Make it Vivid: How to Make Your MBA Resume Stand Out from the Pile

When it comes to crafting the best possible MBA resume for your business school or job applications, it takes more than appropriate formatting and results-driven bullets. Those key standards of measurement will take you a long way toward having a strong MBA resume, but as you reach the final stages of revision it’s imperative that you think even more carefully about how to connect with your resume reader. Follow the final MBA resume rules below to give your resume that personal touch and make it memorable.

Make your MBA resume vivid

You’ve made it to the last step of writing a compelling MBA resume! If you read my other Resume Protocol articles, you know how to make sure your MBA resume is reader-friendly. You know how to ensure your MBA resume makes an impact on the MBA admissions committee readers. And you know how to format a mean MBA resume! (If you don’t, go find out how!!!)

But there’s a final component to resume craftsmanship that will take your resume from strong to standout. And that missing piece is vividness. So here are three steps to follow to make that MBA resume vivid.

1. Incorporate Vivid Details into your achievements

The idea behind vividness in an MBA resume is that you really bring those impacts and results that you’re citing to life for the reader. Going a step beyond cause and effect in your bullets, you’re making sure your reader can picture exactly what it is that you delivered as an employee, volunteer, innovator, etc.

The goal in this final (I promise!) stage is to make your bullets personal and relatable, so add as much colorful detail as your company’s confidentiality norms and the 2-line limit will allow.

Okay. Let’s look at this method of bullet enhancement in action.

Which of the following bullets do you prefer? (Note: Both bullets are already fairly strong, per the High School, CEO, and Cause & Effect tests.)

  • Drove raw material sourcing cost savings of $8M by creating a cost optimization plan for CPG client based on in depth modeling of alternative sourcing scenarios
  • Drove organic ingredient sourcing cost savings of $8M by creating a cost optimization plan for Fortune 500 beverage company based on in depth modeling of alternative sourcing scenarios

Both of these bullets pass the Cause and Effect Test, but notice how much more relatable the second one is when we add the colorful detail!

When you know this result is about organic beverage ingredients, the meaning of the bullet connects better with your brain because it’s grounded in reality. It’s no longer some conceptual disembodied impact. It’s about a beverage!! You drink beverages! And so does the admissions committee member or recruiter! You know what kinds of things go into them. In fact, maybe this is one you drink!! Maybe it’s Coke or Dr. Pepper or PBR!!

The bullet means more to a reader when they can connect it to what they know.

So once all your bullets pass the High School, CEO, and Cause and Effect tests, go back in and add as much vivid detail as you can while still (one more time, for good measure…)

  • Not exceeding two lines per bullet, and
  • Preserving confidentiality

A note on confidentiality in the MBA resume…

As far as confidentiality goes, respect the norms of your company.

This is especially important in industries like client service and government work. I have worked with military clients whose resumes started like this: “I was somewhere doing something, and it went well, but I can’t tell you what it was or where or who was with me.” (I’m only barely exaggerating here.)

It is a unique and fun challenge to convey meaningful results when confidentiality constraints are high. But confidentiality can be a big deal, and if you violate it in your resume, you will completely destroy the trust of the reader. So as you look for vivid details to include, go as far as you can without crossing the line.

For example: you could write “Fortune 500 Beverage Company” instead of “PepsiCo.” Fortune 500 gives us the sense the company is big and important and listed, and “beverage” tells us the product and industry. That’s as much as we need to know for the bullet to be more meaningful without revealing a client relationship that’s confidential.

2. Use fresh, unexpected action verbs in your bullets

I covered this in my 9 rules for building the best possible MBA resume, but it’s worth revisiting here just to stress the impact that a colorful (mind, I’m not talking swear words here) and wide-ranging vocabulary can have on the reader’s impression of your resume – and through that document, of you!

You have no idea (or, if you’ve worked in HR, maybe you do) how refreshing it is to pick up a resume that isn’t peppered with “led,” “responsible for,” “duties included”…. ACK!

Choosing fresh and thoughtful verbs in your MBA resume shows initiative and reveals a certain cast of mind – it suggests creativity, innovation, and a free-thinkingness that employers and adcom members find very attractive. It also implies a higher level of consideration for the reader, who will have to read dozens or even hundreds of these documents (often all at once).

So if you haven’t already, check out these two categorized lists from The Muse: 185 action verbs to replace the tired ‘ole regulars, and Indeed: 139 action verbs to make your resume stand out.

3. Make that “Interests” Section carry its weight!

Think that “Interests” section on your MBA resume is just a waste of space? Think again!!!

Okay, I’ll level with you for a second. That section might be a waste of space as you’re currently using it (and valuable space at that, with a one page MBA resume!!). But it shouldn’t be.

The “Interests” section of a resume is actually a very valuable and underrated part of the document. Vivid details in your bullets help the reader relate to your results and accomplishments, while the interests that you choose to share on your resume give them the chance to relate to you as a person. “Oh, she likes film noir? Tennis? Chess? And stalking Korean taco trucks? Me too!!!”

If you take advantage of this section, your resume could give you and a potential interviewer something to chat about – and a golden opportunity to establish rapport – before those hard-hitting questions even come up!

So how do you strengthen your “Interests” section?

Once again, the answer is vivid detail. Tell the reader more about your interests than you’ve been trained to think necessary in standard resume how-tos, while still working within that two-line rule.

To take one example, don’t just say “Reading.” Everyone has to read something pretty much every day in some fashion. That’s nothing to bond over. What do you read? Are you an avid reader of mystery novels or the New Yorker?

Don’t write “Running.” What kinds of races do you run? Are you a marathoner, or are 5Ks more your speed? What races have you completed recently? Did you PR?

Choose a handful of genuine passions (2 or 3 will do, 5-6 max!), and in just a few words go into depth about them.

Give your reader real insight into what you love to do outside work. Maybe they’ll share some of those interests and want to learn even more about you!! 

Welp, here we are at the end of my MBA Resume Protocol. I hope you learned loads along the way and feel ready to take that dusty ‘ole resume from weak to wow level. Dive into more of our MBA application and career enrichment insights on our Career Protocol blog. Start with How to Write a Great MBA Essay. And if you have any burning questions or want a buddy for the remainder of your MBA Applications journey, reach out to us!

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