Berkeley Haas MBA Essay 2 | Significant Accomplishment

Candidate’s First Draft

When this candidate began working with f(x)MBAConsulting he had already drafted a first set of essays for the Berkeley Haas MBA program. Read his first draft below. (Scroll down for our final draft) This former client has consented to the publication of his/her MBA application material.

Berkeley Haas MBA Essay #2:

Describe a significant accomplishment and why it makes you proud. (250 words)

Five minutes into the telephonic interview, I said to the candidate, “We pay less than the big IT companies.” There was a long pause, before he replied, “I am not interested then. Good night.” It was a rude response, but I was happy! I had successfully tested my idea of stemming attrition through selective recruitment.

This interview was triggered by an email I had received 2 months ago, from our HR Manager. That email, which made my heart sink, said, “CANDIDATE, 20 engineers have resigned in the last 12 months, since this IT boom started. This attrition can wreck your growth plans for the company.”

I reasoned that the obvious solution of raising salary was untenable, as bigger companies can always outpay us. When I questioned several of our engineers, I found that abundant training opportunities besides high salary attract new employees. This gave me the idea of changing our recruitment process to select those who valued training more than salary, and implementing a comprehensive training program to retain them.

After testing my ‘elimination of salary-chasers’ technique in a few telephonic interviews, it was incorporated in all our recruitment activities. Simultaneously, I handpicked members for a new multi-disciplinary team, and worked within the team as, step-by-step, we designed the training program.

The first eight ‘non salary-chaser’ engineers were recruited in MONTH YEAR, and completed their induction training in June. Since then, we have had zero voluntary attrition, and saved $50k in recruitment costs. Recently, I overheard one of these engineers boast of his training in front of a ‘brand name’ company engineer. I was ecstatic at our employees’ newfound enthusiasm and to have avoided an organizational crisis by implementing innovative recruitment and training processes.

Final Draft

The Candidate is spot on with this story. It’s a great example of creating positive change by taking an innovative approach to a problem. We used the first draft as a springboard for brainstorming call and we were able to uncover some additional details that really make the candidate come off as much wiser and introspective.

Berkeley Haas MBA Essay #2:

Describe a significant accomplishment and why it makes you proud. (250 words)

Opening an email from our HR Manager one morning, I felt my heart sink:

DEAR CEO,

As you may be aware, 20 engineers have resigned in the last 12 months – ever since the IT boom started. I suggest either increasing salaries or expanding our recruitment team to deal with the turnover.

We simply didn’t have the resources to pay our engineers more or hire additional HR staff. I didn’t have a clue as to what I should do but if a better solution existed, I needed to try and find it.

My first step was to brainstorm with our engineers. I realized that they wanted the organization to provide them with formal opportunities to build their skill-sets. That seemed reasonable and also made good business sense. I also learned that our engineers thought our flat hierarchy and our openness to give even the most junior team members important responsibilities set us apart from other companies. I wondered, ‘Why wasn’t I aware of these cultural aspects and why haven’t I been making a conscious effort to emphasize them?’ I had to admit that perhaps, as a founder, I was way too engrossed in the business.

Next, I created a new multi-disciplinary team and, step-by-step, we designed a comprehensive training program. We also revamped our recruitment pitch to highlight the complete package on offer: training, culture, leadership opportunities and salary. I went a step further to reinforce our core values and culture in the minds of our employees through regular company-wide e-mails and stand-up meetings.

Eight new engineers were recruited in MONTH YEAR, and completed their training in MONTH. Since then, we have had zero attrition. Recently, I overheard one of our engineers boast about our company culture in front of a ‘brand name’ company engineer. I was bowled over by this individual’s enthusiasm. Not only had we avoided an organizational crisis, but I had gained a deeper understanding of our culture and employees.

I like a straight shooter but…I’m a little worried that the candidate might come off as a abrasive in the Admission Committee’s eyes. I’d suggest getting rid of this passage completely.
This story is a really great example of creating positive change in an organization. The candidate was right in wanting to highlight it but the first draft makes him sound more like Napoleon….riding in on a horse waving the SOLUTION rather than a collaborative leader.
We quickly understand what the problem is in two brief sentences. Sometimes people will devote 50% or more of their word count to defining the problem when in reality the Admissions Committee is more interested in HOW YOU ARRIVED at your solution. (They aren’t actually interested in the solution per se)
Nice. This CEO has the humility to ask others for help.
Admitting that you fell short doesn’t demonstrate weakness…it shows strength. Only self-assured people are able to truly question themselves.
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Five minutes into the telephonic interview, I said to the candidate, “We pay less than the big IT companies.”[foot]I like a straight shooter but…I’m a little worried that the candidate might come off as a abrasive in the Admission Committee’s eyes. I’d suggest getting rid of this passage completely.[/foot]

I found that abundant training opportunities besides high salary attract new employees.[foot]This story is a really great example of creating positive change in an organization. The candidate was right in wanting to highlight it but the first draft makes him sound more like Napoleon….riding in on a horse waving the SOLUTION rather than a collaborative leader.[/foot]

We simply didn’t have the resources to pay our engineers more or hire additional HR staff. I didn’t have a clue as to what I should do but if a better solution existed, I needed to try and find it.[foot]We quickly understand what the problem is in two brief sentences. Sometimes people will devote 50% or more of their word count to defining the problem when in reality the Admissions Committee is more interested in HOW YOU ARRIVED at your solution. (They aren’t actually interested in the solution per se)[/foot]

My first step was to brainstorm with our engineers.[foot]Nice. This CEO has the humility to ask others for help.[/foot]

‘Why wasn’t I aware of these cultural aspects and why haven’t I been making a conscious effort to emphasize them?’ I had to admit that perhaps, as a founder, I was way too engrossed in the business.[foot]Admitting that you fell short doesn’t demonstrate weakness…it shows strength. Only self-assured people are able to truly question themselves.[/foot]