MBA Resume Tip: How to Translate Experience into Accomplishments

by on May 15th, 2013

This guest post comes to us from Igor Khayet, founder of MyResumeShop.

You’ve had some great experiences working for a corporation, a non-profit, or the government, but how do you translate that onto your resume in an effective way? There are two major decisions that need to be made: choosing what is most relevant from your experiences and deciding how to translate this information into “resume language.”

Three Steps to Choosing Key Information:

  1. Put yourself in the mindset of the admissions committee. Depending on the school, there may be slight variations in emphasis, but all programs are interested in finding out about your leadership skills, work and academic accomplishments, ability to handle coursework, and “fit” for the school. To test if you have achieved these goals, have someone look at your resume and write down the 3 key traits that your resume shows. Does this correspond with your intentions?
  2. The resume is about trade-offs. When you add something to the resume, you will need to remove something else (one page maximum). Therefore, you should constantly be asking yourself the question of what is the most relevant information between two options. This will help you make decisions as your write.
  3. Despite the fact that the resume is made up of sections (Education, Work Experience, Additional Information), and experiences within each section, the resume should be viewed holistically. If in one particular job you have shown presentation and research skills, you should attempt to show additional skill-sets in other experiences. The resume is not viewed in sections but as a single document that showcases the value you bring to the school.

Translating Experience into Achievement Bullets

Once you’ve decided which information and experiences to include on your resume, you’ll need to translate those experiences into “resume language.” In most cases, this will require you to translate years of work experience into concise, informative “achievement bullets.”

A great achievement bullet is succinct (3 lines maximum, but usually 1-2 lines), and answers three primary questions: the context of the situation, your personal achievement, and the impact it had on the organization. Applicants usually spend way too much time on context and very little time on the important part: their personal achievement and impact. Let’s take a look at an example:

Created risk model for expansion of overseas business unit; global prepaid business accounts for 25% of company’s net revenues with 5% annual growth.

Even though the bullet is well written and includes numbers, it says very little about the action or impact and spends the majority of space discussing the business unit (which is of little importance). Remember that the 25% and 5% have nothing to do with the person’s actions, but simply the size of the department. Here is an updated bullet.

Created financial model to analyze operational, market, and credit risk for expansion of the $8B global prepaid business; methodology incorporated in company risk models.

The new bullet uses the same amount of space, but the focus is on how the model was built, what it includes, and how the model was used afterward (incorporated in company risk models). There are only four words that relate to the business unit ($8B global prepaid business).

With every achievement bullet you write, remember this example. If it helps, count the total words and then count how many of those words are being used to describe things that have no relevance to your actions or accomplishments.

Finally, remember that writing a great resume takes a considerable amount of time. If you only give yourself a few hours, this will be reflected in the quality of the work.

Igor Khayet is the President and Founder of My Resume Shop (www.myresumeshop.com).  He is a former Admissions Interviewer for the Yale School of Management and a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches. Connect with him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/myresumeshop and Twitter: twitter.com/myresumeshop

10 comments

  • Hi Igor,
    Indeed,very helpful article, but I have a doubt regarding length of resume. What should be the length of a detailed resume?

    • Rahul, I am a firm believer that the MBA resume should be ONE PAGE maximum. There are several reasons for this.

      1) In my time as an admissions interviewer at the Yale SOM, I interviewed over 50 applicants and only one had a resume longer than one page.
      2) The MBA resume is not intended as an autobiography of everything you have ever done. You have your entire application that the admissions committee has looked at. The resume is a guide for the interview that lets the interviewer ask questions and have a discussion with you about your achievements and goals for the future.
      3) One page gives you POWER. Power to limit the things you talk about so there is a convincing story for the interviewer. The longer you make your resume the more power you give to the interviewer to choose what to discuss. This can actually limit your opportunity to get across your most impressive accomplishments.

      I know that there's a huge desire to say everything you have ever done but unfortunately just like a resume for a job, this actually works AGAINST you. Pick what is most relevant and focus on that.

    • Hi Igor,
      Thanks for replying :)
      I am applying for MS in Management Information Systems and some universities ask for detailed resume. I was asking from this point of view.
      Hope you help me out.

    • Hi Igor,
      I am looking forward for some guidance, please throw some light.

      Thanks :)

  • Igor, very interesting article and will be very helpful when I start applying for Business School. You made a lot of great points. Thank you for your insight.

  • Hi, thanks for the very interesting article. I have a doubt though as to whether listing active roles within representative transactions is a valid way to "translate experience into achievements". I guess this will better apply to transaction-driven type of jobs. For example, my resume reads something like this:

    Representative completed transactions and accomplishments include the following:
    • ABC Company – Structured funding strategy and assembled pool of banks to syndicate a $400 million project financing for an energy plant in Perú. Transaction was granted the “Best Project Financing Deal of the Region in 2010” award by The Banker magazine.

    Is this a valid way to describe accomplishments in my resume? Thank you.

    Juan

  • Juan,

    I think it's fine to have an introduction to a list of one or two accomplishments but I think you are spending too much time both on the introduction as well as the bullet itself.

    Representative Transactions:
    • Designed and implemented $400mm bank syndication for energy plant in Peru; transaction won Best Project Financing deal of the Region (2010 Banker Magazine)

    • Thanks Igor. Very Helpful.

  • Rahul, feel free to email me directly if you have any further questions.
    igor@myresumeshop.com

  • I am a R2 applicant to colleges in US for MBA fall 2013. I had a query regarding the resume that needs to be uploaded to each of the schools. 
    Should my resume format be according to the format the school prescribes or can i go ahead with my own 1 page resume that is just presented in a reverse chronological order? 
    Thanks in advance. 

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