Looking for Value-Added Résumés

Robert H. Smith B-school applicants need to not only list their achievements but also explain how they fortified their own leadership skills

Sabrina White is the director of MBA admissions at the University of Maryland at College Park Robert H. Smith School of Business. Before arriving at Smith in 1998, White served as director of graduate studies in business for Bowling Green State University in Ohio from 1993 to 1998.

White says the perfect candidate at the Smith School is an "aggressive team player" who sees problems as opportunities. She recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Jeffrey Gangemi. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: Have applications to Smith been up or down recently?


Applications have been down since about 2002. There was an 18% decrease in 2003, and last year we saw a 35% decrease. We have two remaining deadlines this year, but early indicators tell us that we'll be down around 12% to 15%.

We've experienced even more extreme decreases among international students, particularly Indian and Chinese applicants. Many of them are choosing to attend American MBA programs that have opened in their home countries, which are cheaper and offer greater networking opportunities for them.

Q: Are you happy with the number of international students and women in your program?


We are very happy. Our class hovers around 34% for both women and international students. We recruit heavily in Europe, Asia, and South America, as well as parts of North America. Internationally, we rely heavily on our alumni. In terms of women, we are currently exploring a partnership with the Forté Foundation. Every fall and spring, we offer a symposium about women and the MBA, for which we partner with the Smith Women in Business club.

Q: Is the application process different for the part- and full-time programs?


It's the same type of application process. The thing to keep in mind, however, is that we have 150 seats for the full-time program and 350 to 400 for the part-time program. We receive from 600 to 700 applications for those 350 to 400 seats. An applicant's chances of being admitted to the part-time program may be greater simply because of the ratio. We admit about 60% for the part-time, compared to 35% to 40% for the full-time program.

Q: Do you have any tips for the résumé that applicants include?


We apply the rule of thumb that a one-page résumé is generally a good résumé. As a business school, we appreciate brevity, the ability to communicate what you've accomplished and the impact that you've had on an organization in a succinct fashion. Many applicants make the mistake of highlighting their tasks and responsibilities instead of the impact and leadership opportunities they've had. Many applicants think that just because no one reports to them they don't have leadership experience. The résumé is also not the best place to put personal interests and hobbies.

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