During the MBA essay-writing process, we get to praise ourselves, to brag, to point out our unique understanding of complex issues, and generally portray ourselves as the ideal human. But in order to balance out the admissions karma, we also have to give ourselves a couple of body slams by critiquing our own skills, motivations, etc. The key is knowing how to address your weaknesses in a way that shows self-reflection and a dedication to improvement.
I’ve seen some candidates riddle themselves with critique after critique, becoming their own worst Simon Cowells. Don’t make this mistake. Instead, try to illustrate that you have already improved somewhat on your negative traits through hard work and that you specifically have a plan for further improvement at business school through classwork and activities. When you include an honest assessment of your negatives, you gain credibility for any strengths you raise.
Some schools ask candidates to critique their own leadership abilities. Some candidates wax eloquently about an unmitigated victory for their leadership skills and then chime in with a fairly minor critique. Often, this critique is totally unrelated to the narrative of the leadership tale they’ve just recounted.
The best stories for this type of essay usually have a couple of bumps along the road to leadership that we could have avoided if not for our blind-spots. And make sure to relate this critique to the elements of leadership (defining agendas, communicating, inspiring, managing up, etc.); don’t make yourself out to be a master motivator and then merely critique your Excel modeling skills.
MBA programs are seeking students who are able to see themselves clearly and improve and adapt when necessary. Overall, honesty and self-awareness will be noted and appreciated in the process, whatever your strengths or weaknesses may be!