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Why You Need a Personal MBA Soundbite

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personal MBA soundbite

Admissions officers and employers often make up their minds about an applicant during the first few moments of a conversation. That’s why starting on your best foot in a compelling, dynamic, memorable, and authentic way is critical. Today, we’ll discuss powerful opening statements that we call the personal MBA soundbite. Just as with essays, the first sentences of your interview have an outsized impact.

Imagine your interviewer asks a quintessential icebreaker, such as, “Tell me about yourself,” or “Walk me through your resume.” That’s when it’s vital to pause, reflect, and then share a concise and thoughtful summary of who you are, your work, and your future goals. 

“I would hazard that they are the most important sentences of your entire interview,” says SBC consultant and B-Schooled host Chandler Arnold in this episode of the podcast. “Avoid the impulse to dive quickly into the weeds.”

Let’s say the interviewer asks you to walk her through your resume. The obvious option is to go chronologically. For example, “After graduation, I took an entry-level position at the American Cancer Society, then blah, blah, blah…”

However, there are more dynamic and memorable ways to start an interview. More to the point, that approach uses up the first substantive sentence of your conversation by going into detail about something that is potentially one of the least relevant or interesting work experiences you’ve had in that first job after college. So, rather than making the first sentence of your first answer about that first job, consider answering the same question with a different introduction. 

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Try this Instead

What if you said something like, “You know what? I’m a cancer survivor and my personal passion is to develop new corporate and individual fundraising models to raise the funds needed in partnership with cutting-edge researchers to find a cure for the cancer that I had during my lifetime. After graduation, I took an entry-level position at the American Cancer Society and blah, blah, blah…”

You’re still answering the question and talking about that first job. Yet the second opening is a much more powerful way to start a conversation. It also sets the tone for the rest of the dialogue over the next half hour or so.

And to be clear, you don’t need to be a cancer survivor to have a powerful opening statement. Anyone can create a personal MBA soundbite that immediately piques your listener’s curiosity. Now, by definition, these should be personal. No one format or formula will work for everyone. But before we share some of the elements you might consider as you develop your own, let’s cover a few of the main goals of what this personal MBA soundbite should accomplish. 

personal MBA soundbite

First, it summarizes who you are in a memorable, dynamic, and compelling way at the start of your interview. Second, it creates a framework for the first part of your conversation so that the interviewer understands your life and work experience in the appropriate context, given your future goals. Beyond its use in interview prep, it can also help in other elements of your application journey, such as when speaking to current students, alumni, admissions officers, etc. 

Ingredients of a Stellar MBA Soundbite

So, what elements should a perfect MBA soundbite include? Let’s spell out four of them. Number one, it shares something personal and vulnerable about you. Again, you don’t need to be a cancer survivor to be vulnerable. However, sharing something candid and authentic at the beginning of an interview can create a nice dynamic and connection between you and the interviewer. 

Number two, the opening soundbite must be short. If you share something vulnerable about yourself, do it briefly. If you add a personal tidbit, don’t tell the whole story. Instead, reference it as an on-ramp to your larger point about who you are and the work you’re passionate about. The interviewer will likely come back and ask a follow-up question. Or, you’ll have the opportunity to dig deeper into this personal story later in the interview. 

Third, it’s crucial to highlight what you’re passionate about. Whether it’s sustainability, diversity, or any other cause close to your heart, painting a vivid picture of your passion can engage the interviewer and show them your drive and commitment. 

“I’ve done alumni interviews myself, and if there’s one common thread to the applicants who didn’t wow me, I would say that they failed to share their passion in the interview,” Chandler says.

Finally, consider how to set up your overall career pathway narrative. This is your opportunity to connect your past experiences to your future goals and why you believe an MBA is the next step. While it’s important to keep it short, this context can guide the interviewer’s understanding of your journey and aspirations.

Check out: The Scoop on the MBA Elevator Pitch

Case in Point

With the applicant who’s a cancer survivor, the person sums it up by touching on new fundraising models to help researchers find a cure for that cancer in the applicant’s lifetime. This isn’t long or complicated, but it does begin to paint a picture of who the person is and what they want to do with their life. 

Once you share that brief personal MBA soundbite, you dive into the details and describe those work experiences, knowing that the interviewer now understands the context and why these experiences were so important to you. 

Personal MBA Soundbite Makeovers

During the podcast episode, Chandler shares examples of how applicants might workshop their personal MBA soundbite. The first case is a straight white male with four years of experience in private equity in the oil and gas space who wants to stand out in an oversubscribed category. Here’s a familiar way that a typical interview opener goes:

Interviewer: Could you walk me through your resume? 

Applicant: Sure thing. As you can see from my resume, I have four years of private equity experience: a year with firm A and three years with firm B. In my first role…blah, blah, blah. 

Now, here’s a new and improved answer from the applicant. 

Applicant: Absolutely. But first, it might be helpful to give you some context. Looking at my resume, I realize I probably don’t look like a rebel. I’m a white private equity guy who plays lacrosse, for goodness’ sake. However, during my first year in private equity, I worked on this awesome sustainability initiative for one of our portfolio clients, which changed my outlook on the industry. 

Not only did these sustainability efforts help the planet, but they also considerably increased our company’s profitability. As a senior on the team, I’ve been able to encourage five other portfolio companies to explore their own green energy sustainability efforts. 

Having done this work for almost four years, I know the sector is ready to evolve, and I feel like I’m in a powerful position to drive positive change in the sustainability category. So, let me walk you through my resume with that in mind. 

That’s a much better opening to the interview. Not only does it give some context, but the applicant also injected some self-deprecating humor that showcases his emotional intelligence and makes him more approachable. 

Applicant Combining Work in Two Different Sectors

For this example, let’s say the interviewer starts with a general question like, “So great to meet you today. Why don’t you start by telling me a little about yourself?”

Applicant: Sure thing. I grew up in New York City, and as you can see from my resume, I have spent my time since graduation working in two very different fields…. 

Now, here’s a more compelling way to answer this question: 

Interviewer: Hey, why don’t you tell me about yourself? 

Applicant: Sure. I grew up in New York City, and when I was ten years old, Disney’s Pixar released the movie Wally. I was captivated by this story! Not only because it was about a cute little robot who literally saved the world but also because it was essentially about a super-powerful computer that could not only think but also feel.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by this connection between artificial intelligence, human emotions, and how people make decisions. So, I started my career in AI and spent the last year or so doing marketing work with a Fortune 500 company. 

When friends hear this, they sometimes make fun of me, seeing these as two completely different worlds. But I’ve always considered these two sides of the same coin, and leading brands must understand both. 

So, let me walk you through my resume and tell you why…

Both examples show that these more thoughtful personal openings bridge the gap between your past and future and offer you a powerful way to start the conversation.

Listen to B-Schooled Podcast Episode #147: Your Personal MBA Soundbite

A Roadmap—Not a Formula

Starting the interview off on the right foot not only means aceing the first question but also confidently approaching future questions in a way that allows you to truly enjoy the conversation. We’re not suggesting there’s a single formula that works for everyone. Nor do we believe your entire personhood can be boiled down to a soundbite. But we do think this format can help anyone set themselves up to succeed. 

So, remember these four key points. 

1.) Share something personal and vulnerable.

2.) Keep it short.

3.) Highlight your passion.

4.) Signpost your overall career path narrative.  

We’ll sign off by challenging you to develop your own personal MBA soundbite. We hope you’re already thinking about how to start that all-important conversation with your admissions interviewer. Remember, we’re cheering for you!


Stacy Blackman Consulting offers multiple services to meet your MBA application needs, from our All-In Partnership and Interview Prep to hourly help with essay editing, resume review, and much more! Contact us today for a free 15-minute advising session to talk strategy with a Principal SBC consultant.

Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.


Ashley is a former MBA Admissions Board Member for Harvard Business School (HBS), where she interviewed and evaluated thousands of business school applicants for over a six year tenure. Ashley holds an MBA from HBS.

During her HBS years, Ashley was the Sports Editor for the Harbus and a member of the B-School Blades Ice Hockey Team. After HBS, she worked in Marketing at the Gillette Company on Male and Female shaving ...

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Kerry is a former member of the Admissions Board at Harvard Business School (HBS).

During her 5+ year tenure at HBS, she read and evaluated hundreds of applications and interviewed MBA candidates from a wide range of backgrounds across the globe. She also led marketing and outreach efforts focused on increasing diversity and inclusion, ran the Summer Venture in Management Program (SVMP), and launched the 2+2 Program during her time in Admissions.

Kerry holds a B.A. from Bates College and  ...

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A former associate director of admissions at Harvard Business School, Pauline served on the HBS MBA Admissions Board full-time for four years. She evaluated and interviewed HBS applicants, both on-campus and globally. 

Pauline's career has included sales and marketing management roles with Coca-Cola, Gillette, Procter & Gamble, and IBM.  For over 10 years, Pauline has expertly guided MBA applicants, and her clients h ...

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Geri is a former member of the Admissions Board at Harvard Business School (HBS). 

In her 7 year tenure in HBS Admissions, she read and evaluated hundreds of applications and interviewed MBA candidates from a diverse set of academic, geographic, and employment backgrounds.  Geri also traveled globally representing the school at outreach events in order to raise awareness for women and international students.  In additio ...

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Laura comes from the MBA Admissions Board at Harvard Business School (HBS) and is an HBS MBA alumnus. In her HBS Admissions role, she evaluated and interviewed hundreds of business school candidates, including internationals, women, military and other applicant pools, for five years. 

Prior to her time as a student at HBS, Laura began her career in advertising and marketing in Chicago at Leo Burnett where she worked on th ...

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Andrea served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at Harvard Business School (HBS) for over five years.  In this role, she provided strategic direction for student yield-management activities and also served as a full member of the admissions committee.

In 2007, Andrea launched the new 2+2 Program at Harvard Business School – a program targeted at college junior applicants to Harvard Business School.  Andrea has also served as a Career Coach for Harvard Business School for both cu ...

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Jennifer served as Admissions Officer at the Stanford (GSB) for five years. She holds an MBA from Stanford (GSB) and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Jennifer has over 15 years experience in guiding applicants through the increasingly competitive admissions process into top MBA programs. Having read thousands and thousands of essays and applications while at Stanford (GSB) Admiss ...

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Erin K.

Erin served in key roles in MBA Admissions--as Director at Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and Assistant Director at Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB).

Erin served on the admissions committee at each school and has read thousands of applications in her career. At Haas, she served for seven years in roles that encompassed evaluation, outreach, and diversity and inclusion. During her tenure in Admissions at GSB, she was responsible for candidate evaluation, applicant outreach, ...

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Susie comes from the Admissions Office of the Stanford Graduate School of Business where she reviewed and evaluated hundreds of prospective students’ applications.  She holds an MBA from Stanford’s GSB and a BA from Stanford in Economics.

Prior to advising MBA applicants, Susie held a variety of roles over a 15-year period in capital markets, finance, and real estate, including as partner in one of the nation’s most innovative finance and real estate investment organizations. In that r ...

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Dione holds an MBA degree from Stanford Business School (GSB) and a BA degree from Stanford University, where she double majored in Economics and Communication with concentrations in journalism and sociology. Dione has served as an Admissions reader and member of the Minority Admissions Advisory Committee at Stanford.  

Dione is an accomplished and respected advocate and thought leader on education and diversity. She is ...

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Anthony served as the Associate Director of MBA Admissions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he dedicated over 10 years of expertise.

During his time as a Wharton Admissions Officer, he read and reviewed thousands of applications and helped bring in a class of 800+ students a year.  Anthony has traveled both domestically and internationally to recruit a ...

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Meghan served as the Associate Director of Admissions and Marketing at the Wharton MBA’s Lauder Institute, a joint degree program combining the Wharton MBA with an MA in International Studies.

In her role on the Wharton MBA admissions committee, Meghan advised domestic and international applicants; conducted interviews and information sessions domestically and overseas in Asia, Central and South America, and Europe; and evaluated applicants for admission to the program. Meghan also managed ...

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Amy comes from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where she was Associate Director. Amy devoted 12 years at the Wharton School, working closely with MBA students and supporting the admissions team. 

During her tenure at Wharton, Amy served as a trusted adviser to prospective applicants as well as admitted and matriculated students.  She conducted admissions chats with applicants early in the admissions ...

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Ally brings six years of admissions experience to the SBC team, most recently as an Assistant Director of Admission for the full-time MBA program at Columbia Business School (CBS). 

During her time at Columbia, Ally was responsible for reviewing applications, planning recruitment events, and interviewing candidates for both the full-time MBA program and the Executive MBA program. She traveled both internationally and dome ...

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Erin B.

Erin has over seven years of experience working across major institutions, including University of Pennsylvania, Columbia Business School, and NYU's Stern School of Business.

At Columbia Business School, Erin was an Assistant Director of Admissions where she evaluated applications for both the full time and executive MBA programs, sat on the admissions and merit scholarship committees and advised applicants on which program might be the best fit for them based on their work experience and pro ...

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Emma comes from the MBA Admissions Office at Columbia Business School (CBS), where she was Associate Director. 

Emma conducted dozens of interviews each cycle for the MBA and EMBA programs, as well as coordinating the alumni ambassador interview program. She read and evaluated hundreds of applications each cycle, delivered information sessions to audiences across the globe, and advised countless waitlisted applicants.</sp ...

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