Harvard Business School Admissions Director Shares Round 2 MBA Interview Details

According to Harvard Business School (HBS) Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Dee Leopold, the timing of exactly when you receive an invitation to interview for the school’s second round is not an indication of the strength of your application. Email invitations will go out on three consecutive Tuesdays, January 31st, February 7th and February 14th, Leopold shared in a recent post to her Director’s Blog. All candidates not invited to interview will also be notified of their “release” on February 14th. (Happy Valentine’s Day…)

Interviews for HBS’s Round 2 will be conducted between February 15th and March 9th. In addition to on the HBS campus, interviews will be conducted in London, Paris, Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai, San Francisco, Palo Alto and New York. Skype interviews may also be an option for candidates located outside the United States who are unable to travel, Leopold added. The email containing the interview invitation will provide full details about the process.

In an attempt at greater transparency, Leopold also shared the pattern of interview invitation volume in Round 1, noting that Round 2 won’t be identical, but that she thinks it will be “directionally similar.” In the first round, 750 invitations were sent out as part of the first wave of invitations, 80 as part of the second and 25 as part of the third and final wave.

To all those waiting anxiously for news from HBS, best of luck! To those who receive a coveted invitation, don’t miss Clear Admit’s HBS Interview Guide, which provides school-specific strategies for preparing, details on how the adcom weighs the interview relative to other components of the application, first-hand interview accounts and more. And once interviews begin, remember that you can share your experience and learn from those of others on the Clear Admit Wiki.

Management is not Business

How important are management skills?

Many readers ask me why I don’t write more about management. Here’s why: learning business fundamentals is more important to your long-term success. Management study is a great complement to strong business skills, but it can’t replace them.

Business and Management are not the same thing. If you follow the business media and the business academic world, it’s easy to get the impression that management is what business practice is all about. It’s not: business and management are two separate but complementary skills. Personally, I choose to focus on teaching business, which is more essential and better suits my interests and skills.

Business is fundamentally about creating and delivering value to paying customers. Management is about organizing a group of people to accomplish a common objective. Management is often an important part of most businesses, but by no means is it the most important part.

There’s a clear distinction between people who actually get things done and people who help other people get things done (see Are You an Implementor or an Enabler?). Businesses can (and do) exist without managers. Businesses can’t exist without the people who actually create and deliver value to paying customers.

Management as Politics

Management has more in common with politics than it does business practice. That’s not a bad thing: skills that help you discover what the people you interact with actually want, help you influence them, and help you organize them around a common goal are incredibly valuable.

Large businesses inevitably suffer from what I call “communication overhead” – as an organization grows, every individual in it must spent a greater percentage of their available time communicating enough with others just to stay on the same page, leaving less time for actual productive work. Developing your skills as a leader and standard-bearer is useful in these situations, since without some level of organization, it would be easy for everyone to spend so much time communicating with each other without completing any tangibly productive work. That’s why effective managers are in high demand in large companies.

There’s a catch, however: without business skills, it’s possible to organize and lead a group of people towards the accomplishment of the wrong objectives. Unless certain fundamental objectives are achieved, the business will fail. Without a firm understanding what’s actually important to a business and what’s not, even the most effective manager can lead the most talented and disciplined team to ruin.

What Management Study Won’t Teach You

Here’s what the study of management won’t teach you:

  • How to discover what people want to buy.
  • How to create tangible value people are willing to pay for.
  • How to find and communicate with potential customers.
  • How to complete a profitable transaction.
  • How to manage your business’ cash flow.
  • How to set up useful processes and systems.

Whether you’re a manager or not, if you want to succeed in a business setting, you need to know how to do these things well. Otherwise, you risk wasting good work and valuable resources pursuing the wrong objectives. Without creating and delivering real value to real paying customers, a business will inevitably fail.

Where (and When) to Hone Your Management Skills

If you want to hone your management skills, websites like Manager Tools are fantastic – they’ll teach you what to do and why it works. If you have management responsibilities (or want to have them someday), I highly recommend spending time learning management techniques.

Before you focus on management, however, it pays to spend time ensuring your business skills are solid. After spending time with the Personal MBA Business Crash Course, reading the books on the Personal MBA reading list, and studying other sources of business information, you’ll be much better prepared to lead your team to the objectives that will really make a difference.

(Photo credit: svilen001 at sxc.hu.)

MBA Admissions Tips: Understanding Background Checks

With a slew of schools releasing the last of their R1 notifications in the coming weeks, we know that many of our readers will be asking about the background checks conducted by leading programs. Here are some quick facts to help explain the process:

1) What are background checks? Background checks involve the verification of information that a candidate has provided in his or her MBA applications. Although the process varies from school to school, it usually includes checking that an applicant attended the undergraduate (or graduate) school(s) that he or she claims to have attended, received the grades indicated and earned the GMAT score reported. It also involves the verification of the candidate’s employment history, job titles, starting and ending dates and salary/bonus information. Finally, some background checks involve contacting recommenders to verify their support and confirming applicant involvement in community activities.

2) Do all schools conduct background checks? When do they do this? How do they have time? Many of the leading MBA programs like to verify the information that has been provided by applicants. This is typically done only for those applicants who are admitted, since there is no sense in expending resources to verify information for applicants who do not make the cut. Most background checks occur in the spring – after decisions for most rounds have been released and students begin sending in their deposits. In many cases, the schools outsource this function to a professional risk consulting firm like Kroll.

3) Why bother with background checks? Don’t the schools trust me? The purpose of background checking is to protect all stakeholders of the MBA program (students, faculty, staff, alumni) from those who would falsify their backgrounds to gain an unfair advantage in the admissions process. Some schools opt to investigate the backgrounds of a relatively small sample of randomly selected admits, hoping that the mere possibility of a check will give applicants incentive to be as honest as possible. In a way, this measure therefore serves to increase the adcom’s trust in its applicants.

4) What about very minor discrepancies? It’s natural for admitted applicants to get anxious at this point in the process, wondering whether their offer of admission might be rescinded if, for instance, the “start date” for an old job is one week earlier than the start date that HR reports during the background check. The good news is that most schools report any discrepancies back to the applicant and give them a chance to explain a plausible mistake. Having said that, it of course makes sense to do your best to verify all of your information before applying to school, so that you can be certain that the data you report is accurate. Should any potential issues come to mind after submitting, you might consider preemptively contacting the adcom if the error is serious enough.

5) Won’t the background checking process alert my employer to the fact that I am applying to b-school? Since the process typically takes place long after you’ve been admitted, this ideally won’t be an issue, as most applicants give their employers ample notice and take some time off before school. Having said that, the schools still try to conduct the checks in a discrete fashion, consulting with your HR department to verify your dates of employment and salary – but not necessarily revealing that you are heading to business school.

6) How can I ensure a smooth background check? While the obvious answer is to be honest in your applications, it’s also important that you don’t fudge anything out of laziness (a common occurrence). Dig up those old W-2 forms or check with former employers in order to present the committee with the most accurate information you can.

Good luck to everyone anxiously awaiting word from their R1 schools and, of course, those targeting R2 as well!

MBA in Public Relations:Tuck School of Business Professor Helps Develop PR Curriculum for MBA Programs

A recent survey of business executives found that a whopping 98 percent think public relations should be included in business school curriculums. To this end, Paul Argenti, a communications professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, is working with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) to develop an MBA-level public relations course designed to give future business leaders strategic communication and reputation management skills they can apply to the future corporate challenges and crises they will face.

“If you ask business executives how important organizational and brand reputation are to their jobs, they are likely to answer ‘extremely,’” Anthony D’Angelo, co-chair of PRSA’s MBA Initiative, said in a statement. “The difficulty is that if you ask them how much formal education – however basic – they’ve had in these disciplines, the answer usually falls between very little and a blank stare.”

An October survey of 204 senior executives conducted by Kelton Research and funded by the MWW Group, revealed that only 4 in 10 senior executives find the skill sets of recently hired MBA graduates to be extremely strong in terms of building a protection a company’s reputation and credibility. Nine out of 10 executives surveyed said that executives lack training in core communication disciplines. And 93 percent believe that PR is just as important to their companies as other forms of communication such as advertising and marketing.

Together with Argenti, PRSA has created a turn-key program based on three decades of Argenti’s work in the area. In the hopes of increasing adoption by the nation’s MBA programs, the course incorporates flexible full-semester, “mini-mester” and seminar formats. Tuck will take part in a pilot program integrating the new course into its MBA program for the fall 2012 semester. PRSA is currently in the process of identifying four additional to take part in the pilot and hopes to expand the initiative nationwide in 2013.

Argenti is glad Tuck is taking the lead in this initiative. “”It’s exciting to think of Tuck’s enduring and successful approach to corporate communication getting recognition and acceptance in the wider business school community,” he said in a statement.

For more on the PRSA MBA Initiative, click here.

The importance of being an educated thinker

A college education is the road that can lead you to your life work’s, a career that will enable you to se your unique talents to bring to you professional fulfillment. However, there are many other benefits to a college education, among them thr opportunity to become what is called an “educated thinke.” Becoming an educated thinker is essential for achieving the greatest possible success in your chosen career, and it enriches your life in many other ways as well. Usually , when people refer to an “educated thinker” they mean someone who has developed a knowledgeabel understanding of our complex world, a thoughtful perspective on importnt ideals and timely issues, the capacity for penetrating insight and intelligent judgment, and sophisticated thinking and language abilities.