We have seen MBA Applicants struggle to list their weaknesses, partly embarrassed to reveal their shortcomings, and partly believing in a myth that MBA Admissions is about projecting your best self, without an ounce of negativity captured in the essays and recommendation letters. When we ask them - “What would the recommender say your real weaknesses were?” they give a blank stare. If you have filled the forms for the 360-degree reviews, you might have a fair idea about your strengths and weaknesses. Some are perceived weaknesses, some synthetic but many are real.
I received one when I was working in the Corporate sector – “Eager to work on new ideas but loses momentum when the implementation is at the 2nd or 3rd stage of the project”. My supervisor was sharp with the observation and partly right. But can I spin this weakness? Of course – I am the prototype guy – innovative, passionate about the Beta version, and likely to work on more ideas than anyone in the team. The constant flow of ideas and ability to translate them to prototypes was no small task. Not everyone can do it. But while applying for the MBA program, I felt like many of you - “Should I reveal my weaknesses”, and the guilt that “it is wrong to spin my weaknesses.”
So what should you do?
1) Ask the Boss that Hates you
When we wrote about selecting the right recommender, we advised against picking supervisors who were less than excited to see you succeed. The reasons can be many. Either you had a lukewarm relationship with the person or the supervisor finds your ambition in direct conflict with the team/company goals. The lack of enthusiasm will be reflected in the recommendation letter. We have heard many accounts of supervisors – the motivating jovial types turning into monsters when the applicants reveal their plan for the MBA. If the supervisor is upset with your decision, he might not participate in any brainstorming or writing for your recommendation letter. But, for those recommenders who says that they don’t have the skills/time to write a good recommendation letter (a hint that they are not willing), give them a 10-minute questionnaire that addresses your strengths and weaknesses.
The questions should be:
a) List the Candidate’s 5 Weaknesses
b) List the Candidate’s 5 Strengths
c) Write in two sentences about the time the Candidate surprised you
d) Write in two sentences about the time the Candidate let you down
e) How can the Candidate improve his skills
What you get are perceived and real weaknesses. Keep them printed for your essays. Now whenever a consultant or Business School representative asks about your weaknesses, don’t hide behind the fake ones, accept the real ones, and demonstrate what you have done to counter it.
2) Ask the Recommender
The supportive recommender, who is willing to write and rewrite the recommendation letters according to the cues that you had given about each school, and their culture, need no special prodding. When you ask the recommender to list your strengths and weaknesses with the questionnaire, they will oblige. The balanced tone with which they write about your weakness will give you hints on how to spin your weaknesses. Also, they are likely to write about one of the weaknesses in the recommendation letter.
After reading hundreds of essays, we realized one thing – not many applicants are brave enough to share their weaknesses with the reviewer. The stakes are too high, and most applicants are not convinced that spinning their weakness will yield results. Interestingly, it does but not for the overused synthetic weaknesses – Perfectionist/Micro-Management, Hardworking/Overworked and Single Minded Focus/Anti-Social.
The applicants that impressed the Admission team spun their weaknesses in such a way that they were able to demonstrate their motivation for the MBA program or highlight diversions in their career path. Both strategies worked. And, the AdCom was impressed by the applicant’s honesty, motivation, and ability to articulate a clear career path in less than 500 words.
So go ahead. Ask the Boss that hates you – “Can you list my weaknesses?”
Sample Essays + Essay Writing, Review & Editing Tips + 15 School-Specific Tips = Winning MBA Essay Guide
"Pressed against the deadline, I ordered F1GMAT's Winning MBA Essay Guide as their blogs always had something interesting to say. It was by far one of the best decisions I have made in my life. Going through the Essay Guide, I learned the art of storytelling, using various ploys mentioned in the book. Most important one being the “W pattern,” a strategy of information sharing that creates a sense of excitement in the mind of the reader." - MIT Sloan MBA Candidate
Only 1 in 900 gains admission to Harvard MBA program. If you write your essay focused only on your achievements, post-MBA goals, and your pre-MBA experience, you will be among the 899 rejected applicants.
ATTENTION is the secret ingredient. How will you get the attention of the essay reviewer?
You know why parables shared 1000 years ago are still shared among us?
Yes, the art of storytelling has won presidency for Obama, transformed Apple from an unknown start-up to a brand synonymous with Quality, and gained admission for the average MBA Applicant.
F1GMAT's Winning MBA Essay guide will teach you how to transform your essay to an epic life journey with trials and tribulations that will move the admission team.
Who Should Buy The Winning MBA Essay Guide?
If your essay looks too bland, our Winning MBA Essay Guide will show you, with examples, on how to use the elements of Storytelling like Incorporating "The Struggle", Using Emotional connectors, narrating the Journey and the use of Chronology, Vividness and Active Verbs to transform your essays.
If you are stuck in the Writing process, our Winning MBA Essay Guide will show you how to silence the Analytic Mind and overcome mental blocks.
If you feel that the essays are not persuasive, our Winning MBA Essay Guide will teach you how to use the W-Pattern narrative, Contexts, Turning Points and "The Show Don't Tell Approach" to write a Winning MBA Essay.
If you don't have enough leadership experience, our Winning MBA Essay Guide will show you how to highlight non-obvious qualities like Trust, Focus, Listening Skills, Personal Responsibility, Humility, Self-Knowledge, and other secondary traits to prove your leadership.
If you don't know how to review your essays, our Winning MBA Essay Guide will demonstrate how to improve readability with the power of iteration, and maintain your original voice by removing review biases.
Winning MBA Essay Guide Includes
+Harvard MBA Essay Tips (2020 Entering Class) (NEW)
Sample Harvard MBA Essay – Gratitude & Giving Back (318 Words)
Sample Harvard MBA Essay – Entrepreneurship (Influence of Childhood) (667 Words)
Sample Goals Essay 1: Enterprise Technology to Consumer Marketing (496 Words)
Sample Goals Essay 2: Healthcare (Finance to Consulting) (499 Words)
Sample Goals Essay 3: FinTech (Product Manager to Strategy) (482 Words)
Sample Columbia Good Fit Essay 1: Value from NYC (237 Words)
Sample Columbia Good Fit Essay 2: Entrepreneur Mindset (Persistence/Creativity/Opportunity Seeking) (237 Words)
Sample Columbia Good Fit Essay 3: Teamwork and Learning (242 Words)
Sample Columbia MBA Leader I admire Essay #1 (Elon Musk) (250 Words)
Sample Columbia MBA Leader I admire Essay #2 (Father) (244 Words)
Sample Columbia MBA Leader I admire Essay #3 (Mother) (243 Words)
Sample Columbia MBA Leader I admire Essay #4 (Math Teacher) (242 Words)
Sample Columbia MBA Leader I admire Essay #5 (Co-Founder) (250 Words)
Sample Essay #2: Math Tutoring and Experimental music’s value for the Wharton Community (388 Words)
Sample Essay #2: Non-Profit – Obesity Epidemic and Healthy Lifestyle at Wharton (399 Words)
Sample Why Stanford MBA Essay (Consulting)(399 words)
Sample Why Stanford MBA Essay (Tech Entrepreneur) (390 words)
Sample Booth MBA Essay #2: Leadership experience (Teach for America)(640 Words)
+ MIT Sloan MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
Personality Type (Accepted MIT Sloan Students)
Cover Letter Checklist
Sample Essay 3: Extra-Curricular and How enriched you are
+ Haas MBA Essay Tips (2018 Entering Class)
Sample MBA Essay: Non-Profit
Sample MBA Essay: Technology
Sample MBA Essay: Marketing
Sample MBA Essay: Getting Fired
Sample MBA Essay: Diverse and Inclusive Culture
Sample MBA Essay: Leadership
Sample MBA Essay: Post-MBA Goal & How Pre-MBA Experience will help
+ Yale SOM MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Business Development (Mobile Start-Up)(486 Words)
Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Investment Banking (IB)(404 Words)
Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Consulting (442 Words)
Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Technology (452 Words)
Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Marketing (492 Words)
Sample Yale SOM MBA Essay: Entrepreneurship (497 Words)
+ Ross MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
Sample MBA Essay: Finance Professional who was a former member of a rock band (96 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Marketing Professional with a hidden talent to do Impression (100 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Life Philosophy through the prism of an Entrepreneurial failure (94 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Consulting for a Pharma Giant (Made a Difference) (91 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Three-Level Sanitation Campaign (100 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Water Conservation Kit (99 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Losing client (100 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Misreading Market Conditions (93 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Strategic Planning vs. Tactical Dominance in Chess (97 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Out of my comfort zone(extra-curricular) (93 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Out of my comfort zone (Daily Science Show) (99 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: Simplifying Operations for Manufacturing (extra-curricular) (90 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: I am aware that I am different (Leadership and Culture) (98 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: I am aware that I am different (Technology Project and Last-minute change) (98 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: I am aware that I am different (Making Business metrics relevant to a Creative team) (91 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: I find it Challenging when People (Timidity)(98 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: I find it Challenging when People (Laziness)(100 Words)
Sample MBA Essay: I find it Challenging when People (Pessimism) (96 Words)
Sample Essay – Short-term Goals and why the goal is the right choice for you (Technology to Marketing)(299 Words)
+ London Business School MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
London as the Financial Hub
London as the Technology Hub
London as the Consulting Hub
Sample LBS MBA Essay (A Career Switcher from Hospitality to Consulting) (499 Words)
Sample Short-term Goals Essay – Technology to Consulting (100 Words)
Sample Long-term Goals Essay – Consulting for Government (100 Words)
Sample Long-term Goals Essay – Plan B (89 Words)
Framework for Answering the Duke Fuqua 25 Random Things
Sample Duke Fuqua Essay: The Fuqua community and you (Max 2 Pages)
+ NYU Stern MBA Essay Tips (2019 Entering Class)
Sample NYU Stern Essay 1: Goals (498 Words) (Finance)
5 Examples with Images
+ Sample Essays
+ The Art of Storytelling
+ Leadership Narratives
+ Review Tips
+ Persuasion Strategies
+ The Secret to "unleashing" your unique voice
+ How to write about your Strengths
+ How to write about your Weaknesses