Work experience is an integral factor in MBA admissions. The average work experience at full-time MBA programs is about four years. But what exactly do admissions officers look for when it comes to work experience? US News recently discussed how work experience influences MBA admissions and why accomplishments are particularly important.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
While the average work experience for top MBA programs falls around four years, experts say, there isn’t a required number of years that admissions officers are looking for. Rather, business schools care much more about the quality of work experience over the number of years.
“Often applicants see the average years of work experience on admitted student profiles and think it is the magic number to acquire in terms of length of experience,” Emily Archambeault, former director of master’s admissions at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, tells US News. “We aren’t looking for a specific number of years of work experience, but rather the quality of work and professional maturity. For some applicants, professional maturity comes more quickly than the average and the growth they have in a short period of time allows them to be highly competitive in the admission process.”
Career progression is another aspect that admissions officers like to see.
“It is helpful to see progression in responsibilities which is often reflected in title changes, project leadership, or management roles,” Archambeault says. “This progression indicates to the Admission Committee that the applicant is growing their skillset, recognized within their organization for their contributions and leadership skills, and has the ability to continue growing into more senior roles post-MBA.”
Regardless of whether you get a promotion, experts say there are always ways to highlight career growth in your resume.
“Even within a flat organization with no title change, you can still show career progression on your resume,” Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, says. “Review your accomplishments and see how you can portray them in a way that reveals your professional growth. Each time your responsibilities grew, you can describe it in a bullet point with the date.”
An impressive title at a prestigious company can be an advantage in the admissions process, but experts say accomplishments are more impressive than employer name.
Furthermore, Nikhil Varaiya, a finance professor at San Diego State University’s Fowler College of Business and the school’s former director of graduate programs, says a fancy title is only impressive if an applicant has the experience to back it.
“A VP title for somebody who has just worked two years would not be credible,” he tells US News.
How to Answer This Common Job Interview Question
“Why do you want to work here?”
It’s one of the most common, yet difficult interview questions to answer. Joel Schwartzberg, a professional presentation coach and author of “Get to the Point! Sharpen Your Message and Make Your Words Matter” and “The Language of Leadership: How to Engage and Inspire Your Team,” recently offered three effective strategies for answering the ‘Why here’ interview question.
SHOW YOU’RE PASSIONATE
Connecting your passion to the company’s product, service, or mission is a great approach to answering “Why do you want to work here.” But conveying that passion, Schwartzberg says, is less about expressing enthusiasm and more about explaining what matters most to you.
“Employers want to know you’re passionate about what they do, whether it takes the shape of a product, a service, a mission, or a brand,” Schwartzberg says. “You can also connect your passion to the company’s core values, which can often be found on their website. Showing you’re passionate about the position is particularly important if you’re applying for a role at a nonprofit where the mission matches your personal values.”
But questions assessing your values can be asked in a variety of forms. Experts refer to these types of questions as ‘value-based’ interview questions.
“Value-based interview questions help an employer determine whether a candidate’s values align with their company,” according to Indeed. “People and businesses often possess values that help determine their actions, and value-based questions ensure a candidate can easily assimilate into a particular company’s culture. Answering value-based interview questions requires an understanding of a company’s culture and the personal values your prospective employer accepts or rejects.”
CONNECT YOUR JOY TO THE ROLE
Employers want employees who enjoy coming to work and doing the job. Schwartzberg says making a connection between the role and your joy is key to answer the “why” question.
“That connection can be as simple as ‘X is something I enjoy,’ but expressing how or why you enjoy it makes that point even more valuable and memorable,” he says.
DEMONSTRATE HOW YOU’LL SUCCEED IN THE ROLE
On top of conveying your passion, interests, and joys, you’ll also want to describe what you’ll bring to the table, if hired.
“Express confidence about your ability to succeed and grow in the role,” Schwartzberg says. “Use phrases like ‘Given my experience in X, I can see myself succeeding…,’ ‘I look forward to using my skills to…,’ and ‘I think I will contribute by….’ The key is to describe how your previous experience has prepared you to hit the ground running.”
UCLA Anderson School of Management
Tips For UCLA Anderson’s 2022-2023 Mba Essays
UCLA Anderson School of Management just released their MBA application for the 2022-2023 admissions cycle. This year, the B-school’s application includes one required essay and an optional essay. Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, recently delve into both and offered insights into what exactly admissions officers are looking for.
THE ANDERSON COMMUNITY
Anderson’s diverse MBA community is one of the B-school’s most remarkable traits. Part of that has to do with the location and the various types of people and talent it attracts.
“The best thing about earning an MBA in Los Angeles is that it’s incredibly diverse, so no matter who you are, you can find your people,” Aliyah Lee, a first-year who studied engineering at Northwestern, tells P&Q. “Whether you’re into surfing or archery or glassblowing, you will be able to find people who are also interested in that same thing. No matter where you’re from, even the tiniest countries, you will come here and find a community of people from the same place. And Anderson really encourages you to make those connections, both with people like you and people unlike you.”
Blackman stresses the importance of speaking to Anderson’s diverse community in your application.
“Anderson’s MBA class is small and close-knit,” she says. “Accordingly, your personality and fit with the program should shine in your UCLA MBA application. Review Anderson’s values before starting this set of essays. These critical values are: Share Success, Think Fearlessly, and Drive Change.”
Anderson’s required essay prompt asks applicants the following:
Tell us about a recent personal or professional achievement and how it connects to your MBA goals. (250 words maximum)
Since the required essay can reference either professional or personal goals, Blackman suggests considering experiences from both your community and professional career.
“Remember, UCLA is looking to understand how you are different from other applicants. Therefore, stay away from generic stories,” Blackman says. “Think about examples that were pivotal in your life. For example, you may have recently had your first leadership experience, and it showed you the importance of management training. Or ignited a passion for a specific career or industry.”
Also, be sure to show how your personal values reflect the values at Anderson.
“This question is seeking to understand how you think, act, and feel,” Blackman says. “Using a clear and detailed example will bring your application alive. Make sure you explain why you chose this achievement.”
The optional essay prompt asks applicants the following:
Are there any extenuating circumstances in your profile about which the Admissions Committee should be aware? (250 words maximum)
There is no need to respond to the optional essay prompt if you don’t have any special circumstances, Blackman says. Typical reasons for including an optional essay include: gaps in work experience, poor grades, or no recommendation letter.
“Be clear and concise if you choose to write this essay for your UCLA MBA application,” Blackman says. “First, explain the situation briefly. Then, tell what has changed and improved. Finally, focus on explanations rather than excuses. The best UCLA MBA application essays will show you have moved on from your challenges. Therefore, improvements in your life make a great case for admission.”