Business School application series: Presenting your work experience and extracurricular activities for maximum impact

Your resume is your opportunity to sell yourself as a driven and competent person. Depending on who your interviewer is (if you progress to the interview stage), it may also be the only part of your application made available to them. The following tips should provide guidance on writing an outstanding resume:

1.         Keep it short

If your target schools specify a page limit, make sure to adhere to it. Otherwise, keep it between 1 – 2 pages. You can put any overflow on your LinkedIn profile and include a link to it on your resume.

2.         Emphasize achievements, not responsibilities

Emphasize your achievements in each role presented in your resume (rather than just responsibilities). Try to quantify them where possible.

3.         Align with your target schools’ desired qualities

Keep in mind the qualities that your target schools are looking for. For instance, most schools look for candidates with strong leadership qualities. Make sure you emphasize this in your resume.

4.         Leave out unnecessary details

Omit unnecessary details or experiences too far in the past – e.g. primary/secondary school, superfluous personal information such as sex, marital status, state/town of origin (yes, I’ve seen this in people’s resumes).

5.         Exclude references

Do not include references, or the statement “references available on request”. You are already providing recommenders for your overall application.

6.         Use simple language

Avoid the use of professional jargon that may not be understood by the members of the Admissions Committee. Remember, they would be reviewing thousands of resumes and may not be familiar with terms used in your industry. Use general terms.

7.         Go for a clean, professional look

Aim for readability, not design. Use professional formatting, bulleted lists and avoid overly verbose language.

8.         Proofread

Proofread and get someone to review your resume before submitting. You can get friends, colleagues or professional resume writers to help.

So now you have shown what a superstar you are at work, then what?

Business schools also want to know that you are not a one-dimensional individual. Chances are, there will be lots of other candidates with the same academic and professional background as you. Your extracurriculars will help show what makes you unique. It is also a great way of showcasing leadership, initiative and passion.

Be specific about your contributions for each activity listed. For instance, if you volunteer with an NGO that provides free books to underprivileged kids, be prepared to highlight what specific role you play and how your actions have contributed towards achieving the overall cause objectives. As with your resume, quantify your achievements where possible.

Also, extracurriculars do not have to be limited to working at a non-profit. They can include your hobbies, arts, sports and other initiatives outside of work. If you are part of your local Toastmasters group, or you play with a jazz band every other weekend, those are good candidates as well. The key is to highlight your achievements within each.

In general, keep in mind your target schools’ desired qualities and emphasize experiences that showcase them. Focus on impact, quantified where possible, and only include the most relevant experiences and activities.

If you have questions, drop a comment below or shoot me an email at and I will try my best to provide guidance or point you to appropriate resources.

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