A Top Essay Mistake to Avoid: Tasks vs. Skills

Posted By SWatts on Sep 8, 2011 |

Do you understand the difference between tasks and skills, and how focusing on skills rather than tasks in your MBA admissions essays can help you present a much more compelling application?

To illustrate what a task is, consider an example when an engineer needs to improve a product’s reliability and therefore leads a team to perform 5-6 different types of tests on the product. What is important in the admissions process is not that you successfully ran the appropriate tests, which was one of your tasks. Rather, what is important are the skills that allowed you to lead a team to identify the tests to be conducted to improve the reliability, to delegate work such that the tests were run well, to set forth a map of needed changes to the product, etc. Similarly, the investment banking analyst who has designed an innovative new analytical model should not focus too much on the specifics of the model, but on the skills that allowed him/her to create a blueprint for the model, secure input, gain buy-in, present his/her findings effectively, etc.

Your essays will have a much more positive impact on your admissions odds if you can describe the skills behind your work—analytical, leadership, teamwork, communication, problem solving, etc. If the admissions committee believes you have mastered these skills, it is much more likely to believe that you are ready for business school and that your classmates will be able to learn a great deal from you. Hence, you should be a much more attractive candidate.

Take-away: When you write your essays, don’t just list tasks that you completed as a part of your professional experience, elaborate on and focus on your skills. This can make a key difference in the admissions process.

I hope this helps you in the admissions process!