Cracking the MBA Admissions Code with the Perfect Job History

Posted February 06, 2015 by
Yael Redelman-Sidi photo

Yael Redelman-Sidi, Founder of Admit1MBA & Admit2Med

If you’re in college and already know you will need an MBA to achieve your career goals (maybe you want to work for Private Equity or become a product manager for Google), you have to be careful and creative while considering the career path that will most increase your chances of admission to top business programs.

Leading programs like Wharton, Harvard, Columbia Business School, NYU Stern and MIT receive thousands of applications, with as many as 20 people competing for each spot in the class. The decision of the MBA admissions board is influenced by whether your professional and personal experience will allow you to make valuable contributions in the classroom. Your time in the workforce has to be meaningful and relevant.

What’s your super power?

Business schools are going to evaluate your experience and skills and consider how they can benefit your class and be applied to your post-MBA career goals. Whether you’ve been an equity analyst at Goldman Sachs, a tax auditor at Ernst &Young, a sommelier at a busy restaurant, or a first grade teacher in downtown Chicago, you have skills and knowledge that may attract future recruiters and that you can share with your fellow MBAs. You may have learned to manage clients, analyze data, work in a team with people from all over the world, and more. When you consider your jobs, think about the requirements and day-to-day responsibilities of your future career. It’s not about having as many skills as possible; it’s about mastering a few and showing how you’ve used them to benefit your organization.

Brand names

Business schools like to admit people from known business leaders like Blackstone, Apple, McKinsey, Google or Teach for America. Why? First, we are all human. If the admissions committee is familiar with a company name they’ll attach value to it and know that future recruiters will too. Second, many financial firms and top companies have a demanding recruiting process. If you earned a spot at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bain & Company, or Amazon, you have strong communication skills and other valuable knowledge or experience. So, if you are choosing between similar jobs at a small, less known company and one that has a global presence and network, there is a benefit to a stronger brand name.

Going beyond the job description

When schools review your resume and read your recommendation letters, they are going to look beyond your job description and current responsibilities. Sometimes the responsibilities themselves are impressive – maybe at twenty-four you’re managing a $2 million advertising budget, maybe you’re supervising a team of fifteen engineers from the US and India, or maybe you have already written an app and sold it to Facebook. If you have accomplished something truly amazing the school will be impressed. However, what they really want to know at Harvard, Ross, Berkeley, and Stanford is this: how have you taken the role you were given and created something new? What did you do that was above and beyond, that was never done by others in the same position? They want to see you as a leader, not just an implementer. Think about your opportunity at each job to create something that’s not traditional or expected. When you look at companies and positions, think about how much autonomy you will have and whether you’ll be able to take on additional projects. Think about leadership opportunities within that organization. Sometimes big organizations have more structure in place for improvement – maybe in recruiting, women’s networks, etc. Sometimes it is actually smaller companies with less hierarchy or structure that will allow you to develop faster.

By Yael Redelman-Sidi, Founder of Admit1MBA & Admit2Med

About the Author

Yael Redelman-Sidi is the founder of Admit1MBA and Admit2Med. She’s an expert in the various aspects of college and graduate school admissions, specifically MBA and medical school admissions. A graduate of New York University, Yael has advised hundreds of students through their admission to top schools in the US, editing essays and coaching students for MBA interviews and post-MBA job placement.

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