MBA Guide
by Maclean's
November 15, 2022

Five ways prospective students can impress MBA program recruiters

Being smart about your application and interview can score you high marks.

Photo: iStock

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You’ve decided to pursue an MBA—great! Now comes the hard part: impressing the admissions team and earning your acceptance letter. While GMAT scores and relevant work experience are obvious standards, recruiters at Canadian universities look at more than just grades and your resumé. So, how can you boost your chances of making a great impression?

Be passionate

Be it a cause, a club or your hobbies, demonstrating passion and dedication to something outside of the business world can showcase your collaborative capabilities, creativity, leadership skills and problem-solving acumen. “We look at our applicants holistically,” says Brittany DeCoffe, manager of student recruitment at the University of Fredericton. “It helps to demonstrate experience related to managing people, projects and budgets.” Equally important? Being able to explain how an MBA aligns with your passions.

Be prepared

Learn everything you can about your school of choice before you apply. “Don’t assume that everything you need to know about the program is on the [school’s] website,” says Teresa Pires, the associate director of recruitment for the MBA program at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. “Do your due diligence and connect with as many people as you can to get to know the program.”

Fine-tune your resumé to highlight your accomplishments, proofread your application documents to eliminate any typos or errors, and have someone you trust give you feedback on your admissions essay. “Being unprepared and showing a lack of interest during the application process will be noticed by the admissions committee,” says Rima Vasudevan, director of recruitment and admissions at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C.

Be responsive

The MBA admissions process is interactive. Recruiters want to see evidence that you’re engaged and committed to the task. Check your email regularly and respond promptly to their requests for information; attend in-person events hosted by the school and introduce yourself to alumni and faculty; and, of course, meet every deadline set for you—it reflects how well you’ll meet deadlines throughout the program.

Be authentic

In your application and at your interview, tell your story your way, in your own words. Don’t try to deliver what you think a recruiter wants to hear—be honest and sincere about your experience, your goals, your strengths, and even your weaknesses or any gaps in your resumé. “Whatever your motivation to pursue an MBA, we want to hear it!” DeCoffee says. “Your attitude and overall motivation for continuing your education is a good indicator of the value you will bring to the program.”

Believe in yourself

There is no one-size-fits-all “perfect” applicant. Remember that students accepted to Canadian MBA programs have vastly different backgrounds, skill sets, goals and experience, so don’t worry about “measuring up”—recruiters want to see that you believe you have what it takes to succeed. “One of the biggest recommendations is not to count yourself out,” says DeCoffe. “An MBA can be intimidating, but it’s important to have confidence in your abilities and all that you bring to the table.”