Crafting (or Updating) Your Pitch

With many people now actively engaged in their full-time job search, we at mbaMission are fielding a lot of questions about how to be more effective in that search. One key element is knowing how to talk about yourself, whether that is in a casual networking situation or a more formal interview setting. 

This can be tricky to master. You need to find a balance between demonstrating humility and confidently promoting your track record of success. To help develop your “pitch” (also known as your “career narrative,” “positioning statement,” or simply “story”), consider using one of these two frameworks.

Framework 1

Consider the approach explained by communications expert and LinkedIn Learning instructor Jodi Glickman in this video. She talks about the importance of starting with your destination (i.e., help your listener quickly and easily understand what you want) and then delving into your background—and most importantly, explaining how your background connects to your target destination.

Framework 2

Craft a story around themes from your professional life, such as your strengths (i.e., focus on three or four key skills that are relevant to your target audience), your work experience (i.e., how you can contribute and what type of problems you can solve), or the attributes required by your target organization. The content of this statement should be based on your understanding of your value proposition as well as what you learn about the needs of your target audience. You then provide evidence of these themes using details about where you have worked in the past and your specific accomplishments.

Of course, the content and length of your pitch should be adapted with respect to several factors, including the following:

  • Audience: How close are you to your target audience? What are their needs? What is culturally appropriate?
  • Type of Delivery: Will your pitch be delivered via email, over the phone, or in person? Will this be in a networking/informal setting or a formal interview?
  • Purpose: What is your goal for the interaction?

You need to help the other person understand your areas of interest and how you can contribute. If you are too vague, the contact will have a more difficult time helping you with referrals, facilitating new introductions, or promoting you to the hiring manager.

Remember, this is all about relationship building. Be conversational, and create a connection between you and your contact.

Have you been admitted to business school? If so, do you want to get a head start on defining your career goals? Do you need help preparing for job interviews or learning how to effectively network with your target employers? Or maybe you want to be a top performer in your current role but are unsure how to maximize your potential. Let an mbaMission Career Coach help via a free 30-minute consultation

Manhattan Prep

Set the Tone Early, and Employ Active Verbs in Your MBA Application Essays

Any good journalist will tell you that the key to writing a good news story or opinion piece is to grab the reader’s attention with the very first line. Many book authors employ this same tactic. Although only a small percentage of people have actually read Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, most know that the novel begins with three famous words: “Call me Ishmael.” A powerful first line can stick with readers long after they have finished reading something (and sometimes with those who have not even read it!). For example, we all likely recognize the statement “It was a dark and stormy night,” but few may know that it is the opening line of a book by an obscure writer (Paul Clifford by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton).

Although beginning an essay with a very short introduction is the norm, sometimes a punchy opening line can capture a reader’s attention in a useful way. Consider the differences between the following pairs of openers. Which line in each example better captures your attention?

Example 1: A “Why MBA?” essay

A: “After I graduate with my MBA, I want to work in the wine industry.”
B: “Blood runs in the veins of all humans, but wine also runs in mine.”

Example 2: A “What are you most passionate about in life?” essay

A: “I enjoy nothing more than playing ice hockey.”
B: “As soon as the nearby river freezes, I wake at 6 a.m. each day and join my teammates for a prework hockey scrimmage.”

No set formula exists for opening lines—the possibilities are endless, and each opener depends on the context of the story being told. Nonetheless, our point is that you must carefully consider your opening line, because it will set the tone for your essay and determine whether your reader will want to read more.

Now let us examine the role of active verbs in your essays. Anyone who has ever written an email that has been misunderstood—let alone an MBA application essay—is no doubt aware of the subtleties of language and the nuances that can change a message’s meaning. Indeed, you can enliven a basic sentence simply by choosing more active verbs.

For example, consider the verb “earn.” By using “earn” rather than a more passive verb in the following examples, we can alter the meaning and impact of each sentence. Suddenly, you are in control. Suddenly, you worked hard and, as a result, accomplished great things.

Passive/poor example:
 “I was promoted from junior to senior analyst.”
Active/good example: “I earned a promotion from junior to senior analyst.”

Passive/poor example: “After being awarded my MBA, I will be able to…”
Active/good example: “After earning my MBA, I will be able to…”

Once you have finished your application essays, review them to see how often you can replace certain words with “earn” or a similar verb—such as “achieve,” “gain,” and “attain”—that denotes action on your part.

mbaMission Offers Free In-Person Consultations in San Francisco!

Are you a business school applicant in need of some guidance from an admissions advisor? If so, then we want to meet you for a free in-person consultation in San Francisco, California!

  • mbaMission Senior MBA Admissions Consultant Nisha Trivedi will be holding free in-person, one-on-one consultations at the The Palace Hotel in San Francisco on October 11, 2023.

During your free in-person consultation, your admissions advisor will answer all your most pressing MBA application questions, including the following:

  • What are my chances of being admitted?
  • How can I differentiate myself from so many other applicants?
  • What is the best way to showcase my accomplishments or mitigate my weaknesses?

If you would like to meet with Nisha to discuss your MBA applications, please provide some basic information about your candidacy via the submission form. We will reply to you within one business day with a link to schedule your in-person, 30-minute consultation.

We look forward to getting to know some of this season’s best and brightest business school applicants!

*This offer is valid only for those applicants who have not already had an mbaMission free 30-minute consultation.

How to Get into Esade Business School: Esade Essay Tips and Examples

How to Get into Esade Business School: ESADE Essay Tips and ExamplesOn its site, Esade states, “We deliberately limit the number of places on our MBA programme to ensure that your Esade Business School experience is focused and personalised. As a result, competition for places is intense.” We would add that the process of completing its application is also rather intense, considering that candidates must write multiple essays on a variety of topics, when most MBA programs have been cutting back on the number and lengths of their essays in recent years. Be ready to do a lot of brainstorming, introspection, and research—and a decent amount of writing. Read on for our full analysis of all the school’s prompts for this season.

ESADE 2023–2024 Essay Tips

Short Answer 1: Are you applying to other Schools? Please provide detail of Schools and Programmes. This information is for our own records; it will not affect the Admissions Committee’s decision. Maximum 255 characters (including spaces).

This is really just a straightforward request for information, so simply present the information Esade wants clearly and directly, with no extraneous verbiage. As the school notes in the prompt, your response will not have any effect on your chances of being accepted (or denied), so you do not need to overthink this. 

Short Answer 2: Did you learn about this programme through an Alumnus recommendation? If so please provide us with the name and graduation year. Maximum 255 characters (including spaces).

This prompt is another straightforward request. Again, simply convey the information the school is seeking: the name of the alumnus or alumna, their graduation year, and perhaps which program they completed, especially if it is different from the basic full-time MBA. 

Essay 1: Which aspects have you improved on during your academic and professional career so far? Which tools or values have helped you achieve this? (Maximum 3,000 characters, including spaces)

With this question, Esade wants to know what you already bring to the table, so to speak, perhaps in part to get an idea of your potential not only in your stated area of interest but also in the other areas you might not have considered but could be just as successful. This is also a chance for you to demonstrate that you understand what is required of someone in the professional role or industry you are targeting and have the self-awareness to know which of those requirements you might already meet. Highlight the specific skills you have developed and the knowledge you have acquired that you feel represent your strengths. To fulfill the latter portion of Esade’s request, pinpoint the qualities you possess that have helped you in your development. Were you raised to be ambitious or intellectually curious, perhaps? Are you a quick learner who uses logic and deduction to intuitively master new concepts and tools? What aspects of yourself personally (whether innate characteristics or learned behaviors) have facilitated your growth?

Essay 2: How will your background, values and non-work-related activities enhance the experience of other ESADE MBA students and add to the diverse culture we strive for at ESADE? (Note: The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have accomplished). (Maximum 3,000 characters, including spaces)

With this essay prompt, Esade clearly wants to see evidence that you have done your research on the school’s culture and community and developed a true and thorough understanding of it. Ideally, your essay will convince the admissions committee that you are eager to take advantage of opportunities to participate and contribute, that you have thoughtfully considered your place within the school’s community at length, and that as a result, you know the value of what you can offer and have a clear vision of how this will manifest when you are an Esade student. If you hypothesize incorrectly about what you could add to the school—meaning that what you propose is just not possible there or does not align with the program’s values and culture—this will definitely not help you get in. Read student blogs, peruse discussion boards, catch up on the past year or more of the program’s press releases, spend some time on Esade’s YouTube channel—these are all good places to start (or better, continue!) educating yourself about what life at the school is really like.  

By not specifying that what you discuss should relate strictly to either inside or outside the classroom, the admissions committee keeps the scope of the query broad, offering you equal opportunity to discuss ideas that relate to course work and those that are extracurricular. Perhaps, for example, you could assist in writing a case on a topic that relates to your professional background and that will be used in future classes for several years. Or maybe you have a depth of knowledge or years of professional experience in a particular business area or industry, so you could serve as a kind of subject matter expert for those around you in the program or as a valuable component in someone’s recruiting network. If you are particularly funny, creative, or athletic, you might be the ideal fit to lead an extracurricular group or play a significant role in a nonacademic project or event. Like all other application questions, this one has no “right” answer, so do not try to guess what you think the school wants to hear. Authenticity and enthusiasm are the keys to your success with this essay.

Another tool to help you gain a more thorough understanding of what the school offers is our free ESADE Program guide, which explores its curriculum, campuses, international opportunities, and other key aspects. Download your complimentary copy today! 

Essay 3: What are your motivations in pursuing a full-time MBA at this point in your life? Describe your mid-term and long-term visions for your post-MBA career path. What is it about ESADE you think will help you reach your goals? (Maximum 3000 characters, including spaces)

Your essay response to this prompt will include several key factors of a traditional personal statement: what your post-MBA career goals are, why you need an MBA to be successful at this particular point on your professional path, and why the school you are applying to is the right one for you. 

To craft an effective essay response, you will need to accomplish a few things (though not necessarily in the order we list them here). One, present your post-MBA career objectives for a few years down the road as well as in the more distant future, making sure that the connection between them makes sense. Avoid going into excessive detail about your past, but be sure to offer enough information to provide context and support for your stated goals so that the progression from one stage of your career to the next is clear and reasonable. Two, explain why an MBA is the crucial factor in your being able to attain your objectives. A good way to frame this argument is by noting the skills and experiences you need to develop via the MBA experience to be successful in your desired role/industry (thereby demonstrating your understanding of what will be required of you). Three, clarify what makes now the right time for you to earn this degree. And four, explain how being an Esade MBA student is key to achieving your goals. 

You need to demonstrate that you have dedicated just as much thought—or maybe even more—to why you want to study at Esade as you have to where you want to go professionally. Think carefully about what you need to learn or experience (e.g., skills, network, knowledge base), and then detail which specific resources and opportunities at Esade you believe will allow you to do so. Your goal is to convince the admissions committee that the school is the missing link between who and where you are now and who and where you envision yourself in the future.

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How to Prepare for Your Business School Admissions Interview

Congratulations! All your hard work seems to have paid off, and you have jumped that first hurdle in your race to get into business school—securing an MBA interview! Good for you!

Now what? You need to prepare. A business school admissions interview can take many forms. In years past, it was often just a casual conversion in a coffee shop with a graduate of the program wanting to find out whether you would be a good teammate. These days, your interview could be a Zoom call with a second-year student looking to learn how much you know about the school. For some programs, it could be a thorough grilling by an admissions committee member who has read every part of your application and wants to dig down and understand what you are really all about.

No matter what the setting or who your interviewer is, the first thing you need to know before beginning to prepare for your interview is whether it will be “blind” or “comprehensive.” In other words, will your interviewer have seen and studied your application in full before you speak together (comprehensive), or will they have seen only your resume (blind)? Knowing this bit of key information will have a direct impact on the questions you will be asked and the strategy for answering them.

If your interview is blind, then you are free to draw information and talking points straight from your application. Go ahead and repeat anything you have included in your essays—your interviewer will have seen none of it. Leverage all the hard work you put into the various parts of your application, and use the stories and facts you included in them when responding to your interviewer’s questions. Not only is this a very good strategy but it also makes your preparation for the interviewer much easier.

For comprehensive interviews, however, you have a different imperative: know your application inside and out. In a comprehensive interview, the interviewer will often make reference to something you included or discussed in your application, so you need to be familiar with and remember everything in it. Study your entire application before your interview to make sure you will not contradict or be tripped up by something in it.

Whichever type of interview you might be facing, here are a few basic strategies to remember:

Know who you are.

Your business school interview will very likely start with a prompt like “Walk me through your resume” or “Tell me about yourself.” These might sound like easy starting points, but you really need to prepare for them properly. Although the exact wording might differ, your response will involve sharing who you are and explaining how you reached this point in your life and career.

This does not require going all the way back to first grade and detailing every formative experience you have had between then and now, but it does demand that you communicate what is important to you and to outline the path you envision for your future.

A good approach is to walk the interviewer through your resume backward, meaning that you begin by describing what you are doing now and work your way back to your earliest entry. The advantage of this strategy is that you do not risk running out of time talking about something that happened long ago that might be a lot less relevant to your current situation—and a lot less compelling for your interviewer. That is the fatal mistake you want to avoid when asked this question—going on for 20 minutes, never quite getting to the present day, while your interviewer becomes increasingly bored and totally loses interest.

The simplest way to avoid such a scenario is to practice. Start your stopwatch and deliver your resume spiel. How long did you take? If you were able to respond in less than three minutes, great! If not, keep practicing and refining until you can hit that mark.

Be ready to answer the three “whys.”

1. Why business school?

Keep in mind that fundamentally, business schools are institutes of higher learning, so answers like “for the credential” or “to network” are not good. In fact, they are bad. Business schools fully understand the market value of their degree and how much this might appeal to you. They also recognize the value of the network they offer. But first, they want you to be a student, an active member of the community, someone who is there to learn what they want to teach. So, to prepare yourself to effectively answer this question, think about what an MBA education provides that you need to be able to reach your goals. What skills must you develop? Clarify for your interviewer that the future you want is possible only with an MBA.

2. Why that school?

One question that comes up in practically every admissions interview is why the candidate wants to attend that business school in particular. This is a great opportunity to earn some positive interview points. Lean in to the research you have done on the program: prepare to offer the names of any students and alumni you have spoken with, professors whose TED Talks you have watched, conferences you are excited about, and so on. This is where being specific is key. If you are interested in the school because you want to study entrepreneurship, for example, you will need to say more than that and go into some detail. Every business school teaches entrepreneurship, so how would studying the topic at this particular school be different? What courses, faculty members, experiences, and/or other resources does it offer that resonate with you? Be prepared to go into some depth with this question.

3. Why now?

This question might be somewhat less relevant for some candidates. If you have been working for five years in a profession that requires an MBA to progress, such as consulting, you will not likely be asked this, because the reasons behind your pursuit of the degree are understood. However, if you are older or younger, you want to be ready to respond to this query and explain your situation. If you are an older candidate, your interviewer will probably be interested in understanding why you have chosen to attend a full-time MBA program rather than an executive MBA (EMBA). So, be prepared to talk about your preference for the more immersive experience a full-time program provides and the exposure you will have to a broad and diverse range of people, versus what you would generally experience with an EMBA.

If you are a younger applicant (one with fewer than three years of experience), be ready to outline the well-formulated career path you have devised for yourself and to explain how critical earning an MBA sooner rather than later is for your best chance of success.

Because these three questions are core components of a traditional personal statement, we encourage you to download a free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which offers in-depth guidance on how to approach these queries, along with multiple illustrative examples.

Prepare some flexible core stories to use with behavioral “Tell me about a time when” questions.

For many applicants, these types of behavioral questions are the scariest because there is an almost endless number of them. Tell me about a time when you served as a leader. Tell me about a time when you failed at something. Tell me about a time when you needed to ask for help. And on and on. How do you prepare for such questions without having to formulate individual, tailored answers to the 50 or so options you can imagine—let alone the 500 or more you cannot?

First, think broadly. These questions tend to fall into a few different categories: a time when you led, a time when you followed, a time when you succeeded, a time when you failed, a time when a team experience went smoothly, and a time when it went less smoothly. So a good strategy is to have three to five go-to stories that you can mold to fit a question that falls into any of these categories.

For example, perhaps you once led a team that really went off the rails, and you had to pull things together and get everyone back on track. That one experience could be used as the basis for a response to any sort of team, leadership, or conflict/challenge question. You could also prepare by working backward, so to speak. In this case, you identify two or three compelling stories about yourself that you really want to share with your interviewer. Start examining those stories now to figure out how you might frame or present each one as a fitting answer to any of these kinds of questions.

Remember, “Tell me about a time” questions never have a wrong answer. Go with whatever comes to mind, include sufficient detail, and you should be all set.

For additional help with preparing for your admissions interviews, download your free copy of the mbaMission Interview Guide, which goes into more detail on the different kinds of interviews you might encounter, as well as the types of questions typically asked (including 100 common interview questions), and provides tips for what to do before, during, and even after your interview. Another useful resource to consider is mbaMission’s suite of school-specific Interview Guides, which break down what you can expect in an interview with your target school and how to prepare accordingly.

Let me offer a final word of advice: too much practice can backfire. The purpose of an admissions interview is for the school to get to know you in a less formal and more dynamic way. Your interviewer wants to get an idea of how you will be in the classroom, conference room, and extracurriculars. They are looking for people they want to invite to join their community. If you have clearly memorized all your answers, that will give the interviewer pause and make them wonder how you truly are at thinking on your feet and interacting with others. Business schools want engaging people, not robots.

Finally, rather than viewing your upcoming interviews as a challenge, see them as an opportunity, a chance to show how excited you are about attending that particular school. Let your interviewer see your enthusiasm, and that in turn will make them enthusiastic about you.

To learn other strategies for improving your interview performance, sign up for a complimentary 30-minute consultation.

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Upcoming Deadlines

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2023–2024 MBA Essay Tips

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MBA Program Updates