Avoid having to check back and subscribe to Roll Away the Dew by email. It will take a whole pail of water just to cool you down!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Understanding what to Haul off the MBA admissions process

Alex Fleming wrote a post about how "Business School Admissions needs an Overhaul" My joy increased as I read it since it gave me great material for a post of my own. There are various genre of blogger posts such as the List (i.e. Top 5 ways to give yourself a Colonoscopy), the Repost (look at this funny baby and animal video where someone makes them talk about colonoscopies), and this genre of the Disagree. With the Disagree, I simply disagree with Alex's post.

Alex's premise is that the MBA admissions process needs some innovative techniques to help schools better assess candidates and render MBA admissions consultants obsolete. He attacks the essays as being prone to ghost writing and whispering by admissions consultants His suggestions for new innovation are:

1) Group interviewing which the Wharton school is piloting
2) Stealth interviewing where everyone from the Security guard to the fellow who just clogged a toilet in the men's room is a potential interviewer
3) Personality evaluation

Personally, I think that the best approach is to combine all three and have stealth group interviewers evaluate personalities. To be able to assess Alex's approach, we need to break down the MBA evaluation process into its parts

Talent Level: This is the GMAT score, work experience, and grades. Admissions simply wants to gauge academic and professional capability. This has largely already been predetermined and there is little a candidate can do to change anything in this category other than taking a quantitative class to address a major in Comparative Scandinavian Skiing and no classes that involve numbers. The best thing that a candidate can do is use this determine their safety, sweet spot, and stretch school

Community Involvement: Extracurriculars are as much a part of the MBA experience as classes and the job search. A history of extracurricular involvement is a strong predictor of future extracurricular involvement. Blinding Case of the Obvious is the group that sponsored this research. It also is likely to indicate an engaged alumni. The insightful cultural comments that I get on the rugby team alumni list serve also give me fond memories. A candidate can't change a past history of extracurriculars that includes "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" TV marathons but it truly is never too late to start. This will separate an applicant from the candidate who never does start.

Is the Candidate Clueless: This is addressed by the variety of Why do you want an MBA and what will you do with it essays. No admission consultant can make up a reason to apply for an MBA if the candidate has no idea. I have worked with candidates who tried to pick noble MBA goals but we could never get their work experience and career choices to ever tie together. The candidate who develops a sudden passion for public health can't explain why they are not applying for a Masters in Public Health. The candidate who wants to start a non-profit can't explain how the passion started with only large corporate experience and a post MBA goal of investment banking. The candidate who can't decide if they want to work in consulting or investment banking but who really wants to work in private equity can't even meet the essay word limit in a coherent way.

Schools are moving away from this question because there are only about 6 different answers that they ever see. However, a candidate who can't come up with one of those 6 will eliminate themselves from consideration.

Does the candidate have a personality: This is where the essays and interview come in and where ghost writing is also less useful. From reading the essays, does the admissions committee want to risk running to them on campus? Will they be interesting learning teammates? Are their essays littered with passions, interests, or funny stories about their past or more mundane tales about leveraging project management resources to ensure that IT met its deliverables?

What part of the MBA application process do Alex's interventions target and what do they reveal?

Group Interviews: Some think this will produce the same environment as TV's Apprentice. However, that doesn't give a lot of credit to MBA candidates who will figure out that group interviews are intended to see if candidate can play nicely with each other in the sand box. Assholes will be easy to spot but wouldn't a 1:1 interview pick up the same trait? My main criticism is that it will reduce applicants contributions to sound bites. With less air time, there isn't time for thoughtful anecdotes about one's past, hopes, and dreams. It's speed dating rather than a candle lit dinner. How will creating an artificial social atmosphere provide new information to an admissions committee and help them figure out if they have a clue or personality?

Stealth Interviews: If someone has been promoted once in their lifetime, haven't they already figured out to be nice to everyone's administrative assistant? Unless the stealth interview involves tackling the applicant, this is about as innovative as emailing a thank you note to someone as a way to differentiate yourself. I don't see how this will answer the clue or personality question either.

Personality Test: Alex's theory is that admissions should look for the same personality traits that great leaders have in MBA candidates. My first reaction was to Google search "CEO psychopath personality test" which has 91,900 hits and links like this. This solution also addresses the Talent Level category of which there is ample information. Assessing the candidate's personality in terms of how well they get along with their classmates seems like a larger opportunity. Finally, this suggests that admissions have the data capabilities and bandwidth for social engineering which I have addressed previously in this post. In summary, this addresses a need where this is already plenty of information, there are unintended consequences, and there isn't even the infrastructure in place.

Alex's post seems to be guided on a notion that admissions consultants need to be removed from the system. However, admissions and consultants seem to be developing closer relationships. As an admissions consultant, I have a vested interest in the status quo but I also don't see a need for an internal ethical reflection. Most successful applicants use some kind of external review process since they think their own poop smells like roses. That external review can be a co-worker with an MBA, a former teacher (which is what I used), or an admissions consultant. Admissions consultants fill the same niche as mail order brides. Those who can't get the quality of service they want for free, have to pay for it.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails