Have you ever walked out of an important job interview feeling like you hit a home run? The chemistry with the interviewer was awesome. The two of you had so much in common. The whole conversation was so natural and easy. You hit all the points you wanted. You poured your heart out. After the smiles and thank you’s, you walked out with a slight swagger, on Cloud 9, already daydreaming about the precise wording of that juicy offer surely coming in the mail.
Then you waited. And waited. You even sent a follow-up note. Nothing. Nada.
Long story short … one morning you get an email with the dreaded words “regret to inform” in the first sentence. To your shock and dismay, they went with another candidate. What could have happened? You turn it over in your mind, trying to pinpoint what could possibly have gone wrong: You were on time, dressed to the hilt, $300 black leather shoes. Your answers were crisp. Your demeanor relaxed, confident, professional. Chemistry was terrific. Nothing you can really put your finger on.
If you’ve ever had this experience, or want to know how to avoid it, I’m here to tell you that, nine times out of ten, the reason you didn’t get the job was you didn’t give the interviewer the information they were looking for. Let me try and put it another way: They didn’t hear what they needed to hear to be convinced you would be a positive addition to their team.
Really? Yes, really. Quite often, feeling great about how an interview went has little correlation with how well you actually did from the interviewer’s perspective.
The MBA application process is very similar. Just as you can feel great about an interview yet fail to make the impression you thought you actually made, feeling good about your business school essays and the resume you sent in is a very weak foundation upon which to build your admission hopes. Especially when it comes to the high-competition schools. There is a more systematic, logical, research-based way to go about heightening your chances. Let me tell you about that.
It’s called Profile Building.
Here at MBALink, we’re focused on getting our clients to grasp why profile-building is important, then guiding them in the process through a team of highly skilled experts. Believe it or not, before we even get to the essay questions or interview preparation, we typically work with a client for 4-6 weeks just to understand—and help them understand—their core story, who they really are.
Many clients at first don’t see the need for this. They believe they just need a bit of help with their personal statement, especially if they think they’re already pretty good writers. They have built up a lot of internal conviction that their draft essay says just about everything they want it to say; all they need is some guidance on how to polish it up or make it flow better.
Yup. Just like all you needed at your last job interview was a good conversation and great rapport with the interviewer.
Through long years of experience, we have learned there is more to it than that. MBALink consultants have a combined 40 years of experience in admissions, many of them as former Admissions Committee members at top business schools. Our track record for placing students in the world’s most selective, most prestigious MBA programs—often with profiles that had serious deficiencies—demonstrates the value of stepping back, digging deeper, and taking an approach that is more strategic, self-reflective and self-analytical.
Along the way, we’ve learned that getting clients to spend a little more time laying the groundwork for the blueprint of their essay and application strategy saves time in writing the actual essay. And more importantly, that process maximizes the chances that the all-important Admissions Committee will read an essay that hits all the major points they are looking for in an ideal candidate.
So, how does this work in practice? What are the key things to think about when you’re constructing your MBA profile?
The Admissions Committee will be analyzing your essays for answers to four key questions—Fit, Aptitude, Motivation, and Experience (or to borrow the acronym we use around here, FAME):
Fit – Will this candidate be a good fit for our school’s social culture, learning atmosphere, teaching methods, and curriculum emphases and focus?
Aptitude – What intellectual, attitudinal, and interpersonal strengths has this candidate demonstrated in the past, and will these strengths make them successful in our program and in their post-MBA career?
Motivation – Has this candidate demonstrated clearly that they understand exactly why they want an MBA, and secondly, why they want it at this stage of their life?
Experience – What professional and personal life experiences does this candidate have that, one, will make them a learning asset to their classmates and, two, they can build on if they entered our program?
The depth and comprehensive sweep of our FAME Self-analysis Framework allows us to assess an applicant’s key qualifications in a way that results in much stronger application essays and, of course, substantially higher admission chances.
All four components of FAME are critical. Let’s look at a concrete scenario where an applicant with a fantastic profile dropped the ball on one of the core elements. We’ll call him JBH.
Twenty-six-year-old JBH had stellar grades, GMAT scores, and professional work experience. In his essays, he articulated clear goals, impressive strengths that were illustrated by interesting stories, and clear reasons why his career path required an MBA. Yet JBH got turned down by his two top-choice schools and accepted only into his second-choice programs.
What happened? JBH clearly demonstrated his Aptitude, Motivation and Experience. You could say he nailed three elements of our FAME Structure. But at both of his top-choice schools, he failed to convince the Adcom that he would be a good Fit for their school. He came close, and it could have gone his way. But in the end, each Adcom decided to go with a less impressive candidate whom they felt would fit the entering class and their program more perfectly/congruently.
We’ve seen this tragedy repeat itself over and over.
The good news is, you don’t actually need to knock each of the four FAME questions out of the park to get admitted into a good MBA program. Admissions committees will infer a lot of what you don’t tell them explicitly, and if you are 70% there, they will often take a chance on you.
This is why so many MBA students actually have no idea why they were admitted, and why they are often not the best resource for prospective MBA students looking for advice on writing essays.
Extremely few MBA candidates wait another year to reapply. For most, this thing is a one-shot, once-in-a-lifetime process. So our clients come to us because they don’t want to leave anything to chance. They can’t afford to wait an entire year and do it over again. They want to submit with the certainty of knowing they are submitting their very best against what is sometimes unbelievably high competition. But unless that competition has done their homework, like you did, Profile Building is definitely going to give you a leg up.