I just finished watching yesterday’s great episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show: a tribute to Barbra Streisand. While the show focused on Streisand’s spectacular acting and singing career, there was also a takeaway for MBA applicants.
Robert Redford, Streisand’s co-star in the beloved film classic The Way We Were surprised Streisand on Oprah’s stage by appearing for their first ever interview together. And what he revealed is essential for all applicants to keep in mind.
Redford divulged that he had in fact refused the role of Hubbell, Streisand’s love interest in the film, several times because he felt “the character was one dimensional.”
Hubbell didn’t seem to Redford like a real guy with a personality that would bring something to the silver screen; rather, he seemed symbolic, just a model for Katie to fall in love with.
Now, if Hubbell “had a flaw,” Redford insisted, “that might be interesting.”
What was the flaw that finally convinced Redford to accept the role that movie aficionados and romantics still adore?
“Because [Hubbell] looked like things came easy, the assumption was that that was true. And for him, he worried that would put too much pressure on him for expectations.” Of course, it was this trait that doomed his relationship with Katie, since she was constantly demanding that he do and be more than he felt comfortable with.
For MBA applicants, Oprah sums it up: “The character had to be flawed in order for it to be interesting enough for you to say yes.”
This is the same thing that the top MBA programs say every day of the application season: we need to see depth in your application, not just a one dimensional character. We need to see what you are good at and what you struggle with. We need to see that you are a work in progress so that we can shape you.
Yes, Redford agrees. “Otherwise, I would be a Ken doll.”
Don’t be a Ken doll in your applications. Show depth of character, thought, and experience, and how these elements have shaped your actions and decisions.
By Jennifer Bloom, who has been helping applicants to the top MBA programs draft their resumes, application forms, letters of recommendation, and essays for 12 years. She is happy to serve as your personal coach and hand-holder throughout the entire process. There’s no time like the present to begin!