Kellogg’s New MBA Gatekeeper: Gatorade’s Kate Smith

Is there a scoring sheet?

Yes. We have a number system based on a five-point scale on 13 or 14 attribute areas. Five is our best.

What kind of attributes are scored?

Certainly, interpersonal skills. Presence. How do they come across in articulating their answers and who they are in an interview. We are probing for certain experiences and your ability to demonstrate critical thinking. These are all skills that are critical in business. It’s to help us understand why we should admit you to Kellogg.

When those scoring sheets comes back is there a bottom line grade on a candidate?

No one gets jettisoned only by an interview. The interview is a component of your evaluation. The application in total plus the interview report are the total body of evidence per applicant that is evaluated.

Do you wait for the interview report before you assess the rest of the application?

We do. To us, it’s a key component.

And your first reader is a student?

Yes. Where we can have a student involved, we do. There may be a handful of applications when we’re on break that we might read first. But the intent is to have student involvement with each and every application we can. We have a wide range of specific attributes that we evaluate each applicant on. We believe they are indicators of what makes a great student at Kellogg. We train every reviewer to look at that entire range of qualities and to seek for evidence of those qualities in every applicant. They are reviewing and calling out evidence of each of those attributes to help make a recommendation. We do have this one to five scale, but we are asking each student to recommend an admit or a deny based on this review. You don’t get to pick wait list.

Then, the application comes to an admissions officer regardless of the recommendation. So every application gets two full reads before it comes to the director. We tell our staff not to look at the previous recommendation but to read the application independent of the first review. Then, you can go back and look at the student review so your recommendation is based on the two reviews. Then, it comes to the director who reviews all of the applications.

So if the student and admissions staffer agree that an applicant should be rejected, you would still look at the application?

Yes. I did a lot of reading when I first got here. The benefit of that is that you have three people coming to a conclusion. It’s the value of making sure we are admitting all the students we should. We don’t want to say no to someone that we should be considering for admission. And sometimes all eight of the admission officers will come together to talk about some of the applications. That happens organically.

Do the applicants come alive for you when you read these pieces of paper?

Yes, to the degree that you can imagine who they are from the body of evidence in front of you. But the true come to life is when you meet a person. So reading that interview report is what brings them to life.

So what is your vision of the perfect Kellogg student?

First and foremost, you’re looking for someone who is going to have a major impact in the world. So we want people at Kellogg who are going to go out and have a positive impact on many levels. Then, we are looking for an individual who has that collaborative element to who they are. I had been not only an athlete but I was a team athlete. You enjoy the competition, but you get even greater enjoyment by doing it with others.

And we obviously want them to have the core skills that will make them greater leaders: the intellect and work experience, a bit of courage to not always sit and accept the status quo. People who have an impact are usually questioning and curious. So having a natural curiosity and the desire to learn and grow and develop is part of the magic of the equation as well. We are seeking students who are going to make every minute here count.

THE GATEKEEPER SERIES:

THE GATEKEEPER TO HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL 

THE GATEKEEPER TO STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS 

THE GATEKEEPER TO THE WHARTON SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

THE GATEKEEPER TO THE KELLOGG SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT

THE GATE KEEPER TO CHICAGO’S BOOTH SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

THE GATEKEEPER TO MICHIGAN’S ROSS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

Comments or questions about this article? Email us.