Strengths & Weaknesses MBA Essay Examples
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Strengths & Weaknesses Essay Samples
Many MBA applications include a strengths and weaknesses essay prompt, either directly or indirectly.
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My diverse upbringing and career choices have provided me with a broad skill set that I intend to further cultivate in business school. My analytical and interpersonal skills have been integral to my success, and I aim to further enhance these skills while also honing my leadership abilities at Kenan-Flagler.
Analytical skills are instrumental in my role as a planner at Fossil Inc where I combine historical sales metrics with current trends to forecast sales opportunities and maximize sales potential nation-wide. Working on a tight budget, I scrutinize sales and inventory reports to make the most accurate allocation and purchasing decisions. My precision in forecasting has led my team to achieve the most productive product assortment of any Fossil merchandise category. Most recently, I architected the Holiday 2010 Sunwear assortment purchase for North American stores by determining which silhouettes sold best in different geographies and which price points were the most effective in certain regions. For instance, large round shaped frames are not as productive in many west coast and Hawaii stores as these shapes do not fit Asian faces as well. Also, customers are less price-sensitive in Las Vegas and New York, as most of the customer base is tourists who are willing to pay higher prices. Because of my precise analysis of purchasing trends, I created a highly accurate assortment purchase and led my team to achieve same-store comparative sales of +6% in October, a result that had not been reached in over 14 months.
Interpersonal skills have also driven my career success to date. When working with the international planning department, I was quickly recognized for these skills and was selected to serve as an ambassador to our international counterparts when they visited the corporate headquarters, directing them to meetings and organizing break-out sessions with the individual planning groups. Due in part to my strong interpersonal abilities, I was moved to the domestic planning team where I have relished the challenge of more corporate and executive exposure. I quickly became the contact person within the stores planning department for the entire Sunwear business, partnering with our wholesale teams to discuss best practices and sales drivers.
While I have also been recognized for my leadership skills, leadership is a strength I intend to leverage in the future as I progress up the management ranks. Recently at Fossil, I assumed an ad-hoc leadership role on my team and was selected to be the new store coordinator based on my performance. Organizing meetings, communicating critical milestones and ensuring flawless execution of product delivery, I have led the store planning team in the opening of 18 new global sites in 2010 and will lay the framework to open an additional 50 sites in 2011. At Kenan-Flagler, I plan to continue my leadership development by assuming the role of team leader on a STAR team, where I will gain unmatched real world and leadership experience and skills. I also intend to leverage the “continuous learning cycle” method and the leadership development program at Kenan-Flagler to evolve into a recognized leader in my newly launched career.
?Leadership ability is one of my greatest strengths. The most vivid example of this ability was my role spearheading the move of our $3 billion Wealth Management business from Matstone to GTR amid the chaotic financial system meltdown and the collapse of our firm in 2008. My attention to detail, organization, and capacity to adapt quickly resulted in significant progress, but it was my ability to effectively delegate responsibilities and empower team members that enabled us to be successful. As a leader, my open-minded, results-driven style made me more productive and respected and I used feedback from my team to make effective changes in my management style. My versatility and self-awareness elicited a positive response from my team members, which was reflected in their attitudes and in the quality of their work. The end result: today we operate as one of the largest and most successful teams at GTR.
Another area of strength is my communication skills, which are essential to building and fostering relationships in the financial services industry. The dynamic interrelationships of markets and the growing complexity of financial products regularly exceed clients’ levels of sophistication and it is my job to interpret and explain these investments in a language they can easily understand. During Matstone’s bankruptcy, I interacted in person and over the phone with our panicked clients to comfort and reassure them we were actively seeking the most accurate information and consistently looking out for their best interests.
An additional strength is my ability to think analytically across a wide spectrum of interrelated disciplines, from trading to developing investment solutions, to estate planning and operations. In Wealth Management, decision-making occurs in real-time and requires the ability to proactively synthesize large amounts of information and react accordingly. I earned the CFA designation in 2008 to further develop my analytical skills and it is this critical thinking ability that has drawn clients to seek my advice and perspective, adding value to our team and to GTR. I look forward to leveraging my creative and teambuilding skills while capitalizing on the diverse curriculum offered at Kenan-Flagler. The STAR program, for example, will provide me with an entrée into the consulting field and the opportunity to work collaboratively with students and global business leaders, turning real world business challenges into profitable business solutions. As a varsity “athlete” at Kenan-Flagler, I am also eager to utilize these skills as an active participant in case competitions, leading my team to a first place finish over Duke University in the “Battle of the Blues.”
Philanthropy is also an integral part of my life and I intend to leverage my extensive non-profit leadership experience while continuing my commitment to community service at Kenan-Flagler. As a leader of the Kenan-Flagler Habitat for Humanity Project, an organization for which I have done extensive work, I can contribute to an MBA culture that exemplifies a positive impact on society and supports leadership development on campus and in the UNC-Chapel Hill community.
I define myself as a person with strong values, intelligence, passion and perseverance, who is committed to making a difference in her country and her region. These qualities were instilled in me at an early age by my family and my environment.
My father’s death when I was one year old changed my life significantly. To cover her grief, my mother put her focus on my education during my pre-school years. Through her commitment I entered school directly into the second grade and since then, I have succeeded in doing many things earlier in life. Although, at times I was put in situations I was not really prepared for, including entering university as a precocious age of 15 years old, on the whole, I have matured faster than people my age, built a strong character to overcome challenges, and become self-confident. These qualities have helped me achieve success both personally and professionally: I was a top performer in my marketing career in three international companies; I lived and thrived in three different foreign countries; and most recently, I started my own venture.
My mother also instilled in me a strong moral character. That strength, coupled with my problem solving skills, makes me a good leader; I have led teams successfully in diverse situations with different leadership styles, from an intellectual style based on data-driven decision-making and strong analytical thinking, to a more participative style, requesting ideas and fostering teamwork. I am aware of my weaknesses too: I am impatient, it is difficult for me to deal with ambiguity, and sometimes I react quickly and emotionally. To overcome these weaknesses, I keep a log of the situations that trigger them so I will be more careful in the future. I also seek out coaching from people who are strong in these areas, and read relevant self-help materials.
Starting my own venture helped me further develop perseverance and overcome my impatience. Launching my company was very difficult because I lacked a network in Chile, knowledge of the country, and experience starting a business. However, with perseverance and creativity I learned how to make an impact and provide a compelling offer to local companies, I also learned how to absorb negative answers and deal with adversity. After the success of my first project, people learned about my good service and my business is now well positioned.
Perhaps the most important aspects of my upbringing in Canada was seeing the difficulties poor people face first-hand. I am aware of the advantages I have received, and I am passionate and committed to improve the quality of life of all North Americans.
One of John’ greatest strengths is his personal drive. Even though he has a full workload, often requiring weekend work, he requested authority to hire and manage an intern this year too. Though it added to his work-load, John felt that an internship program would give us an opportunity to develop talented young people for future positions, while providing local students with the experience they need in today’s competitive job market. John has also taken this opportunity to build on his own management and delegation skills. However, drive alone does not translate into high performance. John is extremely intelligent; he grasps and synthesizes complex concepts quickly. I can think of numerous instances where I explained a complicated accounting concept to John, and he quickly demonstrated a firm understanding and incorporated it into a financial model. Also, John stands out among his peers for his work ethic. We can always count on him to take on extra projects with immediate deadlines. It is never necessary to ask John to stay late or put in extra time as he takes the initiate to put in whatever it takes. Moreover, he completes these extra projects by the deadlines every time, while continuing to complete his standard duties in a timely manner as well. Finally, John is committed to giving back. He places a high priority on contributing his time to help Oregon State students. Additionally, he coaches the varsity girls’ volleyball team at a local high school.
The Library Foundation’s (TLF) motto reads that “the love of learning is the guide of life.” I have always lived my life to this effect, majoring in History and studying and travelling abroad whenever possible. Desiring to give back and inspire others to follow their own love of learning, I became involved in TLF, initially through fundraising and later through a program called The Upper School Awards, whose proceeds go towards scholarships for local, underprivileged students. I volunteered to co-chair the awards committee and read through each application. I was honored to present these awards to the recipients in a ceremony at the TLF headquarters.
Following this effort, I further collaborated with a TLF Board member to spearhead a Fundraising Committee, not only to continue raising money for the Upper School Awards, but also to fundraise for member events and speaker series, and eventually launch a small endowment. We created a proposal and presented to the Board, discussing the reasons why we felt this committee would be fruitful to TLF, our monetary goals for the year and specifics as to how we planned to raise money through donations and special events. The Board ultimately voted in favor of the Committee and members of the association recognized my dedication to the organization and its cause; as a result, I was elected to become the youngest Executive Committee Member on TLF’s Board.
Through this experience I learned that I am adaptable. When asked to co-chair the High School Awards committee, while I did not have direct experience in education, I used my analytical skills and love of learning to select three well-qualified individuals for scholarships. I also learned that I am skilled at communicating effectively not only in the corporate world, but in the non-profit world as well. For instance, I determined it would be worthwhile to invest our limited funds to generate a small return. While other board members had suggested this to no avail in the past, I performed my own due diligence and clearly communicated my findings in layman’s terms to the Board, which ultimately signed off.
Through this experience I also learned that I could be impatient when others are resistant to change, as was the case when I suggested investing our funds. Ultimately, I was successful in this pursuit. However, next time I will approach impatience as an opportunity to find a useful solution, rather than a hindrance in accomplishing a goal. Additionally, I learned that I have difficulty accepting that a non-corporate environment could have a different pace, and there weren’t necessarily the same kinds of experts to which I was accustomed. I am learning to adjust my expectations and in turn take advantage of learning about concepts in non-profits with which I am unfamiliar.
I hope to continue following my love of learning by pursuing an MBA at Tuck. In doing so I am confident I will bring the same enthusiasm for teamwork, adaptability and effective communication as I did to TLF.
I am a leader, and I would like to emphasize a few characteristics I have found to be especially important in terms of my leadership skills. In my opinion, the biggest challenge of leadership is taking responsibility rather than assigning it. I’ve always taken responsibility. For me, personal example is not a slogan, but a regular practice. I believe that a real leader is someone with full integrity and high moral standards and all my life I have striven to keep the highest standards in my personal and professional lives.
I am a very open minded person. While I believe in myself, I am also highly self-critical. My gift, as a journalist, has been to interact with a lot of people who are smarter and more experienced than me. I believe I am a quick learner and for me, criticism is a means of self-improvement. I must admit that I make many mistakes, but I try not to repeat them and to understand what went wrong in order to improve in the future.
I’m a man of action and not a man of words. I know that this statement sounds funny coming from a journalist, but I truly believe first in action. The Jewish leadership includes two items: responsibility and action. A Jewish leader is judged on his deeds, rather than his words.
I tend to make difficult decisions on my own, rather than reaching out for help. This is an advantage when the process requires speed and decisiveness, but I believe that I need to be more open to discussion and that is something I have been focused on improving. I am a very curious individual; over the years I’ve gained an extremely large base of knowledge, but I acknowledge that I lack international exposure as someone who has never been away from my home for more than 4 months. I’m also aware that I don’t have the broad base of knowledge required of a 21st century global manager. I believe studying at HBS could help to address these weaknesses.
Lastly, I am an ambitious and determined individual. My efforts are to keep those characteristics in balance so they will be strengths and not weaknesses. A thorough understanding of personality brings me to the conclusion that balance is the key differentiating factor between strengths and weaknesses. Most characteristics are neutral in nature and the way that you use them determines whether they become a weakness or a strength.
Since an early age, balance has played a critical role in my personal growth. I define balance as embracing new activities and perspectives that challenge me, broaden my worldview, and ultimately allow me to enrich my work environments and communities. Consciously maintaining a balance in all elements of my life has trained me to be versatile and has helped me develop numerous strengths. My team leadership and adaptability skills have grown most under this philosophy.
My life-long passion for team sports culminated in a leadership role as a member of Colgate’s Division I lacrosse team. Although I was not the most physically gifted athlete, I compensated for my lack of innate skill with a dedicated work ethic, uncompromising team loyalty, and strong performance under pressure. A consummate student, my experiences during the first years on the team taught me that the most effective leadership style requires a mix of leading by example and leading by instruction. Recognizing that I was developing these attributes, our coach selected me as captain my senior year. In turn, I leveraged this strength to help lead the team to the Patriot League regular season title.
Subsequently, I have applied the team leadership skills developed on the field to my career, where I have led several teams. Most recently, I partnered with the Global Head of a new sales team at AllianceBernstein to execute the strategic direction of the company. In this role, I have collaborated with multiple levels of stakeholders to determine that we should shift the firm’s sales strategy from one focused on equity products to one oriented towards alternative investments.
Although I have been successful in my post-collegiate career, my career alone does not define me. I am deeply involved in several non-work activities, adapting to each activity’s demands in order to meaningfully contribute. In particular, I embrace and thrive in a diversity of environments. To maintain ties to nature, I annually climb fourteen-thousand foot mountains in my native state, Colorado. To maintain ties to team sports, I captain a club lacrosse team and race for a cycling team in New York. To maintain ties to the arts community, I supportively patronize emerging artists and am a young member of the MET. My most meaningful non-career activity, however, has been my work with two philanthropic organizations in New York: the Fresh Air Fund and Year-Up. Each group supports at-risk urban youth from New York’s five boroughs. My involvement has been balanced between ground level support, tutoring Fresh Air Fund students and mentoring Year-Up participants, and fundraising support, ensuring the organizations have resources to achieve their goals.
While my adaptability and team leadership skills will allow me to immediately contribute to the MBA program, I believe my perspective on seeking balance is the strength that will enable me to truly enrich the McCombs community. I plan to share my experiences and skills with fellow students while leveraging the full resources of the school to gain not merely a degree, but a broadening educational experience.
Living in Malaysia was a defining moment in my life. I attended an international school where I developed an appreciation for diversity as I interacted with people from countless countries and societies. My experiences living and traveling abroad also shaped many life choices I made going forward. I chose to attend Tufts University because of its diverse population, international relations coursework, and extensive study abroad opportunities.
These international experiences have been beneficial thus far in my career, namely in working with global teams at Fossil. These skills will also be an asset to the McCombs community, enabling me to effectively work with diverse classmates on team assignments and club activities. My understanding of other cultures will help me relate to my international peers, serving as a link, when needed, between international and domestic students. While at McCombs, I plan to be an active member of the International MBA Student Association and Graduate Marketing Network. I believe that the purpose and team building on which these associations are built are fundamental components to both a well-rounded MBA experience and an extensive global perspective.
Living abroad also instilled a desire to give back to my community. My family participated in a number of company-organized community outreach events in Malaysia, inspiring me to serve my community since. After college, I decided to focus my efforts on two organizations where I feel I make a substantial impact: Vickery Meadow Learning Center, an ESL center in an impoverished neighborhood, and Attitudes and Attire, a women’s outreach program. My work with both organizations involves helping diverse people turn their lives around, whether it is through teaching English or offering job interview advice. These are highly rewarding experiences as evidenced by my long-standing tenure at each. I strive to hold a leadership role in the Net Impact Student Club, and leverage my business knowledge to help solve social issues in the Austin community. I also plan on making an impact on the Net Impact Club and McCombs community by proposing new local organizations, namely ESL centers, so that my peers can experience their inspiring nature and create personal relationships with the greater Austin community.
I also believe that my retail industry experience will add richness to classroom discussions, and my knowledge of trend identification, strategic data analysis and sales forecasting will be valuable for case studies. Furthermore, because of the entrepreneurial spirit at Fossil, I have sharpened my persuasion skills, as I often propose visual statements or other initiatives to the executive team.
Both my diverse upbringing and retail industry background will bring a fresh perspective to the McCombs classroom and community. Moreover, my involvement in the McCombs community will not end at graduation; I plan on being a dynamic member of my local McCombs alumni chapter. Exposure to diversity and investment in the community are key initiatives in my life, and I intend to make a significant impact at McCombs, both as a student and an alumna.
?One way I’ll enrich the McCombs community during my two years in the program will be by sharing my passion for community service. Giving back is incredibly important to me for a number of reasons, most prevalently because there were times in my youth when my family was on the receiving end of charitable giving. That experience left me with a deep and unwavering commitment to the people and organizations that help families through hard times. I’ll be eager to share this passion by challenging my fellow students to use their unique skills and knowledge to improve the lives of less fortunate people. At McCombs I’ll look to bring my experience as a Life Circuit board member to the Board Fellows program and will work with Net Impact to organize a student trek aimed at meeting and evaluating successful nonprofits in an effort to share best practices and strategy with local nonprofits.
Another way I’ll enrich the McCombs community is by bringing a unique, creative perspective, both inside and outside the classroom. Since graduating with a degree in creative writing, I’ve continually found ways to apply the creative processes I refined in college to problems and opportunities in business. When the Life Circuit faced the inherent challenge of maintaining long-term communication with the homeless youths on the street, I developed an outreach program that relied on social networks, public library computers and a small but spirited troop of volunteers. When LOCO converted to a new data management system, I developed alternative uses for the program that significantly improved my team’s data mining efficiency. At McCombs, I’ll continue to deliver creative solutions and ideas, specifically in terms of innovative approaches to economic development and social capital management.
I’ll also enrich the McCombs community by sharing my passion for health and wellness. Living an active lifestyle became an important part of my life a few years ago when I set out to compete in an Ironman Triathlon, which is a 140.6 mile race composed of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a full 26.2 mile marathon. I had never been much of a runner or biker, let alone an endurance athlete, so the experience was a transformative process. My goal was to go from “everyman” to “Ironman”, and after roughly eight months and over 700 hours of training, I was able to do just that. Going through that transformation motivated me to help others live healthy lifestyles. Now I’m passionate about creating inroads to wellness for novices like me and I write about these efforts on my blog. We all live busy lives and often experience fitness in waves of motivation. However, I have a core belief that when it comes to wellness, a small effort goes a long way and we are all much closer to a healthy life than we realize. Through student clubs, forums, and launching events such as fitness themed fundraisers for nonprofits, I’ll spread this philosophy and passion at McCombs, where I expect to find many students eagerly trying to maintain balance between work, school and personal health.
My first major project as the new store coordinator was arguably one of the largest milestones in Fossil Inc.’s history. A local Fossil Clothing concept store was undergoing a major transformation. The re-opening of this store marked the first full-fledged “lifestyle brand” site, and all corporate staff members, both domestic and global, were eyeing the implementation of this project closely. With the annual proforma rising by 200% and an unparalleled amount of money being spent on the state of the art light fixtures, wall displays, and check-out counter, this site was a very expensive testing ground and astonishing results were anticipated. The execution of this new store opening had to be airtight, and I was determined to deliver tremendous results. When I was presented with the responsibility of launching the new lifestyle brand location, I immediately took action. In order to effectively communicate critical information to my team, I needed to understand the vital tasks involved in a successful store opening. I began attending team meetings with the various departments involved in the new store process, compiled each team’s key objectives and timelines, and kept all team members updated on project progress via email and meetings. In order to balance my new leadership role and my everyday job duties, I knew serious process changes had to be made or I would find myself living at the office.
To ensure the successful execution of this project in the most efficient manner, I established new communication strategies. I created an unprecedented template that displayed the most critical projects pending completion from each team. Amended weekly and distributed to all departments, this template helped all teams involved plan and coordinate tasks better with other teams. I also arranged for the store manager to visit the corporate office, so that my team could field any merchandise questions and explain the financial objectives that needed to be met.
Two weeks prior to the store opening, I received word that the Board of Directors wished to view the space in its completed form the day before the official re-opening. To fill any inventory gaps, I enlisted the support of our wholesale and ecommerce partners. The evening before the Board visit, there were still some key items pending delivery, so I arranged a hand-carry of merchandise from the warehouse to the store and helped with last minute aesthetic touch-ups.
The presentation of the new lifestyle brand location to the Board was a huge success for all teams involved, not to mention critical in my leadership development. I needed to make a solid impression on my colleagues in order for them to fully trust my leadership and organizational skills in my new role. After the project reached completion, I was applauded by my peers for my embodiment of two of Fossil’s Core Values: “Be Resourceful,” and “Be Relentless.”
In reflecting on this experience, I initially found myself struggling with time management, working late hours and inefficiently juggling the two responsibilities. Thus I learned the power of communication in leadership and developed new communication documents and a hands-on approach to correspond with the field team. I not only streamlined my communication to all teams, but was also applauded for my entrepreneurial and resourceful abilities.
Moreover, my experience during this project taught me the ability to think strategically under pressure and take the necessary measures to react to challenges with confidence and positivity. In doing so, I demonstrated my relentless attitude and secured the confidence of my colleagues from my quick, yet calculated response to providing a seamless early viewing of the store to our Board. The store remodel was a huge accomplishment for both the Fossil brand and me. The store has far exceeded financial expectations, and since then, I have played a large role in the successful execution of 18 global Fossil sites in 2010 and will lay the critical framework to open another 50 sites in 2011. ?
My team at Knoxland manages LOCO’s international trade operations. In early 2010, I led a project that became a defining leadership experience in that it challenged my quantitative and analytical abilities, as well as my ability to inspire innovation while managing a group of my peers.
After a long-term review of an ongoing operational problem, I presented a plan to management aimed at reducing LOCO’s risk exposure and operational costs. I asserted I could lead a small cross-functional team to analyze trade flow at boutique brokers and ultimately reduce trade risk and costs by developing customized data management solutions to meet the unique needs of broker-dealers in small and emerging markets.
Once management consented, I began the work of executing the plan. I outlined the project with colleagues from different business units, emphasizing the value it would create for our client. I gained the support of foreign broker representatives by highlighting the benefits they’d see through an improved system. And eventually, once all parties were on-board, I led the cross-functional team to orchestrate the technology review and data customization process.
The plan relied on extensive collaboration between operations specialists and IT teams from firms around the world. As project manager I managed deadlines, set goals, mediated conflicts and guided overall strategy. But the more rewarding aspects of the project centered on training my team to address problems creatively.
Each boutique broker presented a different set of technological and operational limitations. By helping my team develop unorthodox and nonstandard solutions, we overcame each broker’s unique set of challenges. I did this by empowering my team to allocate resources and time towards exploring ideas and alternative approaches to longstanding processes.
When the project was complete, LOCO’s risk exposure and operational costs were reduced and an array of longstanding problems resolved. I was pleased to have created added value for our client and proud to have left a lasting footprint on the methods my colleagues now employ when approaching operational problems and solutions.
The experience gave me a great deal of valuable insight into my strengths and weaknesses as a leader. I reaffirmed that effective communication is a key leadership skill and one that demands constant attention. Had I not successfully persuaded managers across a number of departments that the project would strengthen our client relationship, I wouldn’t have had the cross-functional support needed to carry out the project. By highlighting how the project’s success could regularly be quantified and how it would serve the ongoing mission of our division, I was able to get the project off the ground.
Another personal take-away from the experience is that I thrive in a team setting, in part, because I lead by building consensus and advocating collaboration. During each stage of the project, from the initial planning through the final stages, I made it a point to gather feedback from each member in the group in terms of how they felt we should move forward. This was especially helpful since the team was cross-functional and few of us had detailed insight into the challenges each department would face, but it was also helpful because when it came time to execute the plan, each member had a strong sense of ownership in our approach. One personal weakness that surfaced during the project was my inexperience managing direct reports. I learned I tend to rely on collaborative, consensus-building leadership because I have room to grow as a “directive” leader. While I expect leadership via collaboration to be a constant and vital aspect to any MBA program, to be a successful CEO I’ll need to be proficient leading a team of subordinates in a non-restrictive, non-authoritarian manner. I want my direct reports to thrive, personally and professionally. As a result, part of my MBA experience will be about exploring opportunities to develop my personal “directive” leadership style, such as holding leadership positions in various clubs, soliciting feedback from students and faculty, and through specific leadership classes such as Leading People and Organizations and Creating and Managing Human Capital.
It was June of 2005. I had just completed three long years of flight training and was on my way to my first operational squadron. I couldn’t wait to get there, start learning how to tactically employ the F-18, and go on my first deployment. After all, the war on terror was raging and that is why I had signed up three years earlier. But when I arrived, I found out there would be one more detour. I was immediately sent for three weeks to the Naval Legal Justice School where I received a crash course on the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the laws that regulate behavior in the Armed Forces. After the training, my first job in the squadron would be Legal Officer. A Legal Officer handles administrative paperwork, investigates alleged violations, gathers evidence, and advises the Commanding Officer (CO) on how to best deal with sailors who have found themselves at odds with the law — specifically, what punishments could and could not be legally rendered. I initially thought the job would be no big deal — a few weeks of training and then an hour or two a day dealing with legal matters. I could not have been more wrong.
To begin with, I quickly realized that law school is three years, and not three weeks, for a very good reason. There was simply more to learn than you possibly could in three weeks. Plus, up to that point in my career, I had only been in flight school where my sole responsibility was learning to fly. Now, one month into my first operational tour, not only was I overwhelmed by the new tactics I was expected to learn and execute in the airplane, but I also had a completely different set of skills to master.
Second, it became readily apparent that being the Legal Officer entailed a lot more face time with the CO than most brand new officers were comfortable with, including me. Because violating an accused sailor’s rights can cost a CO his job, he took a great interest in mine. In fact, every time he asked me a question, he wanted the answer yesterday. I also learned that the CO had spent twenty years in the Navy waiting for his chance to be in charge, so he didn’t like being told that he couldn’t do something. While he was very knowledgeable on the inner workings of the Navy, he was unfamiliar with the rules of the UCMJ. So, as the newest member of the squadron, I had the precarious task of advising the boss on what he could do and, on occasion, telling him what he couldn’t.
My initial thought was the squadron made a mistake; someone of my rank and experience should not be given this much responsibility. After I let the overwhelmed feeling sink in, I had to step back and evaluate the situation. What weaknesses were preventing me from doing an outstanding job? I realized I had to get organized, both with my time and study management. Like it or not, I now had two very important jobs to learn. Second, I had to be more assertive when speaking to authority. I had the knack for analyzing a situation and developing a strategy; I just needed to develop my communication skills so that I could effectively convey those options to the CO without negatively affecting my career. By putting these realizations into action, I became more comfortable in my role and over time I even began to enjoy the job. About a month before I was relieved by a new Legal Officer, the CO approached me at a squadron social function. He put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and said, “Wanted you to know that you’ve done a great job,” the ultimate compliment for a new officer.
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How to address your Strengths and Weaknesses in your MBA Application
Make your STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES ESSAY stand out
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Tips to ace your Strengths and Weaknesses essay for your MBA application.
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So, here’s your magical tip for writing a quality strengths and weaknesses essay for MBA.
Here are Few tips to ace your Strengths and Weakness essay for your MBA application
The question mentioned above can be deemed one of the most expected ones that almost every MBA applicant has to answer either as part of an essay or as a question for your recommenders.
“What are your strengths for an MBA?” may appear as a generic question, but the scope of knowing your “strengths for MBA application” and aligning them with the values that your target b-school holds can be a total game-changer!. World-class B-schools are looking for leaders, visionaries, and someone who can set aside the older norms guiding the business world. Therefore, it is imperative that you show the admissions committee that you are one of these candidates by showcasing your strengths for MBA application.
Strengths for MBA are easy; most of the top B-schools are looking for candidates with leadership qualities.
College administrations are aware that most candidates won’t have many significant accomplishments in terms of strengths for MBA early in their career. Still, they are looking for innovative vision, creativity, teamwork, and sensible curiosity.
While following other general tips mentioned below in the article, ensuring that your Strengths and weaknesses for MBA application complement each other well for your b-school essays is a surefire smart move.
Precision in your writing of Strengths and weaknesses essay
Be precise while introducing yourself or providing valuable details such as your GMAT/GRE Scores in your strengths and weakness essays.
Precision doesn’t mean they need to present themselves as a ‘perfect candidate’; the goal must be to try and enlist relevant things to present yourself as a ‘credible candidate’ who takes care of even minute details while exhibiting your strengths and weaknesses for MBA application.
Creativity is the key to master strengths and weaknesses for MBA applications.
Well, it’s no secret that every B-school receives thousands of application letters every day so, what makes your letter unique among others?
Other than professional certificates and test scores, the method of drafting your Strengths and weaknesses for MBA application plays a vital role in your selection.
Why would they accept your candidature? Everyone talks about their leadership experiences, accomplishments, social impact, etc. What will make you stand out?
To counter such questions, you must represent yourself as a protagonist while addressing your strengths for MBA; you must be the Centre of attraction. Mold your actions and experience into a story that defines your role in managing unfavorable situations while addressing your strength and weaknesses essay. Bring the flavor and a personality to your strength and weakness essay.
Be Professional in your Strengths for MBA essay.
Make sure to remember that you are writing an application to a professionally focused B-school, and so strengths for MBA in your professional experience will be your first goal.
It’s essential to bring strengths for MBA that will highlight your personality, but it’s the second step to take. You first need to tie your strengths for MBA to your professional life, future goals, and ambitions.
When prompted to discuss their weakness for MBA application, applicants need to ask themselves two major questions before starting:
What should I avoid mentioning about my weakness for MBA interviews?
What is the college administration looking for in my strengths and weaknesses essays?
Answering these two questions clearly and earnestly will help you craft a thoughtful and compelling response that will enhance your strength and weakness for MBA application.
First, avoid mentioning weakness for MBA applications outside your academic or professional life as they aren’t relevant to your future career.
Giving a logical weakness for your strengths always makes sense! The best weakness for MBA application will highlight your strengths. Moreover, the ability to criticize and improve yourself is another great leadership trait and highly valued if mentioned in the weaknesses for the MBA interview. So, the goal must be to connect some drawbacks to some strengths in your weakness for MBA application.
The college administration is seeking applicants with positive character traits such as self-awareness and self-assessment—someone who can interpret their shortcomings and improvise to develop them into potential growth areas.
Why is weakness a strength?
To answer this above question, here are some tips to address your “ weakness for MBA application .”
Personalize your weaknesses for MBA application:
Every applicant has their shortcomings and weaknesses. Providing relevant context for them in your strength and weakness essay allows the reader to understand both the previous situation and how you would act as a student if accepted.
Leadership experience and potential are highly prized at business schools but don’t come easily for everyone. So instead, think of weaknesses for MBA as opportunities for growth and portray them effectively in your strength and weakness essays.
“The most important takeaway is, to be honest.” Providing specific flaws and addressing them in an earnest manner in your weakness for MBA application essays will give you an advantage over others by providing you a chance to discuss the influence they’ve had on who you are today. Of course, every candidate has their own flaws, but not every applicant will use them as a chance to display who they indeed are in their strengths and weaknesses for MBA application essays.
Avoid counting too many weaknesses for MBA admission essays.
Try not to indulge in explaining too many weaknesses- one or two will be sufficient. Instead, remember to present a genuine weakness for MBA application; you can mention any particular domain knowledge/skill/type of experience you wish you had acquired based on your previous works. Then again, precisely discuss how you plan to develop these skills in your strengths and weakness essays. This will let the college administration know that you are working on your shortcomings even though you are not perfect.
Focus on yourself in your strengths and weaknesses essays
Rather than deflecting blame onto co-workers and the working environment, you should give evidence of your ability to determine the skills required to talk about the strategies you are using to deal with the same in your strengths and weakness essays. Self-awareness and Self-Assessment are two key elements that would help portray yourself as an applicant who recognizes your areas for improvement.
Leadership qualities, intellectual appetite, self-introspection, and personal accountability are some prime qualities every B-school is looking for.
You can share a story! Sharing a success story helps to demonstrate your decision-making and communication skills effectively, but, at the same time, you need to show how you improved on those skills and how you recognize to include more skills into your inventory.
While discussing your strengths, always remember to follow a Problem, action, result approach!
Mention the situation and your role
Mention your action and how you utilize your skills to deal with the problem.
Describe the result and how the situation turned out in favor of your company.
Lessons you learned and how these skills will help you prosper in your future.
Having insufficient knowledge about a particular domain can always serve as a logical weakness. For example how in your previous role as a Marketing Manager, you didn’t get much exposure to the technical aspect of the business. Then you can discuss how you plan to improve those skills.
The top B-school programs are looking for leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who can challenge and change the future, making it imperative that you show the admissions board that you are one of these candidates. With the competition growing stiffer day by day, all the top MBA programs are looking for perfect candidates, making it an even more daunting task to book a spot at the top business schools. MBA applicants must possess more than good grades, certificates, and educational history to gain admission.
While reading through application essays, the admission committee is looking for reliable sources capable of future impact. Therefore, it’s your job to present your personal and professional narrative in such a way that it captivates the reader. You may think this means that you need to show them a history of spotless professional records, a flawless transcript, and a journey filled with success?
Of course not! If your story is devoid of any failures or weaknesses, it will reflect the lack of authenticity, and the adcom may feel like you haven’t thoroughly considered their application questions.
Every person has failed at one time or another but, your failure can act as a twofold advantage for your application. Not only it reflects the ability to self-introspect, a rare leadership trait, but, at the same time helps you to describe your action plan for future courses.
How to communicate your strengths and weaknesses for an MBA interview to the adComs?
The first and foremost step is to be perfectly honest, don’t try to outplay the interviewer by marking your strengths as your weaknesses.
Make sure any strength you mention must include qualities that the B-schools are specifically interested in. Never claim yourself to be perfect. Being perfect indicates that there is nothing left to learn, which is not an impression that would please the Adcoms.
Self-introspection is good, but that doesn’t mean you have to tear yourself down. Try to include one or two weaknesses at max. Just Mentioning your weakness is not quite the solution; you have to give a logical basis based on your future goals. Ask yourself why you feel this is something you would change, how this change can make you a better person.
Still, need more clarity about how to prepare your strengths and weakness for MBA interview? Then, hop on a call with us! Our 45-minute extensive consultation call will help you overcome all the hurdles that one faces during interview preparation.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
1. How can I make my MBA application strong?
Rather than making your strengths and weaknesses for MBA application exhaustive detail-wise, try to make it more genuine by focusing on strengths for MBA relevant to your future goals and how admission to your dream school will help achieve them.
Precision, creativity, honesty, and professionalism are the major aspects of drafting a near-perfect strengths and weaknesses essay for an MBA application.
2. How can you justify your strengths?
Ensure that your certificates, academic experience, and previous work experience effectively complement the underlined strengths for MBA. The college administration is aware that any significant achievement at such a young age is rare; hence, looking for a person with vision, creativity, and good leadership skills.
3. What should I write about my weaknesses in MBA?
Writing weakness for MBA essays for oneself is always tricky. But, to avoid any misinterpretation, always try to provide logical weaknesses for MBA applications related to your profession. However, never provide too many of them in your strengths and weaknesses essays for MBA application; limit the count to two or at max three. Also, always remember that the ability to criticize and self-introspect is another excellent leadership trait rare among B-school applicants.
From Flaw to Strength: 5 Weaknesses For Your MBA Application
Some business schools explicitly ask for weaknesses in their written applications. For example, the INSEAD MBA application includes a strengths and weaknesses essay:
“Give a candid description of yourself (who are you as a person), stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors which have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary in 500 words.”
While answering a question like this, you need to reflect on your work experience to identify a weakness that is, first off, undeniably a weakness, and second improvable. Think of something that is a trait or a skill that needs improvement. Humbly accept it and show how you’re working on improving it. Then pair it with a fierce strength of yours, especially something you’ve been applauded for at work, to balance it out and make a strong impression on AdCom.
But for those schools that don’t have a personal strengths and weaknesses essay, it’s also a question you should be ready to answer in your 1:1 interview , a mandatory part of most business school applications. These interviews are usually conducted by the AdCom or a second-year student and statistically you have a 50% chance of making it through to the school.
In these MBA interviews, a weakness question could come up in many ways, but according to our client feedback the two most common weakness interview questions are:
“Tell us about your biggest weakness”
“Tell us about a time you failed”
Don’t even think about brushing them off with a rubbish answer, such as “I’m a perfectionist”, thinking they won’t be able to see through you. Forget it. They definitely will. So, how do you identify a weakness for your essays and interviews? Let’s read further.
How to identify (a good) weakness
Admitting a weakness might look like it could harm your candidature. And yes, it could if you don’t approach the question in the right way, which is to find a genuine weakness and explain how you are working to improve it. This shows maturity, self-awareness and the ability to address an area for improvement. After all, if you were perfect already, you wouldn't need an MBA!
Instead of focusing on fundamental personality flaws, we suggest highlighting a skill that you are working to improve. To do this, make a list of the technical and non-technical skills that are required to succeed in your industry. Then, identify the skills you already possess and the ones you need to develop. Finally, select a skill that an MBA program could help you improve.
For example, if you find it difficult to share your innovative ideas with a room full of strangers, explain how this has affected you at work. Then talk about the actionable steps you have taken to improve this weakness. This could include taking on a hobby such as public speaking or acting. This approach demonstrates that you are action-oriented, have a growth-oriented mindset, are introspective and have the maturity to articulate your weaknesses. It also shows that you are not afraid of being vulnerable , a trait that is essential for success in an MBA program and in life.
Pro tip: One of the first steps we take with clients is to ask them to complete a Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test. Using this, you can identify weaknesses typical of your personality type. You can take a free personality test at 16personalities.com.
Take an MBTI personality test to find the weaknesses typical of your personality type
Now that you understand how to choose a weakness and discuss it in your interview, check out five examples of personal weaknesses that you may want to use in your essays or interview.
5 personal weaknesses examples for MBA applications
1. I tend to overlook details
“My biggest weakness is that I am not naturally detail-oriented, and tend to focus more on the big picture. As a project manager in my current job, I once lost a significant deal due to overlooking crucial details in the contract. Since then, I’ve been working on improving my attention to detail. For instance, I now take detailed notes during meetings and review them afterwards to ensure I didn't miss anything important. I also make a point of double-checking my work before submitting it, and have been delegating some of my tasks to a colleague known for their attention to detail. I’ll continue to improve on this during my MBA by systematically checking coursework for myself and my study team."
2. I tend to be overly self-critical
“Being highly self-conscious, I sometimes struggle with self-criticism. I often find myself judging my thoughts and ideas, which leads me to doubt my skills and abilities. Because of this, I sometimes get stuck in a continuous procrastinating cycle. Fairly recently, I missed out on an important project at work because I was afraid to open up and share my ideas with my teammates. To improve on this weakness, I’ve been trying to be more mindful of my thoughts and practice self-compassion. I try to remind myself that it's normal to make mistakes and that everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses. I also try to reframe my negative thoughts and turn them into positives. Practicing meditation and mindfulness techniques has also helped me focus on the present and not get caught up in negative thoughts. Recently, I was able to present my ideas one at a time to a prospective client without getting too caught up in my head, by taking these small steps. He was so impressed by my presentation that he signed a new contract. This is the biggest client account I have onboarded in my current role.”
3. I struggle to multi-task
“I can struggle to manage different tasks at the same time. This especially became challenging when I took over as an Operations Specialist, where I led the implementation teams for 10 different tier-2 cities across India. With so much happening on various fronts, I sometimes failed to meet the deadline or could not resolve supply chain issues with different city teams. My manager gave me feedback to use a platform like 'Notion' to manage project timelines better. She also advised breaking tasks into smaller goals and set a to-do list for each day. I have also started to delegate wherever possible so that my team becomes more efficient and self-dependent. Since implementing these suggestions, I’ve certainly improved my ability to multi-task and have received great feedback.”
4. I lose interest during execution
“I’m the Ideas person in my team. When we’re marketing a new product in our agency, I’m the one who devises an innovative marketing strategy and creates effective action plans. I love making chart boards and step-by-step plans and using data visualization tech like Tableau. However, when it comes to executing our strategies, my mind often moves onto the next project before the last one is complete. In my post-MBA role of Marketing Manager at a startup, I’ll lead the in-house marketing team where I’ll need to oversee the execution of our strategies while also devising new strategies. During my MBA, I plan to take the Operations elective with professor XYZ to help manage this.”
5. I can be reluctant to speak up
“Being an introvert, I can be reserved in meetings and after-work networking gatherings. While working with new teams, it takes me time to warm up to my teammates and openly share my ideas. However, I have recently acknowledged this weakness and am working on becoming more comfortable in social settings. I go out of my way to attend networking events regularly, where I challenge myself to initiate conversations with new people. I have also joined the Toastmasters public speaking club to help me improve my confidence. I am determined to continue to put in the effort to become more outgoing and confident in social settings, as I know it will help me achieve my professional goals."
We hope these 5 examples of weaknesses help you understand how to constructively share your weakness with AdCom during your interview. If you need help preparing for your business school interview, why not book a 20-min chat with any of our consultants and explore how our team can help you prepare for your MBA interviews.
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Sample MBA Essay - What is your greatest weakness
Winning MBA Essay Guide = Harvard + Stanford + Wharton + Columbia + Booth + MIT + Kellogg + Darden + Yale + NYU Stern + Haas + Ross + Duke Fuqua + INSEAD + LBS + Tuck Essay Tips and 100+ Sample Essays + Leadership Narratives + Editing Techniques + Storytelling Tips + Video Essay Scripts + Curriculum Analysis of each MBA program for the Why MBA Question
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Darden MBA Essay Guide (2024 Entering Class)
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Download Darden MBA Essay Guide (2024 Entering Class) (21 Sample Essays)
Duke Fuqua MBA Essay Guide (2024 Entering Class)
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Download Duke Fuqua MBA Essay Guide (2024 Entering Class) (12 Sample Essays)
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Download NYU Stern MBA Essay Guide (2024 Entering Class) (15 Sample Essays + 6 Visual Essay Examples)
Kellogg MBA Essay Guide (2024 Entering Class)
- Sample Essay 1: Demonstrated Leadership, the challenges you faced and Skills Used (Marketing) (425 Words)
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Download Kellogg MBA Essay Guide (2024 Entering Class) (11 Sample Essays)
Tuck MBA Essay Guide (2024 Entering Class)
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Download Tuck MBA Essay Guide (2024 Entering Class) (15 Sample Essays)
INSEAD MBA Essay Guide (2024 Entering Class)
- Sample Essay 1: Summarize Current job Nature of work Major Responsibilities (200 Words)
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Download INSEAD MBA Essay Guide (2024 Entering Class) (19 Sample Essays)
Cambridge MBA Essay Guide (2024 Entering Class)
- Sample Cambridge MBA Essay 1: Goals (467 Words) (Technology to Finance)
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Download Cambridge MBA Essay Guide (2024 Entering Class) (12 Sample Essays)
London Business School MBA Essay Guide (2024 Entering Class)
- Sample LBS MBA Essay: Post-MBA Goals (489 Words)(Technology to Consulting)
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Download LBS MBA Essay Guide (2024 Entering Class) (6 Sample Essays)
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How to Discuss Failures & Weaknesses in Your MBA Essay
May 10, 2023
The disadvantage of perfection
Demonstrating a growth mindset, using failure to your advantage, what kinds of failures and weaknesses can be used in mba essays, using stories to effectively discuss failures and weaknesses in your mba essay.
- Get expert help
UPDATE: This article was originally posted on June 6, 2019. It has been updated with new information and tips below.
When writing your MBA admissions essay, you want to shine. World-class programs are looking for leaders, visionaries, and reliable sources of future impact, and it is imperative that you show the admissions board that you are one of these candidates.
You may think this means that you need to show them a straightforward history of success, a spotless professional record, and a flawless transcript. After all, top MBA programs are looking for perfect candidates, right?
Of course not.
If your record is devoid of weaknesses, failures, or misadventures, it probably lacks authenticity. Nobody is perfect.
In fact, if your past reads as completely flawless, they may feel like you have not thoroughly reflected on your profile or their application questions.
For MBA candidates, this has a twofold advantage: not only that you should not avoid talking about failures and weaknesses in your MBA essay, but that these stories can actually play to your advantage.
If you try to make a case to the admissions committee that claims you have a flawless record, this is unlikely to be successful. In other words, to allege perfection is likely to get your application set aside. This is because the adcom is looking for a pattern of success based on abilities of self-reflection, open-mindedness, and capacity for improvement . If you do not show that you recognize the fact that there is always more to learn, why should they let you into their school?
After all, a school – including top programs like Harvard , MIT, or Yale – are institutions of learning . All schools implicitly value growth, improving on one’s weaknesses, and intellectual appetite in their candidates.
Berkeley Haas , for example, emphasizes four defining leadership principles . Among other qualities, they define being a “student always” as a fundamental element of leadership:
“ We are a community designed for curiosity and lifelong pursuit of personal and intellectual growth. This is not a place for those who feel they have learned all they need to learn .”
The Berkeley admissions committee explicitly states that they are not looking for candidates who already have all the knowledge in the textbook but rather for students who can recognize the need to learn from their weaknesses.
If you claim that you are perfect, you indicate that there is nothing left to learn . This is definitely not the impression you want to give the adcom.
Top MBA programs are looking for students with what is called a growth mindset . This term was coined by Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University.
Dweck explains the “growth mindset” in comparison to its counterpart, a “fixed mindset”:
“ In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities. ”
According to this article by the New York Times , a growth mindset helps promote innovation. That being said, it is no surprise that elite MBA programs explicitly look for evidence of this in their applicants.
MIT , for example, specifically looks for candidates who desire “ growth in both professional and personal endeavors. ” One of Kellogg’s essay questions even begins with “An MBA is a catalyst for personal and professional growth,” as they directly draw upon the growth-minded principle when selecting candidates.
Some schools are even explicitly looking for a growth mindset by asking you to reflect on your weaknesses or discuss a failure. Take INSEAD, for example, whose motivational essay questions request you do both:
“Give a candid description of yourself (who you are as a person), stressing the personal characteristics you feel to be your strengths and weaknesses and the main factors that have influenced your personal development, giving examples when necessary.” (approximately 500 words)
“Describe the achievement of which you are most proud and explain why. In addition, describe a situation where you failed. How did these experiences impact your relationships with others? Comment on what you learned. (approximately 400 words)”
INSEAD knows that you must reflect on failure to continue growing, and outright demands this skill from their candidates.
Remember, you are not trying to tell the adcom that you are perfect . Instead, you are trying to tell them how you use imperfection to your advantage to lead you to success.
Of course, talking about weaknesses and failures in an effective way can be tricky. If you are looking for help to determine if your essays are structured in a way that stands out to the adcom, don’t hesitate to check out our MBA Resource Center!
There, you can find dozens of past successful essays and detailed brainstorming worksheets to help you plan out a winning essay. Our library also includes guides for all top global MBA programs, interview tips and mocks, CV templates, and recommendation letter guides. Click to join !
The admissions committee for your t op MBA program is looking for future leaders who have experience making difficult, real-life decisions .
People with experience are people who have made mistakes. This doesn’t mean that the adcom is looking for people who are failures. Instead, it means that they seek candidates who have learned from their mistakes and failures .
This is great for MBA admissions essays. This means you can talk about a negative event in a positive light when you show the adcom what you learned from the experience .
For example, in her INSEAD essay, our client Vanessa described a story about a professional failure like this:
“My performance in this project would be the main factor in determining a full-time offer as an associate, so I decided to impress the project leader and do every task by myself. In doing so, I encountered difficulties that I could not solve alone – yet, I refused to ask for help, missing a deadline. By the time I did ask the project leader for help, I had not finished the task. This mistake was crucial. I learned that I have to ask for help when I encounter difficulties I cannot solve, especially when timing is vital. Luckily, learning from my initial mistake did not damage my relationship with the Project Leader; I had enough time to change this bad impression and received a full-time offer. However, this failure could have cost me a huge career opportunity.”
Vanessa uses this mistake to clearly show how she grew out of this situation. She thus successfully demonstrated a growth mindset by explaining how she learned firsthand about the importance of asking for help .
By demonstrating that you learn from your mistakes, see the need to improve on your weaknesses, and know that you still have a lot to learn , you can show the admissions board that you are the type of reflected leader that belongs at their school.
Everyone has failed at one time or another. The range of experiences you could talk about in this regard is wide and varied.
Failures may be reflected by a failed business venture, a missed target for a client, or a class you failed in college . All of these are professional experiences from which one can learn straightforward lessons that contribute to your growth as a professional.
Take a look at this example from our client Guilherme. In his answer to Yale ’s question “Describe the biggest commitment you’ve ever made” (500 words), Guilherme describes his experience of starting his own business, only to realize that the best decision was to shut down the company:
“Making the decision was not easy. I could have taken everything we had developed and pursued my entrepreneurial dream. However, that was not the kind of leader I wanted to be – someone who puts his selfish ambitions before the needs of his team. Doing what felt fair to all involved was more important, whatever the cost. Today, I am happy about my decision. I lost the business, but I gained the trust and confidence of my team. I saw entrepreneurship from another perspective and truly considered the difficult decisions business leaders face.”
Guilherme’s “biggest commitment” was not the venture itself but the decision as a leader to shut it down for the well-being of his team. Although he describes a professional failure, he also describes the success he won from it: how he grew as a leader .
However, these are not the only kind of failures that you could write about in your MBA essay. Some misadventures may be more subtle . You may have experienced letting down a colleague by not dedicating time to giving them the extra help they asked for. You may want to explain a failed presentation at work that made you look bad in front of your boss or team . However, the repertoire of failures and weaknesses is even broader. Personal failures are just as valid as professional ones – especially because our experts at Ellin Lolis Consulting find that it is important to have a good mix of personal and professional stories in your MBA essays.
Personal weaknesses may range from disappointing a good friend to a tendency for tardiness. They could include not fulfilling someone else’s expectations, deciding not to take over the family business, or the fact that you have trouble negotiating compromise .
Last year, our client Conrad wrote about a personal failure while leading his sailing team in a regional competition.
In his answer, Conrad explains that his team consisted of him and his five teammates, all expert sailors. However, an inability to work together, despite careful planning, led them to lose their first race of the regatta:
“I learned that to have a successful team, it is not sufficient to focus only on high-performing individuals. Instead, it is necessary to create a unified mentality that moved us toward the same goal. If given a second chance, I would begin our planning by emphasizing how we were all skilled sailors but that we needed to form a united team. Some of us might disagree with aspects of the strategy, but we must derive a single plan and stick to it, knowing that focusing our efforts is the best overall option.”
Here, Conrad learned an important lesson about leadership, an important quality in MBA candidates , and a good choice of topic for your MBA admissions essay. As you can see, strong professional lessons can also be derived from personal stories.
In fact, failures and weaknesses can also include much larger personal challenges. You may even find that themes like discussing dealing with addiction, coming to terms with your identity, or overcoming loss are powerful – and authentic – solutions for answering an essay question. This may be another way to creatively elaborate a change in industry or direction in your professional past.
Which failures and weaknesses you want to discuss in your MBA essay are completely up to you. They will depend on your personal history and your ability to reflect on the not-always-so-shiny moments of your past. However, when you begin to investigate, you may find there is more to mention here than you originally imagined.
The best way to talk about failures and weaknesses – and, more importantly, the lessons you learned from these experiences – in your MBA admissions essay is by utilizing stories .
Our editors at Ellin Lolis Consulting believe that using stories in your MBA admissions essay is an effective tactic for persuading the adcom that you deserve a spot in their program. By using storytelling , incorporating psychological storytelling concepts , and choosing your stories wisely, you can make your essays stand out and increase your chances of being admitted to your number one MBA program.
How to use stories to discuss failures and weaknesses
When using storytelling to discuss failures and weaknesses in your MBA essay, there are a few essentials to include.
To effectively discuss a failure, the following elements must be clear :
1) The problem : Why did the failure happen in the first place? Why did you act as you did in that situation from your perspective?
2) How you recognized the problem : How did you notice it was a problem? What further consequences did this problem have?
3) How you overcame the problem : What did you do to solve this problem? What do you wish you would have done differently?
4) The lesson you learned from the experience : What was your takeaway from this story? How would you apply this lesson in the future?
It is important to include all of these elements to tell an effective story about failure or weakness. For example, take a look at how our client Andrey concisely discussed a weakness in his Ross essay last year.
“I was humbled when I failed to implement a product’s preparation process at a retail store during a consulting project, leading to sales loss risks – besides client dissatisfaction. Later, the store’s manager eliminated parts of the process, completely redesigning it. His idea initially seemed like unfounded nonsense, as necessary data wasn’t being collected. However, the manager insisted on its success, so I tested his idea in two other stores: it was indeed agiler while maintaining effectiveness. I learned that listening to others is essential, even when our opinions diverge. The manager’s idea was subsequently shared with 300+ stores.”
Andrey does an excellent job of including all of these elements:
1) The problem : Andrey designed an ineffective process and, more importantly, did not listen to an alternative suggestion from his subordinate.
2) How he recognized the problem : The subordinate presented evidence of the effectiveness of the new solution.
3) How he overcame the problem : Andrey decided to test the idea in other stores, which led to success.
4) The lesson he learned from the experience : Andrey learned firsthand that listening to others is important, even if he has a different opinion on the matter.
As you can see, all of these elements must be present to tell an effective and compelling story about failure . If one or more of these is unclear or missing altogether, you will not be able to make an effective case.
We Make Your Story Shine
One of the most common mistakes we see in MBA essays is that candidates fail to tell compelling stories . This is important because if your stories are not compelling, they will not be persuasive. At the same time, they must be backed by strong examples that establish a track record of success and prove to the admissions committees why you belong at their school.
Striking this balance between content and creativity can be tough, however, as succeeding means not only choosing the right stories but ensuring they are told in an optimal manner.
This is why our iterative developmental feedback process here at Ellin Lolis Consulting helps you mold your message through the application of our storytelling expertise until it reflects exactly what makes your profile stand out and show fit with your target program.
No matter how long we work with you, we will always ensure your essays shine . Sign up to work with our team of storytelling experts and get accepted.
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How to talk about weaknesses in MBA essays and interviews
“I have my flaws. I sing in the shower, sometimes I volunteer too much, occasionally, I’ll hit somebody with my car.” – Michael Scott, Regional Manager, Scranton Branch, Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.
In two delightfully short sentences, Michael Scott from The Office , with his trademark humor, summed up the contradictions and complexities involved in confronting that most confounding of all corporate questions – tell us about your weaknesses.
Talking about weaknesses in your MBA essay and interview is like walking a tightrope. Talk too less and you end up looking arrogant, like Michael Scott. Talk too much and you start sounding like an agony aunt column in an adolescent magazine, also like Michael Scott.
Is there a sweet spot somewhere in between that is just right and that isn’t Michael Scott?
Yes, there is, and we are here to tell you how to hit it.
Why do you need to talk about your weaknesses anyway?
Most MBA essays have a section that requires you to talk about your strengths and weaknesses. Alternatively, there might be a section where you are asked to describe a situation where you failed or talk about a time when you received criticism for your work and how you handled it.
The same set of questions could be posed to you in an interview as well.
Strengths are easy to talk about. You know what you’re good at and you can talk about it endlessly. Talking about weaknesses is the tricky part.
The admissions committee judges your answers to evaluate two things – how self-aware you are, and how well you bounce back from failure. The point to really understand here is that you are applying to a school. A business school, yes, but a school nonetheless. A school is a place where you go to learn things. And you only learn things you do not know yet, or which you aren’t very good at yet.
To put it simply, the admissions committee wants to hear about your weaknesses so that you enter school and learn to improve upon them.
It follows that what the admissions committee wants to see in your essay or hear from you in the interview are two things – an awareness of what your weaknesses are, and a capacity or a will to improve upon them provided the right guidance and environment.
Knowing this is the key to crafting a great response to the adcom’s questions.
So how do you put this knowledge into actionable items?
Below is a 7-point checklist on what to do and what not to do when talking about your weaknesses in MBA essays and interviews.
- Don’t take it personally
- Be original
- Don’t hide your weaknesses
- Don’t try to turn a positive into a negative
- Don’t dwell on your weaknesses too much
- Avoid freudian slips, red flags, alarm bells
- Take it easy
Let’s try to understand what each one means.
How to Talk About Weaknesses in MBA Essays and Interviews
1. don’t take it personally.
Your MBA essay is not your personal diary and your interviewer is not your therapist. While it’s a good habit to keep a diary and try therapy for self-improvement , your MBA essay/interview is not the right place for these.
When the adcom asks you to talk about your weaknesses, what they have in mind are your weaknesses or failures in a professional setting. They aren’t very interested in your character flaws or your life struggles unless they have a direct bearing on your professional performance.
So what you are expected to describe here are situations at your workplace, or examples from your academics where you struggled.
2. Be Original
This one’s a little obvious but it bears repeating. Only talk about weaknesses that you really have. Do not try to mention a weakness simply because it sounds cool, or because you heard someone else talk about it and get through.
Remember how in school, when we were asked our hobbies, half the class would say listening to music and playing cricket?
And then there would be one wiseguy ( it was almost always a guy for some reason) who, refusing to be dragged down to the level of average Joes and plain Janes possessing mundane hobbies, would come up with a hobby no one had ever heard of, simply to sound cool. Like lepidopterology.
Don’t be that guy in your MBA essay.
It is perfectly fine to have perfectly ordinary hobbies like listening to music and playing cricket. It is also perfectly fine to have outrageously unheard of hobbies like lepidopterology. Just make sure that whatever you say, you mean it. If you talk about a certain weakness, you need to make sure that it is something you’ve lived through.
Oh, and a lepidopterologist, by the way, is a butterfly collector.
Read more on the best extracurricular activity for college admissions .
3. Don’t Hide Your Weaknesses
Remember how Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones advised wearing your weaknesses like armor so no one could use them against you?
He had a point.
Everyone has weaknesses. If you try to hide yours, the admissions committee will see right through it.
Instead, be honest and talk about your weaknesses openly. You can even use them as an opportunity to show how you’ve grown and changed over the years.
For example, let’s say you have a weakness in math. You can talk about how you used to struggle with math in school and how you had to work hard to improve your skills. You can talk about how you’re now much better at math and how you’ve even been able to help other people improve their own math skills.
This shows that you’re honest about your weaknesses and that you’ve taken steps to improve upon them.
4. Don’t Try To Turn a Positive Into a Negative
This is a classic mistake, related closely to the previous point that a lot of candidates make. It involves describing as a weakness something that is not usually considered a flaw.
For instance, when you mention things like being a perfectionist, or being too kind, or working too hard, what you are in effect doing, is dressing up desirable qualities to pass them off as weaknesses.
This feels disingenuous, like trying to stick colorful feathers on a chicken to pass it off for a peacock. Your interviewer can easily turn it around into a sticky situation and trap you.
Imagine the following exchange:
Interviewer: What is your biggest weakness? You: I think I am too kind. Interviewer: I don’t think kindness is a weakness. I think it is a strength. *awkward silence*
To avoid this trap, instead of saying you’re too kind, you need to phrase it to convey that you lack the firmness to deal with people or that you’re not very good with people skills.
In other words, call a spade a spade.
5. Don’t Dwell on Your Weaknesses Too Much
This follows directly as a counter to the previous point. When talking about your weaknesses, don’t overdo them. You need to keep a balance.
For example, let’s say you’re asked about a time when you failed. You don’t want to spend the whole interview talking about that one time you failed.
Instead, you want to focus on what you learned from that experience and how it made you a better person. This shows that you’re able to learn from your mistakes and that you’re not afraid to fail.
What you want to emphasize here is that you’re aware of your weaknesses and that you’re taking steps to improve upon them.
6. Avoid Freudian Slips, Red Flags, Alarm Bells
This one follows directly from the previous point. When you talk about your weaknesses, make sure you do not reveal more than is necessary.
Suppose you say something like you have trouble being fully functional at work until you have had your fourth cup of coffee. Or You say that you have trouble waking up most mornings and reporting to work. Or You say that you prepare all your PowerPoint presentations after 7 PM with a sundowner in hand.
All these are behavioral traits that can be viewed as being symptomatic of deeper mental or physical health issues. They are best kept away from an MBA essay or interview.
7. Take It Easy
Finally, don’t spend too much time figuring out the perfect weakness.We know this is a kind of a long and somewhat intimidating list, but once you sit down with a pen and paper to think things through, it will all come together naturally.
Remember, that everyone has weaknesses and that you’re not alone in this. Give it a good thought, but it shoudn’t sound too stressed.
Industry insider tips to answer the weakness question in Interviews
Some business schools do not specifically ask about strengths and weaknesses in their MBA essays. So how does the admissions committee judge these aspects?
“We practice holistic admissions and evaluate candidates across a wide array of behavioral-based evidence in their application packages,” says Erin O’Brien, assistant dean and chief enrollment and marketing officer in the University at Buffalo School of Management.
“We choose to explore a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses as part of our interview process, so that we can probe their responses in a deeper and more thoughtful way than limiting it to a written personal statement,” she adds.
We took the opportunity to dig a little deeper, and Erin had some interesting insights, advice and tips to share.
MCB: What advice do you have to applicants who are apprehensive about revealing their vulnerabilities during the interview?
Erin: Let’s face it, interviews for any graduate management program can be scary. While it’s a delicate balance, it’s also OK to reveal vulnerabilities during an interview – personally, I think it shows authenticity. So many interviews sound the same, and sometimes vulnerabilities can help positively differentiate you from the rest of the candidates. They have the power to show honesty, self-awareness, and a focus on continuous improvement – traits we strongly desire in our students. They can also show the human side of a candidate, beyond quantifiable academic performance statistics.
But, it’s best to be planned and directed when sharing vulnerabilities. As you prep for your interview, ask yourself how will sharing my weakness also provide evidence of something more positive – can I use it to frame resilience or persistence, skill or competency growth? Can I weave it into my motivation for applying to my graduate management program? And, make sure you include how you’ve worked to overcome this weakness or vulnerability, even if you haven’t quite solved it yet. Show how you have made the effort to improve. If you have actual results or behavior-based evidence of success, highlight them.
I think it is important to have guard rails, though, in this type of response. There are potential pitfalls if you choose to reveal a weakness or vulnerability that may be baseline required skills for entrance into the program. You’ll want to avoid those types of responses. Also, as with every answer in a graduate management admissions interview, don’t make anything up – be truthful and honest.
MCB: What are some of the top traits your team looks for in candidates that can help them get an admit in spite of weak areas like a low GMAT score or low GPA?
Erin: I tell candidates all the time, no one thing can rule you in or out. Just because you show up with a great standardized test score or outstanding undergraduate GPA, you still need to bring a portfolio of both cognitive and non-cognitive skills with you into your application. We want to see evidence of strong work experience, be it professional post-baccalaureate, volunteer or internship. We want to see behavioral-based evidence of skills like leadership, teamwork, communication, resilience, creativity, etc. We want to see positive progression, motivation and the ability to self-manage and adapt. These are all equally or sometimes even more important than GPA or test score.
Look at your application as a whole, an entire portfolio of elements. Draw a line between what may be a plus or a minus. If you have a minus, like a lower GPA or a lower test score, make sure you have a plus above the line that far outweighs any negative impact.
For example, if you have a lower GPA, but your undergraduate career was more than five years ago and you now have outstanding work experience showing lots of leadership potential, that’s going to minimize the negative impact of that GPA in our admissions decision-making. If you volunteered in a global experience, leading a team of others in a social impact project, that may far outweigh any negative impact from test scores.
Here’s an insider pro tip: you’re far more interesting than your GPA or test score. Tell us all about it. Chances are it will improve your potential of admission.
MCB: What is your advice to those who have career related issues including frequent career switching, career gaps or lay-offs?
Erin: My advice to applicants with resumes that may have gaps or frequent switches is really a call-back to my previous responses above: you are far more interesting than any single application data point.
Let’s start with lay-offs. Lay-offs happen – look at what’s happening in the tech world now. What I would want to know, as your interviewer, is, how did you pivot? This is a great opportunity to show resilience and creativity.
For gaps or career-switching, what is the story behind the gap or switch pattern? Was it intentional, e.g., did you purposefully make lateral moves to gain a wide variety of experience? Was it a condition of the industry in which you operate, e.g., were you in start-ups? What did you do with the gap time? How did you make it constructive and progressive? Was the switch or gap unintentional, e.g., is it a potential weakness?
Be truthful and honest…this may be an opportunity to showcase your adaptability and motivation for pursuing a graduate management degree, to hurdle the career plateau on which you found yourself switching job to job without advancement.
In the end, relative to all three questions and responses above, many applicants think business schools are looking for a homogenized portrait of traits and characteristics in the admissions process. Unfortunately, I think that’s a condition of being in a publicly-ranked market where applicants are trying to make themselves look like the “ideal” candidate.
However, that couldn’t be further from the truth! We are building a balanced cohort of different thoughts, perspectives and experiences for our programs. How boring would business school be if it were filled with only those who had the same profile – high test scores, similar experiences, the same type of work backgrounds.
How much more interesting will it be if you are in a cohort teamed with people who have vastly different opinions, points of view and backgrounds from yours, where you can learn new things from each other? Personally, I’d much rather be in that class.
Talking about your weaknesses is a complex task that requires self-awareness to understand and nuance to express. It is for this reason that MBA essays and interviews want to hear it from you.
Even if you haven’t been asked to talk about your weaknesses in the MBA essay, it’s good to have a few examples of your weaknesses ready to go, so that you’re not caught off guard in the interview.
By being honest and prepared, you’ll be able to talk about your weaknesses in a way that will show the admissions committee that you’re aware of them and that you’re taking steps to improve upon them.
You also want to make sure that you don’t dwell on your weaknesses too much. Instead, focus on what you’ve done to improve upon them.
A word of caution: Often, this question on weaknesses works in conjunction with other topics in the application essays or interviews. This is where it gets trickier. So make sure you understand the implications of what you’re saying, to avoid conflicting with your other answers.
MBA Crystal Ball has top admission consultants to help you answer this and other questions in your MBA application in the most effective manner. Drop us an email, if you need professional help: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com Also read: – How to write great MBA essays – Common mistakes to avoid in MBA application essays – How to answer questions on the long term and short term goals – Many more top MBA essay tips – Best admissions consultant for ISB for winning ISB essay tips
Image credit: The Office
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Writing about your strengths and weaknesses in MBA Admission Essays
This essay is about your awareness of yourself as a person. The admission officers are keen on finding out, how much you know about your own skills. Your strengths and weaknesses determine where you stand in this competitive world. The thing that matters more to the admissions committee is your consciousness for your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on where you see your strengths and weaknesses in relation to your current positions of responsibility and to your goals/ambitions. Assess your skills, and you will identify your strengths and weaknesses. This is an exercise worth doing before writing your essay. Make a list of your skills, dividing them into three probable categories; Personal Traits: These spotlight your unique qualities of how dependable, flexible, friendly, hard working, expressive, formal, and punctual and a good team player you are.
Knowledge-Based Skills: This can be your computer skills, languages, degrees, certifications, training and technical ability acquired from education and experience.
Transferable Skills: These are your portable skills that you take from job to job such as communication and people skills, analytical and critical thinking abilities and problem-solving and planning skills.
Once you prepare the list, choose few of those strengths that match the requirements of the admission people. Here is an opportunity for you to differentiate your candidature from the pool of applicants. You need to write about the qualities or traits in you that you have not covered in any other essays. You can highlight any of your qualities such as leadership, initiative, teamwork, creativity, innovation, courage and volunteerism , that you think makes you a strong applicant for a top ranking MBA program. Other applicants might also have similar strong attributes, but your anecdote needs to be convincing enough to compel the admission committee to distinguish you among the massive crowd of applicants. Though you do not have space for rambling stories one or two succinct anecdotes would help the cause. Just mentioning the strengths will not suffice. You have to present examples of how you have demonstrated those strength. Make sure you can give specific examples to demonstrate why you say that as your strength. Further during interview, when confronted with this question, remember the admission officers are looking for a fit. They are forming a picture of you based on your answers. Put your energy into your strength statement. Before writing about your assets, judge yourself if you actually consider it as your most powerful strength. Further discussions with friends, peers and family members will help you in finalizing a trait and anecdote. You can focus on any quality that is much blown up in you, let it be personal or professional. If you proudly admit about a specific talent in you, then it is quite obvious that you have demonstrated this skill of yours in certain situations, or how do you support your answer? Discuss the situations where you have employed your asset to deal with the circumstances and also share what knowledge or experience you gained from it. It is also advisable to share how you developed the quality in you. What are your motivational factors or what has influenced you to transform this quality of yours as your most powerful strength. For this essay, SAR (Situation, Action and Result) will be a good approach.;
- Describe what the situation was and what your role was.
- Delineate what action you took and how did you utilize your skills to deal with the situation.
- Discuss the result from your action.
- Mention how it benefited you and your organization.
- Discuss how this skill will help you to prosper in your career.
Discussing these points will surely serve the purpose and will definitely show your uniqueness to the admissions committee. Hence take this question as an opportunity and furnish the information, expose the surface which admissions committee wants to see. Weakness: Try not to talk about too many weaknesses - one or two will be sufficient. You can mention that you do not have a particular domain knowledge/skill/type of experience. Example: In your previous role as a Technical Manager, you did not get much exposure to marketing and branding aspect of business. Therefore, you lag the required skills to market your products. Then you need to discuss how you are planning to develop these skills. You should give evidence of your ability to determine the skills required. Remember to present a genuine weakness, so that you can talk about the strategies you are using to deal with the same. This will let the admission officers know that although you are not perfect, you are working on your shortcomings.
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- Application Tips
Addressing Strengths and Weaknesses In Your MBA App
- Posted in Application Tips
- Admissionado Team July 3, 2012
Here's how to make sure your weaknesses and strengths compliment each other well in your b-school application.
Here’s a question from B-School applicants that our team fields quite often:
“When the adcom asks about our strengths and weaknesses in an essay, how do we address that? Which weaknesses can be highlighted in such an essay? And how should be these presented to make a positive impact? What things should NOT be highlighted in this essay?”
Here’s an answer from our CEO, Jon Frank .
Strengths are easy
Focus on leadership if you can, because everybody (Not just HBS!) loves leadership. Call yourself a natural leader, and prove it. That’s a surefire smart move.
As for your second strength, find something that allows you to tell a great STORY . Refer back to your greatest hits , and support your second or third greatest hit with a smart strength. Done.
Weaknesses, of course, are a touch harder
Why? Well… why would anyone want to discuss something negative in their application? So, the trick is to pick weaknesses that somehow shed light on your strengths. Actual weaknesses, mind you.
You want to find stuff that shows that you are mature enough to recognize that you’re not perfect. Of course you’re not, and admitting it is a sign of strength.
So what kinds of weaknesses? Ones that shed light on your strengths. Ones that make sense, given your strengths. Here are some examples:
Strength : “I am a great leader.”
Logical Weakness: “Sometimes I overlook some of the details.”
Why does this make sense? Because that is a LOGICAL weakness, given the strength we have discussed. You’re a “big picture” gal or guy, a great speaker. So from time to time… a detail slips through the cracks. That makes sense. Better yet, it makes you seem even MORE like a leader. It makes your background seem even more strong, focused.
Strength: “I am a great communicator.”
Logical Weakness: “Sometimes, I avoid confrontation. I am afraid to make people hate me, afraid to say ‘no,’ to yell etc. “
Of course, sometimes to be a successful leader, we have to be able to come down on people, to be firm, etc. By admitting this, you not only reinforce your strength as a great communicator, but you show the ability to criticize and improve yourself , another great leadership trait.
So that is your goal: connect some weaknesses to some strengths. The best weaknesses will highlight your strengths, as we have indicated above. And of course, they will be actual weaknesses, and not cop outs. : )
MBA Essay Writing Tip #1: Building a Catchy Intro
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Admissionado MBA Addressing Strengths and Weaknesses In Your MBA App
Know your strengths and weaknesses
Do you know how to answer this common question .
My clients are often confused about how to discuss their strengths and weaknesses in essays and interviews.
They also struggle to find appropriate strengths and weaknesses when brainstorming possible topics with their recommenders.
First, here are some common questions that are often asked to elicit your strengths and weaknesses.
What are your three greatest strengths and three greatest weaknesses?
What are your greatest management strengths?
What are your greatest management weaknesses?
In what ways could your performance improve?
If managers were describing you, what would they say?
How would your colleagues describe you?
What would you add to their description?
In other words, what is something that others are surprised to learn about you?
What are your personal strengths?
What are your personal weaknesses?
What is the weakness of your application?
What will the admissions committee perceive to be your greatest weakness as an applicant?
What areas do you need to develop?
What are your development needs?
What personality trait would you most like to improve?
What is one thing you would like to change about yourself?
Tell me about a team experience that was a failure for you.
Tell me about a time when you failed to persuade someone of your view.
Tell me about a time when you failed to resolve a conflict.
Describe a significant failure in your life and what you learned from it.
When brainstorming weakness, consider your:
weaknesses as a leader
weaknesses as a team member
weaknesses working cross-functionally
weaknesses working cross-culturally
weaknesses managing time
weaknesses managing details
weaknesses thinking about big picture / abstract issues
weaknesses conveying bad news
weaknesses confronting others
weaknesses beginning new tasks
weaknesses maintaining energy mid-project
weaknesses being patient
weaknesses persuading subordinates
weaknesses influencing seniors
weaknesses closing projects
Examples from Stanford's Rubric :
Displays limited range of influence techniques
Builds bonds with team members in immediate area of organization
Completes assigned tasks; frequently misses opportunities if not identified by others
Sometimes lets distractions or setbacks reduce effectiveness
Sometimes underestimates or overestimates own capabilities
Generally paces work though occasionally must rush to meet deadlines
Use my friend Adam 's method
Strategies for talking about your strengths and weaknesses:
Advice from Adam's blog :
HAVE AS MANY WEAKNESSES AS POSSIBLE, NOT JUST ONE OR TWO. TRY FOR THREE TO FIVE. Here you be preparing answers to the very common questions that are asked about weakness, but in addition you will need to think about how the MBA program and/or some other aspect of yourself will make it possible for you to overcome this weakness. Weaknesses should be real and not abstract.
You should have clear stories that demonstrate your weaknesses, something many applicants initially have a problem with. Additionally knowing how a program will help you overcome your weakness will explain why you want to attend that school. Finally, SOME, BUT NOT All weaknesses make for great failure stories, another very common topic for interviews.
One of my key strengths is X. A story that demonstrates this strength is... Another story that does is... This strength will be a contribution at your school because... This strength will contribute to my future goals because...
Another of my key strengths is Y. A story that demonstrates this strength is... Another story that does is... This strength will be a contribution at your school because... This strength will contribute to my future goals because...
Another of my key strengths is Z. A story that demonstrates this strength is... Another story that does is.. This strength will be a contribution at your school because... This strength will contribute to my future goals because...
For each X, Y, Z insert a keyword describing your strength. Connect keywords to specific stories. If possible, find more than one story that demonstrates the keyword. Next think how this strength could be a contribution when you are student. Next think how this strength will contribute to your goals. By using this method, you will have prepared answers to such common questions as "What are your strengths" and "How will you contribute to our school." Additionally you will be ready to show how your past experience will help you achieve your goals. Additionally when asked questions which are less direct about your strengths, you will already have keywords and stories ready for those questions you can't predict. Keep in mind that your strengths might include particular skills as well as personality characteristics. You should think about strengths in the widest sense. Try to develop about 6-12(or more) keywords and 12-20 (or more) stories that relate to your strengths, contributions, personality, and future potential.
IS IT A GOOD STRENGTH OR WEAKNESS?
Some questions to ask yourself:
1. Does the strength demonstrate one's potential for future academic and/or professional success? If so, it is a probably a good topic. If not, why does your interviewer need to know about it?
2. Is a weakness fixable? If you are writing about a weakness that cannot be improved upon through your program at school X, why does your interviewer need to know about it?
(found at http://adam-markus.blogspot.com/2007/11/mba-application-interview-strategy.html ; accessed 2010/09)
HERE IS A SAMPLE ANSWER I LIKE
What is your greatest weakness?
Some advisors will tell you to select a strength and present it as a weakness. Such as: I work too much. I just work and work and work. Wrong. First of all, using a strength and presenting it as a weakness is deceiving. Second, it misses the point of the question.
You should select a weakness that you have been actively working to overcome. For example, I have had trouble in the past with planning and prioritization. However, I'm now taking steps to correct this. I just started using a pocket planner . . . then show them your planner and how you are using it.
Talk about a true weakness and show what you are doing to overcome it.
Finally, I encourage you to read this handy list of 28 soft skills from "Ask a Wharton MBA"
Skills to forgive and forget
Persistence and Perseverance
Meeting management skills
Influence / persuasion skills
Skills in dealing with difficult personalities
Skills in dealing with difficult situations
Interpersonal relationship skills
Savvy in handling office politics
Good luck with your self-study and practice!