Highlighting Soft Skills in MBA Essays
A 2017 Financial Times survey of the most important and least important skills that employers look for in MBA graduates reveals some surprising findings.
Among the least important skills that employers who hire MBAs are looking for are stalwarts of the MBA curriculum, including specialized finance, statistical, and programming skills. Topping the list of most important skills that these employers are looking for in MBAs are softer skills like time management, networking, and the ability to work with a diverse group of people. We’ve been saying this for YEARS: MBA adcoms are looking for future business leaders, not future analysts and quants. If businesses that hire MBAs are looking for these soft skills in new hires, it’s a sure bet that MBA adcoms are looking for the same things in applicants.
So, how do you communicate to adcoms that you possess these sought-after soft skills? We dive into some examples below:
For such a simple concept, it takes a little creativity to weave time management skills into an admissions essay. Let’s take a look at how we might attempt this in Kellogg’s first essay on “brave leadership.”
Tell us about a time you have demonstrated leadership and created lasting value. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn?
While demonstrating leadership should definitely be the main focus of your answer here, if the story you’re telling involves a complex project that you led on a tight deadline, then this could be a good opportunity to also demonstrate to the adcom that you’ve got great time management skills. Make sure you describe, in detail, the stress of the impending deadline, the actions you took to make sure your team got everything done on time, and a description of how much you were juggling while ensuring accountability for everyone on your team.
Networking is an essential business leadership skill, and a surefire way to communicate to adcoms that you’re a great networker is to show how you’ve used your networking skills to solve a problem or overcome a challenge in your career.
Did you encounter a technological problem on a project that you couldn’t tackle on your own? Tell the adcom how you reached out for help from an expert that you just happened to met at a conference and stayed in touch with. Then, write about how this experience taught you the importance of building a maintaining a diverse professional network. Pretty simple.
Working with Diverse Teams
By now you can probably guess what we’re going to tell you to do: give an example of a time when you were able to solve a problem or create a great result by utilizing the diversity of your team.
Let’s say you recently started working with a new Brazilian client at your Oil & Gas consultancy. From the start, meetings with this client weren’t as productive as you thought they should be. You tried your best to stay on topic, but the client’s representatives always wanted to talk about things other than the task at hand. Not wanting things to get even more delayed, you asked the newest member of your team, a recent hire from São Paulo, what she thought was going on. She told you that it’s customary in Brazil to go through a series of “small talk” niceties before getting down to business, and that not doing so comes across as rude in Brazilian culture. You took her advice, and the situation turned around completely.
All of these examples have one thing in common, they use a situational experience to show the adcom that you’ve used these soft skills in the real world to achieve great results. Keep this in mind as you’re writing about ANY of your technical or soft skills in your MBA admissions essays.
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