BUYING A WINNING LOTTERY TICKET IS THE ONLY THING WITH WORSE ODDS
The truth is, the only thing with worse odds than admission to Harvard Business School is buying a winning lottery ticket. With the competition being so fierce, you have to be more than a resume.
Sitting in front of Alan, the banker from Minnesota, I know nothing more about him than when I didn’t know him at all. He didn’t need to take three airplanes to meet me only to tell me what I could find out on a Google search and neither does the dean of admissions of any graduate school.
We want to know who you are, not what you did. You’re not being asked to talk about yourself for any other reason than to help a school learn why you made the choices you did. What those choices were is hardly relevant.
THE REAL STORY IS NOT IN THE WHAT OR THE WHEN; IT’S IN THE WHYS
By skipping over the “why’s”: why did Alan leave his first choice university, why did he choose a West Coast firm instead of the more typical Manhattan bank, why B-School when it sounds like he’s already doing just fine, Alan relegated himself to being just a bunch of categories on a piece of paper: Background. Education. Work Experience. But what about the transitions that got him from his education to his work experience? These transitions give a director of admissions insight into how you think, what kind of student you’ll be and, more importantly, what kind of impact you’ll have on the world of finance post B-school.
Again, I ask Alan the question he’ll get asked over and over by every Interviewer, “Tell me a little bit about you.”
“Mendota Heights,” he repeats. “It’s a suburb outside of Minneapolis, but my parents wanted me to go to ….”
I stop him.
FILLING IN THE WHITE SPACES
Tell me about the white spaces, I say.
Yes, I say. Tell me about the white spaces on your resume, as I take his resume, tear it up and throw it in the trash.
He smiles, finally understanding what I’m getting at.
AN MBA CANDIDATE COMES TO LIFE
By learning that Alan graduated at the top of his class from Minneapolis’ most prestigious private boy’s school as a son of one of the teachers, I get a picture of a hard driving outsider, determined to succeed. By learning that he left his first choice university because it was just too small for this small town native itching for more, I see a future leader willing to take risks. And by choosing to get his work experience at a West Coast firm, I learn of Alan’s desire to think out of the box and not just “follow the pack.”
By telling me why, Alan becomes so much more than another set of scores on paper. He becomes a well-rounded candidate who stands out in a crowd.
It’s very rare that you’re going to have the highest GPA from the best university with the best GMAT score. And if you do, there’s probably going to be someone who rates as well, if not better “on paper.”
Like Alan, you are not just your resume. You are the white spaces in between. You are the transitions that got you from A to B and that will get you from B to B-school. So celebrate who you are, if you want an admissions director to do the same.
An MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Stacy Blackman founded Stacy Blackman Consulting in 2001 and has helped thousands of MBA applicants gain admission to the most selective business schools in the world. The Stacy Blackman team, comprised of MBA graduates, former admissions officers and expert writers, editors and marketers, helps clients develop and implement a winning marketing strategy.
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