MBA APPLICATION STORY HACKS, PART 4: How to Show Them You're a Natural Leader

How to show them you're a natural leader?

Use verbs and active language. 

In top-notch personal statements, resumes, and recommendations, an MBA applicant must be seen as effective. That means you’ve done stuff. Actively.

Far too often though, adcom readers are subjected to lofty and grandiose statements about applicants, in both recommendations and essays. Bobby was the “best, brightest, most dedicated, and most efficient.” These words certainly describe the applicant, but they do so in a vague and general sort of way. And they’re all adjectives.

Adjectives don’t show us that you’re effective and that you’ve done stuff. They just describe you.

Verbs on the other hand show us how effective you are. Bobby “led Q, managed X, conducted Y, and organized Z.” The Head of Admissions of Harvard Business School has gone on record stating that active and specific verbs are far more effective in highlighting an applicant’s achievements, as opposed to adjectives that only describe the person.

The following two examples demonstrate the difference between using verbs to show how effective you are versus adjectives.

Example 1: With the clock ticking, I led my team in conducting due diligence on Alpha Industries, resulting in our firm successfully acquiring it as one of our portfolio companies.

Example 2: While working at my firm, I had numerous opportunities to become a very strong leader.

In Example 2, the writer tells us that he’s “a very strong leader,” yet he didn’t do anything in the sentence. If he had “numerous opportunities,” surely he could have found an active example to share with us. Why should we believe him otherwise?

The writer in Example 1 shows herself to be a far more effective leader in the scenario she cites. It’s not only because of the specificity of the example, but she also hits the message home by using active language and verbs that demonstrate what a great leader she is. She not only leads a team, but their work ultimately yields impactful results.