Last Fall we wrote about a first-year at Harvard who took a recruiter to task because she (the student) disagrees with the way the recruiter’s company does business. We put up a little survey, inviting reactions from our small BSer community, and then posted those results. Consensus was that this HBS student’s actions didn’t reflect so well on the school.
We got another response to that survey at the very end of December so we thought we’d circle back to present this BSer’s views, too:
Respondent #7 (you can view the previous six on our prior post)
Every interaction a student has with anyone outside of the business school is a direct reflection on the school and the and the other members of the student body. Jessica’s response is arrogant, to say the least. Why not simply understand that this was a clerical mistake? There’s no need to be rude to someone who is undoubtedly giving many of her classmates a high-paying job, regardless of any difference of opinion. Other recruiters will see this, now public, exchange and wonder if other HBS students conduct themselves similarly and even worse, wonder if those are the types they want in their companies. Especially given the PR issues HBS has had to face over the last year or so, it seems utterly irresponsible for her to act in such a way to a recruiter. Once these incidents start to pile up, they can no longer be dismissed as outliers in public opinion.
The same is true with the Chinese food-gate fiasco. Every outward conversation or exchange, verbal or written, directly reflects on the institution. Consider the private sector; such a lack of proper conduct would prove even more detrimental….just go on Yelp to see this first hand.
Business schools, so it seems, strive to weed out people like this. They also strive to avoid admitting those who exhibit poor decision making skills, a deficiency from which Jessica certainly suffers.
The “Chinese food-gate fiasco” was an – in our opinion – exceedingly more embarrassing incident recently where an HBS professor created a massive stink about a local Chinese restaurant’s incorrect pricing on its website. We tweeted about it:
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) December 10, 2014
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) December 11, 2014
Every large organization has a full spectrum of personalities – but you can bet that Harvard Business School has an outsized number of, how shall we put it, LARGE personalities.
(Sometimes known as “big butth@les”.)
The survery-responder makes a good point: “Business schools, so it seems, strive to weed out people like this.” However, you have to remember that some schools care more about certain qualities than others – and some of those qualities are at times at odds with each other. In other words: If you’re a go-getter Type A overachiever person who has Done Big Things in life, to the point where the Admissions Board of Harvard Business School has noticed you among the crowd of thousands of applicants…. well, there’s a good chance that that drive and ambition that have served you so well as to get you into Harvard may also come in the same package of someone who’s a little bit… driven. Or pushy. Or sharp-edged in certain ways.
Every school cares about specific traits in its applicants, and generally those traits are shared. Things like leadership and smarts and all of that. All the schools care about that. And many schools also care about teamwork and collaboration and do-gooder-ness. Sometimes those things come together in one awesome package of a person – and sometimes we get more of one than the other.
The essays and the other application components will reveal a good sense of where a candidate falls along the spectrum of each of these dimensions. It’s the interview that is a prime opportunity for the school to do its critical screening.
At a school like NYU and MIT and HBS, where the admissions teams do all of their own interviewing, then the adcom has direct interaction with the candidate and they can assess for themselves what type of person they’re dealing with. NYU is very keen on screening for qualities like “How will this person fit in with our culture?” Other schools like Duke also rely on their student interviewers to evaluate these types of traits.
The HBS adcom? Sure they care about that – but they mostly care about whether you’ll be proactive, and a key contributor, and willing to take a risk in a heated class discussion around a difficult case. They want to make sure you’ll take a stand and defend your views. They don’t want to admit any wallflowers.
We’ve never gone through an HBS MBA interview so we’re definitely not speaking from firsthand experience here. We have heard plenty of reports on the experience from many of our clients over the years – and we’ve worked very closely with those people before they submit, so we get an exceptionally strong feel for who they are and how they operate. And we see who Harvard lets in.
Most students at most schools are “nice.” Most students at Harvard are also true go-getters who’ve accomplished stuff. That tends to be accompanied by a certain, how shall we put it, oh let’s just call it “high self esteem.”
HBS does not screen for “nice” in their admissions process. If you’re a visible jerk, then of course you won’t get in. They’re not going to intentionally admit the most a-hole of a-holes (probably). But most people are on their best behavior when they go to interview, and not all a-holeness is easily revealed in a 30-minute conversation.
This post is just a very long-winded way of saying, if you want to go to Harvard, don’t expect everyone there to be all warm-fuzzies all the time.
As our cosmetics-industry activist and Chinese-food-complainer have revealed.