Sell the MBA Admissions Committee on Your Employability

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com

The vast majority of MBA applicants seek the degree with the primary purpose of advancing their careers and earning considerably more than they did prior to b-school. But many MBA hopefuls don’t realize that the career services department at their target business schools often has an outsized impact on their acceptance or rejection into the program.

Career placement and starting salary factors heavily into many of the well-known MBA rankings, so it only makes sense that the admissions committee and career services staff regularly team up to make sure the offers of admission they make go to candidates who won’t be difficult to place and thus negatively affect the school’s employment stats.

The admissions team will often ask for career services to weigh in if the applicant is significantly above the average years of work experience, if her stated professional goals seem far afield from previous experience, or if those ambitions will be challenging to achieve through the resources available at the school.  Input from the career services department also lets the admissions team know exactly what recruiters are looking for in new hires. Armed with that information, the admissions committee can then create the most competitive class possible.

It’s really a matter of providing the best service to its customer—the potential student—because no school wants to admit someone who will have little chance of landing their dream job after they’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the degree. Therefore, post-MBA employability is one of the most important aspects you must prove as an applicant. You need to do all you can to convince the admissions team that you’ll have no trouble finding a great job come graduation.

How to Demonstrate Employability

 Having clear, logical, and realistic career goals is a must in any successful MBA application. The best and most obvious way to let the MBA admissions committee know they should have no concerns in this area by showing how much your previous employers have valued your workplace contributions. In fact, your resume, interview, essays, and references can all work to support your employability.

In your resume, highlighting a healthy career progression and multiple promotions, bolstered by glowing recommendations from supervisors, will show that you are employable and put the adcomm’s mind at ease.

The MBA essays offer another opportunity to showcase an applicant’s well-thought-out career goals. Explaining how you plan to make good use of every tool at your disposal during the program—from specific classes or concentrations, to student clubs, study abroad options, competitions, and more—lets the admissions team see how well their program fits with your goals and shows that you will capitalize on the school’s network and resources.

Recruiters have noticed that even students from the best schools can’t always communicate well, or don’t know how to express their concerns tactfully during presentations. Many rejected applicants also face this hurdle, and don’t understand why they didn’t get in even though they scored a 790 on the GMAT. If you’re applying to business school in the fall, you’ll impress the admissions committee right out of the gate if you can demonstrate that you already possess strong communication skills during your MBA interview.

In b-school admissions as with job interviews, there will always be many more qualified candidates than spots or positions available. One way the powers that be make a decision among equally qualified applicants is by looking at their soft skills, people skills, or EQ—emotional intelligence. Some interviewers employ a version of the so-called “airport test,” where your interviewer gauges whether she would enjoy being stuck chatting with you during a layover—or would rather be swallowed up by baggage claim.

Show that you have those soft skills that future employers will value highly by captivating your essay reader or interviewer with a unique or compelling anecdote that sticks in his or her mind long after you’ve left the table. With competition for a seat at one of the top schools as tough as it is, you’ll need to use every tool in your arsenal to win over the admissions committee, and career services members, deciding your fate.

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