Author Archives: Kyle Watkins

How to Write a Resume for MBA Admissions Applications

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: July 16, 2017)

Applicants often spend months cramming for the GMAT; they obsess over every word in their essays; they rehearse scores of answers to potential interview questions. Yet their resumes remain woefully under polished, despite the fact that top MBA programs are putting a greater emphasis on a candidate’s CV while slashing essay requirements. As we enter a new application season, I thought it would be helpful to share a few reminders about how to write a strong MBA resume.

I’ve found that MBA applicants typically underinvest in their essays for a combination of two reasons:

  1. Most applicants already have a resume that they’ve used in their professional life. As such, they (mistakenly) feel like they only need to update and tweak it a bit to reflect their latest positions and accomplishments.
  2. Preparing a resume isn’t a brand new endeavor like taking the GMAT, writing essays, or practicing for admissions interviews might be, and so applicants (again mistakenly) feel more comfortable with it.

Underinvesting in preparing your resume can fatally damage your application, and unfortunately it is a mistake applicants make far too often. So, as you consider your application to business school, here are a few tips on how to write a resume that will impress admissions committees.

How to Write a Resume for MBA Admissions Applications

While we’ve provided some good tips in our 10-step guide to preparing a resume, there is a lot more to consider.

Start from scratch. I can appreciate that applying for business school is a lot of work. You have to invest a ton of time in writing essays and studying for the GMAT, and one corner you can easily cut is recycling an old resume with a fresh coat of paint. But you shouldn’t. First, resumes are often documents that are built over time, and the content at the bottom tends to linger a little longer than its optimal shelf life. We become better writers with practice, and our narrative changes over time. Your resume – your whole resume – needs to reflect both of these evolutions. Second, resumes for MBA applications need to be written through a whole different lens. Consider the following bullet point, some version of which I see on almost all candidates’ resumes:

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HBS Round Two Interview Invites

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: February 4, 2017)

Round Two Interview Invites for HBS Class of 2019 Applicants

The Harvard Business School Admissions Committee sent out interview invitations to its second round applicants in two distinct waves, at 12pm noon ET on January 25th and February 1st, 2017.

For the lucky 900-or-so applicants who received an invite (~20% of second-round applicants), the scramble to prepare will begin quickly, as interviews will be conducted from February 3rd until March 6th (HBS Second Round Decisions are expected to be released on March 22nd).

But first, the answer to your most common question:

What are the odds of being admitted after receiving an interview invitation?

Our estimate is 55% to 60%. It’s high, but low enough to make a lot of applicants have regrets. Every year, brilliant candidates call us after their HBS interview wishing they had better prepared for it… Unfortunately, there is no second chance.

To help you be on the right side of the applicant pool, we wanted to put all our interview prep resources in one place. These resources should help you get ready:

What it’s like to interview at HBS: Kyle’s personal account of what it is like to interview at HBS, from receiving the email inviting him to interview to receiving the phone call congratulating him on his admittance.

Mastering Every Admissions Interview Question: Advice and tips on how to best prepare for an MBA admissions interview — at HBS or any other MBA program.

Post-Interview Reflection: Guidance on how to approach preparing for, drafting, and sending HBS’s 24-hour post-interview reflection email.

Mock HBS interviews: Interviewing is a skill, and the unfortunate truth is that many of us think we are better at interviewing than we really are. It requires practice, which is why we would encourage every candidate interviewing at HBS to take advantage of our interview preparation services:

  • Email us if you are interested in a mock HBS interview.
  • One mock interview plus personalized feedback is $295, and two mock interviews plus personalized feedback is $495.
  • Kyle or myself — both HBS alumni — will work with you personally during the mock interview, which will mirror the HBS admissions interview process as closely as possible: first, we will review your application prior to the interview; second, we will conduct a 30-minute mock interview with you via Skype; and finally, we will provide you personalized feedback immediately after the mock interview or at a time of your choosing.
  • Slots fill up quickly, so please email us to express your interest or get more information.

Alternatively, you can secure your spot directly by signing-up via paypal. We will get back to you within 24 hours to arrange a suitable time slot. Simply use the form at the very end of this post.

If you’re looking for additional guidance on your application or have any questions about the MBA admissions process, please reach out to us via our free consultation link.

We also offer a comprehensive “HBS ding analysis” package, along with hourly consultations to discuss round three strategies for unsuccessful round two applicants. Keep in mind that HBS is a re-applicant friendly school, with up to 10% of re-applicants in each class (see an inspiring story from a successful re-applicant here).

Should you have questions about our ability to help you, we’d like to invite you to visit our “client feedback” page. We have pasted a few emails from past clients below.

We’re happy to help, even with last-minute questions and requests. Good luck!

“Dinged by Stanford, accepted by HBS! Thank you guys SO much for all of your help. Really appreciate it. As for the service- excellent! You guys took your time answering all my questions and really grilling me hard. I loved the experience and would definitely recommend it to anyone else interviewing at HBS. Regarding [your competitor] Sandy [the hbsguru] I had a pretty good, but completely different experience. (…) But if I had to pick one I think I’d choose you guys. From you and Kyle I got the traditional mock interviews, and fantastic specific feedback on my style, tone, answers, etc. and 2 interviews was great. I had a fantastic experience.” O., HBS MBA Class of 2016

“I wanted to follow up with good news: I got into HBS! The interview itself was, as everyone says, totally impossible to predict (60-70% focused entirely on me describing my current company’s technology and business model), but the practice of being nervous and answering impossible-to-predict questions with you guys was valuable and let me push past my (high) stress level.Thank you!” A., HBS MBA Class of 2016

“On December 11th I found out that I was admitted to HBS. Prior to my actual HBS interview, I had conducted a mock with Vincent of MBA Admissions Advisors. Our session made a huge difference in the preparation process, but it was only after the actual interview [at HBS] that I realized how well I had been prepared. Vincent made very detailed observations about my performance, and after our debrief session I had a very clear picture of my strengths and areas for improvement. Perhaps the most important thing I worked on with MBA Admissions Advisors was how to think on my feet in order to answer any question, as opposed to preparing answers to a laundry list of publicly available questions from past HBS interviews, a much less valuable exercise. During our mock interview, although Vincent had a list of targeted questions based on my profile, he did not seem to be following a script. He built on my responses with follow-up questions to constantly challenge me. This was exactly what happened during my actual HBS interview. Last but not least, Vincent remained engaged throughout the admissions process, and he by far exceeded my expectations. He gave me access to valuable interview preparation resources, remained available to answer questions, and systematically responded to my emails promptly. I was delighted to receive ‘good luck’ messages the day before my actual HBS interview and on the school’s first round decision day. These little things made working with him a great experience. “ I.S., HBS MBA Class of 2016

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Career Goals in MBA Admissions Essays

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: May 19, 2015)

How to Write a Career Vision Essay for MBA Applications

You can’t get through an MBA application without being asked about your career goals, but a lot of applicants struggle to answer the question convincingly. This post is dedicated to helping you do just that. I’ll not only be talking about the keys to writing a convincing career goals essay, but I’ll also be using my own career goals essay from my HBS application to illustrate my points.

Ultimately, a good career goals essay is five things: it’s clear, it’s specific, it’s genuine, it’s ambitious, and it’s congruous. Let’s take each of the five in turn.

Be Clear. State your goal unambiguously and immediately. No one ever got admitted to business school for a beautifully written and captivating introduction, but plenty have gotten dinged because admissions committees couldn’t understand what exactly the applicant’s career goal was. My advice to applicants is always the same: lead your essay with a clear statement of your career goal. Here’s the first sentence of my HBS career vision essay:

“My career will focus on launching and managing social ventures that can provide innovative private-sector solutions to public problems.”

It’s simple, straightforward, and most importantly, it isn’t hiding amidst paragraphs of cliche prose and wannabe poetry.

The one ding I’d give myself is that, by itself, it’s a little broad, which is why it’s also important to quickly get very specific…

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Round 3 MBA Application Decisions

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: May 13, 2015)

Navigating the Waitlist and Application Ding Analysis

This is a big week in MBA admissions, with a handful of big-name programs (like HBS, Kellogg, Ross, Tuck, LBS, Johnson, and INSEAD) rolling out decision notifications for Round 3 applicants. For some who are accepted, it will mark the beginning of an exciting journey to business school, but for most, it will present an opportunity to reflect on your application and consider what comes next.

Waitlisted Candidates

To help candidates who receive a waitlist notification, we recently wrote a post about dealing with the waitlist decision, and we dedicated one of our 10-step guides tonavigating the wailtlist process. Although waitlisted candidates should follow instructions provided by the admissions committee, in some cases there are steps that can be taken to maximize your chances, so the articles are worth a read.

For waitlisted candidates, we can also guide you through the waitlist process, and answer any questions you may have about the steps you can take to increase your chances. Reach out through our Free Consultation form, and we’d be happy to help.

Ding Analysis

We have also provided ding analyses to many candidates in the past, and we have helped them secure interviews or admissions offers at top programs like MIT, Wharton, and Columbia as a result. Our Ding Analysis service has been regularly described by our clients as one of the best in terms of value.

Reach out through our Free Consultation form if you are interested, and we’ll be happy to help.

Good luck!

The MBA Admissions Waitlist: Best Practices for Applicants

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: March 22, 2015)

As MBA programs begin sending out second-round decisions, many candidates will find themselves stuck in the nebulous world of the MBA admissions waitlist.  This can be a tricky place. On the one hand, it’s important to let a school know that, if admitted, you would accept in a heartbeat. On the other, it’s important to demonstrate good judgment and humility. That is, you don’t want to pester members of the admission committee, faculty, or students.

To help navigate the MBA admissions waitlist process, we wanted to share some of our best practices, built partly from our own experience during the admissions process. Continue reading

The Wharton Team Based Discussion

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: February 9, 2016)

NOTE: If you’d like to participate in a practice Wharton Group Interview, please find more information here.

We regularly receive enquiries about Wharton’s group interview and have begun offering mock team-based discussions for those looking to practice. However, we thought it would be helpful to also analyze Wharton’s interview here on our blog as well.

Although quite innovative among U.S. business schools, group interviews have been used for years by other leading MBA programs, including IMD. Because of their increasing importance for applicants to top MBA programs (Michigan Ross announced a similar move towards group interviews recently), we’ve decided to provide our readers with some advice to prepare for their upcoming group interview, using Wharton as an example.

Wharton - Huntsman Hall (Philadelphia)

Wharton – Huntsman Hall

Perhaps the most important — and often forgotten — mindset to have heading into the group interview is this: You aren’t competing against your fellow group members. You are competing against other groups. Those who succeed at the group interview will often do so as a group, with the stock of all five or six team members rising in the eyes of the admissions committee. On the flip side, those who fail often do so as a group as well. Based on estimated acceptance rate at Wharton (more or less 20%), 2 to 3 applicants in each group should receive an offer (the school interviews roughly 40% of its applicants), and groups that work well as a team can expect to be on the higher-end of that range.

This collaborative mindset should help ease the pressure on you to have a brilliant idea. The exercise isn’t about which team members come up with which ideas, it’s about which team members best advance the group discussion. So if you’re struggling to brainstorm ideas that add depth to the conversation, don’t panic. As long as you’re building on the rest of the group’s ideas, asking smart questions, and respecting the other members in the group, you’re doing your part.

To that point, it’s important to appreciate the value of three character traits the admissions committee will look for:

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