This is the second post in our series, What HBS is Looking For.
So, HBS wants “analytical aptitude and appetite.” Hardly a surprise. You might be tempted to simply skim that section of the website message without giving it much thought.
Maybe it’s not as obvious as it sounds. Let’s break it down.
Understanding the terms
So what does “analytical aptitude and appetite” mean?
This word encompasses a range of things – quantitative methods, various tools and processes such as decision trees and FMEA, mental and intellectual objectivity, an exacting attitude. Parsing the relationship between a whole and its parts. Pursuing root causes.
Ability, innate and/or learned.
This is the really interesting word, because it’s open to interpretation. We can read it as meaning to enjoy, to savor, to be open to, to relish, to hunger for, to have capacity for. Here are some of its practical implications and nuances (in question form):
• Do you use objective analysis in understanding past events, planning future actions and strategies, and making decisions?
• Do you respect results and outcomes determined by objective analysis even when they don’t jive with your preconceptions, ideologies, or preferences?
• Does your analytic mindset allow you to be comfortable with – even relish – ambiguity and uncertainty?
• Do you help your teammates understand and use analytic approaches and thinking?
• Do you use language effectively as an analytic tool, e.g., when the team is facing a muddle, are you the one who can verbally separate the threads, clarify them, and guide the team to understand their relative weight and importance?
How to demonstrate analytical aptitude
As the HBS website indicates, for HBS, analytical aptitude is not a solitary feast (regardless of how hearty the analytic appetite). You’ve got to bring your analytical chops to the table, i.e., to classroom debates and case studies, projects, etc. Therefore, to use a music analogy, you must be able not only to read and play the analytic score, but also to improvise, on the spot and with other virtuosos.
The adcom will grasp your analytical aptitude from your transcript(s), test score(s), and resume. But if you feel these elements don’t adequately show this dimension, use other parts of the application (essay, short answers, additional info, recommendations) to amplify it.
How to show your analytical appetite
As for showing analytical appetite:
- Your resume may reflect this quality, depending on your work.
- Invite your recommenders to discuss this quality and to provide examples.
- In your essay, use a story or two that demonstrates analytical appetite.
And don’t worry – it won’t hurt to let other programs you apply to appreciate your analytical aptitude and appetite!
Work with an experienced admissions consultant who will guide you as you mine your experiences and then craft an application that demonstrates the analytical aptitude and appetite that HBS is seeking.Want Cindy to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid: Eliminate the 5 Most Common Flaws in Your MBA Application, a free guide
• What Does Harvard Business School Want?, a short video
• Sample Essay from Admitted HBS Student: The Mechanical Engineer