Raj was clearly a smart guy but at a quick glimpse he was just another Indian technology candidate. Sure, he spent a year at a mid-tier consulting firm but nothing super impressive. We decided early on that we would get very personal with the Adcom, show his human side and paint him as a Silicon Valley whiz kid and not an IT guy. We understood that unless we gave him the ole razzle dazzle, the tendency of the ADCOM might be to lump him into a demographic he didn’t belong. We embraced his heritage, but showed his clear difference from other candidates.
With Raj we considered a couple of options. His profile was pretty average so we immediately looked for hidden gems, things in his profile that would bring out something unique enough to get him an interview. We could either focus on his traditional technology background or paint him as more of an innovator, the type of candidate that could really create something from nothing in an operational strategy role. Our final approach was to have him speak candidly about how his failures (which can be a risk), where they came from and how that influenced the dynamic future we wanted to propose to the ADCOM.
The Admissionado Approach
After a lot of consultation we settled on a combination of options two and three. Raj was a kid when he came to the US. As he excelled in school he was lumped in with kids whose parents provided a lot of the “soft skills” needed to succeed. Raj really didn’t possess any of that. He struggled in his first year of consulting because he really didn’t understand how to network or lead. His journey into tech proved to be an opportunity for him to grown into roles where his work ethic and intellect were appreciated. It wasn’t hard to show that his past had influenced him to find very creative solutions to incredibly difficult problems. We used his failures in consulting as a juxtaposition for his success at venture funded companies. His story involved helping other kids like him find ways to succeed in a world where network and glamour seemed to matter a lot. We focused on how his past, his failure in a traditional business school industry actually lead to a successful career in innovation, and an even more promising future solving complex global problems.
He’s at HBS. He sat down in a cohort of 10 kids for his interview. 7 kids from private equity and 2 from investment banking, Raj was the only guy there from Silicon valley. They only chose 1 of those kids. It was Raj.
Raj wasn’t the most accomplished kid I’ve worked with, nor is he the smartest but he had the grit to make this all possible. He focused, he fought for it and he came out a winner. To this day, Raj and I are close friends.