What B-schools look for in Candidates?

As the second-most populous country in the world and the seventh-largest nation globally in terms of geographic area, India clearly has a lot to offer to the world in the field of management. This is truer now than ever because India has added one more feather to its cap: It is the youngest nation in the world in terms of human resource. No wonder then, that the need for professional managers is great and is only set to increase further, especially at a time when India is seriously trying to augment its manufacturing sector in addition to fortifying its service sector.

The need to churn out professional managers in India presupposes the need for studying management; hence the crazy ‘rat race’ for MBA admissions and test preparation in the country.

If you ask any MBA admissions candidate from any corner of India (whether a graduate or a budding working professional), he or she will promptly say that he/she wants to join, “a good business school,” if not, “the best business school,” in India. However, what most MBA applicants forget or ignore is that a “good business school,” will also expect to admit a “good candidate,” and the so-called, “best business school,” will obviously want to admit the, “best candidate.” It is two-way traffic and not solely one-way, as many aspirants would like to believe.

Assuming that a person going through MBA admissions is aware of this basic fact, he or she should also be conversant with what business schools actually look for in an applicant, whether they are a fresher or someone with existing work experience.

 

What Top Business Schools look for in Applicants?

 

To put it simply, all top business schools are looking for a judicious blend of purpose, talent and passion in an applicant. A perfect blend of these three traits is what leadership skills are all about. Purpose, or a sense of purpose, relates to what one wants to achieve in this world in a larger sense. It can be broken up into short-term goals and long-term aims. Talent is the ability and quality that enables consistent, near-perfect performance in a particular activity.  Passion has to do with the emotional energy that one directs towards one’s life pursuits, whether they be personal or professional.

All business schools eye candidates who can clearly demonstrate exceptional talents that are fuelled by passion and directed by purpose. The degree to which a business school stretches itself in finalizing a candidate may vary from school to school, but the reality is that all of them look for this judicious blend in the leadership skills of an MBA admissions candidate.

A candidate needs to appreciate one key truth about the two magic words: ‘Work experience’. There is a reigning perception in the minds of MBA applicants that work experience is mandatory for getting into a good business school. While it is true that, as part of the selection process, a few top business schools give extra marks to candidates having work experience, this is not mandatory and certainly not an all-pervasive truth in India. However, work experience helps a candidate perform comparatively better in the GDPI (group discussion and personal interview) round as he or she has the potential to display more confidence than a fresher might. Additionally, it should be noted that mere work experience in numbers is not good enough – the quality of work experience is equally, if not more, important.

To sum up, if a candidate displays and demonstrates the following five qualities during an interview at a business school, they can increase the chances of his or her getting selected:

 

1. Leadership: One of the most important skills for professional managers. Leadership skills can be nurtured and demonstrated as part of extra-curricular activities as well as through work experience.

2. Quantitative competency: This is important because business studies involve handling numbers and showing logical/critical thinking ability.

3. Communication skills: Good listening and articulation skills are a prerequisite for any successful professional manager. In a larger context, communication skills also include expressing one’s ideas cogently and precisely in the written medium.

4. Knowledge: Knowledge can be divided into three components: Academic, work experience-related and general knowledge.

5. Post-MBA career plans: While it is normal for an MBA applicant to be uncertain about their precise career goals, they still need to be quite clear about their short and long-term goals, and explaining their career path to the MBA admissions committee is crucial.

Build a life, not a résumé !

The hard reality of life is that any reputable business school will assess MBA applicants holistically  – i.e. the full person and not merely a candidate with a heavy résumé. Hence, keeping in mind the following points while building one’s profile may be beneficial:

1. Develop a decent academic record
2. Nurture hobbies/interests
3. Associate with a nonprofit organization and get involved in social/development-oriented activities
4. Know your strengths as well as your areas for improvement, in relation to communication skills, leadership skills as well as in other areas, and be confident in your ability to talk about this
5. If you are pursuing an MBA after a few years of work experience, ensure that your work experience is characterized by quality and not just quantity
6. Last but not the least, be aware of what is happening around you in India and globally, particularly in matters related to business.

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