Medium GMAT, Indian Male Engineer to HBS

Medium GMAT, Indian Male Engineer to HBS


With a goal that felt like a tough sell for a place like HBS, we could either downgrade our targets, water down our goals to make them more HBS-friendly, or… Option 3: do The MBA Exchange thing and dissect the client’s value proposition thoughtfully, that we know would be attractive to HBS, and then figure out a way to sell it.

700 GMAT Score
Undergrad Resume Tough demographic (Indian Male Engineer), Consulting, Lowish GMAT

The Situation

The biggest challenge was that this client had made some original career choices. He had moved from consulting to an industry trade body. The trade body was responsible for guiding policy decisions for the industry but didn’t impact business performance directly. HBS typically gives offers to those who have taken a leadership role on either the strategic or implementation side of an industry. This candidate didn’t fall into any of those two buckets. He was more on the lobbying side of the industry. Therefore, we knew this would be a FIRST for HBS in a way and so we had to align this candidate’s entire work experience to be more HBS-friendly.

Additionally, since he wanted to move to an operational role post-HBS, the challenge was to draw out enough credible hooks from his prior experience to convince HBS that he could handle such a role even though he had never been on the operations side of the business pre-MBA. And given the fact that he was an Indian male engineer, who probably had a GMAT below the mean for his cohort (at HBS), we had to ensure that the rest of his application was 10/10 to give him a shot at this dream school. When we received a few rejects from some lower-ranked programs (within and outside the top 10) early on in the application cycle, the temptation was to go back to the drawing board on everything. But we took an educated guess that the schools didn’t offer him an invite since he came with a very unique background and HBS may give him a wild-card entry into their interview pool. Our intuition proved to be correct…

Our Solution.

Since he had taken career decisions following his heart and his conviction, instead of subscribing to what a "perfect" pre-MBA CV should look like, we knew he could be a pioneer. Not every firm would have been able to see the potential here and may have stuck to more conservative choices. By showing clear conviction in his career choices, showcasing his vulnerability as a leader and therefore (and therefore authenticity and fearlesses), by starting our process together very early so that we could understand what HBS (and other top schools) were really looking for, and by reaching out to alums strategically throughout to get targeted feedback, we were able to crack HBS.

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