McCombs School of Business | Ms. Registered Nurse Entrepreneur
GMAT 630, GPA 3.59
Harvard | Mr. Australian Navy
GMAT 770, GPA 3.74
Kenan-Flagler | Mr. 10 Years In Finance
GMAT Not Required / Waived, GPA 2.65
Harvard | Ms. Social Enterprise/Healthcare
GRE 324, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Supply Chain Photographer
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. Former SEC Athlete
GMAT 620, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Ms. FMCG Enthusiast Seeking Second MBA
GMAT 730, GPA 3.1
NYU Stern | Ms. Civil Servant To Fortune 50
GRE Writing May 31st, GPA Undergrad: 3.0, Graduate: 3.59
MIT Sloan | Ms. Designer Turned Founder
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
Stanford GSB | Mr. Low GPA To Stanford
GMAT 770, GPA 2.7
Harvard | Mr. Strategist
GMAT 750, GPA 73%, top of the class (gold medalist)
Harvard | Mr. Brightside
GMAT 760, GPA 3.93
Berkeley Haas | Mr. All About Impact
GMAT N/A, GPA 63%
Harvard | Mr. Forbes U30 & Big Pharma
GMAT 640, GPA 3.4
Wharton | Mr. Asset Manager – Research Associate
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Ross | Mr. FP&A
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Hanging By A Thread
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Kellogg | Ms. Not-For-Profit
GMAT TBD, GPA 4.0
INSEAD | Mr. Big Chill 770
GMAT 770, GPA 3-3.2
Harvard | Mr. Captain Mishra
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
Ross | Mr. Dragon Age
GRE 327, GPA 2.19/4.0
Wharton | Ms. Type-A CPG PM
GMAT 750, GPA 3.42
Harvard | Ms. 2+2 Trader
GMAT 770, GPA 3.9
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Young Software Engineer
GRE 330, GPA 3.60
NYU Stern | Mr. Indian Analytics Consultant
GMAT 700, GPA 3.0
Chicago Booth | Ms. Start-Up Entrepreneur
GRE 322, GPA 3.4
Columbia | Mr. RAV4 Chemical Engineer
GMAT 750, GPA 3.62

Is Wharton’s Desire For Candor Compromised?

I was thrilled Thursday to be quoted in The Wall Street Journal’s “Frankly, Wharton Wants Candor,.” which focused on Wharton’s Team Based Discussion (TBD) and Harvard’s interview reflections. I disagree, however, with disingenuous arguments in the article that applicants who seek to prepare beyond a school’s recommendation are intrinsically less than genuine.

I sat in on several of Accepted’s mock team-based discussions and was impressed with the evaluative power of the TBD.  It is a great tool for discerning differences in interpersonal and communications skills.

I was also pleased with the feedback that we received from our mock TBD participants: 100% of those who provided feedback felt the mock interview to be a valuable practice. A dress rehearsal really. And professionals rehearse.

You can ad-lib a lie, prepare facts.

It is fallacious to think that practice leads to a lack of authenticity. You can ad-lib a lie and prepare facts. Winging it and honesty don’t correlate.  In fact, one has nothing to do with the other.

However, practice and preparation do correlate with achievement. In fact, they contributed to bringing applicants to the point where schools like HBS and Wharton invite them to interview.

Should students not study or practice so they can be candidly ignorant when asked to give a class presentation? Take a test? Should they wear jeans and t-shirts so they can be more “authentic”?

Would Wharton or Harvard want their students to ad-lib and improvise for job interviews?  Would they advise applicants to go to a job interview for, let’s say McKinsey or Goldman, and just “relax, be genuine,” and “enjoy the opportunity for [the prospective employer] to get to know you?”

Yeah, right.

And what about employers?  Why aren’t they upset when MBAs, with the schools’ support and urging, spend hours prepping for interviews?  As Accepted’s Todd King, author of Handling Wharton’s Team-Based Discussion, notes in an internal discussion:

“So, what do consulting and banking firms do in their hiring that allows them to bring on great people without complaining about ‘over-prepared’ recruits?  … they knew good and well that every candidate had thoroughly reviewed and practiced whatever big case-study book had been compiled by the school’s management consulting club.  Those firms found good people – and they didn’t complain about those people being extremely prepared; they expected it. “

Those elite firms want it. They seek employees who come to interviews practiced and prepared. They want employees who will check and double check their work. And they certainly demand that employees train and rehearse for roadshows and client presentations.

The ease of writing an email or carrying on a discussion isn’t the issue. Candor and honesty aren’t the question.

Applicants prepare, practice, and rehearse because they perceive the benefits of getting into a school like HBS or Wharton to be worth the effort and worth the $500 for Accepted’s Wharton Premium Interview Preparation. (This fee provides both a mock team and personal interview as well as written feedback and an individual post-interview consultation.)

Confusing winging it and wisdom

Perhaps, just maybe, as a result of the information freely given away by admissions consultants and applicants, as well as yes the increasing numbers of applicants seeking paid advising, admissions committees have a harder time differentiating between applicants. (See Looking Back on the Shrinking MBA Application )

Frankly, something is amiss when business schools confuse non-preparation and honesty, winging it and wisdom.  Is that something a lack of candor on the school’s part?

By Linda  Abraham, president and founder of Accepted.com, co-founder and past president of the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and author of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.