Recently the Harvard Business School admissions office posted a podcast interview with Dee Leopold, Managing Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid.
The interview started off with the question that Leopold hears most often: “What are you looking for in an applicant?” Leopold broke it down into “qualities” and “experiences,” and explained that they look for common qualities but diverse experiences in the incoming class.
For qualities, Leopold highlighted the following:
- Solid values and integrity — No surprise here. HBS and all other programs won’t even consider someone who may seem unethical.
- Ability to thrive in an analytical environment and academic setting — As described in Your MBA Game Plan, this is one the key dimensions that you must show in your application. We at Veritas Prep refer to this as “Innovation.”
- Initiative — How can you show you how you go above and beyond what’s normally expected of you?
- Curiosity — Another part of what we call “Innovation.” Show that you want to learn more about what makes the world tick.
- Maturity — This is another one of the four important dimensions that we describe in Your MBA Game Plan.
- Perspective — Do you have self-awareness? How have your experiences shaped your outlook on the world?
- Sense of humor — Yes, even HBS wants to see applicants who don’t take themselves too seriously. We believe this a sense of humor is a clear sign of maturity, humility, and self-confidence.
Note that Leopold didn’t mention “leadership.” She went on to explain that, “We’re looking for leaders who have these qualities (above). We don’t think that ‘leadership’ as a one-size fits all or something that is a list of things on your resume. We think that leadership, and the way you lead, is as exciting a dimension of diversity as any of the other things I mentioned.”
There’s a lot of great information in the podcast, and this is just a sample. Go here to listen to the entire podcast.
One other note: Leopold mentioned that HBS is visiting a lot of college campuses this year, to open more undergrads’ eyes to HBS and the value of an MBA. This is just one more sign of HBS’ effort to attract and accept more candidates with very little job experience. Take note of this if you’ve been out of college for a couple of years and are wondering whether you should apply now or in a couple of years. “We are encouraging people to think about business school earlier in their lives,” Leopold said.
While she also went on to say that this is not bad news for more experienced applicants, we believe that HBS’ vision of the typical first-year student has permanently changed vs. ten years ago (i.e., it has become younger). If you apply later in your career, expect that HBS will have a lot of questions about why you waited.