How A Top School Screens MBA Applicants

Sheldon Dookeran, assistant director of admissions


By sheer coincidence, Dookeran has another candidate who works for the very same firm in India as the rejected applicant.

“His name is Nikhil. He’s 25 and he’s got a 690 GMAT and an engineering degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, with a 3.9 GPA, which he earned in 2010. He works for the same company. He started as a systems engineer and then he moved on to be team lead and an IT analyst and now he’s a business analyst. So in almost three years he has had quite a few promotions.

“And he also did a lot of business development for his family business. What impressed me were his transitions at work but also his involvement in the family business. He was able to land new accounts from very big and well-known U.S. companies. That requires a lot of soft skills, negotiating and interaction which we don’t always see from people coming from places like this company.”

“Did he work with his family at the same time he was working at the company?,” asks Claire Gumus, an assistant director who is responsible for recruiting and evaluating applicants from China.

“He did,” says Dookeran.

“Is he energetic and good at time management?,” Gumus asks. “Did you get that in the interview?”

“Yes. His referees all talked highly of his communication skills, which came out in his interview. He interviewed well. In terms of his career, in the short term he said he wants a career in consulting in the supply chain industry, and long-term he wants to expand his family business internationally.

“In terms of his writing, he wrote well. No major issues. But really what stood out were his communication skills, his business development and his promotions. The only red flag I saw was that one referee mentioned a time when he could have worked better with a client but the referee went on to write how he had learned from that.”

“We are not always perfect,” chimes in Paterson.

“He’s strong academically, he communicated well, and he does have the soft skills to fit in. So I think we should make him an offer of admissions,” concludes Dookeran.

“What is his GMAT again?,” asks Gumus.

“It’s 690 with a 3.9 grade point average.”

“What were your thoughts on the skills that we have seen are necessary for people who are successful as consultants?,” probes da Silva.

“In terms of presence, he will do fine. He is polished and professional. So I think he’s got that. And in terms of dealing with people, like I said, I think he has the soft skills to carry on a good conversation.”

“Why does he want Rotman?,” asks Roy.

“Because of integrated thinking,” answers Dookeran. “He brought up a supply chain example of integrative thinking that was in the Rotman magazine two issues ago with Wal-Mart.”

“Did you send him the magazine?,” asks Roy.


“He’s done his homework,” da Silva observes. “He seems like a solid admit. He’s not a scholarship candidate but he seems solid. He is a contrast to the other candidate because their backgrounds are similar.  But it is a world of difference when you get them on paper.”

“And this guy can obviously manage his time because he was working full-time at a top firm and at the family business at the same time,” adds Afrodite Cruz, another assistant director sitting at the end of the table.

“And this one got promoted several times at the company at and the other one has been in the same job for four years,” chimes in Roy about her own candidate.

“There’s definitely more leadership DNA in this guy,” agrees da Silva. “I like.”

“So we have an admit?,” asks Dookeran.

“Yes, we have an admit,” concludes da Silva.

Several of the assistant directors let out a cheer. “Yay,” they say in unison.

Once an applicant is approved, the red folder is passed to da Silva at the end of the table. When a candidate is either “on the bubble,” as da Silva puts it, or is deemed worthy of a scholarship award, the red folder goes to a broader admissions committee which includes all seven admission officials, plus MBA program managing director Frey and career services head Leigh Gauthier who wants to feel confident she can get the applicant a job after graduation.

A third of the school’s MBA students get some form of scholarship to help with the two-year tuition of $99,710 for international students (tuition is $87.103 for permanent residents of Canada), a sum that does not include additional fees of $3,300 or estimated living expenses of between $31,800 and $40,456 a year.

Da Silva nudges the meeting along. There are no detours from the job at hand, not even a bit of social chitchat.

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