We got such an overwhelming response to our invitation to critique the answers from the politicians! (not)
That’s OK. We don’t really have a heavily interactive community, and we don’t mind. It’s fine for all of you to come here for your daily dose of ‘Snark and move on. We know you’re busy.
Besides, critiquing people’s answers to essay questions – how much fun could THAT be?!?
LOL – exactly.
But we still want to lay out some analysis of those answers for you, since building the skills around critiquing this content on other people’s mishaps will get you better at critiquing your own. It’s really worth the effort! Just like with all the exercises we lay out in our SnarkStrategies Guides for applying to bschool. Some of those guides have like a gazillion brainstorming exercises, and we know that many BSers just flip the pages and move right on past, without actually doing them. And that’s kind of defeating the purpose.
If you’ve been doing that, we offer the kind suggestion that maybe you slow down and actually try them.
We get it! The exercises are hard! They’re like HOMEWORK or something!
Same deal with these politicians’ answers to the “professional obstacle” question that we pointed you to on Friday.
But really, spending time on these tasks, working that pretty little brain of yours, that’s where your critical thinking skills can grow. When you can see the flaws in an argument (or how smarmy and posturing some of them were, or how saccharine) then it gives you a hint on how a complete stranger might possibly respond when reading your own drafts of answers. It develops that little sense of what might be good, and authentic — compared to what ends up in a whole different ballpark.
One of the most fundamental aspects to analyzing an answer to a question is, “Does it actually answer the question?”
You can see this as an issue even from how the Post introduced this topic in their article capturing these questions at the end of the debate — here’s what they wrote:
In the final question of Thursday’s debate, the candidates were asked to describe a professional setback, how they recovered and what they learned. Some took liberties with the question, instead choosing to recount a more personal hardship.
One of the most common complaints we hear from admissions directors about what MBA applicants do in their essays and also their interviews is they don’t answer the question. You can see how annoying that is by the journalist’s comment there about taking liberties.
When the question asks for X, and you answer with ABC, it’s noticed. When a politician does this, it’s usually spin, or avoidance, or some other dodge. In this case, Biden and Warren (the first two candidates in the video) trotted out their well-worn stump speech stories about hardship. In Warren’s case, the sequence of events essentially is professional in nature, but for Biden, a big nope. Nothing truly “professional” in the content that he discusses in his answer. They both were variations of, “I had a career and this personal thing happened that was hard.” For Biden, it was the car crash that killed his first wife and injured his sons when he was a newly-elected politician. For Warren, it was being a “visibly pregnant” schoolteacher at a time when teachers did not keep working when they were pregnant. We would posit that both of those are more (in EssaySnark’s vernacular) “outside-in” stories which often actually do serve as foundations for good “overcoming an obstacle” questions. However, they didn’t really answer the question — though to their credit, it’s hard to do this on the fly. That’s why when you’re going for your interview, you need to PRACTICE. You can bet your sweet patooty that these candidates all went through hours and hours of practice before getting up on that stage. They all were reasonably fluid in adapting to this question and coming up with answers. Did they actually answer the question as asked? Not really.
So that’s your main takeaway from today, and we invite you to go back over those videos and listen for where each candidate literally answers the question. Write down their answers. Then check it against the question that they were asked. Does it line up?
Here’s the video again if you want to spend some 10 minutes on this now.
Comments are always open if you have anything to share about what you discover or learn!