A Hidden Gem for Resume Writing

A Hidden Gem for Resume Writing

There are many excellent on and offline resources that guide you through the art of resume writing. No doubt you will utilize many of these to help develop ideas and draft your resume.

But in searching for “how to craft a winning resume” you may have overlooked one key resource that could provide you with that extra edge in targeting your desired degree program.

The online professional network, LinkedIn, is a hidden in plain sight gem for resume writing.

First, you can browse a countless number of resumes. Try this: Place yourself in the position of an Admissions Officer and look through several resumes for 60 seconds each. After, you will have a better idea of which ones leave an impression and those that are forgettable.

Second, you can direct your search to find some of the online profiles of students and alumni from the universities that you are applying to. Frequently, you will find that their resumes have been copied to their LinkedIn profile. Use this as a reference to gain a better understanding of what a successful applicant’s resume could potentially look like.

Finally, this experience of resume and profile viewing is a valuable opportunity to consider whether that specific program’s community is for you, or what you could bring to the table.

With all that being said, don’t forget to be youin both style and content! As with any other resource, use LinkedIn as a reference and not a template. The university doesn’t want a carbon copy of their exiting study body; they want the unique contribution that only you can provide. LinkedIn is an excellent resource to help package and present the best you.

 Warren

The Optional Essay

The OPTIONAL Essay – Should I write the optional essay? Do I need to write the optional essay?

 

The MBA application will almost always provide MBA hopefuls with the “Optional Essay” and many applicants often struggle with whether this essay is truly optional.  While some programs clearly state that this essay should be used to address extenuating circumstances, others ask whether there is anything else about your candidacy you would like to share with the admissions committee.  Given this prompt, many applicants are tempted to write something.

As a general rule, the optional essay is the last essay that should be written and should be viewed in the context of the whole application. Once the application has been completed, ask yourself if there is something else that you want to convey to the admissions committee that could not be addressed in any other part of the application.

The topics that can be considered in the optional essay are academic weakness, gaps (employment and academic) and major career changes, choice of recommender and information that adds to your application.  It is this “information that adds to your application” that tempts applicants to write the optional essay.

 

ACADEMIC WEAKNESS

The admissions committee may want to know reasons for a C grade or below in the transcript or a weak GMAT. Do not make excuses; instead emphasize improved performance in later university years or in subsequent classes. If you have a new GMAT score, it can be used to demonstrate that the low grade in college was an outlier and not an accurate indication of your abilities.

 

CAREER GAPS and CHANGES

A several month gap between jobs should be addressed. Did you take the time off to care for an ailing parent? Did you attend school or training programs while you were not employed?  If you recently switched careers, you may want to show that it was a well thought through decision and how the MBA program will help you achieve the next career step.

 

CHOICE OF RECOMMENDER

Business schools typically will ask that a letter of recommendation be written by a current manager because this person is the person is best able to comment on your abilities and skills as they are today. However, not every applicant feels comfortable asking their current supervisor. Reasons vary but it can be due to personality conflict or perhaps they aren’t ready to let their managers know that they might be leaving. Whatever the reason, it should be addressed so that the admissions committee to eliminate doubts about the working relationship with your employer.

 

INFORMATION THAT ADDS TO YOUR APPLICATION does not mean you have to write something. The worst thing you can do is to re-write an essay for another programs that repackages your strengths. By writing this essay, you are asking the admissions committee to do even more work so make sure the content has not been addressed anywhere else in the application package.

Jumet

Interview Preparation 3: The Admissions Perspective

We’re lucky at Agos to have staff with all sorts of experience. In particular, one of our Admissions Consultants, Mengdan Chu, used to work on the other side of the application, as a member of the Admissions Team at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Whilst her views are entirely personal, it can be invaluable to get some insight into the interview from someone who conducted many of them!

 

  • Can you give us a brief perspective on what role the interview plays in the entire application evaluation?

The interview is an important piece of the puzzle. It may tip the weight toward your favor, or break the deal in some cases. Most would say that the interview is an additional perspective on you, or an independent evaluation of your candidacy when the interviewer only gets to see your resume, not your entire application. So, the interview is an additional voice about your application, and an up-close, personal view of you, more dynamic and revealing than just your essays and recommendations on paper.  The purpose is to get to know you as a person face-to-face, to get a sense of your fit with the school and the class. Of course, it is also an opportunity to assess your English communication skills, and certainly your overall qualifications such as your experiences and skills, you focus and your goals, your personality and your fit with the program.

 

 

  • Considering how many interviews you’ve conducted, which candidates were most memorable and why?

The candidates that I remember are the ones who shared with me a unique story, or the ones who convinced me with their focus and plans, who have done thorough research about the program and their fit. The latter is the kind that I can see him/her in class contributing and making the most out of his/her MBA experience. And someone with a unique story can add unique perspectives to the class and to the overall educational experiences of his/her peers.

 

 

  • Do you have any tips on how to stand out in the interview?

Most candidates or interviewees are reasonably accomplished possessing considerable skills, both hard and soft, to be successful in the program. In that sense, your professional accomplishments can be viewed more as an equalizer to other candidates. For example, the $100 million deal that you sealed is just a $100 million deal. It does not make you stand out by itself. You need to rise above it, or dig down deeper shall we say, to get across the meanings of that deal, the lessons you learned from the process and from the people that you got to know in that process. If you reflect on that and share with the interviewer, you are then effectively sharing a personal story, not some glamourous numbers. It demonstrates your maturity, awareness and thoughtfulness, indications of more potential or further capacity to grow and improve as a person and as a leader. So I would say let your personality shine through the interview, be reflective, thoughtful and passionate. If you leave the interviewer the impression of a vivid person, not just another fairly accomplished applicant, you would more likely stand out among the five or even ten people the interviewer has met for the day.

 

 

  • What kind of ‘red flags’ do you commonly see in interviews?

People who are not prepared, can not answer questions about why MBA why this program, or are just giving very generic and superficial answers. There’s really no excuse for not preparing well. The interviewer would think you might not be serious about the program and he/she would not be thrilled either.

 

 

  • How do you advise potential interviewees to prepare?

Take the time to reflect on your past and design your future, make sure the MBA program/experience connects in between.  You really need the time to lay out the basic blocks first, such as why MBA, why this school, why you, and a few (not just one or two) examples to draw from and illustrate your skills and perspectives on key parameters such as teamwork, leadership, conflict resolution, creativity, perseverance, etc. It might not be a bad idea to write down some key bullet points to help you frame/structure your answers and your stories. AGOS consultants can help coach you how to answer questions in a structured way, providing key details while staying concise and to the point. Overall, lots of practices will pay off, even if you’re a native English speaker. No one is born to be magic story tellers, we all practice and learn.

 

Mengdan

 

 

The Video Essay

Not too long ago, having one’s picture taken was not an everyday occurrence. Camera-phones were still new and photographs were grainy, low-resonance images, and digital cameras didn’t fit in jeans pockets. Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram had yet to be invented. Today, many of us have become more or less comfortable in front of a camera. As such, video essays have become a more common part of MBA applications, and are now considered as fairly straightforward.

The MBA video essay requirement is the current trend and brings together the aspects of live interviews and written essays with the added pressure of time constraints, technology concerns and the most challenging of all, a complete lack of facial cues and real-time feedback. In the video interview, you have no idea if your response resonates with the audience. There is no opportunity to see if your interviewer’s eyes are glazing over and you are on the wrong track or if his/her eyes are lighting up and you have found a point of connection.

However, as with any challenge comes opportunities; it can give the candidate another medium to express themselves. The key to successfully managing the video essay is to PRACTICE. Tape yourself responding to questions. MBA programs that use video essays have sample questions on their website. Other questions that you can use to practice are:

  • How would your teammates describe you?
  • Who has had the greatest impact on you and why?
  • What is your favorite book and why?
  • If you have a day to do whatever you want, what would it be and why?
  • What are you most passionate about?
  • Why are you a great fit for this school?

Practice responding to questions is critical. As you practice, make sure that no sound can be heard other than your responses. Try to sound as natural as possible, and your non-verbal expressions should be consistent with what you would expect of yourself in a live interview. Finally, make sure that your responses are consistent with the narrative in your MBA application, connecting them with the wider themes explored in the essays.

Show your recording to someone you can trust and who understands the application process. Ask them for honest feedback and try to fine-tune your responses with every iteration.

Jumet

 

 

 

 

Standing Out at Admissions Events

 

How to ask good questions at school fairs and information sessions?

As someone who once stood by a school table/booth or a podium answering all sorts of questions from applicants, I can’t help asking myself:  So do I remember any of those questions, any of those names or faces?

The purpose of those fairs and info sessions is to help the school staff and prospective students to get to know each other face to face, at a personal level. While there’s plenty to say about how much a prospective student might get to know the school and its people, including staff, alumni and perhaps even a couple of current students, how much the school staff or school representative might get to know a certain prospective student, remains dubious in most circumstances.

The good news is that, the outcome of such an encounter depends mostly on you, the prospective student or applicant. Yes, you do go to those events to listen and to ask questions about the school. However, depending on the quality of your questions, there’s also a fantastic opportunity for you to help the school staff remember you, in a positive way, which could go a long way for your application when it comes to be assessed.

So why did I barely remember any of the questions, or faces or names that matched the faces at a fair or an info session? I typically came back to my office with a stack of business cards and another stack of resumes, most if not all of which were recycled. It was a one-way communication, me to you, but rarely both ways, you and me, you to me. My suggestions for avoiding such a lost opportunity are:

  1. Do not walk up to me with a straight face, with the look of a serious professional from an office meeting, even though you are legitimately tired after a long day of work. Remember I might have just arrived in Tokyo the night before and I’m really tired, too and jet lagged. Your relaxed, smiling face refreshes me in this pretty loud and busy hall.
  1. Do not simply hand me your business card and your resume right away. I actually do not collect those papers and I’m accepting the ones from those ahead of you mainly as a courtesy. Say hello to me, chat and genuinely ask how I’m doing today. Give me positive feedback if I just gave a presentation by the way. Appreciation goes both ways.
  1. Do not ask generic simple questions, questions that you can find the answer to on the school’s website, such as what the ratio of international students is, or whether the school has a Japan Club. Unfortunately, lots of prospective students do ask those “dumb” questions. You don’t want to be among one of them, which guarantees a one-way communication.
  1. Moreover, do not ask me super “intelligent” questions either, questions that I would struggle to answer as well, such as what the future strategy of the school is, or how the school plans on improving its leadership program. There are always one or two people who appear intent on outsmarting the school representative. Remember it’s supposed to be a two-way communication, not a competition. I wouldn’t remember you, and if I do, it’s less likely to be in the way you want.
  1. So, ask questions that are specific, that demonstrate your research and understanding of the school and its program, and that even better, tie in your interest with the specifics of the school and program. Share your interest, succinctly, with me, and help me see how it is interesting to me and my school. If you do that, chances are I will look at your business card and resume afterwards, and remember you as one of the few outstanding/interesting prospectives that I have met on the road.

Parting message: The key is to do research before you go to any event, ask any questions. Once you’ve done your research and come up with your specific interesting/relevant questions, approach the school representative in a very friendly manner. Go for it.

Mengdan

HINTS for successfully writing the MBA essays

The business school application process can be an intimidating process with competition particularly fierce at top business schools. In general, candidates are screened based on the following;

  1. GPA and GMAT scores
  2. Personal attributes. Prior to being invited to an interview, the applicant’s “fit” with a particular program is assessed based on his/her essays and recommendation letters.  Invariably, the essays and reference letters collectively must draw attention to the skills and characteristics that business programs seek including maturity, motivation, strong work ethic and solid communication skills. A great essay will provide color to your performance and potential.

To write a strong essay, you need to understand your audience. It is imperative that you understand what the Admissions Committee is looking for.  From your admission essays, the Committee hope to better understand the following relative to other candidates:

  1. Depth of your academic and professional experiences
  2. Unique traits and interests that are not covered in other parts of the application
  3. Your commitment to the MBA program

Writing Hints:

In your essay, be passionate and sincere. Show Admissions Committee who you are and what you will bring to the program. Some hints are:

Do’s:

  1. Answer the question being asked. Many candidates gets lost as they write their essays. Instead of focusing on the question being asked, he/she rambles on and on without focus. Always come back to the question.
  2. Convey positivity and optimism.  A typical essay question is “Write about an experience that has shaped your personality.” Very often, applicants write about an unfortunate event and writes from a perspective of being the victim. AVOID this perspective. Instead, focus on what you have learned from the experience.
  3. Use active voice. Be clear and use simple sentence structure. Often, essays have word limit and every word has to count.

Don’ts:

  1. Resist the urge to describe. Applicants often spend the better part of the essay tediously describing an experience or event. The description is only a part of the essay. Demonstrate what you have learned including perseverance, stamina and knowledge.
  1. Don’t repeat information that can be found in other parts of your application. The essays are your opportunity to demonstrate who you are. Rehashing the same information/experience only makes you one dimensional; business programs seek candidates that have depth and are multi-dimensional.
  2. Don’t try to explain weakness on your record. It is almost impossible to explain poor grades and/or test scores without sounding defensive or worse, irresponsible.  If there is a reason for an academic weakness, write in a separate short essay and avoid in the body of the essay.

As much as possible, you should craft your narrative around your achievements and experiences that have enabled you cultivate your strengths.  Use the whole essay set to “speak” to the Admissions Committee about who you are and not just disparate traits that you think the school wants to see.

Jumet

The Millennial Paradox

One thing MBA applicants (rightly) hear again and again is how important it is to really get to know your business school, but which ones do the best job of getting to know you as a prospective student? Every year, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) surveys MBA applicants on their experiences during the admissions process. Here are the most recent findings:

 http://aigac.org/for-media/application-survey/

Its worth keeping this information in mind as you determine your fit with your prospective schools, and also as you consider what you want them to know about you. What are your unique skills and experiences? What value will you add to the class? What makes you stand out among the crowd?

As you narrow down your list of schools, this is a good time to get on the mailing lists to keep up to date with any webinars, coffee chats in your city, or admissions events. The next step would be to reach out to current students and alumni to hear their first-hand experience of the programmes. Finally, if time and finances allow, visiting the school will give you insight into its culture and opportunities.

Faye

MBA school selection

People typically pursue an MBA because they are looking to improve their career opportunities. MBA programs can be compared based on attributes such as rankings, starting salaries, recruitment/ job placement opportunities, and net costs. In addition, there are other factors that potential candidates focus on such as predominant teaching methods, size of classes and location. These are all important considerations; however, you are investing time and money when you complete an MBA program. Therefore, as you start the process, focus on your objectives for getting an MBA.

Where do you begin?

Research extensively the schools you are interested in. Look at the entire two–year experience and determine if the program will give you the skills you are looking to acquire, the resources you need, and the network you want to develop.  Take a look at such attributes as quality of student life, teaching methodology, faculty orientation (research versus teaching), and size of program. Location should also be a consideration because as can be expected, schools in the financial centers can easily attract guest lecturers in the financial services while other areas may offer expertise in areas such as healthcare or luxury brand management.

Understand your profile. Many facts are considered in the admission process, including academic background, professional experience and progression, achievements, leadership potential, awards, hobbies, and test scores.  Your performance in your prior academic program and test scores help shed light on how you will thrive in the program. Another key area that is considered will be your stated goals and how you expect the program to help you achieve them.  Understanding all these areas is the starting point for developing a personal branding strategy and help you stand out among other MBA prospects.

Finally, apply to a wide range of schools. Apply to schools that have higher GPA or GMAT results – “reaches” -as well as ones that have lower ones.  The process is highly subjective and you never know what combination of attributes gets you admitted.

Jumet

 

 

 

Should I apply early?

As the cherry blossoms, apple blossoms and almost all other blossoms have gone with the wind that stirs up all-too-soon warmth in the air, it becomes inevitable that summer is upon us whether we are prepared or not. So are graduate school application deadlines. The heat is being turned up.

As someone who has applied to US graduate schools as an international student and someone who has both evaluated and consulted numerous applicants, I would venture that three or so months would be a legitimate period of time to prepare your application. That puts the next three summer months at the front line for beating the first round of application deadlines of at least most top business schools.

So, are you mentally prepared to submit your application to your dream schools in September or October? Why do admissions keep pushing their deadlines ahead? What are the pros and cons of applying early, say, first round?

According to my experience, Admissions tend to perceive first or early round applicants as typically more put together, more proactive and more focused. Admission rates are usually higher for first round than later rounds. As a result, it should be no surprise that they would want to compete for those applicants and push their early deadlines to stay ahead of the game.

So clearly there are advantages to applying early. The question becomes whether you would like to get ready, to rise up to the challenge.

Obstacles to applying early can seem insurmountable. Summer is your craziest time at work. Your employer is yet to announce its pick for sponsorship. Family events all happen in this season. Your TOEFL and other scores just aren’t there. Therefore, you need those heated months to get over all the above, and you secretly place your hopes on those last two holiday weeks of the year to catapult you to the second round in early January, to compete in a much bigger pool of applicants.

Understood and understood. Yet the fact of the matter is, if you do not prepare yourself early, if you do not aim for early round, chances are you might not ultimately prepare yourself in the most optimal way regardless of rounds. Or shall we say, if you do not prepare, how would you know whether you are prepared? You do not want your second round to be your test round, do you?

There will always be obligations and obstacles. The only time to lay the foundation of your application to your dream schools is nevertheless now, when things just start to heat up. Reflect on and summarize your experiences and accomplishments, clarify and broaden your professional and personal goals, research and connect with the schools and people, get your resume ready and write and rewrite your essays. And in case all those things are under control, start preparing for your interview! The saying is: it is never too early to start.

Mengdan

MBA School Selection: Examining Teaching Styles

People typically pursue an MBA because they are looking to improve their career opportunities. MBA programs can be compared based on attributes such as rankings, starting salaries, recruitment/ job placement opportunities, and net costs. While these attributes are valuable pieces of information, when narrowing down the school list, it is best not to focus on just the top few programs.  It is important to remain pragmatic and consider those schools that best meets your expectations and particular profile.

One attribute that is often overlooked in making school selection is teaching styles.  I would advise students to research the teaching styles of the different programs. There is the case study method, the experiential/action based learning method, and team-based focus of learning. Some schools will emphasize one method whereas many employ a combination of these methods.  It is important to find a program where the teaching method allows you to learn and thrive.

The case study method, often associated with Harvard, allows students to analyze and debate actual management challenges and make recommendations on actions that can be taken. This method relies on class discussions on a host of different views and tends to appeals to students who tend to be more outspoken and gregarious.

In recent years, schools have been added to experiential elements to the curriculum with increasing emphasis on hands-on activities such as industry-focused immersion experiences and conferences. Programs that favor this approach include Michigan Ross and Vanderbilt Olin. This approach may be favored by those who enjoy working in groups and want to see how businesses are managed in real-time.

Lastly, there is the traditional lecture method.  All MBA programs use this method but certain schools standout for their greater use. Lectures are often the most efficient method for teaching business concepts and theories with case-study and experiential learning both being more time consuming. Nevertheless, an academic environment where there is higher percentage of lectures may be more comfortable for some students.

MBA programs will incorporate all these methods when teaching the curriculum but there are significant variations between schools.  Consider your personal style and preferences as you begin the school selection process.

Posted by Jumet