The Ding Report: Who Was Rejected & Why

Mr. Bond Trader

  • 730 (Q47, V44) GMAT
  • 3.6 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in public policy from a lower-tier Ivy (Think Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth)
  • Work experience includes a year as a bond trader at a top-tier bank (Think Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley); two and one-half years as head of sales at a ten person VC-backed startup working for a semi-famous founder
  • Goal: To start a search fund to buy a company in North Africa (where his parents are from)
  • “My questions: 1) What went wrong? 2) If no interview at HBS, feel like Im likely dead on arrival for GSB… what can I do between now and next year to improve my HBS odds? Any particular extracurricular activities?”
  • 25-year-old male


Outcomes:

Dinged without interview by HBS

Waiting decision from Stanford GSB

Sandy’s Analysis: Lots to like, but you may be Exhibit A in the Sandy Rule: HBS Does Not Like Traders (or salespeople, even in VC firms).

You will recall HBS rejected Warren Buffet after an interview when they found out he was a stock trader. Buffet went to Columbia and said it was the best rejection of his life because he got to study with value investing gurus G+D.

That is the only explanation for your HBS ding that I can think of, if execution of app was otherwise normal.

You may get lucky at GSB. You got a very Stanford-y story and they don’t have any overt anti-trading/sales bias.

As for next year at HBS, you should present yourself as an impact investor and not a sales dude to the degree you can. Another issue might have been what they thought of your firm

You said “as head of sales at 10 person VC backed startup working for a semi-famous founder. Roughly doubled sales each year. ”

Was this a finance firm (my impresssion on first reading, or was it X and also VC backed? If they did not like your firm or industry that could also be an overhang. Your semi-famous founder is another X factor. HBS may not like his style or persona or the biz. But mostly, I believe, they do not like sales, unless you are in some tech sales at GE and selling pipelines to other businesses. Retail sales is usually a big negative.

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

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.