key when trying to summarize several years of career progression. Less is more, and each word should count.
- The way to fit all the information into one page is not by using a 7pt font size. I played with margins to a degree, using my best judgement. I tried to make the document readable, i.e. something that my eyes would enjoy reading).
- I divided the information in three sections in the following order: work experience, education, personal information. As far as I have read, education should come first if you only have a couple of years of work experience, and this was not my case.
- Each section included items in reverse chronological order. I clearly stated and highlighted the company/institution, the city and the start/end dates before getting into any further detail.
- When I had more than one position in the same company, I highlighted my career progression. I saw resumes where a promotion was buried among the description/accomplishments of the current position. Other than being illogical, I am not sure why anyone would do such disservice to oneself!
- I summarized the key tasks of each role in one or two lines, dwelling a bit longer on the current role. I thought that, had I not provided a clear context of what my job encompasses, it would have been hard for the reader to understand the significance of the accomplishments. I started each sentence with an action verb, using present tense for current role and past tense for previous roles.
- After the summary of the position’s remit, I included a selected list of measurable accomplishments, in order of decreasing importance for each role. The measurement is key in my mind, and I provided as much detail as possible (e.g. “increased revenue/reduced costs by X%”, “negotiated Y deals for Z value”, “led a team of N people”, etc.). I included more accomplishments for my current position. Each bullet point was followed by an action verb at the past tense, unless the accomplishment is still in the making.
- I tried to use smartly the online application. It slightly varied from school to school, but it included similar sections, like “Professional Experience”, “Activities and Interests”, “Awards and Honors”. I did not simply repeat what was already on the resume. I used the opportunity to highlight further accomplishments, and/or add other interesting details when asked about my most significant achievement, my toughest challenge, the reason for leaving, etc.
- I only included extracurricular activities which were consistent with my profile and which truly represented a significant commitment for me.
- Last but not least, the form: obviously, no spelling mistakes of any kind. This encompasses using the right spelling depending on the target school, i.e. American English in my case, since I was only applying to schools in the US. Probably less obviously, given the amount of times I saw this mistake, I made sure that all text was aligned correctly by using the tabs feature in Word.
Ultimately, I made sure that I loved my resume, even graphically. It is the key marketing/accounting document about myself and it should truly stand for who I am professionally today.