MBA Application Advice: Quantitative vs. Qualitative Impact

When it comes to conveying your marketing message to the admissions committees at top business schools, it is important to relate your various profile characteristics in a meaningful way.

Often, applicants are naturally very good at doing this in either a quantitative or qualitative way, but it’s actually important to do both.

Providing a quantitative view of your impact at an organization can be tedious, but it allows the admissions committee to gain true perspective on what you have done by giving them the ability to compare in a very tactile way the results you have achieved to those of other applicants.  

Even the most seemingly insignificant detail can provide this perspective.  For example, if you say you worked on a team, tell the admissions committee how many others were on the team as well.  So, don’t just say you “led a team,” but rather say you “led a team of six professionals.”  If you “successfully completed a project,” tell them how big the budget was or the percentage increase of profits generated.  The scope and size of projects or deals is what enables someone to gauge your level of responsibility and also see how much you understand about how a business runs.  If you are allowed to work on a project with a half million dollar budget, you will be perceived not only as responsible, but also as someone who has grasped the bigger picture vs. someone who has no idea about the numbers behind the project.   Show them you are not a mere participant in the workplace, but the kind of person who digs deeper and can analyze the top and bottom line.   If you are someone who has no idea about these numbers, it’s never too late to befriend someone in your accounting department, or even your supervisor, to extract the data necessary to quantify your resume and application.  Measurable impact is a great way to demonstrate readiness for b-school in two ways:  it shows them you have achieved something tangible, and it shows them you know exactly what it was.

Conveying the qualitative impact of your work experience is just as important, and while usually not difficult for applicants, it bears going over some tips.  

Describing your impact using the classic interrogatives: who, what, where, when, why and how will get to the real meat of the story.  Perhaps one of the most overlooked of these is the why—in fact, it’s so important to answer why you did something that I will devote an entire blog to that one question.  Use descriptive words to narrate your story, but don’t over-dramatize.  Your overall mission is to describe your work in a way which demonstrates leadership, influence, and an overall perspective on the landscape in your job that goes beyond the typical, average employee.  Remember, you are looking to rise in the ranks and lead others with the MBA degree, so showing them you have logged the kind of quality work experience worthy of such a business leader is paramount.  How you altered the fabric of your firm’s or company’s culture or outlook through your input and performance is going to be of keen interest to any top school.  Whether large or small, your influence and what you did to have that influence on others at your company is important to detail in your application.

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