Strategies and Tips to make your CV/Resume graduate school friendly (with examples and samples)

Read Time: 12 Minutes

 If God had a resume, it would probably be a one-liner which reads “God – Responsible for the creation of this madafaka world. 

But then, some Hiring Managers would not be happy with the word ‘responsible’ to start your action point of creating this madafaka world. 

So, in all probability then, God’s resume will end up in the dumpster of his office.

You don’t want to be that God. 

In a world where the rules of the ‘resume writing game’ is set by the College’s Admission Committee Review members and Hiring Managers, crafting a perfect resume is an art which requires a careful eye for details, acumen of which experiences to display, and proof-reading it a million times for those infuriating typos. 

Although these seem obvious at first, we have encountered many resumes which have some basic errors such as typos to the graver ones such as not prioritizing the bullet points or making them too long and complicated. With that in mind, we thought of writing this guide on creating resumes which make an impact on the Admission’s Committee (AdCom). Our experience of scrutinizing all sorts of resumes for top-rated MS programs in US, Europe and business schools was varied: Some were good, while some were absolute disasters. We hope that this guide helps you to design your resume in a manner which is acceptable and appreciated by the AdCom. 

Try being in shoes of an Admission’s Officer, who looks at hundreds of resumes on a daily basis. These individuals have neither the time nor the desire to hunt for the relevant information in your résumé. Instead, they want you to make their lives easier and their jobs more efficient by putting information at the right place in your resume. 

And we cannot stress this enough: please (we beg of you!) do not just hand in whatever you have been compiling since you first applied for a job in the tenth grade. Your résumé is not a throwaway, but an important element of your school application and a valuable opportunity to make a statement about yourself to the admissions committee!

The Super 3 of resume writing

Admission Officers look for three things on your resume, “What did you do? Why did you do it? And what was the result?” says career coach Martin McGovern, owner of Career Therapy. “If you can answer all three of these questions in your resume bullet points, you’re going to be on the right track.”

If only if it was so easy, right! Clear, easy-to-understand language is key. “The truth is that most resumes make no sense. They are stuffed with jargon, they are too technical, and they are filled with redundancies. Try to read a resume that isn’t yours and you will quickly realize that it feels like an alien wrote it,” McGovern adds. 

As you strive to make a statement through your resume, keep in mind the three most important aspects of constructing them:

  • Space Management
  • Maintaining a consistent format
  • Creating impactful action points

If you can nail these three components, you should be on the way towards drafting a résumé that the admissions committee can really use. And is that not the point?

Space Management

Drop the Mission Statement

Do not include a mission statement at the beginning of your résumé. Your mission in this case is to get into the MS program to which you are applying, and the admissions committee already knows this, duh! A mission statement will take up precious space that can be used more effectively for other purposes.

 Do Not Include Your Address

Let’s be honest here. Who needs your address anyway? Only your name should appear at the top of your résumé. You do not need to include your address, email address, gender, marital status, etc., because this will all be provided in your application form. As with a mission statement, adding this kind of information will take up precious space that can be used more effectively for other purposes. We have seen that many students simply feel too uncomfortable omitting this information. If you are one of them however, make sure that it takes up only one line. 

Avoid Listing Basic Computer Skills

The admissions committee will assume that you are proficient in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint and the like. You do not need to list these most basic computer skills in your application résumé—again, such unnecessary information takes space away from more important facts you can include instead. 

Preserve White Space

You should have ample white space on your résumé so that your reader does not feel overwhelmed by information when scanning your resume. Adjusting the width of your margins can help with this, but you must not make them too narrow and have words practically touching the edges. We recommend no smaller than three-quarter-inch margins. Further, you should not make your font smaller than 10 to 12 points, but to balance this, you can minimize the spacing between your lines a bit. No one will notice that this space is eight points high, rather than ten, for example. These kinds of adjustments do require judgment, so you will need to “eyeball” your résumé for readability once you have tinkered with the margins, font size and/or line spacing. 

Maintaining a consistent format

Consistency is absolutely crucial in any résumé. By using bolding, bulleting, margins/spacing and font sizes consistently throughout your résumé, you likewise help your reader navigate the information you have included. Although we consider these tips obvious, we feel they are still important to mention: you cannot have random bolding or underlining in your résumé; you cannot switch fonts within a section from one entry to another; you cannot have punctuation at the end of some bullets but not others. Once you decide on the style for an entry or heading, you must maintain that style precisely down the line for all other equal entries and headings. 

Creating impactful action points

We start this section with a sample bullet point that illustrates much of what you should not do when crafting your résumé:

Responsible for force balance studies and performed physical testing using CAD softwares to ensure proper strength standards and frame clearance for the vehicle. 

There are 4 things wrong with this sentence. That makes of 4 mistakes in just 20 words. 

Vague: The action point is replete with vagueness. Which forces? What vehicle? Which CAD software? What is ‘proper’ strength’? Too many questions, with no concrete answers. 

Weak Action Verb: When you start your point with action verbs like ‘Responsible for, it does not contribute to you doing some action. What the committee is really interested in know is how you contributed to the project, over and above your responsibility. What was your individual achievement? Your resume is the vehicle to display your most important work. Surely, analysis was a part of that work, but the overall scope is much more. So, a strong action verb is required. In Appendix A, you will find a list of action words that can be used in your resume. 

Does not show results: A lot of students fail to realize that in the absence of quantifiable results, the resume becomes a fact sheet. When you quantify your actions, and show achieved results, the reader gets a clear idea about what you can achieve either as a team or as an individual. 

Too much information in one bullet point: This is by far one of the most common mistakes we have seen in a resume. People try to stuff a lot of information in every single point, with the thought that it would showcase their skills in a better way. On the contrary, they end up confusing the reader with too much information. Not to mention, that the sentence in itself becomes long, complicated and difficult to follow. Considering that the admissions officer has a lot of resumes to go through in a day, he will not be interested in making sense of garbled sentence which is more than two lines long. 

Right!  So let’s revisit the same bullet point to incorporate our concerns. For the sake of clarity, we have broken it into two action points.

  • Conducted Force balance studies using CATIA to improve physical strength of structural members by 2x. 
  • Quality-checked designed vehicles to meet ASME standards and frame clearances. 

We have one final bit of advice about bullet points: do not overuse them. You should not have five bullet points for your current position and five bullet points for a two-month summer internship from six years ago. Carefully consider the “weighting” of your résumé, allowing more bullet points for your current and very recent roles and far fewer for those you have had in the past. For example, you might use five or six bullet points for your current position (assuming you have not just transitioned into it), but anything more simply will not be read by time- pressed admissions officers. We recommend using three to four bullet points for positions in your recent past and one or two for positions held many years ago, as a general rule.

Constructing your Resume 

As we go deeper into the deconstruction of a resume, let us start by discussing its most important sections. 

Typically, your résumé will include the following main sections in the following sequence:

• Professional Experience (Full time or internship)

• Education

• Academic Experience

Other aspects of your life in which you may have significant achievements, can be clubbed under:

• Community Work/Leadership Experience

• Technical Skills

So how do you format and organize all of that information?

By far the most common (and safest, if you’re not sure which route to take) option is reverse chronological order. This means you organize your experiences from most recent to least recent. So, your work experiences would go above your education, and your current role would go above previous roles you’ve held. This of course has its exceptions—maybe you went back to grad school between jobs, or your most recent role is irrelevant to the job you’re applying for. So, the whole page may not be exactly in reverse chronological order depending on your situation. It’s just a guideline.

It is always nice to limit the number of headings in the résumé to avoid making it too cluttered and causing confusion. For example, if you somehow found time to work, launch a start-up and play a significant role in your community, we recommend that you avoid having five headings in your résumé (professional, entrepreneurial, community, academic and personal). Instead, to streamline your information, you could combine your community and personal sections, so that you just have four headings. The bottom line here is to always use your judgment.

Professional Experience Section

Undoubtedly, professional experience carries the maximum weight on your resume. So, each entry in your professional experience section should include the name of your employer, the city and state in which you worked, your job title and the dates of your employment. 

Below that, you’ll add in two to four bullet points explaining what you did in that job, the skills you built and exercised, the tools you used, and the results of what you did. If you accomplished a lot during your time there, focus on the responsibilities that made the most impact or you’re the proudest of, as well as the ones that best align you with the job you’re applying for (more on that in the following sections). It’s key here to list, if relevant, quantitative as well as qualitative accomplishments.

If you choose to bold the names of your organization or the job titles, it must remain consistent throughout your resume. Here is an example of structure you might use:

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE


ABC Technologies Mumbai, India

Data Analyst 2018 – Present

It is always advisable to include a very brief, one-liner about the description of the organization, unless you are working for well-known brands like Microsoft, PWC, JP Morgan, Mu Sigma, etc. Then, a well-constructed professional will look something like this: 

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE


ABC Technologies Mumbai, India

Data Analyst 2018 – Present

ABC is a 30-employee, bootstrapped, Data Science startup. 

Your resume bullets should be in past tense if you’re referring to past jobs and present tense if you’re talking about your current roles. And if you have examples of your work, consider hyperlinking them here as well.

Candidates who have transitioned between different roles in an organization are advised to show their journey by giving a breakdown of their roles. This not only shows your progress in the organization, but also gives a clarity to the resume. We have seen multiple cases where people just bundle all their roles in an organization together. Below are two examples to clarify this:

Sample A 

Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Ltd

Design Engineer             Feb 2015 – Jan 2016

  • Led design reviews and released workflow processes in PDM (Product Data Management) and collaborated with cross functional teams to support the design and drawing / print release.
  • Assisted International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor on Cryostat and Lifting beam arrangement of Fusion Reactor using UG NX, SolidWorks applications. 
  • Designed and developed fixture for Stiffener Plate using CATIA V5 and led out design calculations, cost analysis, strength calculations, material selection, 2D detailed drawing and 3D modelling. 
  • Analyzed various product designs to provide the most optimal and cost-effective design solution for the fixture reducing cycle time and improving operational efficiency by 50%.
  • Assisted in the implementation of the new fixture and carried out manufacturing line study on the 5-Axis CNC machine.

Sample B

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE


Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Ltd

Design Engineer             Feb 2015 – Jan 2016

  • Led design reviews and released workflow processes in PDM (Product Data Management) and collaborated with cross functional teams to support the design and drawing / print release.
  • Assisted International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor on Cryostat and Lifting beam arrangement of Fusion Reactor using UG NX, SolidWorks applications.  

Jr. Project Engineer                                                       Jun 2014 – Jan 2015

  • Designed and developed fixture for Stiffener Plate using CATIA V5 and led out design calculations, cost analysis, strength calculations, material selection, 2D detailed drawing and 3D modelling. 
  • Analyzed various product designs to provide the most optimal and cost-effective design solution for the fixture reducing cycle time and improving operational efficiency by 50%.
  • Assisted in the implementation of the new fixture and carried out manufacturing line study on the 5-Axis CNC machine.

If you don’t have a full-time work experience, internship counts as your best bet to impress the AdCom. Therefore, it’s crucial to include it in the resume in the format as used in full-time work profiles. 

Your professional experience section should always flow chronologically from your current or most recent role to your oldest. If you have worked on any side projects along the way that have been significant, you should likely list this separately from your professional work.

Education Section

If you’re still in school or just graduated, your education can go at the top of your resume. This is how most people structure their education section:

EDUCATION


Bachelor of Technology, Mechanical Engineering       April 2012 – May 2016

K J Somaiya College of Engineering       GPA: 3.50/4.00

Few tweaks here can substantially improve things for you. Include, if you have any of these:

  • If you received any accolades in the university
  • Outstanding leadership experiences
  • Thesis title, if worked on one. 

Sample section

EDUCATION


Bachelor of Technology, Mechanical Engineering       April 2012 – May 2016

K J Somaiya College of Engineering       GPA: 3.50/4.00

  • Academic Achievement Award for High Academic Standing – 2013
  • President, AIESEC university chapter – 2014

This does not mean however, that you need to include smaller awards or which are outdated/have little relevance. A certificate for acing a pop quiz in class should not find a mention in a graduate program resume. 

Academic Experience section

Let’s say you are applying for a graduate program in Mechanical Engineering. During your undergrad, you must have been a part of some vehicle building competition like SAE BAJA or SAE International’s Collegiate Design Series. You were part of the team, and worked on the design and development of the vehicle, from scratch. During your one year association with the team, you also got a chance to lead a small team to work on a more specific part of the vehicle such as chassis and powertrain systems. Going beyond your usual tasks, you participated in making the budget of the vehicle and scout for scholarships. How do you convey all of this to the committee in the best possible manner? 

Sample A

ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE


Design Lead & Team Manager, FORZA Racing. BAJA SAE INDIA                    Jul 2014 – May 2015

  • Developed first prototype to verify functional requirements and derive technical specifications
  • Performed structural, dynamic and thermal analysis of chassis and powertrain components using ANSYS
  • Performed engineering analysis (FMECA), Technical writing of Design Validation Plan and Design Presentation 
  • Preparing project deployment plan, Generation of cost report and Bill of Materials for technical inspection
  • Created a unique modular mechanical design of wheel assembly to facilitate 10% faster part replacement
  • Executed selection strategy for different material properties to achieve 17% weight reduction

Does it look ok to you? Just as an exercise, try pointing out errors in sample A, before reading on further. Cool? Ok, so let’s see what works and what does not. 

Too many bullet points: It is highly recommended that your experience should be limited to not more than four bullet points. If you want to stretch it out, may be five. But never more than that. In the example above, there are six bullets, which makes it more space consuming and verbose. 

Quantifiable action points are on low priority: In the 5th and 6th bullet point, the student has achieved results which are actually quantifiable. Phrases such as “facilitate 10% faster part replacement” and “17% weight reduction” are measurable results. Naturally, these should be not be placed in the lower half of the bullet points.

Weak first point: The first bullet point has big gaps of information.Developed first prototype (of what?) to verify functional requirements (which requirements?) and derive technical specifications (how was it used? What is the significance of the word ‘derive’?). 

Did you get those right? Let’s see a revised version of the same example, keeping the above points in consideration.

ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE


Design Lead & Team Manager, Team FORZA Racing

BAJA Student INDIA                                   Jul 2014 – May 2016

  • Engineered a unique modular mechanical design of Wheel Assembly to facilitate 10% faster part replacement.
  • Executed selection strategy for different material properties to achieve 17% weight reduction.
  • Utilized Modal and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to conduct dynamic and thermal analysis of chassis and powertrain components in ANSYS.
  • Led a team of two to perform quantitative failure mode analysis (FMECA) for risk assessment of vehicle. 

Seems better? Notice how we have strategically bold-faced some phrases to catch the attention of the reader. 

Community Work/Leadership Experience

Some candidates choose to include a separate section in their résumé to highlight their leadership activities and/or their community or volunteer work. If you have significant leadership activities tied to notable achievements that you want to showcase—and that will not come across as clearly in a more general (and more brief) personal section—we recommend creating a distinct section for this information, as long as doing so will not detract substantially from the listings in your professional experience section. Showcasing more than one significant community commitment can sometimes be challenging because of space restrictions. Try to limit the number of bullet points for each community commitment to two. 

LEADERSHIP


Vice President, Out Going Exchange Team

AIESEC, Mumbai           Jun 2016-April 2017

  • Led a multi-hierarchy team of 40 members, successfully forging collaborations with local companies to cater to Global Talent Program of AIESEC. 
  • Contributed to the operational goals of AIESEC in Mumbai by driving growth strategies across the entity to improve the operational systems and processes.

Technical Skills

The skills section of a resume gets a bad rap, but it’s just as important as the rest of the stuff you include. It’s a quick list an Admission Office can scan to see if your skill set aligns with what the graduate program represents. 

What exactly do you throw in here? You’ll want to list any hard skills and applications you’re familiar with (Photoshop, SEO, JavaScript, to name a few examples), and, if relevant, your level of expertise. Avoid including soft skills here, like time management or public speaking—save those for your bullet points instead.

Personal Section

The personal section of your résumé should not be overlooked or dismissed. This part of the document allows you to demonstrate your personality by highlighting non-work accomplishments, hobbies, special skills and personal passions. This information helps humanize you in the admissions committee’s eyes and, in some cases, can even reveal common ground—“You ran the Standard Chartered Marathon in 2013? I ran it in 2012!”—which can be especially useful in an interview. Take some time to think about what you have not yet shared with the admissions committee that is an important part of who you are as an individual. To garner that exclamation point, you must be specific about your interests! 

Consider the following:

PERSONAL


• Enjoy travel, languages, cooking, reading, music, movies and running

This entry is essentially so nondescript as to be useless and is unquestionably forgettable. Some details are needed!

PERSONAL


• Thai cooking – took classes from a local chef during a solo trip to Krabi. 

• Marathons – have completed three marathons in four states

• German Language – participated in three-month immersion in Bochum, Germany (now fluent)

Although this example omits any mention of the candidate’s interest in music, movies and reading, as the previous sample entry did, its narrower and far more detailed focus make the section significantly stronger and more compelling. 

Resume-Sample

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