Professional Strength

Nationality Competitiveness


No extraordinary achievement or leadership experience

The Story:

In terms of top-tier MBA programs, the above candidate is 100% average: an accountant who works for Deloitte, with no managerial or leadership credentials to boast. While the candidate’s professional history did include a brief entrepreneurial venture, the project fizzled out before it could see the light of day. Bottom line: the initial profile shows nothing shiny with which to capture the admission office’s attention, let alone float candidate to the top of the pile.

The Strategy:

Rembrandt Lighting
We needed to start choosing our spotlights to create the most flattering lighting to portray the mundane as exciting and ambitious.

Our client was not the only boring accountant to ever hit the earth. But we could make him one of the few exciting ones. Our first plan of attack was to build a watertight career essay. As we mentioned before, the individual financial and entrepreneurial experiences were a yawn-fest. So, we tied together them together to paint a portrait of an individual with the desire to go into corporate finance and become the CFO for a tech startup, becoming an instrumental frontrunner in their path to IPO. This thesis highlighted two things. First of all, it highlighted the “exciting” aspects of the candidate’s experiences and drew attention away from the banalities. Second of all, it was a concrete plan that made sense of his overall story, making him seem like he knew what he was doing all along. Magically, he was no longer a boring accountant – his days in Deloitte, for example, were a necessary step in a much bigger vision.

Moreover, the application asked for an optional essay, or “personal expression”. We chose to use the candidate’s love for classical movies to portray the personal aspects of his life: his service in the French army, his love for friends and family, his travels, and his extensive cultural knowledge. In this way, we were able to add dimensions to a candidate who, on paper, ran the risk of being “just another accountant”.

The Results:

Candidate was admitted to Berkeley and Stern. Not so boring after all.

The Lesson:

Build an ambitious but realistic career story that brings light to your strengths, and leaves your weaknesses in the shadows. If possible, use the optional essay to show you as a person, as opposed to you as an applicant. Like a dating profile, you as a person will be much more amicable than you as a list.