One year, we had a client who wanted to write an essay about an ethical situation he faced, wherein his manager asked him to take a test for him.
He worked in some kind of real estate company, and there was some kind of real estate test that his boss needed to take. Our client was a smart cookie and knew his stuff. The boss, apparently, was not. The boss figured, why not? He works for me, he should have to do what I say. Let’s see if he’ll go for it.
Thankfully our client said no to the boss.
But you know what? We also said no to our client.
This is not a good story for a bschool essay.
“Why not???” you say with a huff. “EssaySnark, that sure as heck looks like an ethical dilemma story to me!!”
Why yes, Brave Supplicant, it is. But there are a BUNCH of reasons why we do not feel this type of story is ideal for your bschool pitch.
First of all, in this exact case, what kind of “dilemma” is it, really? The fact of the matter is, it’s not. Our client said no to the silly boss and that was the end of that. There is no debate. There is no hemming and hawing. It’s not like the boss was gonna fire him if he didn’t do this shady thing he was asking. He just said no, and that was that.
The problem with such situations that are so OBVIOUSLY ethical lapses in judgment is that if it’s so cut-and-dried as this, then there isn’t much to talk about. In fact, in similar stories we’ve heard, where maybe the Brave Supplicant was asked to fudge details on a report, or do a little stir-fry on the ledgers*, it’s actually a LEGAL issue, right? With SOX? If you’re a public company, then the higher-ups need to certify that everything is legit, and maybe it wouldn’t be YOUR head on the line, but it sure wouldn’t go down well in any circle if/when this was found out.
This may come as a shock, but EssaySnark just doesn’t recommend using any story in a bschool app (essay or interview) where someone asks you to commit fraud.
The problem with using such a story is that a) it’s so OBVIOUSLY an ethical issue that it doesn’t really give you that much to talk about – all you can do is offer 500 words about “of course I didn’t do it.”
The bigger issue though is b) This makes it sound like you work for a completely unethical company. The fact that some guy could ask you to do this really stupid thing could make the reader assume that the entire place is corrupt – which, of course, puts all of your candidacy into question.
Another issue is c) It’s impossible to tell this story without making the other dude look like a chump – and you really don’t want to criticize your colleagues or superiors in any of your essays. (Even if they sorta deserve it. Chumpmeister indeed.)
So….. believe it or not, we actually recommend you come up with ethical dilemma stories for interviews and essays that are a little less blatant. A little less UNethical. THEN you can tell a more interesting story about your quandry of how you navigated the situation, what your decision-making process was (how you decided to do the right thing), how you convinced others to take a specific action — and it won’t be quite as problematic.
Using too-dramatic of an ethical situation here could have some unfortunate collateral damage for you. Sure, it might be a really easy essay to write, but it also might cause some unfortunate fallout over your candidacy.
*We mean “cooking the books” which is an idiom that means falsifying the records.