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The Best Resume Advice I Ever Received

“I know you think this is cool, but trust me, no one will EVER understand it or care.”

This was the feedback I got after asking a mentor to review the resume I was creating for my MBA applications. This feedback was valuable because, not only did I completely rework my resume, but this advice has been a guiding mantra in all of my resumes going forward. The main message was this: know your audience.

As someone who had only ever worked in finance for one company, my original resume described complex fund structures that, in retrospect, were not only hard to describe but were also fairly uninteresting to most people. As surprised as 26-year-old me was, it turned out that no one really cared nor was impressed by what the pricing on my team’s AAA tranche was (whatever that meant).

And further, my mentor explained that to most people, anything that I listed on my resume in that genre would mean the same thing:  you have analytical skills or simply “you can do math.”

So, a common mistake that I was making and that I’ve seen others make since then is using too much company or industry-specific jargon, getting too far in the weeds and unintentionally giving several examples that seem different to you, but to most people they are repeat points of the same skill.

Be sure to know your audience so that you can try to guess how they’ll interpret the descriptions on your resume.

If you’re applying to a job within your specific industry, then you can probably rattle off a bit more industry jargon, which may be effective in proving that you can hit the ground running in a new role. However, if you are applying outside of your specific industry, then be sure to take things up a level.

Consider that all companies want someone who is a leader, team player, strong communicator, and effective problem solver. So, transition your stories to communicate those key attributes in a way that can be understood by someone who hasn’t been working in your same industry or company.

Meredith Shields is the co-founder of Vantage Point MBA Admissions Consulting, a boutique, full-service MBA admissions consulting firm that advises applicants to the top MBA programs in the world. With Vantage Point, Meredith and her co-founder, Melody, have developed a unique 360° approach to the application process, delivering the perspectives that matter from not only experienced consultants and former admissions directors from top 10 MBA programs but also current MBA students and post-MBA professionals at some of the top companies in the world. By providing its clients firsthand insights from people who understand the process from the inside out, Vantage Point helps each candidate develop the most competitive and differentiated applications possible, maximizing his or her chances of admission to the most selective MBA programs.

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