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B-Schools Know How You Think, but How Do You Feel?

May 1, 2013


Forget what you know. Business schools increasingly want to know what you feel. Schools are trying to choose from a crowded pool of well-qualified applicants and get a sense of the human being behind the application by adding personality tests and scored, standardized in-person interviews to the traditional battery of essays, transcripts and recommendations. Now, prospective M.B.A. students need to shine by showing emotional traits like empathy, motivation, resilience and dozens of others. Measuring EQ—or emotional intelligence quotient—is the latest attempt by business schools to identify future stars.

Yale School of Management, meanwhile, plans to try out the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test on volunteers from its current batch of applicants in coming weeks. Results of the online self-assessment won't affect admission decisions, says Bruce DelMonico, assistant dean and director of M.B.A. admissions, because the school is just gathering data on what traits predict success.

Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business updated its recommendation form this year, fine-tuning questions to better assess EQ. The school says it asks people who recommend a student to score the applicant on ability to cope with pressure, intellectual curiosity and other traits.

EQ assessments aren't altogether new. The MIT Sloan School of Management introduced its "competency model" in 2000, creating a four-zone grid that measures demonstrated success, such as test scores and standout work experience, and personal attributes, such as relationship-building skills and sensitivity to others.

Admissions consulting firm Veritas Prep added a Myers-Briggs personality assessment to its application-prep and GMAT study packages this spring, after noticing that business schools were paying more attention to personality and emotional maturity.

More than 200 clients took the Myers-Briggs test in just the first few weeks the firm offered it, says Scott Shrum, director of M.B.A. admissions research at Veritas. They can get a report highlighting their strengths and weaknesses in working styles and interpersonal relationships, with nuggets such as "[You] prefer to focus on the task, rather than on the people involved."

That insight helps students determine which traits to play up or minimize in their applications, or even what kind of school might be a good fit, says Mr. Shrum.


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