Honing your Soft Skills pre-MBA

The majority of candidates looking to gain admission into business school focus their energy and time on the more technical and quantifiable aspects of getting into business school, such as the GMAT, GPA, work experience etc. What most people don’t realize is that your soft skills are going to play as important a role in your admission to business school as your technical and quantifiable skills. The admission interview, one of the key steps to gaining entry to business school, is one way a business school looks for these skills in candidates, but it is not the only way.

One of the best things you can do to improve your chances of getting in is connecting with the admissions officer at your target business school, so that you can get the best guidance. You need to share your story and listen to all the tips and tricks the admissions officer has to share. The insight you gain from these conversations will help you a lot in the long run. You will get to know the school culture and the program better, and you’ll be able to build a more effective personal story.

Admissions representatives speak with hundreds of candidates at any given event, how do I make myself memorable?

This is a question on the minds of many and it is a great question because, believe it or not, admissions professionals are thinking the same thing! They speak with great candidates and they know that each of these candidates is targeting multiple programs, so how do they make their program stand out?

What about one-on-one meetings?

One-on-one meetings are great because they give you the opportunity to have the undivided attention of the admissions officer. Use this opportunity wisely! First and foremost, keep in mind that body language makes up a large chunk of the way we communicate. So get in front of a mirror and imagine you’re introducing yourself to an admissions officer at your target school. How is your executive presence? Are you making eye contact? How’s your hand shake? Too firm, or too loose?

Secondly, are you a good listener? We all know, by now, that everyone involved in the admissions process is looking for the right fit! We also know that being a “cultural” fit is more important than being a “technical” fit. When you start a conversation, how do you carry on? Are you listening to what the person has to say? Or are you bombarding the person with questions? Here’s a tip: if you are hearing your own voice more than his or hers, this is not a good sign!

How about making a good impression during info sessions?

Information sessions, where you are one amongst a group, are the best venues for admissions professionals to screen candidates. Whether it’s an informal coffee chat, or a formal information session at a business school – group meetings are the places when candidates show their “true colours”. You can be the strongest candidate in the room BUT you don’t need to shout about it! Any good admissions professional can spot a competitive candidate within the first two minutes of a conversation.

Carrying yourself appropriately is more important than showing off your resume or your impressive 760 GMAT score. Be humble and respect others. You’ll be part of a team constantly during your MBA and no admissions officer will admit a candidate who has no respect for the other candidates. How you behave in a group setting is a strong indicator of your future conduct in a team activity. Think of the other candidates also: do you make them comfortable and want to be on your team?

In summary, you’ve made a very difficult decision to pursue an MBA, you are leaving your job to go back to school for a year or two to enhance your skills. Don’t sabotage your own future by letting your ego get in the way. Be mindful of the nonverbal cues you convey, and most importantly, regardless of your competitive skills, always be humble, so you can impress not only the admissions officer, but also everyone else in the room!

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