Resume Basics: How to Format Your Perfect MBA Resume

Effective formatting is an important aspect of creating the best possible MBA resume. In order to build a compelling resume, you need to find the right resume template for your specific needs, figure out how to balance your professional and educational background with other key life achievements, and drill down to the core of each accomplishment. Looking at Harvard MBA resume samples will only get you so far. So if you want to know exactly what an MBA resume should look like, read on!

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First Impressions

Crafting the perfect MBA resume is a vital part of any great business school application, but a great MBA resume doesn’t necessarily look like you think it does.

If you’re in the middle of crafting a (killer) new MBA resume for your MBA applications or an exciting new job opportunity, you might find yourself asking…

What should an MBA resume even look like?

How does a good resume—a winning resume—look? And where can I get my hands on the right MBA resume template?

When it comes to MBA resumes, it’s really important that you start off on the right foot with your reader. You know all that hoopla about how much first impressions matter? Well, with resumes, that “first impression” is your formatting. (And it does matter.)

Does your resume have as much white space as a dry erase board, or is it dense with all your impressive achievements? Is the organization straightforward and sensible?

If you do it right, your resume will not only showcase your professional and educational background in a way that resonates with recruiters, employers, and admissions committee readers, it will also communicate your competency, considerateness, and professionalism to readers.

So press pause on all that application anxiety for a second, because we’ve got the answers to all your resume formatting questions right here!!

Rule #1 of resume formatting: One Page.

Unless you are 10 or more years into your career, a one page resume should do it. And even if you ARE 10+ years into your career, it’s highly doubtful that more than one page is necessary to make the best case for who you are as a professional. Whether you are in your first job or your fifth, following the tips in this guide will help you boil all your experiences down to the most important page-worth of bullets.

I strongly recommend you challenge yourself to use a one page resume. At the very least, the busy people who read it will recognize you for your concision and strategic communication abilities. This might require creative editing and strategic selection of experiences to include (and exclude), and that process should be shaped by the audience for your resume.

For example: If you are a consultant applying for marketing jobs, the projects you have done involving financial analytics or supply chain logistics may be less relevant. Instead, you’ll want to select accomplishments that relate to consumer insight and strategic marketing, and initiatives that helped drive topline growth.

If you are applying to business school, then you might choose to play up the more managerial aspects of your experience while showcasing a breadth of accomplishments across all the functions you have worked in.

As you get started, I recommend that you first err on the side of inclusion. Put all your meaningful accomplishments in and perfect the bullets. Then decide which ones are least relevant to the opportunity at hand and trim them out to reach one page.

Rule #2: One accomplishment per bullet.

The organizing principle of a resume bullet is a result. It’s not clients, projects, bosses, responsibilities, tasks, or any other aspect of your work. This means you might have multiple bullets for a single project, because during that project you produced multiple meaningful outcomes. Conversely, it might mean there are projects that aren’t featured on your resume at all, because although you spent a lot of time on them you didn’t produce any results worth including in your “highlight reel.”

In any case, do not try to feature more than one accomplishment/result per bullet.

Aaaanddd #3: No more than two lines per bullet.

It looks better, it imputes your ability to be concise, and it ensures the reader won’t get lost or bored. Trimming your bullets down to this length will likely be your last step. As you explore the depth and meaning of your contributions, your bullets might get a little bloated. But I have never met an accomplishment that couldn’t be conveyed in two lines.

If you aren’t able to get your bullets to two lines, you are either lumping multiple accomplishments into one bullet (a no-no), including extraneous detail, or you’re not pushing yourself hard enough on vivid, precise word choice.

More on General Resume Formatting

Let’s talk a little more about general formatting. This isn’t rocket science, and it’s definitely a time to apply the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Silly). There is an infinite array of resume formats out there. Some get very creative. And while it’s true your resume should also convey your unique personality along with your accomplishments, remember your audience.

[Note: If you are applying for a graphic design job, or one where your artistic creativity is part of what’s being evaluated, then take a look at Canva’s creative resume templates.]

For a business job or business school resume, you’re better off keeping it simple: text on a page. Let the accomplishments shine, not the document itself – like all the examples below, which came up in an image search for “Harvard Business School Resume.”

Each business school has a slightly different format you will be forced to use if you attend the school, but my favorite resume format is the Official Booth Resume Format. I confess, as a Booth alum and someone who had the pleasure of working directly with the legendary Julie Morton (perhaps the greatest head of an MBA Career Services Department in MBA history), I am entirely biased.

The Pros:

That bias notwithstanding, I recommend this resume format for two simple reasons: it’s extremely easy to read and it maximizes the use of space. The bullets stretch all the way across the page, creating plenty of room for all your important achievements. The dates and locations are clearly organized and visible at a glance. Different fonts and capitalization make firm names and titles instantly identifiable. And it leaves space to include community and personal details, which also matter.

If you’re interested, download this perfect MBA resume template (my modified version of the Booth resume format in a fancy PDF with comment guidance). Feel free to use the template to build your own perfect MBA resume.

But, the template alone won’t get you very far. A resume is black and white. It’s just some ink on a piece of paper. What will make your resume truly exceptional is its content. So head over here to learn how to build amazing MBA resume bullets. Start with my tips for making your MBA resume bullets readable with the Career Protocol High School Test.

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Angela Guido

Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder and
Chief Education Officer of Career Protocol

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