A Military Applicants Edge on MBA

MBAApplicationFormIn my last post, I wrote about the movement to quality of military applicants in MBA Admissions. Which means you will have to earn your way into MBA school on the merits of your application and interview. It also means that serving in military in and of itself will not be enough to get you admitted into a top program. With an increase in the number of applicants, I have also noticed MBA schools are becoming more selective when recruiting military students.

However, you should consider this is a positive trend. By making simple adjustments now you can benefit from the smaller pile of military MBA applicants who truly understand this movement. The information that follows below will help you become a standout MBA candidate.

Start with the right perspective. Focus less on your military background in and of itself and more on the transferable skills you acquired in the military. Doing so will make you a successful MBA candidate. In general terms this is true, but what else specifically must you do to become a successful MBA candidate?

Last stop. According to top business editors and reputable employers who review hundreds of applications, “Most recruiters give your application a six-second, initial preview to make sure everything measures up and meets minimum requirements.” That’s why it is important to place your most recent and relevant information near the top of your application, because that is where the recruiter’s eyes go to first.

In most education and employment settings, your last stop is where recruiters focus a lot of their attention. ‘Most recent’ is often considered to be the ‘most relevant’. Successful military applicants who have obtained their MBA degrees and moved into civilian leadership positions understand this principle. I know a former Army Captain who graduated from HBS and then worked in finance for Telsa. When he moved into a second leadership position after his tenure at Telsa was over, his bio was primarily focused on his last stop. He made little mention of his undergrad degree and his military experience was not the huge point of emphasis it once was. He understood that most recent equals most relevant and he practiced it effectively.

Combine skills. It is unusual for military students to have acquired a world #1 skill in a single area of concentration. However, most of you have learned some combination of skills that truly sets you apart from the majority of the field. When 3 or 4 ordinary skills are combined and identified in one person success often follows. Assuming your combination of skills is effectively communicated, it will also become obvious to recruiters that your skill set is a separator and they will assign value to your application.

Apply your skills to MBA schools. A good way to determine what qualities MBA schools look for in an applicant is to hit each of the schools’ websites on your list and pull up the Class of 2015 student data for their MBA, EMBA and MS programs. Take note of the easily classified data such as undergrad majors and GPAs and then look for underlying qualities in their profiles of incoming students. When you write down and compile data on students at specific schools, certain qualities such as problem-solving skills will begin to emerge. This exercise will allow you to map your core skill set to a list of qualities specific MBA schools look for in successful candidates.

Leverage what makes the military standout. There are many beneficial attributes coming from the military, but make sure to place yourself and MBA schools of interest in the center of this picture. What did you learn or accomplish in the military personally and professionally that really matters? And, how do these qualities apply to an MBA school? Some of these skills include, but are not limited to, the following: practicing military leadership, operating in a diverse workforce and understanding global cultures. Many would argue that leadership is best learned at a young, formative age walking the path of leadership each day as you do in the military. Practicing leadership in theaters of war amid terrorist organizations and making  life/death decisions for your team means you have not only experienced but lived leadership and therefore have become a leader. Most civilians don’t know that the U.S. military is the largest employer of racial and socioeconomic diversity in the world.  And when you account for living and working in different countries, you have likely achieved cultural immersion on a level foreign to most of your peers. These attributes will help separate you from the majority of the MBA applicant pool.

As you prepare for your MBA education and research business schools, please consider these as some factors leading to your overall success. They should reassure you that the movement to quality of military applicants is a positive trend. And, when you effectively apply this advice, it will help give you a decisive edge.

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