Tag Archives: mba interview

Job market stabilizes for MBA students at the end of ‘a pretty short tunnel’

NYT, March 7, By Robbie Brown (extract) — Last year, Mr. Yankson (UV Darden) was turned down for summer internships by about 15 recession-plagued banks and ended up working for an education nonprofit organization. This year, as he sought a full-time job, Wells Fargo quickly gave him the response he wanted: When can you start?

“The banks this year kept saying, ‘It’s a good year,’ ‘We just approved a lot of hiring,’ ‘The market is clearing up,’ ” Mr. Yankson said. “It was a completely different experience.”

With banks climbing out of the recession, more business students across the country are finding banking jobs and internships, enrolling in finance clubs and going on class trips to Wall Street, universities say.

… On a recent interview day at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, students in pinstriped suits and polished shoes waited anxiously for meetings with representatives from J. P. Morgan and BB&T Capital Markets.

The competition would be steep — with dozens of students applying for each internship — but less selective than in 2009. The number of banks interviewing at Darden this year increased 20 percent, and the number of job offers so far has risen 33 percent, the school said.

“There’s reason for students to be optimistic,” said Tracy Handler, a spokeswoman for the M.B.A. Career Services Council, an association of business school career advisers. “Any signs of recovery are modest. But business schools are looking ahead and seeing a light at the end of what is now a pretty short tunnel.”

Full Story in the New York Times.
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‘Blink’ in MBA essays, resumes, interviews, and emails to Adcom

“Blink,” by New Yorker writer and celebrity author Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown & Co, 2005), is a book about first impressions, the first few seconds during which we appraise information and make instant judgments. Gladwell says these conclusions oftentimes produce better, more accurate, conclusions than those made by way of exhaustive analysis. One example he gives is of an art dealer who looked at an antique sculpture and just “knew” it was a forgery–and was right–well ahead of the subsequent analysis to prove this, which would take months or years. When people talk about “love at first sight” or “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” they are talking about the Blink factor.

Michael LeGault came out with a rebuttal – “Think!: Why Crucial Decisions Can’t Be Made in the Blink of an Eye,” and the jury is certainly still out on whether “Blinking” provides a better basis for decision-making than formal analysis. But the point is it certainly provides, in every situation, an ever-present alternative basis for decision-making (whether the decision-maker is aware of it or not).

The implication for MBA admissions is that, while b-school Adcoms everywhere would assert that they rigorously analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate–and they certainly do–there is also considerable “Blink” involved in how they choose one over the other. Note that Adcom essay readers and committee members are not seeking to make an impressionistic judgment. In fact the opposite is true. But they will be picking up impressions at every turn. After all, they have to make a big decision, fairly quickly, about a complex situation (you and your future prospects) and they don’t actually have that much formal stuff to go on.

So, the Blink factor counts for a lot in MBA admissions, and before Adcom even gets to fully considering an applicant’s grades and scores, performance metrics, and work history, they will have formed an impression from the first things they see. It’s hard to know what they will see first of course, but very often it will be the file data and/or resume. An impression or “instinct” will form almost immediately and build through the course of considering your application, as they continue to absorb first impressions about each part of it–the essays, particularly their erudition and tone; the tone and warmth of recommendations and interview report, and so on. (The interview itself is of course another “Blink” decision situation.)

Note that this is all the fuzzy stuff of “tone” and “impression” that often cannot exactly be backed up with data. But it is crucial, and this is the way the admissions committee will get its working impression of your personality, motivation, determination, charisma, team orientation, and overall prospects, all of which will precede and then run in parallel with their more formal analysis.

Managing the Blink:

The best way to deal with Blink is to realize it is there, and always will be, and provide ways for admissions officers to use this mode in judging you. Expecting snap judgments about your motivation, take care that everything you submit is carefully checked and complete. Expecting snap judgments about your pre-MBA work experience, take care to get the highlights high up in the essay. Expecting snap judgments about your professionalism, take care that any correspondence you enter into (by phone or email) is scrupulously professional, and so on. In general you should play to the impression mode first, and follow this with data and detail that corroborates the impression.

What does the “MBA Oath” mean for MBA admissions? Ways to broaden your ethical platform, for a start

There are many aspects of success in a competitive MBA admissions process that don’t change whether we are in a boom or a bust, whether Wall Street is loved or hated, whether globalization is in vogue or not. For example, evidence of senior leadership responsibility successfully handled will never go out of style in a MBA essay.

But there are also more transient social or business attitudes “in the air” in any year which the applicant should be aware of and ready to address in MBA application essays or interviews, in order to maximize chances of success. These may change every few years. In previous times times, key applicant success attributes have been pointers to future business success, or new venture creation, or raising shareholder value.

This year, in the wake of the financial meltdown and global recession, much of which (rightly or wrongly) is blamed on MBAs, the accent is squarely on business ethics and long-term sustainability of decisions. These issues have been on the rise for a while, but their sudden prominence is demonstrated in the emergence and rapid spread of the “MBA Oath.”

The oath is the brainchild of a few HBS students, but has since been pledged by current and graduating MBAs from most major institutions and has garnered heavy media exposure, for example this story in Business Week and this audio clip in the Economist.

What does it mean for this year’s applicant? First let’s look at the oath

THE MBA OATH http://mbaoath.org

“As a manager, my purpose is to serve the greater good by bringing people and resources together to create value that no single individual can create alone. Therefore I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognize my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face choices that are not easy for me and others.

Therefore I promise:

  • I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner.
  • I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate.
  • I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.
  • I will understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise.
  • I will take responsibility for my actions, and I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
  • I will develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society.
  • I will strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide.
  • I will be accountable to my peers and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath.

This oath I make freely, and upon my honor.”

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MBA applicants should take all this on board very carefully, and look for past experiences that resonate. Adcoms won’t be looking for these words and phrases exactly (to use them verbatim would be an amateurish mistake) but it’s certain that they closely agree with these statements in general, and will be looking harder than ever for people who appear to understand this side of business administration and who will stand up to ethical tests through their careers. Remember Adcoms have taken plenty of stick too for filling classes with greedy self-profiteers, and are under more pressure than ever to pick a better kind of person.

Some of the Oath is just the usual good-citizen catechism: serving the greater good, demonstrating integrity, pursuing work in an ethical manner, balancing interests of shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society (triple or quadruple bottom line), not advancing ones own narrow ambitions, upholding the law, reporting accurately, and being accountable.

At a minimum it is important for MBA applicants to endorse this framework, or not seem to run foul of it. But this is common stuff. Other attributes of business and management ethics are perhaps less well known or defined, and here an MBA applicant can really score using the principles revealed in the Oath. Note that the Oath also sets these ethical goals:

  • bringing people and resources together to create value no single individual can create alone
  • creating value for society (not just self or company)
  • developing other managers under your supervision
  • appreciating the far-reaching and long-term consequences of decisions, and acting accordingly
  • pursuing sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity (not just fast or big prosperity)
  • distributing benefits of prosperity worldwide

This is a good starter list of ethical attributes that many applicants will miss, but which provide subtlety and differentiation for applicants who understand them, and who can find evidence of them in their personal and professional history.