An MBA recruiter explains what too many people get wrong about applying to business school

harvard business school graduation
harvard business school graduation

(The admissions process is an "opportunity to differentiate yourself."Reuters)

If you're going to apply to business school, you want to do it right.

But Brian Precious, former MBA recruiter and author of the book "Get In, Get Connected, Get Hired: Lessons from an MBA Insider," says many people approach their applications all wrong.

"Many applicants think the application process comprises the tactical completion of a series of tasks required for admission to business school," he writes. "They believe once those tasks are completed, applying to multiple schools is a simple cut-and-paste process."

In his work with Oregon State University, Purdue University, and the University of Illinois, he's also found that many prospective students overestimate the importance of tests. "Other applicants suspect that of the numerous admissions requirements, only the quantitative elements, the GMAT and GPA, really matter."

In actuality, the admissions process is an "opportunity to differentiate yourself" from the hundreds or thousands of applicants that may have similar test scores or grade point averages, he says.

To make your application more nuanced and comprehensive, rather than simply a record of your GPA and GMAT scores, Precious recommends viewing the admissions process as a "weaving together seemingly disparate components — test scores, letters of recommendation, and essays — into a compelling narrative highlighting not only your ability to succeed academically but also your desire to be a lifetime contributor to the institution's community."

"It's about showcasing the intangibles — ethics, interpersonal skills, selflessness, leadership potential, and emotional intelligence — required to lead in today's complicated, global business ecosystem," he writes.

After interviewing a candidate, Precious asks himself the following questions to determine whether he will recommend the candidate for admission:

  1. Will the applicant be successful academically?

  2. Are the applicant's post-MBA goals clearly defined? Do they align with the strengths of our program?

  3. Can the applicant communicate effectively, both orally and in writing?

  4. Does the applicant demonstrate leadership potential?

  5. Does the applicant's conduct indicate ethics and a sense of honor?

  6. Will the applicant be a good team member?

  7. Will the applicant be employable at the end of the program? Would I hire him or her?

  8. Does the applicant specifically want to attend our program? Will involvement in the program continue beyond graduation?

"The application process should be an authentic glimpse at who you are and who you want to be," says Precious. "The admissions process is really about storytelling."

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