What matters most to you about an application?
Authentic representation of oneself and an articulated sense of values. When candidates can share who they are and what is important, it gives a much better sense of whether the values align with those of our institution and community. Shared values are important because they guide and influence how each person relates and interacts.
What things would make you immediately reject an application?
An absence of preparedness, readiness and/or questionable motivation are of greatest concern and give pause. Although we are evaluating for admission, we are really looking for confirmation that candidates we offer admission to are going to be able to find success and maximize the opportunities made available during the program.
How often do you make mistakes in admitting people, and how do those mistakes manifest when the admit starts the program?
The admissions process is designed to get to know candidates and to assess qualities and skills that we value and expect of our community members. When there are misalignments in representation during the admissions process, these get exposed fairly quickly once enrolled. Interpersonal skills, in particular, are ones you cannot compensate for, if not developed genuinely.
Reading between the lines of Applicant X’s submitted materials, you can see they are very bright, hard-working, and experienced in business, but their essays don’t communicate their assets well. What do you do?
I would schedule an interview. Talent, drive, and aptitude are much more difficult to cultivate so if a candidate demonstrates clear indication of these strengths, I’d be interested in having a conversation to determine the potential of these assets using a different avenue. If writing skills are weak, there are tools for improvement.
What three things should an applicant do before an admissions interview?
- Prepare your content, practice your delivery – the most successful candidates have a clearly articulated personal narrative and demonstrate strong ownership of their story.
- Expect the unexpected – think about how you respond to unexpected circumstances and anticipate how you would reply to a question that isn’t a ‘standard’ part of the MBA admissions interview. Doing so speaks volumes about your ability to think quickly on your feet and maintain composure under stress.
- Remember to be memorable – don’t be afraid to reveal and share the true stories that make you unique. Memorable candidates are not forgotten and that makes you a standout from others.
What non-verbal cues do you watch for when doing an applicant interview?
There are quite a few, though at the top of the list are the ones that signal confidence, attentiveness, and emotion – how you enter a room and introduce yourself; your eye contact and gesturing to convey acknowledgement, understanding, and passion. If you tell me you are passionate about something, I should be able to feel, not just hear, that passion as you’re explaining yourself.
If you could change one thing about the admissions process, what would it be?
It’s not a change per se, but I’d like to know that we’re assessing potential in the best way possible. We’ve long talked about the admissions process being a period of self-discovery and development, and for most candidates, it is. The process drives them to refine how they present themselves so that they communicate their unique story, experiences, and goals in an authentic way and one that allows evaluators to understand how and why pursuing an MBA is critical to achieving their goals. But what if candidates had a more distinct role in determining how they would be evaluated and also evaluate their future peers? Would they use the same process and criteria or would they introduce a new and alternative way to assess potential?
What are the top three reasons applicants give for applying to Johnson?
- Our intensely collaborative and close-knit community.
- The flexibility to pursue broader interests in any subject.
- Performance learning and immersions.
THE GATEKEEPER SERIES: