(To continue on with Resume Week!!)
When they open up a new app to review, many admissions directors start with the resume. It’s really really (really really!) important. The resume holds so many opportunities for optimization and ways you can share insights! Don’t overlook these important aspects to your app.
The app dataset also offers some opportunities. It’s not just a fill-in-the-form task. It’s an analyze-every-single-thing-they’re-asking-for task.
The app dataset is so important that we even have a separate category for it here on the blahg. Here’s your whole ‘snarchive of posts about the app dataset (granted, there aren’t that many, because there isn’t too much we can say about it over and over, however those posts tend to be evergreen and useful for every season).
Each school has its own nuances and persnicketies on how they want things done, which you’ve probably discovered by now. Be very careful to READ THE INSTRUCTIONS on each school’s app. They are often DIFFERENT and you want to make sure you’re following the directions — for THAT school. Don’t assume that the way one school wants something done is the same way that all of them want it.
There are some loose standards, which we’ll quickly offer here:
For international candidates: The schools DO NOT want you to convert your grades to the American 4.0 scale. You’ll need to report your grades exactly as you earned them by your institution. If there is no GPA printed on your transcript, then don’t try to make one up (unless the school’s app specifically says to, which we’ve seen in one or two rare cases – but they never want you to convert from one grading scale to the 4.0 system). This is true for the app dataset and also for the resume
Related to that: The standard practice in some countries is to report only your GPA from your final year of college as your academic outcome. That is NOT the standard in the U.S. If you’re going to include your GPA on your resume (which we don’t always suggest; it’s only helpful to do that if it’s high) then it must be your cumulative record, reflecting your entire academic record earning that degree. Not just the last year’s marks.
For all applicants, you’ll be faced with the tedious task of entering your employment history in the application — yes, even though you’ll also be uploading your resume.
This is definitely an area where instructions can vary from school to school.
For example, on their app, Columbia Business School asks you for your Duties, and they want to know your Reason for Leaving.
Here’s an Optimization Tip:
Your Reason for Leaving Job X should not be a repeat of what you say were the Duties that you took on with Job Y.
In other words, if you say that your Duties for Job Y were to “manage A, B and C” then don’t say that the Reason for Leaving for Job X was “I wanted to get an opportunity to manage A, B and C.” That’s really basic.
Instead, find a way to give the reader more. More, more, more! Use those fields, baby!
When you leave one job for a new one, then why? (Yeah, we know, it was for more money, but WHY ELSE?) Presumably the next job was a big exciting new opportunity. Do you remember what you were excited about at the time? There’s always that honeymoon period, when you first begin someplace new, before you know about all the skeletons in the closet at this new organization, before you realize that you’ve just met the new boss, who’s the same as the old boss… Before all that disillusionment sinks in, you were EXCITED.
Try to capture some part of that in your Reason for Leaving.
Never write in negative aspects about why you LEFT; always write in positive terms about WHAT YOU WERE SEEKING.
But don’t make each one of them sound the same, either. The Reason for Leaving should be varied and different, at least in some way or another, for each of the positions on the form.
Try to use these sections in a way that gives a new insight into the challenge you saw available in the next step.
Also, the app dataset is one of the few (only?) places in the entire application where the phrase “Responsible for…” is appropriate. This phrase does not belong anywhere else – ESPECIALLY not on the resume! If the app dataset has a field asking for “Duties” (like Columbia’s does) then “Responsible for” is totally legit to say there.
Also, the app dataset should have your official title that’s on file with HR. However, you have some leeway, in some cases, with how you capture your job title on the resume. Sometimes people have an official job title that’s really not at all descriptive, or it’s stuck in the lingo of their weird corporate naming convention. Maybe your formal and official job title that HR has for you is “Systems Analyst II” but in actuality, you’ve been the Team Lead on a big multi-year implementation of an inventory system. Well, on the app dataset, you’d put the official title, but you could get a little creative on the resume and say something like Inventory System: Lead Analyst.
Now, that’s getting a little too creative right there, so it really depends on what your manager would go along with. However, if you have a different title in the signature block of your email system, that has been used for the nine months in all of your outgoing emails and nobody has ever questioned it, then you can totally use that on the resume. Just make sure that either it’s easy enough to identify it with whatever the official title is that you’re entering in the app dataset, and if it’s not a clear or obvious connection, that you explain it in the optional essay.
The app dataset and the resume are all important components and individually, you should be able to read the app dataset and understand your full profile — but you should be able to skim the resume and understand the highlights and strong bits.
What we mean is, when we read your resume, it should give a really clear sense of your career progression and instant evidence for how you have advanced and the REASONS behind each promotion you’ve had (based on the bullets you’re using to capture the way you’ve had an impact and been awesome).
That’s the opportunity with the resume.
It’s fine if the app dataset is a little bit dry, or a little bit less exciting. It needs to be fully fact-based and complete, obviously, but your main priority there is to be exact. Clearly answer the questions, filling out the fields with specifically what they are requesting.
The resume is not a creative document by any means; there is no fabrication or exaggerating or fictionalizing! Instead, it’s about positioning and how you are able to express your achievements and capture the meaning behind the career that you’ve built to this point.