Sandy On Dee’s HBS Interview

P&Q: Ha!  Have anything else you want to get off your chest?

Kreisberg: 2+2. Another head fake. They keep changing what they are looking for, although I just love her version of it.

She said, “2+2 is just a strategic opportunity for us to get in front of people on college campuses. Before we had 2+2 if we went to a college campus, we wouldn’t get a good turnout because people knew that business school was something you did later. So students might ask themselves, what am I doing sitting through a presentation now?”

I giggle. Before they had 2+2 they were losing a lot of really smart kids to law school!! Then they got many of them back. Then smart liberal arts majors stopped applying to law school. So HBS was not sooooo concerned about them and then STEM became the rage. So now it is sorta half liberal arts consulting types and half STEM, I think, but I sure would like to know. I don’ t think that is an unfair question.

She did provide a small hint of what is to come, however, by saying,

“I also think that maybe it’s time to think about the liberal arts majors. History majors know how to think analytically really well and they have context. If they have the quantitative chops, that is a cool group.”

So amazingly, we may be back where we started from, capturing smart history majors from attending law school, although you never cross the same river twice.

P&Q: What did you think of her account of giving ding reports to applicants who were interviewed but not admitted?

Kreisberg: I give her a lot of credit for doing it. That is a thankless task. I do want to add one thing, though. I know a lot about that process. I speak to lots of applicants who hired me for a mock interview and then got dinged, and who then spoke to Dee or other adcom members for the adcom version of what happened. In her interview with you she has a category of interview failure, to wit, this:

“There are times when I’ll say, ‘Did you realize that in the interview we just couldn’t get you to go back and forth with us. It felt like you came in wanting to give your speech and we were hoping to get to know you at a different level. You said you wanted to go into this but we couldn’t actually get you to talk about it.’” 

That may happen but something else also happens in that interview which is worth noting because it happens more frequently.”

The applicant just annoys them in some subtle way, some way that they do not want to articulate because if they did, it would turn on almost matters of taste or political correctness or just some random, subtle thing that under the scrutiny of the interview process gets totally blown out of proportion.

That event, which can last all of three or four minutes of an otherwise normal and totally regular interview, gets scored by the catchall, fatal term, “sounds scripted.” That is sometimes accurate, as Dee notes, but  I will introduce you to some very personable and totally with-it people, who are articulate and would make superb case-method learners, who are in fact attending Stanford, who failed their HBS interview, allegedly for sounding “scripted” but for in truth, being annoying in some very subtle and often inconsequential way that no one wants to fully explore.

HBS interviews, as I have often said, are like being born, a catastrophe can happen in an instant. It is just a very strange passage. For most, the process is normal. But for every 10 kids they interview, they ding four. Only one of those four (or fewer, maybe 1 in 20) cannot speak English or just gets flustered, for real. Another one or two  dinged kids are at the bottom of the 1800 heap in terms of the usual stats or they do in fact sound scripted.  The other two are dinged for something tiny and inconsequential in the interview, IMHO, although I am willing to be convinced otherwise as to actual numbers, but something like that goes on, “scripted” is just a fig leaf.

P&Q: Anything else before we go? 

Kreisberg: That new photo of Dee is wonderful. That is the kind of picture that makes you want to apply. She looks welcoming and smart and tough and professional and warm all at once –someone should show that picture to some “friend and family” adcoms from other schools who have lately put their pictures on the Internet.

Some of those other pictures are as bad as the one you took for the story you did about consultants a few years ago. That picture stunk, was badly composed, was not crisply in focus, and it delivered the wrong message. It just was not a professional picture.  It still bugs me.

P&Q: Sandy, you’re making me think you are a little vain. I love that photo!

 

 

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.