(Besides not starting early enough. Which is the #1 mistake almost everyone makes, regardless of how much we warn about it. Pro Tip: It would be good to get started sometime soon!) While there are a near-infinite number of ways to muff up your MBA apps, there’s some common issues that we see crop up…
But please don’t write it in an MBA essay. We originally started this blahg because we saw too many earnest MBA applicants (aka BSers) saying earnest MBA applicant things in their essays. That was nine years ago (and we’d already been reading MBA essays for many years before then). Alas, not much has changed. :-(…
https://twitter.com/adweak/status/1039759735879290885 Sometimes people tell us that their long-term post-MBA career goal is to be a “thought leader.” (Apparently in Washington, DC, people say this on first dates , too.) This is not a career goal for so many reasons – and even worse, it just sounds, ohidunno, maybe the word is cocky?? We…
We have a whole Don’t Do This tag here on the blahg which seems to get a lot of use and might be worth exploring. Today’s topic is something that hasn’t been mentioned recently even if we’ve said it plenty times in the past, so we’ll hammer it home again: MBA resumes must be one page.
Oh you don’t believe us? OK how about we make it a proclamation:
Thou resume, when thoust doth supplicateth to thy gods of bschool, shall be only, at mostest, ONE single page in length.
That is like uno, solo, singular, mono. Un. Eins. один 壹 ichi. Minimus. Finito. No more than one.
Even if your resume is formatted nicely, even if you’ve got all this wonderful (blech) stuff about your fine self to portray to the adcom, even if you’re oozing fabulousness from every pore, sorry hate to say it but there is NO REASON why it should be two pages.
Ahem, sorry for that interruption.
Truly, the only people for whom it *might* be appropriate to submit a resume more than one page long are those who’ve been working 10+ years, and/or PhD who’ve published a lot — and even for them, there are reasons to trim back to one page!
The issue here is PERCEPTION… and it’s also POLITENESS. Reading essays is HARD.You are taking up MORE OF YOUR ADCOM READER’S TIME by submitting a long resume. (It’s the same reason why you never want to submit an optional essay unless you HAVE to.)
You should be looking to do the opposite. Minimize the amount of effort they need to expend to go through your application. Present yourself PROFESSIONALLY. This means being respectful of their time.
Sending a two-page resume — yes, even for a school that “allows one” — is NOT a good idea for ANYONE. It sorta makes it look like you’re too fond of yourself — that you can’t bear to part with all that fabulousness on the page.
(Many readers will just stop after the first page anyway!! They might not even bother with all your on-and-on-ing-ness on page two!)
EssaySnark feels so strongly about this that we’ve priced our resume reviews accordingly: You can get a very thorough assessment of your one-page resume for the amazing price of just $ 299.00. If it’s longer than that, we really don’t want to review it at all. 🙁 You can get a two-page review for an additional $100 (please contact Team EssaySnark after purchasing the base service for instructions to pay for the add-on).
Or just face the music. Buck it up, bucko. Deal with reality and decide to do that hard work of getting it onto a single page, which is the standard that all full-time programs request. This is about marketing yourself to a buyer. How you present MATTERS.
Addendum: So impressed with the BSer who prompted this rant – who’s now the proud owner of a sparklin’ new one-page resume!!
Today is technically a holiday here in the U.S. – but we’re around reading essays just as fast as you are writing them! For those trying for schools like Stanford especially, we have a post today on a common practice used in MBA essays that doesn’t usually work. We see many essays that start…
Given our fraught public dialogue these days, the adcoms are becoming ever more sensitive to hype and propaganda in MBA apps. You don’t want to risk your candidacy by taking liberties with language! We don’t mean our standard exhortation about lying. Instead, we’re talking about hype. We have seen BSers inadvertently step in it when…
We’ve seen this come up on a forum before and it’s come up with our clients.
And the temptation is strong, for sure.
Your job sucks. It’s boring. It’s one of the reasons you want to go get your MBA. And you’re definitely going to back to school next fall (right?). Why not quit the job, get that nasty GMAT out of the way, wizz through the applications, and then bam – you’re a free man! It’s travel and fun and one big partay for many months until bschool rolls around. Sounds perfectly fab, no?
Sure, it sounds good. But don’t do it.
Did you hear that?
EssaySnark will say it again: *Do not quit your job.* It is easier to get into bschool while you’re employed. If your current job is heinous and you have another job lined up, fine — or if you want to go get another job, that would be OK. But having a job while you’re applying to bschool is a big advantage — or more accurately stated, NOT having a job could be a serious disadvantage. You’d have all sorts of scrambling to do, to explain what you’re doing unemployed. If you go get a new job now, fine, just make sure you will be able to talk about how that new job is preparing you for your future goals. And, some might say that it’s unethical to start a new gig if you know you’ll be leaving in a short time. (EssaySnark is on the fence about that one.) You have a year before you’d start at bschool, and it’s important that you FILL THIS TIME WISELY.
EssaySnark has seen people quit their job because they assume they’ll get into bschool, and not only can this be perceived as presumptuous (even arrogant) by the adcom, but it puts you at risk for ending up next year without school and without a job. It doesn’t make you look like a good planner.
If you quit now, you just need to come up with a good reason for why, and you’ll need to find challenging projects that are giving you skills to enhance your profile.
It’s not technically necessary to have a job while you go through the admissions process. But you’ll be asked about your employment situation during the interview process, and you don’t want to sound flaky. Also, we assume that you’ll need to get letters of rec from your current employer, and those will likely be easier to obtain if you’re actually still working there. 🙂
Maybe you can talk to your manager and find more exciting projects, or come up with your own initiatives to propose? That would make for good essay material potentially too.
The other thing is, damn there’s a lot of people unemployed right now. You have a job — and you’re willing to ditch it?!? Because you’re BORED??? Hmmmm.
Now for anyone who’s been laid off or let go or in any other way unwillingly found themselves without a job — take heart. There’s no problem with that in the context of your bschool apps. That type of situation certainly needs to be handled carefully, and almost definitely an optional essay will be needed for this. But being laid off — or even being fired outright because you royally muffed something up — will not result in an automatic rejection.
We can understand the temptation if you’re feeling stuck and anxious and generally impatient with where you’re at in life. However, sticking with the current job, and ideally even finding a way to turn it around, is usually the best way to go, to smooth your route into an MBA program the soonest.
One goal with your apps is to minimize the things you have to explain. Quitting a job prematurely adds to the list of things to explain. That’s not ideal. Mitigate the risk. Don’t do anything rash.
If you do decide that you absolutely must leave this job now, then find something appropriate to transition to, and check out our many posts on how to handle things as part of the app and your overall career.
EssaySnark doesn’t want to get all metasophical on you or anything (yes that’s a word, we just made it up) but…
We have this one client.
He tried to get in last year.
He started too late, and he got bad advice, and he submitted some really lousy apps. And of course he targeted the very best schools.
(Oh wait – you’ve heard this story before? Yeah, so have we.)
So then he comes to us and wants help this year. And we go over a strategy and he’s bound and determined to reapply at some of those schools he bombed at before, and OK fine, we say it’s unlikely but go along with it, and we keep encouraging him to try elsewhere too. At other really good schools. Like UCLA Anderson.
(Maybe this kid is a little too big for his britches. LA isn’t good enough for him. It’s New York New York New York for this one.)
Whatever. He tries again this season, with Round 1 apps like he’s supposed to, and…
Here we are in March and he’s not been accepted anywhere yet.
And do you wanna know what we think the reason is?
(Besides the aforementioned too-big issue.)
This kid has lost the faith.
This guy has a screamin’ GMAT score, his academics are decent to good, he’s done the standard pre-MBA career track and his goals are in line with what we’d expect. He’s got some relatively OK stories to tell in his apps, nothing earth-shattering, but some above-average examples of having an impact and doing good. On paper he’s competitive with his peers.
And he’s not getting in.
If a Brave Supplicant finds him- or herself in this situation, then in our brutally direct assessment, there are two possible causes:
#1. The BSer is arrogant. Yes, we’ve detected a smidgeon of that in this dude, but, nothing extreme. However, if the arrogant vibe comes out too strong in an interview, it can be the kiss of death. Perhaps there’s some of that going on.
More likely though it’s:
#2. The BSer doesn’t believe. In fact, the BSer not only does not believe he’ll get in to bschool — he actively imagines and fears and fantasizes about not getting in.
While EssaySnark does not have direct access to this kid’s thoughts, we are quite confident in our assessment that this is what the problem is.
This guy has gotten his confidence trampled, and now he believes the worst. He has decided that he is a bschool loser, and he’s doing all in his power to create that as his reality.
If someone is in this situation, if someone has convinced himself that he’s not gonna make it, if the underlying thought patterns are of doom and gloom in someone’s mind, well… sorry Charlie, there ain’t nuthin’ we can do.
Yes, we’ve tried the cheerleading rap, we’ve tried all the rah-rah and go get ums and all. There is NO REASON why this person should not be getting an offer (at least, for the schools he finally resigned himself to in Round 2, which were much more in line with where he should’ve been targeting from the beginning — yes, we’re now talking Kellogg instead of Harvard).
Sometimes, it just takes time. Some people don’t make it in the first time through, and they get up, brush themselves off, and try again. As long as you do that with clear eyes and a realistic plan, you WILL get in — eventually. There is room for everyone at the bschool inn, you just have to find your proper home. Swear to G., this is what EssaySnark believes.
And we will be there to help you. We WANT you to be successful. (At least, the non-arrogant, non-greedy, non-unethical ones of you.)
But we canNOT help at all if you do not believe in yourself.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
Ya gotta believe. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else can do it for you.
The relaxing of some of the stiffer norms of business has been good for all of us. Many companies today aren’t all that concerned if you spend a little time during work hours surfing the web, reading the news, maybe on Amazon buying some new gadget that you want. Some places have really flexible work hours, where you can come in later or go home earlier, or work from home on a Friday. There are lots of benefits that have accrued from the casualization of the workplace.
There are also some risks in navigating these new waters. It used to be constricting and proper. Now it’s unfortunately too easy to slip and slide your way into embarrassment — and the worst of it is, you may not even realize you’ve messed up. In some workplaces, in an effort to be supportive and welcoming to the millennial worker, some managers are choosing to look the other way and not say anything. You could be bumbling along, making mistakes, and nobody is ever going to tell you.
What type of mistakes?
Well for starters, there is no business environment where flipflops and shorts are acceptable attire.
If your reaction is, “EssaySnark! That’s bogus! My company has a casual dress code! All the programmers wear shorts! You’re totally wrong on this one.”
Our reaction then is, “That’s not a business environment.”
A bunch of bros wearing their board shorts and hoodies are not conducting business. They may be AT WORK and they may be WORKING, but they are not doing business.
Do you want to be a professional?
You must DRESS LIKE ONE.
Here’s an excellent article from Stanford GSB on becoming the type of executive you want to be, by assuming an executive presence.
This is an attitude that must be nurtured (the professor who’s quoted gives a story about how, when she was early in her career, a mentor of hers found her crying, and cautioned her on how that would make others perceive her).
It comes out in how you carry yourself — do you stand up straight, and not slouch in your chair during meetings, no matter how boring?
It definitely comes out in how you present yourself through your dress. Do you put care and attention into your decisions in the morning before you leave the house? Are you sending signals of respect for your colleagues by paying attention to the basics of grooming (and hygiene)?
We’re not suggesting you need to go back to the ultra conservative norms of a three-piece suit for the guys or a skirt and heels for the ladies, or no open-toed shoes allowed, or you have to cover your tattoos. However, if the clothes you have chosen to wear to work today would be equally appropriate for a stroll on the boardwalk, then it’s not likely that they are truly professional.
Your attire matters. A **lot**.
There’s this advice that’s sometimes given to first-time home buyers: Neighborhood matters. It’s better to have the least desirable house on the block of the most desirable neighborhood, than to have the nicest house in a neighborhood that’s seen better days. We’re going to go for the opposite advice when it comes to dressing for work:
A bare-minimum level to aim for is to be the best dressed of your peers.
(In some companies, that standard is very low! If all your peers are wearing hoodies, then you need to go at least one notch higher.)
A better objective is to be dressed on par with your manager and those at his or her level of the organization.
If all of your peers are wearing jeans, then you should be in khakis on most days.
If your peers are wearing khakis, then you can go for dress pants.
In some smaller companies or startups, the CEO is the worst dressed of all. You should NOT emulate that person’s fashion. The leader of the company should be setting an example but if he or she is not attentive to such things, that does not mean you should make the same mistake. Don’t follow in the footsteps of the Slob in Chief.
All of this is especially critical when it’s time for your MBA interview. We know none of you would show up to an interview wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
However, your day-to-day appearance matters too. Even if nobody has said anything to you about it, it’s really not appropriate to be wearing flipflops or Tevas to the office. You will carry yourself better — and earn the respect of those you encounter — if you opt for more traditionally business-appropriate outfits. Even if your workplace is lax.
Despite the ridiculousness coming out of the American political establishment these days and the atrocious excuse for a role model1 that that makes: YOU DO NOT NEED TO LIE ON YOUR MBA APPLICATIONS.
Here’s a story from Air Force vet turned product marketer turned entrepreneur turned professor Steve Blank about how he was told to lie on his resume by a recruiter in the early days of his tech career.
You already know how EssaySnark feels about ethics, as in, applying to Columbia during their binding Early Decision option while simultaneously applying to Harvard (and conveniently not mentioning it to us — great way to make us remember you negatively forever): If you are planning to apply to Harvard, then you cannot apply to Columbia during Early Decision. Full stop, end of story, your application strategy is now decided. Columbia will be Regular Decision for you. This is not a question of strategy, it’s a question of ETHICS. Same deal with writing your own letters of recommendation. It may seem like the easy way to go, but it is completely inappropriate (aka unethical) and a massively bad idea.
Lying is in the same category. Besides the fact that it’s wrong2, it’s simply not necessary.
If you think lying on your apps is a trivial matter that does not affect anyone — especially when you see people in power lying blatantly on a daily basis with apparently no repercussions for it — we have to ask you to think again.
Lying degrades your moral core.
Lying works against the only system of trust and decency that we have as individuals interacting in this vast universe of uncertainty. It corrodes relationships.
Lying is disrespectful to the person you are lying to.
Lying is arrogant.
Lying is desperate.
Lying is cheating.
Lying is fooling one person only, and that person is you.
Maybe you’ll lie on your apps and you’ll get in. And then you have to go through life knowing that you lied, that you did not get in on your own honest merits.
If you’re a liar, then we can guarantee that it’s because you do not think highly of yourself. You most likely feel very poorly about yourself indeed. Do you think lying to cover up some perceived flaw will make that flaw go away?
No, it compounds the flaw. Now you have a known defect, and you have layered a lie on top of it.
You know you did it, and man that’s a lousy feeling to have. Plus, what if someone finds out?
You may think that lying is a victimless crime. No harm, no foul, right?
No. The victim is you. It affects who you are and makes you less honorable each time you do it.
What more do you have to carry through this life than your honor? What else is there if not self-respect and decency?
It doesn’t matter if you know someone who lied and got in. We’re talking about YOU.
We are up on a soap box because we care about such things, and we believe strongly that in order for the world to become a better place, that ALL OF US need to make a contribution to that, individually, in our everyday lives and the actions we take. Doesn’t matter where you fall on the political spectrum, it’s up to us as individuals to change the world.
Lying matters, because it’s your own individual stance. Are you choosing to operate with the truth as the foundation of your life? If not, what are you trading it for?
It’s kind of like John McCain’s3 speech to the Senate this week where he said this :
“I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.” [emphasis added]
He was addressing his fellow lawmakers, but boy oh boy does EssaySnark appreciate the sentiment. To hell with them. Can we learn how to trust each other again?
After the election last November, we came across this on Medium, The Minister of Magic Gets a Briefing on Donald Trump :
If we believe in any sense of morality, and if we believe that freedom and a good life should belong to more than just the people like us, then we must go to their defense on principle.
In the ‘Snark’s small corner of the world, the currency is truth and honor and decency, and how you present yourself, and what integrity you hold. Those are our principles. What are yours?
While we’re stirring a random soup of ethics and politics today:
Darden professor Bobby Parmar published this (also on Medium): How to Disobey Immoral Orders where he analyzed a famous experiment from the ’60s where study participants were asked to inflict electric shock on people who gave the wrong answer on a test. Professor Parmar says,
“‘All of us are embedded in environments where we get conflicting orders, and often it’s not obvious what the right thing to do is,’ Parmar notes, citing recent scandals like that at Wells Fargo, where employees opened bank accounts and credit lines under customers’ names without their consent. ‘A lot of us are on autopilot.’ When you factor in a paycheck or status within a group, it can be easy to put on blinders.”
Don’t be on autopilot with your apps. Don’t be so freaked out by the hype around competitiveness in admissions, and so fixated on the prize of getting in to a great school, that you get into a mindset of the ends justifying the means. You don’t need to lie to get ahead in life. Lying is the opposite of authenticity.
We know that very few BSers would go into the process intending to lie. We’re also not talking about making honest mistakes, like messing up the dates of employment when you’re filling out your app forms.
Instead, lying often happens unintentionally, or you fiddle with a fact here, and then fiddle with a fact there on a story, and it ends up morphing to fit the feedback that you were given instead of being an accurate representation of what happened.
Don’t get so strung out by the stress of this experience that you rationalize or justify. Lying is a slippery slope. It’s like heroin. Once you start, where will you stop? Better not to start at all.
We try to keep this blahg neutral to politics. But every now and then, our truth seeps out. We feel strongly that the constant drumbeat of political ridiculousness happening today is dangerous because it desensitizes all of us to what is right.
1 Sorry but WTF?!? was this Boy Scouts thing this week??? OMFG have you no sense of protocol or tradition or appropriateness at all.
2 And oh yeah, the schools do background checks.
3 In case you are unfamiliar with U.S. politics, John McCain is a long-serving Republican Senator (same party as the President) who is often called a maverick for speaking out and staying true to his conscience, even when it’s not politically expedient for him to do so; last week he had surgery on his eye and was diagnosed with brain cancer, and he returned to the Senate for this speech and a vote on the health care legislation that his party is trying to get passed.
4 Holocaust survivor; for full info please see Elie Wisel Wikipedia page
ETA: This came across our twitterfeed today after this was posted and is so unbelievably perfect…
When you lied on your CV to get the shepherd job. pic.twitter.com/znC4MVvhqY
— Paul Bronks (@virtuallydead) July 26, 2017
Update 7/31/17: This showed up referenced in the Tuck Dean’s weekly newsletter, the Slaughter & Rees Report , where they spoke of the importance of restoring trust to the White House. Link is to the book they mentioned. If you’re accustomed to lying about things, then you’re already actively contributing to a dysfunctional culture around you.