bskewl

Wharts and All: Blogging the Full-Time MBA Program at the Wharton School

Monday, December 13, 2004

Imma Get Curmudgeonly on Yo' Ass

In comments posted to the blog of b-school applicant Megami77, Aregon23 writes:

I agree, interviews for BSchools are meant to be stress free. Whether you make the cut or not, the interviewer is duty bound to make it a pleasant experience for the interviee. Think about this, for most people this is probably the first intimate experience with the school. When the admit invitations go out, it is these impressions, good or bad, that help convince people to attend or skip a particular school. Too many of these cold interviews, people will leave Stanford in droves. Reputation can only take you so far. After that it is all about fit. Someone who can get into Stanford can usually pull it off in most of the other top 3 schools.

This is an interview. You are being evaluated. It is not the job of the interviewer to "sell" you on the school or to like you or to even make sure that you leave an interview feeling happy and pleased with your performance.

Let's assume for a moment that the Stanford alumnus in question here is in fact a class A, certifiable cold fish with no personality. So what? Where on Stanford's website is it suggested that they only admit effervescent personalities who exude happiness and emotion? In constructing a class of 350 students it would be strange indeed if the admissions committee of Stanford selected people who fit just one personality type. There are introverts and extroverts and a diverse business school necessarily selects both types.

What really annoys me about Aregon23's comments (and about Megami77's gripes) is that both seem to be oblivious to the fact of class diversity and they expect everyone to like and sell them on the school. Some words of advice:

YOU WILL NOT LIKE EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN YOUR BUSINESS SCHOOL CLASS. Get over that dream now or be disappointed once you get to school. As I believe some admissions person or dean remarked to a bunch of Stanford admits (this is a paraphrase), "You'll spend the first few months of school marvelling at what your classmates have done and wondering whether you are an admissions mistake. Then you'll spend the following few months thinking your learning team members are admissions mistakes." In other words, at some point, the luster and newness fades and you are left with the realization that these people--your classmates--have faults too. Some of them you just won't like.

BUSINESS SCHOOLS ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO FILL THEIR CLASSES WITH 300 OR 800 PEOPLE JUST LIKE YOU. There are other communications styles in this world and successful communicators and leaders need to know how to deal with the full range personalities be they cold and stoical or warm and annoying as all fuck.

IT'S POOR TASTE TO JUDGE AN ENTIRE POPULATION BY ONE REPRESENTATIVE. Just like I wouldn't appreciate being called an naive 27-year-old with an overgrown sense of entitlement because someone judged ME based on YOUR actions, so too would the 20,000 other alumni of Stanford resent the implication that they're all carbon copies of the man you interviewed with on Sunday. Stereotyping gets us nowhere. I respect the statement, "I thought all Stanford people were warm, friendly and outgoing, so boy was I surprised to run into an alumnus who was not!" That's fine. It's a loss of innocence and an epiphany that reveals something about the way that you think. But to say that one hour with one person represents and entire school that's been around for 80-something years is just silly.

At any rate, I think I'll make friends with this post, so I'm going to leave comments on. Bombs away!

7 Comments:

Blogger Wakechick said...

You speak the truth, Zach. Nice to have a new voice in the MBA blogging world.

12/13/2004 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger Classy said...

Interesting perspective. Preach on, Zach...

12/13/2004 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger bskewl said...

Thank you both for the comments, and thank you, WC, for the welcome to the blogging community.

12/13/2004 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger aregon23 said...

Just noticed this post, quick question though, does getting my comments quoted qualify me as having arrived? :)

Allow me to put forth some points of rebuttal since I believe you have missed my point.
1. WRT the interview being only about evaluation of the cadidate. Considering the reputation of the school it is usually intimidating to the candidate to be actually selected for the interview. But the bottom line is that it is both the school AND the applicant who are being evaluated. I am sure the dean at Wharton is probably cursing the AdCom who dinged Ross and sent him and his 100 MM $ endowment to Michigan!
2. While some times reputations do carry the school, in most cases overcoming a couple of initial bad experiences, those experiences will eventually come back to bite the school when it comes to the best candidates. Since we are on the topic of Stanford, take Mark of Markandjie fame, who received admits from H/W/S! He visited Stanford and that short experience obviously was enough for him to go to Harvard over Stanford. (read his blog for the full story)
3. Obviously one experience does not tar the whole school, we are human after all and make our decisions based upon impressions. Do you think a 30 min interview is enough to judge the entire aspect of your candidacy? I think NOT! But that is all it takes.
4. When I interview, I do my best job at putting forth all aspects of my personality good or bad when it is a comfortable setting. Be it job or school interviews. In this case, specially in a school interview, the whole idea is to get to know you better NOT grill you for information. (The only exception to this are interviews that are meant to simulate hostile environments to check your response under pressure, I don't think this instance qualifies)
5. As far as your point about the interviewer being faced with a cold fish giving the candidate the same consideration as a bubbly effervescent candidate. I would seriously like to see you try it. When every school specifically asks the question as to how you will contribute to a school, and are trying to manage their yield you think a cold fish will get one over the bubbly candidate? (If you believe that, I assume you also believe in Santa Clause and the tooth fairy)

Thanks for the advice though on what to expect in BSchool. My advice to you is to:
1. Get over the "candidate is always at the receiving end of the shit" attitude, you have choices pretty much like schools do. If one is not nice, there are others.
2. Common courtesy in a business meeting is a given, unless there is a lot of money to made on a deal, don't take shit from anyone.
3. Differences of opinions are common in any situtaion with several Type A's pushed together, it will help your blood pressure a great deal if you accept that as compared to getting annoyed over it.

12/20/2004 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Panda said...

agree with what you write, however we _do_ make judgments based on first impressions. The admissions process is a weird one, insofar as at beginning the applicants are the suitors, and begging schools to accept them. But once they are admits (w/ several offers), tables are turned and the schools are the ones tugging at your sleeves and trying to make you choose them... so admissions interview, bearing this in mind, is a two-way street w/ both parties being evaluated (interviewer may not be _representative_ of school, he still _represents_ the school none the less)

And on a side note, don't you get the impression that Stanford is the school that most selects people for personality "fit"? that is, precisely there you are likely to find that 90% of the students are the same? (not speaking of actual backgrounds, what they did etc. but outlook on life, way of thinking etc.)

1/06/2005 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger bskewl said...

Aregon: I'm sorry -- I didn't see your comment until just now. I've set up comment notifications now so that I won't miss another. Responses...

"Considering the reputation of the school it is usually intimidating to the candidate to be actually selected for the interview. But the bottom line is that it is both the school AND the applicant who are being evaluated."

True, and an unfortunate side effect of Stanford's black-box approach. Since the channels of communication to Stanford applicants are rather limited and unvaried, Stanford applicants must make judgements on what little information they have to go on at the time. In many cases, that probably means they're judging the school based on superficial things like warmth of an alumni interviewer. Compare and contrast to schools that do quite a bit more to really make sure applicants get more information about a school up front. This not only gives applicants more data upon which to make judgements, but it also ensures higher-quality applications on average. I've got an anecdote to tell about one of my interactions with Derrick on this topic, but won't tell it until after decisions are released on Jan. 18th. This also addresses your second point.

"Do you think a 30 min interview is enough to judge the entire aspect of your candidacy? I think NOT! But that is all it takes."

Your entire candidacy is not being judged in a 30-minute interview. It is just another bit of data that helps the committee make a decision on the overall portfolio that you have assembled for them. But I get your point: we all make decisions based on imperfect data.

"In this case, specially in a school interview, the whole idea is to get to know you better NOT grill you for information."

I learn the most about people by watching them when they're outside of their comfort zones. As an interviewer, I'm not trying to befriend applicants, I'm trying to assess them, and how they handle me grilling them is a very important part of that assessment, because that's how they'll be grilled by demanding clients. This applies even in an MBA environment. What schools want to accept pushover milquetoasts into its class? If someone buckles under the pressure of an alumni interview, he's not likely to impress the companies that interview him for post-MBA jobs either, is he?

My point is that this is a job interview, not your chance to learn about or fall in love with the school. You should have done as much of that as possible prior to the interview.

"Get over the "candidate is always at the receiving end of the shit" attitude, you have choices pretty much like schools do. If one is not nice, there are others."

I think that nothing's more off-putting than a candidate with a sense of entitlement. These people have interviewers reaching for the "deny" stamp in their desk drawers before the interview is even over. Humilty is endearing, entitlement is not.

"Common courtesy in a business meeting is a given, unless there is a lot of money to made on a deal, don't take shit from anyone."

Nobody was being given shit in the example that this whole post and response-reply is talking about. What happened is a cute girl seemed to be mighty surprised when her normally flirtatious manner was not reciprocated by her male interviewer getting sprung. Yes, that's a crass way of putting it, but it's how I read the event based on Megami's post.


=========

Now for Panda's comments...

"we _do_ make judgments based on first impressions"

Agree.

"The admissions process is a weird one, insofar as at beginning the applicants are the suitors, and begging schools to accept them. But once they are admits (w/ several offers), tables are turned and the schools are the ones tugging at your sleeves and trying to make you choose them."

Perfect summary.

"so admissions interview, bearing this in mind, is a two-way street w/ both parties being evaluated (interviewer may not be _representative_ of school, he still _represents_ the school none the less)"

True enough. But I still fail to see why every interviewer needs to be friendly and warm. Some people are simply not this way. To expect it of everyone is naive.

"And on a side note, don't you get the impression that Stanford is the school that most selects people for personality "fit"? that is, precisely there you are likely to find that 90% of the students are the same? (not speaking of actual backgrounds, what they did etc. but outlook on life, way of thinking etc.)"

Yes, I do get that impression -- both from the essay format (which I absolutely love) and from Derrick's comments on diversity. I particularly love his use of the phrase, "the broadest definition of diversity." I get a strong sense that Stanford's strongly committed to diversity.

1/07/2005 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Berenguer said...

Hello Friend! I just came across your blog and wanted to
drop you a note telling you how impressed I was with
the information you have posted here.
I also have a web site & blog about business class airfare london so I know I'm talking
about when I say yours is top-notch! Keep up the
great work, you are providing a great resource on the Internet here!
If you have a moment, please visit my site business class airfare london
Best success!

12/30/2005 04:14:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home