Leadership, impact, and interpersonal skills are the latest qualities explored in Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management‘s series of blog posts offering insight into how the MBA admissions committee assesses applicants.
Beth Tidmarsh, director of admissions for Kellogg’s full-time MBA programs, notes that, while a candidate from the military will tap into different leadership experiences than say, a junior analyst, there are some common traits the admissions team is looking for.
“We look for those who have taken up new responsibilities and opportunities in whatever way they can, however their career path has allowed,” Tidmarsh explains. “Your roles don’t have to be formal, just indicative of your drive.”
Also keep in mind that a candidate with eight years of work experience will be expected to have a greater number of examples to support leadership skills than an applicant just two years out of undergrad. That’s perfectly fine, Tidmarsh says, since “Our admissions team is just as concerned with where our students are going as where they’ve already been.”
Where impact is concerned, the admissions committee is more interested in quality than quantity. They know you’ve been busy climbing the ladder professionally, but they want to make sure they’re admitting well-rounded candidates who are interested in something other than their careers.
“We like to see our applicants involved with something they’re passionate about. If it fits in with your personal career narrative — say you volunteer with a literacy organization, and you want to pursue education policy after Kellogg — that’s great,” says Tidmarsh, though she notes that, for many applicants, their passions aren’t connected to their career goals at all.
Don’t fret if your all-consuming work hours have left little time for outside engagement, so long as you can draw on opportunities for impact within the workplace instead. “Having an impact on organizational culture or community is just as valid, important and interesting to us,” Tidmarsh assures.
Lastly, the admissions director shares what her team is looking for where an applicant’s interpersonal skills are concerned. Kellogg is well-known for its collaborative spirit and team-based learning approach, so AdCom will be looking for candidates who fit well with that culture.
Some applicants will have already had that type of work environment, so they will mesh immediately with that part of the Kellogg experience. But candidates coming from more independent work environments shouldn’t feel at a disadvantage. As long as you can demonstrate strong interpersonal skills, you should be fine.
It doesn’t hurt to spell it out for the admissions team though. “Knowing that you want to grow in this area, explaining that you crave more teamwork and collaboration, expressing that you want to push yourself in that area — all of that is valuable information for our admissions team,” Tidmarsh says.