Category Archives: Application Tips

Etiquette Tips for MBA Thank You Notes

Our clients often ask us if they should write thank-you notes to their interviewers. While handwritten messages of appreciation will always be a classy move—and we certainly encourage applicants to write such notes if they’re …

thanking MBA interviewer

Our clients often ask us if they should write thank-you notes to their interviewers. While handwritten messages of appreciation will always be a classy move—and we certainly encourage applicants to write such notes if they’re so inclined—an email message is just as acceptable in this day and age.

The most important thing is to ensure you have your interviewer’s contact information. This is especially critical if your discussion is taking place on campus and you won’t know who your interviewer is going to be until you arrive. Don’t forget to ask for that person’s business card when you’re wrapping up!

If you’re interviewing with a local alum, then you’ll have already been supplied with their email address.

As for the content of the message, you shouldn’t feel the need to go on and on. There are only two must-includes: 1) thank the interviewer for their time and 2) reiterate your interest in the program. If you can throw in a sentence or two that references something you talked about, all the better. But a thank-you note is not the place to try and sell yourself any further. The point is to show that you’re excited about and thankful for the opportunity to be considered for a spot in Program X.

Some AdComs need to make accept and denial decisions very quickly, so you shouldn’t let more than 24 hours go by before you send your message. If you interviewed in the morning, send it before the business day is over. If your talk was in the late afternoon or evening, get your e-mail out first thing in the morning.

If you have to type out a quick message from your phone because you’ll be traveling back home after the interview, please don’t forget to read things over carefully to ensure spellcheck or autocorrect didn’t do you wrong. You don’t want the last impression you leave to be a negative one!

Have MBA hopefuls been accepted to their dream programs without writing any sort of thank-you note? Yes, of course. But showing that you have manners and are aware of the proper etiquette is never a bad move—it’s just the right thing to do.

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Dos and Don’ts for Choosing MBA Recommenders

So many people think choosing a well-known or prestigious individual will be the ticket to acceptance at the b-school of their dreams. The key when selecting recommenders is to think about about their placement in …

So many people think choosing a well-known or prestigious individual will be the ticket to acceptance at the b-school of their dreams. The key when selecting recommenders is to think about about their placement in your life. Can they write about you thoughtfully and with enough insight so that the admissions committee can get an authentic feel for you as a person, as well as your skills and capabilities? Truly, the prestige of the recommender is not important.

Professional recommendations are best

In most situations, current and recent supervisors are the best choices because they can speak to your current skills, values, and work ethic as well as future potential. Also you should choose professional references instead of professors. Schools can see your educational background from transcripts and test scores; for that reason a recommendation from a professor won’t add much to your profile. Supervisors who have worked with you recently can elaborate on the aspects of your character that aren’t seen in resumes, transcripts, and scores.

Take a look at this excerpt from a recent post on the MBA Voices blog at Harvard Business School written by second-year student Ali Hassan, in which he describes how he chose his HBS recommenders while at McKinsey:

“When it came to recommendations, I was seeking two types of people.  First, I wanted someone who had worked very closely with me, and had a micro-level view of my skillset in day-to-day work. That person would be able to provide great insight, and back it up by pointing to specific experiences they’d had with me.
Second, I wanted someone who had a macro-level view of my work performance over time, with different teams, and across various work settings. If the first recommender provided depth, this one provided breadth. He was able to give a more comprehensive, long-term view of consistent patterns of strengths and weaknesses that I had as I worked with different teams, on different projects, and in different industries.”

People who know you well are best

Choose recommenders who know you well and can provide specific examples that speak to your personality, character, and values. Many applicants are tempted to ask their CEO or a famous school alum to write a recommendation.  If the CEO of your company is your direct supervisor and knows you well, then he/she is the right choice.

However do not skip several levels of hierarchy just to have the CEO write your recommendation. In fact, most schools specifically request your current supervisor as a reference, recognizing that this person is the most familiar with you and your work style. If for some reason you cannot have your current supervisor write your recommendation, you can submit a quick note to schools explaining why — eg, you just switched roles and have a new supervisor, you are not comfortable informing your place of work that you are applying to school.

Impress recommenders

Ideally you have already impressed your recommenders over the past few years with your performance. However, you want to be especially aware this spring and summer to demonstrate your leadership, initiative, maturity, and self-awareness. Your recommenders should see that you are ready to take the next step in your career by going to business school.

Build your relationships

Though the deadlines are still many months away, it is important to start thinking now about who your recommenders will be in order to build your relationships with them. Your recommenders should be invested in your future and enthusiastic about helping you reach your goal of getting into business school.

Though you don’t need to tell your recommenders right now that you want them to write a reference, you can take time this spring to make them mentors. Find opportunities to discuss their career path and ask their advice in order to involve them in furthering your career. Then it will seem natural for them to write your recommendations this fall.

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Evaluate MBA Career Services When Selecting Possible B-Schools

Guest post provided by our friends at Prep Adviser MBA career services have not generally been considered pivotal to your choice of the right business school for your management studies. However, some career centers cater …

MBA career services

Guest post provided by our friends at Prep Adviser

MBA career services have not generally been considered pivotal to your choice of the right business school for your management studies. However, some career centers cater so well to MBA students’ future vocations that they have become an indispensable asset to MBA programs.

Why business schools care about post-MBA careers

There are two major reasons for the growth of MBA career services. The first is that business schools now realize that the career success of their alumni is a major selling point in MBA programs. Ultimately, the return on investment (ROI) and the return in happiness (RIH) determine the value of the overall MBA experience in the short and long-term.

Along these lines, the recession of 2008 – 2009 also encouraged business schools to improve their career services. MBA recruitment was hit by difficult times in the corporate world. So business schools compensated by helping their students land attractive jobs despite the crisis.

The second factor boosting the growth of MBA career services is the MBA’s increased cachet beyond the corporate world. Traditionally, the MBA was a highly valued qualification to climb the corporate career ladder in the Western world. Nowadays, it is valued worldwide in almost any sector and industry. Entrepreneurship and the start-up industry additionally turned out to be fertile soil for the growth of MBA talent. This diversity of career paths and industries has led to MBA career services expanding beyond traditional corporate recruitment.

How to evaluate MBA career services

The MBA is always about change. Contemplating an MBA means that you want to make a career change – move to a new company, take a managerial role, work at an international level, make a career in new country or region, apply your skills in a new industry, or start your own company. You should approach your MBA application with a specific career goal or at least up to three scenarios for your post-MBA path. Your career goal is essential in selecting the right MBA programs.

When selecting business schools always inquire about the scope of MBA career services and evaluate them against your needs. It’s vital to consider the sectors and industries in which the career centre specialises. Some centers have dedicated consultants per industry. SDA Bocconi School of Management (Italy) aims to help students fully understand the industry sectors they are most interested in and evaluate their options based on their profile and aspirations.

MBA participants at Oxford Said Business School (UK) benefit from insights and pragmatic advice of a select group of sector consultants who have experience of working for leading firms across a broad range of sectors across a range of industries including management consulting, finance, high-tech, new ventures, media and communications, and diversified industry in general.

The scope of the services varies greatly. The MBA Career Development Programme at INSEAD (France) spans the whole process – “Know Yourself. Know the Market. Strategise and Execute”. The programs takes MBA students through 5 stages of developing a career plan – self-assessment, career vision, career design, job search, job application, and salary negotiations. B-schools often provide personal and leadership coaching as part of their MBA career development programs.

From job placement to career strategy

Career services have also shifted strategy greatly. Immediate post-MBA jobs are still an important selling point for MBA programs, but they now look to long-term career success. This is also because current and future professionals are likely to change jobs much more frequently than they did 20 years ago. New professions crop up every day, requiring lifelong learning and acquiring transferable skills, as well as a vision of how to navigate your career.

ESADE Business School (Spain) is among the leading business schools aiming to help MBA participants “develop the lifelong skills for successfully managing their careers.

IMD Business School (Switzerland) has developed an MBA career methodology focused on “Building Your Future” that takes MBA participants through two stages: During the first part of the program, a unique career audit methodology provides a clear-cut view on individual skill profiles and gaps and the potential for capturing value from transferable skills. The second half of the program allows you to individualize your curriculum in view of personal post-MBA ambitions.

Significantly, IMD involves its career experts in the MBA admissions process. This helps the admissions committee evaluate the relevance of applicants’ career goals against the resources of the business school to ensure post-MBA career growth.

Who is the driver of career success?

Business schools have developed comprehensive career services but it is essentially MBA participants themselves who should propel their own success. To achieve in the long-run, you should take time and effort to set clear career goals before applying for an MBA. Based on these you should select the most appropriate business schools considering all that they can offer – curriculum, network, learning environment, business exposure, and career services, among others. Finally, start working with the MBA career center as soon as you begin your studies and always be proactive. Business schools care more and more about your success, but ultimately your career and lifestyle are your own responsibility.

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Executives Weigh in on the Value of an MBA

Are you thinking about pursuing an MBA for career advancement, personal development, or a career switch? While the degree can be a transformational experience changing everything about your life, it’s more typically a tool to …

value of the MBAAre you thinking about pursuing an MBA for career advancement, personal development, or a career switch? While the degree can be a transformational experience changing everything about your life, it’s more typically a tool to polish existing skills, build your network or expose you to new industries.

Now then, what b-school hopeful doesn’t love to hear advice from those who have walked the MBA path before them? In case you need more convincing, US News and World Report, for which I write a bi-weekly post on the MBA admissions process, recently published a great story with tips for prospective applicants delivered straight from executives who also possess the degree.

Here are some key excerpts of their advice:

Les Williams, Chief revenue officer at Risk Cooperative, an insurance brokerage firm: “[business school] gives you a really big network so whatever you are interested in down the road, it will take you there,” Williams says, adding that the network he developed at Harvard Business School has helped him get jobs and clients.

Dave Wright,  Managing director in the private banking and investment group at Merrill Lynch: Although MBA degrees are an expensive investment, Wright is “a huge proponent” of the degree, he says. “It broadens your skill set and and surrounds you with like-minded people who will push you further and higher, but it definitely requires some sacrifice.”

Peter Faricy, Vice president of Amazon Marketplace, an e-commerce platform owned by Amazon: Aspiring executives ought to get an MBA, Faricy says. “If you enjoy business roles and you want to do this for the long haul, I put the MBA in the no-brainer category.”

Nicole Sahin, CEO of Globalization Partners, an employment services firm: Sahin urges prospective MBA students to get significant work experience before starting an MBA program so they can use the wisdom that comes from work to thrive in their courses.

As we’ve witnessed many times, business school enables students to develop the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities that can help organizations launch new products, improve the lives of consumers, and help society as a whole.

To read more about the featured executives, where they studied, and their own takeaways from the MBA experience, please click over to the original article on U.S. News.

You may also be interested in:

Why Do You Want to Go to B-School?
GMAC Survey Predicts Robust Job Market for MBA Grads

Image credit: Flickr user Penn State (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) 

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Applying for an MBA as an Early Career Candidate

Is there such a thing as a right time to apply for an MBA? Here at SBC, clients frequently ask if they’re too young to apply to some of the world’s top business schools. While …

advice for early career applicantIs there such a thing as a right time to apply for an MBA? Here at SBC, clients frequently ask if they’re too young to apply to some of the world’s top business schools. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, many b-school hopefuls consider pursuing an MBA straight out of undergrad or with scant work experience a no-brainer, as they avoid putting their lives on hold for two years—and forgoing a potentially significant salary to do so.

But what kind of early career candidate has a shot of admission into a top MBA program? Basically, those who are talented, motivated, and exhibit a track record of leadership and initiative. Though they may not have the years of formal work experience under their belts, these younger applicants have gained skills through internships, community service, entrepreneurial ventures or extra-curricular activities.

In a recent piece published on the Booth Insider blog at the University of Chicago Booth School of BusinessMegan Stiphany, Senior Associate Director of Admissions and Program Director of Summer Business Scholars, offers advice to early career candidates on finding those growth opportunities that will set you up for future success.

Professional or academic internships are a great place to begin, since they allow you to try a new career on for size and help lay the foundation for a strong professional network. This can be especially helpful for applicants with a lighter quant background in college.  You’ll build new skills, crystallize your career goals, and become more sure about whether an MBA is the next logical step. As an added bonus, Stiphany says future employers and graduate programs alike appreciate the value of internship experiences.

Programs such as Booth’s Summer Business Scholars Program (SBSP) allow those thinking about pursuing an MBA to test out the b-school experience. “No matter your background, spending three weeks this summer at Booth will give you tangible business skills that you can use right away, and give you a great taste of the business school experience,” she says.

“Recruiters and graduate programs are attracted to candidates who have explored diverse areas of study, and who can join their organization with strong leadership, business, and communication skills in place,” Stiphany adds.

Schools are becoming increasingly open to all ages, and realize that candidates have a lot to contribute in different ways at various life stages. If you can demonstrate maturity, highly focused career goals, leadership skills, and enough life experience to contribute to an incoming class, your age or thin amount of work experience become far less important.

Your job as an MBA applicant therefore is to search internally for what you have to offer.

“There are many roads you can take as part of your career journey,” says Stiphany. “Take the time to explore each option in order to truly evaluate which is right for you – and when!”

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