The general qualities that MBA programs value are generally well understood and intuitive. They include:
- Collaborative Nature
- Analytical Intelligence
- Emotional Intelligence
- Community Orientation
- Global Viewpoint
Knowledge of these generally Valued Qualities is helpful as a starting point for understanding what qualities to feature in your applications in general. Nevertheless, imagine how much more successful you could be in your applications if you knew what qualities the schools you are applying to valued most of all. We refer to those qualities as the school’s “Fit Qualities.”
For example, consider the quality of leadership. All MBA programs value leadership, but are they all looking for exactly the same kind of leader?
The Haas School at UC Berkeley certainly prizes leadership qualities in its students but according to the school’s Strategic Plan published in 2010, the program is looking for a certain kind of leader that they refer to as the “innovative leader” – a leader whose leadership qualities are equaled by his or her creative capacity. So if you were applying to Haas then “Innovative Leadership” would be on the top of your list of Haas’ Fit Qualities. Similarly, some research on Stanford GSB reveals that, among other qualities, Stanford values a quality they call “Intellectual Vitality” which is a combination of collaborative nature, analytical intelligence, and emotional intelligence. In a speech, Columbia’s Dean stressed the importance of the “Entrepreneurial Mindset.” Sloan’s website tells us that school values “Drive.” And so on.
The point we are making is that the nine essential qualities we listed above are a good starting point, but you will need to do your own detective work to identify each school’s specific Fit Qualities.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefit of knowing what a school’s Fit Qualities are. Imagine for a second that you could plot the qualities a school is looking for on a matrix, like the one below, based on the evidence that the school values a particular quality and the evidence you can present to prove that you possess that quality.
Figure 18: Fit Qualities Matrix
If so, your goal would be to ensure that your application features the qualities in the upper-right hand corner of the matrix. By doing so, you will prove that you “fit” and will take a major step forward towards an acceptance letter.
Although the admissions office will not send you a neatly wrapped package listing their specific Fit Qualities, you can figure out what they are by doing your own detective work. Over the next three units, we’ll show you how to:
- Research the Fit Qualities
- Define Each Fit Quality
- Rank the Importance of the Fit Qualities
Unit Review: Valued Qualities vs. Fit Qualities
- Fit Qualities are the qualities the schools you are applying to value most of all.
- Proving you “fit” is about using your knowledge of the school’s Fit Qualities to strategically customize your application elements.
- Schools will not publish their Fit Qualities per se; instead you must do your detective work to determine what they are.