Case Study | How Louis' CV Led to a Rejection from Harvard Business School
Louis was a very gifted professional who dreamed of attending HBS. He had the right age, the right stories and the right background. But something sunk his first application: his CV. Let’s take a look at just a small portion of his resume to find out what went wrong (all names have been changed):
July 14 – Dec. 15
Worked on a research project on the development of an advanced bacterial detection technology for a start-up life sciences device company spun off from Acme University
Worked closely with mechanical engineers and statisticians during the research phase, solving a number of issues that improved the performance of this technology and extended the application to other diagnostic targets
The research was published in an internationally reputed scientific journal and attracted attention from several food and life sciences companies
Can you see what made Louis unattractive to HBS? If you think the role of research microbiologist had anything to do with it, you’re wrong. The problem was that Louis wrote about his work from the perspective of a researcher for other researchers, instead of adapting his CV to his audience: HBS. Business schools want to read about impact, leadership and teamwork. Without those qualities, Harvard could only learn about his functions.
One of the major steps we took during the reapplication process was to change how Louis appeared across his resume. Here’s the updated position:
July 14 – Dec 15
Managed a research project on the development of an advanced low-cost biosensor-based technology for international food companies to fight against a global food safety scandal (E. coli German outbreak), leading to a 30% increase in global revenue
Led a 6-person interdisciplinary team (mechanical engineers, statisticians and university scholars), solved a number of key issues to improve the performance of this technology and extended the application to a wider range of diagnostic targets
Promoted the technology actively at 2 scientific conferences, 10+ technology demonstrations and 5 scientific publications, contributing to successful collaborations with the USDA and 3 life sciences companies (Alpha, Beta and Gamma)
In this version, you immediately see that Louis took on an active and leading role: Louis managed, led and promoted. He includes details that allow the reader to understand the urgency and context of his work: fight, safety scandal and E. coli outbreak. Moreover, he quantifies his success leading a 6-person team on a project that increased global revenue by 30%. Finally, he finishes with how widely he communicated his work (re: network growth), and the impact it led to with concrete public and private entities.
With such careful strategic adjustments to his application, Louis was able to successfully reapply to Harvard.