Best Of Sandy’s Post-Intvw R2 Ding Report

PilotDinged from HBS with interview. Dinged from Stanford without interview.

  • 740 GMAT
  • 3.59 GPA from service Academy
  • Master’s degree from a state university
  • Work experience includes eight years of active duty as an Air Force Special Operations pilot, serving six combat deployments and operations officer for team of 48 directing 1000+ combat missions. Flight Commander (led team of 24) and instructor pilot and rising through junior command ranks. Achieved military goals and wanted to transition to businesses world for positive impact in medical device industry.
  • Short-term goal: Consulting
  • Long-term goal: Operations officer for large scale medical devices company (think Medtronics)
  • “Had exposure to med devices development in college as Executive Director for a college focused social entrepreneur non-profit”
  • “I felt like I did ok in the HBS interview—very personable—I definitely didn’t come across robotic. I feel like I answered questions quickly and to the point, though maybe lacking depth.”
  • 31-year-old male Air Force pilot

Sandy’s Analysis: Phew. That’s a lousy set of outcomes. Sorry to hear this. Did you apply anyplace else?

My advice to others, especially military types–as above guy shows, you cannot count on getting in to H+S, although, sure, some do. The entire U.S. military intake of both schools combined per year is some scary low number–jeepers could be near 30 to 40 (direct from the military).

An interesting question is whether the military admit rate (accepted military vs. all military applicants) is higher or lower than the total school admit rate which is 12% at HBS and 8% at Stanford. But even if we refined the analysis to military applicants with ~3.6/~730 GMAT, all of whom are no doubt impressive, you would still get admit rates, I believe, below 30%. And at that point, a good deal of it becomes a roll of the dice, because I have noted MANY TIMES, neither the HBS nor the Stanford adcoms are capable of really, really reading a military resume (assuming you are not from Seal Team 6, the only thing they may know about). Sure, they know what a pilot is, and in general, that is a selective gig.

*(One would like to know the pilot admit rate as well!!!! My guess is not that different from the general military, although we could be dealing with real small numbers here.)

One of my early HBS military success stories was a West Point grad who spent a good deal of his time helping enlisted guys at Gitmo do their taxes. He was a smart, math-oriented guy, and not your “typical” military super success story. But schools went for it. He ‘led’ other guys in setting up the tax practice. He had another gig preparing the civilian population of South Korea to evacuate to shelters in case of a nuke attack from the North (good luck with that), and we made that sound like he was General MacArthur. But the real reason he got in was just super solid GPA/GMAT numbers and five solid years of service with nothing dramatic to write home about. I don’t think his MacArthur spin was the needle mover. Not sure what happened to you. Man, pilot, 3.59/740: you were in the running.

Here is my guess. At HBS it probably was the interview, or the interview combined with other vibes, that led them to conclude you were not their type of military. “Short term goal of consulting, long term goal of operations officer for large scale med devices company (think Medtronics)”

Hmmmmm, seems like a good idea, but you may not have put as much impact and innovation into it, versus just stressing fit. Meaning: The fact you want to join an industry leader as an operations officer (whatever that means) is too much a 1-1 match of what you were doing in military (big org. operations) and not enough impactful leadership, innovation, and helping customers. Just guessing and yes, I am this dicing the onion very, very thinly. But if that was their total impression from goals, essay, and interview–that could explain the ding.

Of course, they would giggle and say, “I’m nuts,” but you tell me WHAT THEY SAY THE REASON FOR THE DING WAS. If they actually say anything substantive. They may hint at an interview snafu. As often noted, interviews at HBS are super, super scary beneath the calm sea of banality because a subtle outlook that rubs them the wrong way, or one set of odd answers, and millions of hours of accomplishment fly right out the window.

You said, “I definitely didn’t come across robotic. I feel like I answered questions quickly and to the point though maybe lacking depth.” Son, depends on what the meaning of ‘robotic’ is. You had to be there, and you were, and I was not, but I get lots of interview feedback, and that report would concern me. 

Stanford could be the same story, but they just got the vibe from application execution. There is plenty of room to screw up a Stanford application.

As to next year. I would reapply to H and S and also to other top 6 schools. You will get into one or more, and then you can become a consultant. The difference between H/S and the other top six for a guy like you is not major. Pilots with prestige MBAs are always welcome at many shops.

The harder question is what job to take next year, since you will be starting a job and starting MBA apps at same time. Got me there, is there some consulting shop that can use your expertise right off the bat, or some government job? I think MBB sorta wants a two-year commitment or more.

Maybe readers have ideas. I take it that re-upping in the Air Force is for x years is not one?

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