Work experience and professional responsibilities

Top Ten Things To Consider When Applying To An EMBA Program Part II: The Interview, Work Experience, and Essays

Executive MBA programs have never been looking for just good students.  They are trying to find leaders who will continue their positive trajectory of success after the program is complete. They are striving to build a class comprised of students with a diverse variety of talents, qualities, attitudes and backgrounds. 

So, what does this mean for your application?  Let’s examine each piece of the puzzle.


 The interview is arguably one of the most important parts of the business school application.  Not only must you look an admissions officer in the eye to discuss the contents of the paper application you’ve been refining for months, but you must also convince them of your strong communication abilities and the value you will bring into the classroom. 


·      Go through commonly asked interview questions and practice your responses.  Taking it a step further by setting up mock interviews with admissions consultants or colleagues is also helpful.  A mock interview can stimulate the real thing because you will be forced to think on your feet and respond under pressure.

·      Most likely, one of the first questions is going to be open-ended.  Develop a three-minute elevator pitch that describes your background, strengths and professional story that doesn’t ‘read’ your resume.  

--Handle Weaknesses and Failures Effectively:

·      When discussing weaknesses, be honest and focus on skills instead of personality traits.  This is crucial as personality traits are usually considered permanent, while skills can be refined and improved.  

·      Questions regarding failure can be unpleasant, but they are inevitable.  The key is to emphasize what you learned from the failure and how you have become a more insightful leader because of these lessons.

--Be Precise:

·      Be specific about why business school is the perfect intersection of where you have been and where you want to go.  It is absolutely vital to be precise, not only when responding to questions regarding your short and long-term career goals, but also when responding to questions regarding the specific program to which you are applying.  Do extensive research by talking to students and members of the faculty.  Visit the school, sit-in on classes and, on interview day, come with questions that show your high level of interest in the program.

·      When asked questions about specific instances when you made an impact, it is important to give context by explaining the situation.  Then, you will be able to discuss the actions you took, which led to the end result.  Think of these responses as a three-step process – Situation, Action, Result.  

Work Experience and Scope of Professional Responsibilities

The quality and quantity of an applicant’s work experience is key when determining top management potential, so a polished resume is an absolute must.  Incoming EMBA students have an average of 13 years of post-baccalaureate work experience, with an average of 8 in a management role.

--Construct a powerful, yet precise resume:

·      Provide hard numbers that exhibit the results you’ve achieved and the impact you’ve made.  Don’t rely on a job description to communicate the value you’ve created, especially in the areas of leadership, innovation and teamwork.

·      Show your progression in responsibility and ensure your career goals are achievable in light of your background.  Emphasize the experiences that are in-line with your career goals and de-emphasize those that are not.

·      Business schools want diversity in work experience.  Don’t get discouraged if you are in the non-profit or creative sectors.  Just be sure to exhibit, from past experiences, your leadership skills and business potential.


Another application staple, the essays, are often cited by admissions directors to be the most important part of the application.  They play a critical role in painting a picture of your potential by telling your personal and professional story and setting the stage for the other application components.  A well-written essay examines the value you can bring in terms of leadership, innovation and teamwork, your fit with a particular program, and how you stand out overall.

--Show, don’t tell:

One of the most important things to remember, when composing your essays, is the importance of specifics when painting a compelling picture for the reader.  Show the reader your leadership and innovation potential by describing, in depth, a situation, where they can see for themselves.  Your description should be thorough enough that you won’t have to state the obvious.  

--Don’t be afraid to discuss failure: 

Failure and weaknesses make for compelling applicants because it communicates sincerity and shows the admissions committee how you learn from your mistakes.  It is also a good idea to connect your development opportunities with the schools strengths.  How can the program you are applying to help you refine these particular areas of weakness?             

The application process may seem daunting, but the rigorous admissions standards applied will lead to an unparalleled EMBA experience, a classroom where each seat is taken by a talented leader who is more than merely a test score and a transcript.