MIT Interview Essay Question
Feb, 16, 2017
IF YOU ARE INVITED FOR AN MBA INTERVIEW AT MIT SLOAN
Those invited to interview will be asked to answer the following question: The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. Please share with us something about your past that aligns with this mission. (250 words or fewer). Details for submitting your essay will be included in the interview invitation.
MIT used this question last year in a longer format which may have involved multiple examples. In this case, those fortunate enough to be called for an interview will only need to write about a single topic.
We can break this into a number of possible topics that relate to MIT Sloan’s mission, which I will break into three categories:
1. Describe a time when you were principled. While this might simply mean discussing a time when you were ethical in terms of a decision or action you took, it could also relate to a situation when you convinced others (a boss, a colleague, a team, an organization, etc.) based on the position you held. Being principled might mean ethical, but also relates to one’s professional ideas or even perceptions of the world. To be principled means to stand up for what you believe in.
2. Describe a time when you were innovative. Think of situations were you were creative, original, or otherwise made a positive impact by doing something new. Maybe you were innovative in your approach to solving a problem, but this could be about many possible topics. For example, describing a time when you improved something, invented something, established a new best practice, or formulated a new idea.
3. Describe a time when you showed leadership. Think of situations when you actively lead as a thought leader, team leader, supervisor, decider, and/or convincer. Leadership takes many forms. Leadership is no easy thing. Nor is it obvious. The worst possible thing is to conceive of leadership as simple formal responsibility or a title because this conveys nothing about the person in that position. While some applicants will have held formal leadership positions, many will not. Formal leadership positions are great to write about if they involve the applicant actually having a significant impact, making a difficult decision, being a visionary, showing creativity, or otherwise going beyond their formal responsibility, but the same is true for those showing leadership without having a formal title. If you are having difficulty really understanding leadership, find out what kind of leader you are by taking this quiz based on Lewin’s classic framework. I think leadership is more complicated than Lewin’s framework, but this quiz is a great way to get you started thinking about yourself, a key part of answering any leadership essay question effectively.
Ideally it would be great to have a story that combines all three of the above aspects, but don’t worry if it does not. For example, if you find your story focuses on being principled rather than innovative, I would not necessarily abandon that story. The point is to give MIT an understanding of you as a person sufficient for them to understand why you fit at MIT Sloan.
Finally, given that this essay is being asked as part of your interview, assume that whatever you write about you may need to elaborate on in detail in the interviews. I could be wrong about this, but until I read something from MIT admissions indicating otherwise or subsequently get interview reports from my clients or elsewhere indicating otherwise, I assuming that this essay is a part of the interview process. Therefore only write about a topic that you will be comfortable discussing in detail.
Best of luck with your application to the Class of 2019! If you do get to write on the interview invite essay, be sure to read my post on interviewing at MIT Sloan.