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that will help you gain entrance to your first choice business school.
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recognize that effective managers are able to learn from
failure, describe a failure that you have experienced. What
did you learn from the experience? (Harvard)
applicant who tries to claim or assert perfection on the
application would, at best, be treated as a joke. No one is
perfect, and no admissions committee expects perfection. Yet,
more than any other question, this one strikes fear into the
hearts of applicants. However, answering this question does not
need to be difficult. You must get past the biggest hurdle --
your own reticence.
often results from good intentions and admirable qualities such
as initiative, leadership, and risk taking. Take advantage of
the fact that failure will sometimes result from our best
qualities. Any leader who has tried to forge a new path has made
a mistake somewhere along the way. If you are honest and
forthright about the mistake you made, people will remember the
intention over the result. Besides, the committee is not
interested in judging you on your mistake, they simply want to
know how you dealt with it. The only real way to flunk this
question is to dodge it. If you choose a trite or irrelevant
topic, the committee will either question your honesty and your
maturity or doubt your ability to lead, take risks, and think
outside the box. If you can't admit failure, you probably can't
see it coming, or so they think.
If you are
having trouble choosing a situation, consider the following
Choose something that has happened recently. Delving too far
into your past is an obvious cop-out.
not limit yourself to professional failures, but do not shy
away from them either. Admissions committees are aware of
the risk inherent in choosing job failures and will give you
points for being forthright. Athletic failures are trite.
not choose anything overly dramatic or that would call your
morals into question. The reader should be able to relate to
your failure, not be shocked by it.
cannot clearly state what you learned from the incident or the
actions that you took to amend it, then pick something else.
When you are writing, take a simple, straightforward, objective
tone. Do not try to excuse your actions. Let your story speak
for itself. Keep your essay as concise as possible.
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Describe an ethical dilemma you
experienced firsthand. How did you manage and resolve the
Example Of What Not To Do. This is
a poor answer to this question.
In April 1995,[company] had been repeatedly contacted by
the management team of a factory in [city], who presented
their company as a potential [deal] prospect. However, our
prior investigations had classified the company as an
also-ran, without great potential for improvement. We reasoned
that a visit would be a waste of time and served no viable
business purpose, but wondered: why not utilize this
opportunity to wring industry information out of the factory?
Afterwards, we could simply state our lack of interest with no
loss on [company]'s part except travel expenses. Looking back,
I recognized the dishonesty inherent in my team's motives, but
rationalized that the cover of being interested in the factory
was a professional necessity. In any case, no one would be
hurt, or so we surmised.
Most of the visit went smoothly; under the guise of
interested investors, we toured the factory and interviewed
management, laying the groundwork for negotiations that I knew
would never occur. The factory manager was extremely
responsive in providing answers and was a gracious host,
toasting us with eloquent speeches at dinner. Afterwards, as
we prepared to return to our hotel to arrange the next day's
travel, he surprised us by announcing a special post-dinner
presentation. Following a short car ride down a deserted dirt
road, we were brought to a ominous, isolated building and led
inside. As we walked through the door, I recall nervously
questioning what we were doing there and wondering if the
factory had somehow learned of our true disinterested nature.
The first thing I noticed inside the building were the five
hundred men, women and children in the room standing and
applauding us; we were led to the seats nearest to the stage.
Immediately, a group of young girls, perhaps ten years old,
shuffled onto the stage and began to chime "song 1"
and "song 2" in broken, but perfectly understandable
English. The program on the table in front of me detailed a
list of art demonstrations, comedy routines, and musical/dance
exhibitions which were to be performed by troupes of workers
and their families. The two-hour show displayed a great deal
of time and effort and was truly one of the most special, and
painful, memories from my time in [country].
I remember my ensuing letter of rejection to the factory
with a sense of regret. I wish I could say I managed this
dilemma well, but I realize that I failed to account for the
fact that [country] factories are more social, educational and
vocational unit than workplace. By not giving thought to the
consequences of our actions, my team had caused wasted effort
and dashed hopes. Through this, I have learned a valuable
lesson on integrating business and ethics, and have vowed to
utilize this insight into all of the decisions I make.
ESSAYS THAT WILL GET YOU INTO BUSINESS SCHOOL, by Amy Burnham,
Daniel Kaufman, and Chris Dowhan. Copyright 1998 by Dan
Kaufman. Reprinted by arrangement with Barron's
Educational Series, Inc.