The article How to Answer MBA Application and Interview Questions about COVID-19 and Other Major Events of 2020 was originally posted on Accepted.
2020 was a dark, dismal year, but as it drew to a close light appeared at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines are now a reality. The election is behind us. To gather, hug, meet, and travel are no longer a distant dream. Maybe we’ll be able to largely return to the lives we were leading before “pandemic” became a household word and hand sanitizer became a valuable commodity.
Even when that vision becomes reality, and I certainly hope it does soon, as a business school applicant you are likely to face questions about how the pandemic and the events of 2020 affected you. I created this video to help you answer those questions with confidence.
How should MBA applicants respond to interview questions about the impact of 2020 events, specifically COVID-19 around the world and in the United States, the events surrounding and following George Floyd’s murder, as well as the 2020 election?
Okay. It’s been a rough year. That’s just the reality of it. It’s been a tough year for everybody in a lot of different ways. Worldwide, again, there’s been the pandemic. You are very likely to be asked in your interview questions about how you were affected by the coronavirus. Now, there are a variety of ways you could have been affected. You could have gotten sick. You could have loved ones who got sick. I hope it’s not true, but you could even have lost a loved one to the virus. Perhaps you or a close family member lost their job, or their income if they had their own business that was negatively affected. Maybe you feel like you’re stagnating at work, or at risk of losing your job. Maybe you couldn’t take the GRE or the GMAT when you wanted to take it- or at all, depending upon where you live, or in the format in which you wanted to take it.
That’s how you were affected by events really beyond your control. But then there are the events you can control, and that’s how you respond to the situation. You can respond almost entrepreneurially, in a leadership kind of way. Did you assist the vulnerable, perhaps? Did you start a program organizing people, resources, technology to assist the shut-ins, to assist the vulnerable, to assist communities and populations that are really struggling as a result of the corona pandemic? Or on an individual level, did you commit to visit an elderly person, or somebody who has underlying health conditions that isn’t so elderly but cannot go out, cannot shop, and is lonely? That’s also a response and initiative on your part.
In the United States, we had a summer of social unrest and renewed focus on the country’s history of racism in the past and charges of racism today. All this was in the wake of the George Floyd murder. Again, the question would be: How have you been personally affected by these events? Maybe you have felt the sting of racism and prejudice in your lifetime. I don’t mean historically now. I mean today. Maybe you have been victimized by the police, or in hiring. That’s a way that you were affected. But there’s the other part of this. What have your experiences motivated you to do?
If you’re in a position, a hiring position, have you decided to make equity and inclusion more of a focus in your hiring decisions? Maybe you decided to examine the role of racism in U.S. society today. Maybe your own experiences with prejudice, as a recipient of prejudice in this case, made you want to become politically active. Or maybe you haven’t felt that sting, but you’ve decided that as a result of what you see going on in society today you want to hire members of underrepresented minorities, and contract with companies headed by people who are underrepresented minorities. All those are steps that you can take where you are an actor in response to events that are really beyond your control, and hopefully create change so that those events don’t happen again.
And then there is the election. I’m not going to discuss my views on these events at all. But the election provides opportunity for you to, again, demonstrate what’s important to you, and that you’re a person who’s going to take initiative based on what’s important to you.
So, you got involved and helped get out the vote. Perhaps you raised money for a particular candidate or cause or took an active role in either a particular campaign, or again, a cause that you’re passionate about.
In all the examples that I’ve given you in terms of responding to this tumultuous year, you have two elements. One is how you were affected. What happened to you- usually events outside your control. And then the second component, which is really, really important for MBA admissions, is how did you respond? Did you bury yourself in Netflix as a result of corona, or did you say, “You know what? That neighbor across the street needs help.” Or, “There are a lot of people in my community that need help. Maybe I can use my managerial, and programming, and leadership experience to help.”
That’s when you become a leader. That’s when you have impact. And that’s what business schools are looking for. How have you shown yourself to be an innovator, and to a certain extent an entrepreneur, whether the revenue is part of it or not, in your response to the events of 2020? I’d love to hear your responses, if you will. If I can’t physically hear them, then I’d love to see your responses in the comment box below the video. Please share your feedback. Maybe we can have a little bit of a dialogue as opposed to just a one-way communication in this video. I’d love to do that with you. Please respond in the comments below. In the meantime, take care, stay healthy, and good luck with your MBA applications. Thank you very much for listening.
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