The MBA application – your toughest hurdle
By far, the admissions hurdle is the toughest to overcome on the road to earning an MBA. Including the work you will put in for the GMAT, a good MBA application will on average cost you between 6 to 12 months of preparation if all goes well. There are exceptions but this is generally the case.
Even though MBA schools vary in their admissions objectives, they nevertheless look for the same ‘stuff’ in all MBA applications:
A demonstrated track record of progression, a propensity to take action and a good bet on the candidate’s future.
To focus your energy and save time on your MBA application, remember the main traits the committee will look for:
A history of demonstrated initiative and taking action
This should be clearly illustrated through out your MBA application where necessary. You are not supposed to already be a CEO star and certainly not expected to be one. Instead, you are expected to be a proactive person and clearly demonstrate your proactive nature. This can be in any domain – not just business. Don’t be surprised by the fact that personal stories are perfectly acceptable as long as they demonstrate your pro-activeness.
When you update your resume, focus on a ‘situation, action, result’ framework to clearly communicate what you had done.
Your undergraduate school records and the GMAT score. There is nothing you can do to improve your GPA but a lot you can do for the GMAT. Even though it may not be the most important factor in your application, it is critical. The GMAT serves as a:
1. Filter – If you’re serious enough about business school you will do the GMAT.
2. A measure of your reasoning skills.
A great score will help your application, but avoid the obsession with achieving an exceptional GMAT score at the expense of the other parts of your candidacy.
Your interviews and if applicable, assessment days.
An understanding of your strengths and weaknesses demonstrated through the narration of your past failures and successes, and the explanation of lessons learned and how they have changed you.
Integrity, commitment and an international outlook.
The interview – Practice telling stories
You cannot prepare for all the questions that you could be asked but you can prepare well for all the stories that you want to tell. Practice telling your stories until they are internalized. This is important because your response during the interview should be flexible and spontaneous, and not a recollection of facts. Always structure your answers to tell stories that illustrate one or two of the traits admissions committees look for.
For example – “Tell me about your childhood”
A response to ’Tell me about your childhood’ must not be limited to details of your early to late teen years but extend to an explanation of how it shaped you into the person that you are today. It should be clear that you can highlight your leadership or team work skills It’s important to be subtle and to tell a great story.
Another example – “Tell us about a failure”
This is a clear opportunity to discuss your self awareness or values. Failures provide great lessons for life if we choose to learn and grow from them. This question can also be used to relate how you did not compromise on your values.
Potential MBA interview questions
Below is a list of potential questions you can be asked. Remember however that as long as you can create stories that demonstrate the qualities above and rehearse those stories, you can answer any question once you decide what character trait you can highlight through a story.
- Tell me about yourself
- Education and why you chose it
- Work experience and achievements
- Your goals
- Why did you choose to work where you worked
- Describe a situation where you responded to change in your life or work.
- What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
- Have you helped someone at work? If so, how?
- Tell me about a time you failed. What happened?
- What was the toughest feedback you once received. How did you react?
- Tell me about a time you too a risk, personal and professional.
- How would you describe your style of leadership?
- How would a friend describe you?
- Is there a leader you admire? Why?
- How will you continue to improve yourself and learn?
- What would you keep and change about yourself or personality?
- How do you stay motivated and inspired?
- What are you career objectives immediately after the MBA? Why?
- Why an MBA and why our school? What do you think you will gain from it?
- Why should we admit you into the program? What will you bring the class of 2021?
- What will you do if you are not admitted into the program?
Don’t forget, the MBA application is your biggest hurdle. You’ve come this far so don’t let go of your focus in the last mile. Practice telling your stories and perfect them.