When an MBA admissions officer reviews your resume and reads your application essays, he or she is trying to assess your potential for senior management.
Your work experience and performance relative to your peers are among the best predictors of your leadership potential. This is why many top business schools require MBA applicants to have at least two years of work experience before they apply.
In this article, we discuss some of the “red flags” that may put your MBA application at risk with respect to your work experience:
- Lack-luster resume: low-level role(s), unknown company, and/or limited achievements
- Limited evidence of career progress: promotions, increases in responsibility, new skills and relationships
- Weak references and/or limited evidence of recognition by superiors
- Being “too technical” — limited evidence of managerial potential
Lack-luster resume: low-level role(s), unknown company, and/or limited achievements
Returning to school for an MBA isn’t about jumpstarting a flailing career. Top business schools admit candidates who are on the way up in their career. Name brand firms on your resume – such as McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, General Electric, or PricewaterhouseCoopers – will definitely help. If your resume isn’t full of blue chip firms, you will have to work harder to convince the admissions committee that the quality of your experience is comparable to that of candidates from the “name brand” firms. Everyone has to start somewhere, but if it appears you haven’t progressed far from an entry-level job and made some significant achievements in your positions, then applying to business school is probably premature.
Limited evidence of career progress: promotions, increases in responsibility, new skills and relationships
Admissions officers need to see evidence that you’ve made significant career progress. There are a few different ways your career progress will be measured: promotions ahead of schedule, increased responsibility on your team, the acquisition of new skills, and the formation of important relationships.
Weak references and/or limited evidence of recognition by superiors
If you take steps to enhance your professional experience by going above and beyond the “call of duty”, then your superiors should have no problem writing you a stellar recommendation letter. They’ll have plenty of great examples to draw on, showing how you’ve excelled and been there for your team. If you don’t think that you have superiors who will be willing to write you outstanding reference letters, then you need to rededicate yourself to work and start building relationships with mentors who will support your MBA candidacy in the future.
Being “too technical” – limited evidence of managerial potential
There are some cases in which exceptional career achievements don’t translate into MBA admissions success. Candidates who have made outstanding progress in a technical field may not be accepted into a top MBA program unless their technical achievements are matched by strong evidence of managerial potential.
Overcoming “Dings” in Your Professional Experience
Question: I discovered I have some “dings” in my Work Experinece. What should I do now?
Answer: In our eBook and Online Courses, MBA Prep School will show you how to proactively address your application weaknesses and increase your chances of earning an acceptance letter. For example, we start with the most radical prescription first and then provide more targeted steps for improving your MBA application resume. Our best advice is to volunteer for stretch assignments and unique projects. Showing up for work and doing what you’re told is a good formula for staying where you are, but it won’t get you promoted and it won’t get you into business school. If you want to earn a spot in a top business school, then you have to show initiative and distinguish yourself from your peers!