Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Future of MBA Education

Harvard Business Review has a 20-minute interview on the challenges that MBA courses face and some of the latest new innovations and thinking. 

Scott DeRue, the dean of University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, says the old model of business school education is gone. It’s no longer good enough to sequester yourself on campus for two years before heading out into the world of commerce. DeRue discusses how the perceived value of an MBA education is changing in the digital era, and how MBA programs are innovating in response to individual and company demands.

Answer the 5 Hardest MBA Interview Questions

Applicants to business school should prepare answers to the most common and difficult admissions interview questions.

Although euphoria is the first feeling applicants experience upon receiving an interview invitation from the business school of their dreams, what follows is often a mixture of anxiety, nervousness and, in extreme cases, dread.

If you fail your MBA interview, your odds of admission plummet. You can help ensure that doesn't happen to you by thoroughly preparing for the exchange and the hardball questions that await.

Some schools are known for asking their applicants difficult questions such,  "If you were a tree, what kind would you be?" While you can't prepare for every random query, here's how to prep for five of the toughest yet most common MBA interview questions.

1. What is your biggest weakness? No one relishes the notion of painting themselves in a less-than-flattering light, so plan to address your weaknesses in a way that shows self-reflection and a dedication to improvement.

If you have a shortcoming within your application, such as a lack of meaningful community service or middling undergrad academic performance, use the interview to remove doubt about any potential red flags. Explain how you have already begun the hard work of improving on your negative traits and that you have a plan for further betterment while at business school through specific classwork and activities.

Far from being a disservice, this sincerity can enhance your shot at admission into a top MBA program. When you convey an honest assessment of weaknesses, any of your strengths mentioned during the interview will have more credibility.

2. Tell me about a time you failed. Business schools realize that failure represents a learning opportunity for everyone, from companies to individuals. In this case, the MBA interviewer is asking about a specific event, so choose your anecdote wisely – from a professional setting or your personal life – and refrain from sharing pseudo failures that ultimately show your poor judgment.

One applicant we worked with came from a country that has different ethical standards than the U.S. regarding plagiarism. While an undergrad in the U.S., he was accused of plagiarizing parts of a major college term paper. He failed the course and had to repeat it, an experience that was humiliating and humbling for him. Ultimately, he turned that negative episode into something positive when he later ran for student government and championed a change in plagiarism standards and communications at the school.

When you discuss a failure during an MBA admissions interview, acknowledge your role in the incident, explain your reaction and discuss what lessons you learned or what you wish you could have done differently. Don't blame others; your overall tone should come across as positive.

3. Describe a poor manager you've had. This question requires a delicate balance of assigning blame to another person with articulating your thoughts on good management and leadership. Your best bet is to briefly explain, with no bitterness, your issues with the manager and quickly move on to the positives: how you adapted, became empathetic, reached a compromise or confronted the situation to ultimately achieve a favorable outcome.

One MBA applicant we worked with previously had a manager with whom she got along well personally but who did not provide constructive feedback on mistakes and frequently opted to redo work herself rather than explain or delegate assignments. The applicant eventually discovered she was working in a bubble, unwittingly making several errors. This was not an environment where she could grow her competencies.

Keep in mind that the MBA interviewer uses this question to judge your fitness with the program. In business school as in life, you will encounter difficult classmates and colleagues. How you handle these types of situations shows your character and how you might behave with your cohort once admitted.

4. Tell me about an ethical dilemma you faced. MBA programs want to equip students with the ability to analyze business situations that raise moral dilemmas or appear to call for unpopular actions. The ethical dilemma question gives the admissions interviewer a glimpse of your unique moral filter and a gauge on how life has tested you.

Choose your ethical dilemma carefully to make sure the situation has no clear-cut answer – and remember, it doesn't need to be a large-scale conundrum. Situations that rest in the gray area are most effective with this sort of question, as those circumstances require leadership, nuance and maturity.

For example, we consulted with an applicant who, in a previous position, had discovered that his bosses were fudging the numbers of valuation reports to make a client happy, but which were not accurate for investors. The applicant was running numbers and providing data, and he had to decide whether to confront his bosses or the client about the lack of integrity in the reports.

When answering this type of question, you should describe the situation briefly, explain how you responded and the action you took, and then reflect on what you learned from the experience.

Answering the ethical dilemma question on the spot can trip up even the savviest of applicants. Seek input from friends, family or your application adviser to ensure you appear both sincere and mature in the example you've chosen.

5. Tell me about yourself. This seems like the easiest question, but because it's so open-ended, applicants often ramble and get lost in the weeds. Structure your thoughts and come up with your "elevator pitch," the one-to-two minute speech where you convey who you are and what motivates you, your education, work accomplishments and passions, why you want an MBA and what professional goals the degree will help you reach.

Your interviewer wants to assess whether you would contribute enthusiastically to the program, so practice your MBA elevator pitch with multiple audiences until it flows effortlessly and sounds conversational, authentic and, most of all, memorable.

A solid MBA interview won't necessarily get you in, but a poorly conducted one might keep you out of your dream school. Do your interview homework and use these tips to boost your chances. The final step is simply to relax and enjoy the process.

For more, go to US News & World Report 

Getting an MBA in Asia: Top scholarships for women

Thinking of doing an MBA in Asia but worried you don't have the money to pay for it? You're not alone, but if you're a woman you may be in luck.

In a bid to address gender imbalances, a number of Asian business schools have created women-only scholarships to promote change from the ground up. CNBC Make It has compiled a list of the region's top MBA scholarships specifically for women. Please click on the link below to see the list.

MBA courses have long-struggled to reach gender parity in their applications. In 2016, women accounted for only 37 percent of all applicants globally, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Within Asia, the imbalance is particularly striking, with women making up just 34 percent of MBA students at the region's top 10 business schools. This compares to 42 percent in the U.S. and 36 percent in Europe.

For the full list, go to the story on CNBC 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

5 Critical MBA Interview Questions

The following five interview questions are perhaps the most important.

1. Walk me through your résumé.
The real trick with answering this open-ended question is to gauge how much detail is too much. Imposing a structure can help. 
- It's best to be quite short
- Ask the interviewer where (s)he would like you to start.
- Develop a two- to three-minute run-through, beginning with where you grew up and went to college, what you studied and perhaps something you enjoy outside of work. Then move into a concise overview of your work experience, beginning with your first job and continuing to present day, making sure to explain why you made the choices you did and what you learned in each major role. 
- This kind of high-level overview gives your interviewer the opportunity to ask for more detail about specific points if (s)he wants to. Brown says. 

2. What are your career goals?
- You will already have a well-honed response to this question, developed and refined as part of the process of writing your application essays. 
- However, be prepared to answer this from several points of view. Don't memorize a scrip.
- The adcon wants to know how focused you are on the MBA and whether you are in a position to take advantage of the resources business school offers or at risk of getting overwhelmed
 - Present a very clear post-MBA goal. Schools prefer to admit students who can explain exactly what kind of job they want to pursue beyond graduation and articulate how it will set them up to obtain their long-term career objectives
- Schools are also looking, with this question, to see if your goals make sense and are feasible in light of your past experiences; are you able to articulate a clear path and plan?

3. Why X school?
- Here, schools want to see if you have really done your research on their program and whether you are a good fit with their culture.
You should have a FOUR-pronged approach to make a truly compelling case for your interest in a given school
(a) Start with academics, naming specific courses and professors that you are interested in. 
(b) Second, mention specific clubs, conferences and other special programs that will help position you for your career goals. 
(c) Even better, show how you would contribute to the school community, such as by organizing an event to share specific knowledge you bring with your future classmates
(d) Show that you have a good understanding of the school’s community, culture, class size and location and have thought about how these fit with your personality, goals and background. 

4. Give us an example of a time you took a leadership role.
- This question can be put in several ways: sometimes you’ll be asked directly about your most notable leadership experience and other times you’ll be invited to describe your general leadership style.
- It’s important to keep a few basic principles about leadership in mind. A leader is someone who has a strong vision or point of view and is able to see things others are not.
- A leader must also have excellent communication skills. 
- Choose an example that demonstrates these points. 
- An ideal leadership example will describe a time when you negotiated with and persuaded key stakeholders, such as clients or a supervisor, to buy into your vision and then delegated the work and managed colleagues or juniors. 
- If you encountered obstacles along the way, share how you dealt with them.
- If possible, you should also show success through quantified results.
- As important as a successful outcome is demonstrating how you drew on the help of others where necessary.

5. Tell us about a time you failed.
- This is a favorite question for those who appear to be ‘rock stars’ on paper.
- Everyone makes mistakes.
- You can show humility as well as your capacity to learn and grow
- The best answer to this type of question ends with a more recent experience where you took the lesson you learned from the failure and put it into play, affecting a better outcome.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Understanding the MBA Admissions Interview – Part II

Blind versus Bon-Blind Interviews

Some schools believe strongly in blind interviews, which means that your interviewer will know nothing about you in advance of the interview other than what appears on the résumé you give them.

Schools that conduct blind interviews:
  • Yale School of Management (SOM)
  • Columbia Business School 
  • University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • UVA’s Darden School
Stanford GSB Conducts Some Blind, Some Non-Blind Interviews

“We use blind interviews—that is, based on the résumé only, with the interviewer not seeing any other part of the candidate’s application—to allow the interviewer to give us as independent an assessment of the candidate as possible, without being influenced by the academic record, GMAT score, essay, etc.,” says Yale SOM’s Bruce Delmonico. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Blind Interviews 
  1.  There’s no bias that might come with the interviewer having seen grades, scores, recommendation letters. 
  2.  From the school’s perspective, blind interviews also make it feasible to draw from a larger group of interviewers—including alumni and second-year students. 
  3.  A blind interview doesn’t require that these interviewers be fully versed in a candidate’s full application or be trained to limit biases that could result from having this fuller view before the interview.
  4.  Blind interviews as “additive” in that they represent an additional data point like essays or recommendation letters. 
  5.  Non-blind interviews, in contrast, Brown views as “iterative.” These give the adcom the opportunity to dive deeper into the applicant.


  1. A blind interview requires applicants to start from scratch, which is often a difficult task
  2. The non-blind format can also allow for a more productive—“meaty”—conversation to some extent. 

The Interview Process at Stanford GSB
Whether your interview will be blind or non-blind depends on who does the interviewing. 
- The only information about you that your alumni interviewer will have is your resume, which you will send directly to him/her.  
- Stanford will not provide the alumni interviewer with your application, nor will it use your application to identify specific areas for your alumni interviewer to probe

Stanford believes the bias that could result from such guidance to alumni could outweigh potential benefit from an evaluation standpoint.

Stanford gives its alumni interviewers a structure and topics to address with applicants, although it trusts the interviewers’ judgment in terms of pursuing topics more deeply that might be of particular relevance for an individual applicant, Bolton continues.

But some interviews at Stanford GSB are conducted by members of the admissions staff, in which case the interviewer will have reviewed a candidate’s complete application before the interview, according to Bolton.

The “clean slate” provided by the blind interview format can actually pose a challenge for some applicants. “A blind interview requires applicants to start from scratch, which is often a difficult task if you’ve just poured your heart and soul into a lengthy application,” he says. The non-blind format can also allow for a more productive—“meaty”—conversation to some extent, he adds.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Understanding the MBA Admissions Interview – Part I

There are several types of interviews including

  • Open
  • Invited
  • Blind
  • Non-blind
  • Resume-based
  • Behavioral-based,
  • Team-based

Open Interviews Versus Invited Interviews
At Dartmouth Tuck, Kellogg’s Northwestern School of Management, Emory’s Goizueta School, Duke’s Fuqua School and UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School applicants get to choose to interview. Just schedule a date, pack your bags and go.

At Tuck, every applicant has the opportunity to visit campus, not only for an interview but to sit in on a class with a current student, attend an information session with an admissions officer, take a student-led tour and have lunch with current students. Other schools also make their campuses, classrooms and students accessible to prospective applicants who want a firsthand glimpse. 

But the open interview only lasts until the open-interview period ends at a given school or capacity is met. Each school then switches to invitation-only interviews, in which selected candidates are invited to interview.

At Kellogg, offering interviews to any applicant who wants one has been a longstanding philosophy, and it will seek to interview everyone who applies, and also uses alumni interviewers around the world. 

It is interesting to note that Kellogg’s open invitation offer is only for those who do apply. The other schools mentioned in fact allow anyone to interview, even before submitting an application. The latter policy allows schools to potentially cast an even wider net in the applicant pool, although it is obviously more resource intensive, especially given that some of those who interview may ultimately not decide to apply.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Wharton Dislodges Harvard To Top 2017 P&Q MBA Ranking

For the first time ever, Wharton has claimed the top spot in Poets&Quants’ composite ranking, narrowly dislodging Harvard Business School which lost the No. 1 honor for only the second time in eight years. The only other time HBS failed to win top honors was in 2014 when Stanford’s Graduate School of Business nudged it aside.

Wharton accomplished the feat by moving up a combined 21 places in all five of the most influential rankings used by Poets&Quants to construct its annual list of the best full-time MBA programs in the U.S. Besides tying Harvard in the U.S. News survey for number one, climbing three places from a fourth place finish a year earlier, the school also topped the Forbes ranking this year, moving up six places from seventh. The school also soared eight places on The Economist list to rank fourth from 12th. And Wharton improved its standing on the Financial Times list, edging up one place to rank third this year.


The upshot: The most consequential improvement on this year’s P&Q list was scored by Wharton which climbed three places, gaining the most ground of any MBA program in the Top 25. Three schools improved their ranks by two places in the Top 25: the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business moved up to 11th place, Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business improved to a rank of 17th, and Georgetown University’s McDonough School also rose two to finish 23rd.

Rounding out the top ten schools on this year’s P&Q list was Harvard, just .4 index points behind Wharton, Stanford, Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, MIT Sloan, Dartmouth Tuck, Columbia Business School, UC-Berkeley’s Haas School, and Yale’s School of Management in tenth place for the third year in a row.

P&Q ranks MBA programs outside the U.S. and this year INSEAD won top honors for the third consecutive year followed by IESE Business School in Spain, London Business School in the United Kingdom, IE Business School in Spain, and IMD in Switzerland ( for the full international ranking see The Best International Business Schools of 2017).


Unlike other rankings, the Poets&Quants’ composite list combines the latest five most influential business school rankings in the world: U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Financial Times, and The Economist. Instead of merely averaging the five, each ranking is separately weighted to account for our view of their credibility. (U.S. News is given a weight of 35%, Forbes, 25%, while both The Financial Times and Businessweek is given a 15% weight, and The Economist, 10%.)

Combining these five major rankings doesn’t eliminate the flaws in each system, but it does significantly diminish them. When an anomaly pops on one list due to either faulty survey technique or biased methodology, bringing all the data together tends to suppress it. So the composite index tones down the noise in each of these five surveys to get more directly at the real signal that is being sent.

On P&Q’s lineup of the best U.S. MBA programs, all top ten schools in last year’s ranking, for example, remain in the top ten this year. In fact, every Top 25 school retained its Top 25 status in 2016. While there were some changes, they were slight: Besides Wharton, Ross, Tepper and McDonough, most schools either stayed exactly where they were last year or moved up or down by one place. Only two MBA programs, UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Management—lost two positions year-over-year in the Top 25.


In fact, over the eight years of the Poets&Quants’ ranking only one school has cracked the Top Ten. Yale’s School of Management displaced Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in 2015 and has remained in tenth place since then (see chart below on ranking changes for the Top Ten schools).

The upshot: The list is far more stable–and reliable–than most rankings published elsewhere, taking into account a massive wealth of quantitative and qualitative data captured in these major lists, from surveys of corporate recruiters, MBA graduates, deans and faculty publication records to median GPA and GMAT scores of entering students as well as the latest salary and employment statistics of alumni.

What’s more, users can see at one glance where their target schools fall across the spectrum of core rankings. And for the second time, we’re including year-over-year changes in each of the five lists that comprise our overall ranking (see this year’s ranking tables.) As a result, you can more clearly assess why a school moved up or down on the new 2017 list.


Bigger swings in the P&Q ranking do occur, of course, and they often impact schools further down the list where the data underlying a numerical rank tends to thin out. That often happens when a school lands on or falls off a consequential ranking. The biggest winner this year, for example, was the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business which jumped 24 places to rank 55th this year from 79th. How come? Last year, only U.S. News ranked the school, placing it 63rd. Not only did Haslam improve its U.S. News showing by nine places to rank 54th this year, the school also gained rankings from both Forbes and Bloomberg Businessweek, ranking 54th and 57th, respectively. That boosted the school’s standing by a remarkable 24 places.

Similarly, Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business climbed 21 places this year to rank 62nd from 83rd last year. Why? The school had a 10-place improvement in U.S. News’ rankings this year, moving up to 73rd but just as importantly was ranked for the first time by both Forbes and The Financial Times, ending up in 70th in Forbes and 51st place among U.S. schools on the FT list.

While big changes year-over-year are often suspect on a single list, it makes more sense in the P&Q ranking because if all five of the most influential rankings list a school, it leads to a more credible result. Only 42 MBA programs made all five rankings this year. Some 107 schools made at least one ranking list. If a school is only ranked by one or two of the five lists, the resulting rank is less authoritative. Some schools, morevoer, chose to cherry pick rankings in which they have more natural advantages based on a list’s methodology. The P&Q rank, by penalizing schools that are not ranked across all five lists, marks down MBA programs that seek to either game the rankings or simply aren’t good enough to appear on all five lists.

In all, nine schools on the Top 100 list registered double-digit gains this year. Besides Haslam and Gabelli, the biggest gainers included the MBA programs at University of Massachusetts, Arizona State University, the University of Utah, and the University of Miami (see chart below).


The school that lost the most ground this year? Louisiana State University’s Ourso College of Business. Ourso’s full-time MBA program sank 25 places, the result of a big drop in U.S. News as well as losing its rank from Forbes. The school fell 17 positions in U.S. News to rank 79th this year from 62nd in 2016 and completely lost its 54th place ranking in Forbes.

American University’s Kogod School of Business, which plunged 13 places to finish 87th this year on the P&Q list, also did a disappearing act. Kogod fell off of the Bloomberg Businessweek ranking this year after the school placed 43rd in 2016. It also didn’t help that Kogod slipped two places in U.S. News, going to 67th from 65. The University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business also experienced o drop in double-digits, falling 12 places to 67th from 55th a year ago (see chart below).

But the biggest rankings news this year is the resurgence of the Wharton School. Not only did it manage to pass Chicago Booth and Stanford GSB in 2017. It knocked off the school regard by most as having the best MBA program in the world: Harvard. Achieving the highest rank for its full-time MBA program is quite a feat for Wharton. Unlike Harvard and Stanford, the school has a more complete portfolio of business offerings, including a pair of top-flight Executive MBA programs in Philadelphia and San Francisco and one of the world’s best undergraduate programs.

Wharton, moreover, has been a leader in the digital space, the most aggressive player among all business schools in pushing out a wide variety of MOOC courses and leading in the development of MOOC specializations through Coursera. The school also began offering its full-time MBAs the opportunity to spend a semester in the Bay Area on its San Francisco campus.

At Garrett’s next town meeting, you can bet that few students will be complaining about Wharton’s rankings.