July 25, 2019

MIT Sloan School of Management MBA Interview Invitation Essay

MIT Sloan

Interview Invitation Essay

The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world, and to generate ideas that advance management practice. We believe that a commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity, and well-being is a key component of both principled leadership and sound management practice. In 250 words or less, please describe how you, as a member of the MIT Sloan community, would work to create a campus that is welcoming, inclusive and increasingly diverse.

Details for submitting your essay will be included in the interview invitation. Candidates will be invited by email to interview up until the decision deadlines. Interviews will be conducted at MIT Sloan and in several key regions around the globe. Please indicate on your application your preferred location to interview. Note that interviews are conducted on weekdays and during business hours.

The key to this question isn’t how thoughtful you are, or how good your answer is. Weird, uncomfortable, but true. A good response is helpful, but it’s not gonna do the trick.

For this moment, the key to the castle comes down to something more important: believability.

Think about politicians for a second. Guy or gal gets up there and says “I wanna lower unemployment and put everyone back to work!”

Can you name the political candidate who promised that? {Wait for it… wait for it….}

Answer: Every politician who has ever run, ever, period, end of story. 100% of candidates, lifetime.

Let’s say that lowering unemployment was a vitally important campaign issue to me somehow. Whom should I vote for, if everyone promises it? The guy/gal with the best-sounding plan?

… Or the guy/gal I BELIEVE?

Think about that carefully. It’s easy to “say something amazing.” Anyone can. The believability part is a much trickier proposition. Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuch trickier. So, let’s get into it.

Typically, believability is earned through a magical combination of three things (it doesn’t have to be an equal mix, by the way, it can be ANY combination):

  1. Track Record. (Have they walked the talk time and time again in their careers? that can be bulletproof; “Here’s my plan, and by the way, I’ve already DONE versions of this 10x in my 30-year career. 100% success rate. I did it here, under the most impossible circumstances. I did it again here, when no one believed I could. And then again here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. I’d like to do it again. Think I can?”)
  2. Unquantifiable Believability. This is the part no one wants to talk about. [The stuff Admissionado isn’t afraid of.] “Your Personality.” Yes, folks, people have vibes. Some folks are just… off-putting, or really friendly, or ridiculously confident-seeming, or really … suspicious-looking, or so trustworthy-just-look-at-him!, or… so UNtrustworthy——-just-look-at-him! It can’t be measured, it’s vapor that comes off of you, the way you look someone in the eyes, how nervous or not nervous you seem, your body language, how calculated you sound, or how freely the ideas flow/how natural it all seems. That can’t be taught folks, “or you got it, or you ain’t.” {Translation: either you have it, or you don’t.} Imagine someone talking about how they’d love to give money to the poor, with ONE eyebrow raised, smirking uncontrollably, and rubbing their hands like a Bond villain. If that guy couldn’t help it because he had a medical condition which required that he rub his hands that way, and he was born with one eyebrow permanently raised, yes it would be heartbreaking for that guy, but it wouldn’t change the fact that you might not believe him because all of that stuff FEELS unreliable to you. If you’re extremely believable naturally, it can help. If you’re extremely HARD to believe naturally, you have a steeper slope to overcome.
  3. Something About Your Ideas Seems Unusually Thoughtful, Results-Focused, and A Bit Different From What Everyone Else is Saying, Oh and Genuine and Not-Made-Up-Sounding. Not the pithiest of categories, but perhaps the most significant one for you guys, at this moment. This is the one you have the most control over. It’s too late for the track record one… whatever you’ve done in the past to support your claim of being a proven “I’m thoughtful of others” guy… is what it is. And the raw personality stuff also kinda is what it is. With THIS ONE though, you can affect the narrative by being thoughtful. Let’s go even deeper on this third one…

“… please describe how you, as a member of the MIT Sloan community, would work to create a campus that is welcoming, inclusive and increasingly diverse…”

What are you gonna ACTIVELY do to “create” a campus that’s all of those things? What CAN someone do? It’s so easy to sound like a Beauty Pageant contestant who “says something that sounds amazing but is tough to believe that there will be much follow-through.” Whatever your plan is here, it shouldn’t be TOO grandiose, first of all. The simpler, the more reasonable, the better. Here’s a GREAT test to apply… does your idea here seem like something YOU WOULD HAVE DONE HAD THEY NOT ASKED THIS QUESTION? If it sounds like a made-up thing (even if it’s a great idea) that you ONLY considered because someone asked… kill it. And try again. Think about stuff you would have done ORDINARILY, when no one was looking, that HAPPENS to fit within this idea of something that would promote the welcoming/inclusive/diverse quotient of the MIT campus.

A good example would have the FEEL of “Well, let me just walk you through my normal protocol for whenever I start ANYTHING new, regardless of the where or what. First I do X, because of Y. And then I do A because of B. Here’s what happens as a result, and why I’ve been so committed to it. An example of that in my past is this, and then that. MIT would be no different for me. I’ve already kinda mapped this out; see I’m gonna do X Y and Z because that’s just how I roll. And it’s nice to see that that aligns perfectly with what y’all are after. Good for us, we fit!”

(Notice how we snuck in some TRACK RECORD in there? As well as the Thoughtful/Result-Oriented/Not-Made-Up-Sounding? And finally, the WAY you deliver it, if it doesn’t seem too deliberate can chip away at the BELIEVABILITY component as well. Booya.)

That’s just one example, by the way, don’t copy it because if everyone comes to the table with that setup, you’re toast. Find your own way, but the first and most important thing to consider is “does this sound like something I was gonna do regardless…” If the answer is yes, your on your way to a strong response.

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