Working with over two-hundred schools at Kira, one of the most interesting insights we’ve gleaned is this: business schools are increasingly looking for applicants who have a strong sense of social consciousness, reflected in a history of involvement within their communities.

When we ask clients "why?" their answers are shockingly similar and can be summarized generally as:


In this day and age, employers are gearing more and more toward socially responsible business models, embracing the Triple Bottom Line philosophy. This ideology, which stresses the importance of human and environmental responsibility (alongside the traditional focus on profit), requires a new type of business leader to helm the ship.


Top business schools worldwide want to ensure that the graduates they’re sending out into the workforce embrace and, if possible, already exemplify these modern ideals.


The Problem

This search for socially responsible graduates raises an important question to business school admissions teams: how can we ensure we’re admitting students who possess the quality of 'social consciousness'? Most admissions teams haven’t yet pinpointed the most effective way.

One traditional method (though not very effective, I maintain) is directly asking the applicant to list their community service experience on their application.

Another method (only marginally more effective) is having one of your admissions essay questions focus on the topic of community involvement.

Why are these methods ineffective? By explicitly asking them to discuss their level of community involvement you are ‘showing your hand’, so to speak, and opening the door for your applicants to embellish their experiences, based on what they think will get them an acceptance.

Another reason traditional methodologies are ineffective (albeit related to the first) is that with all this embellishment going on, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify the applicants who genuinely do possess a strong sense of social responsibility.

Showing Aces Hand

The Solution

Gauge this character trait in your applicants using a ‘spontaneous’ (in-person, telephone, Skype, or Kira), competency-based assessment and structured evaluation rubric. ‘Spontaneous’ assessments promote candid responses, because there is less time to embellish. Employing a competency-based methodology encourages you to rigidly define the specific qualities you’re looking for (social consciousness, in this case). Finally, an evaluation rubric will help your reviewers accurately appraise your applicants’ strength in said quality.

When we onboard new clients to Kira, one of the first steps is our ‘Assessment Workshop’; a high-level, strategic exercise in which we determine and define the competencies you’ll be assessing in your applicants.

As mentioned above: the quality, almost unanimously desired among business schools, is this sense of social consciousness and community involvement. The competency most effective in helping you assess social consciousness is: ‘Engagement’.

What is 'Engagement'?

Highly engaged individuals actively seek out opportunities for personal growth within a communal or societal setting. To them, learning is not something done strictly within the boundaries of the classroom and the workplace. These types of individuals typically show a strong sense of social consciousness, having spent much of their time active in their communities. In addition, being involved and constantly exposing themselves to new experiences within their communities means they also possess a notable edge when it comes to other, related, core competencies such as: empathy, collaboration, cultural sensitivity, etc.


Test your applicants’ level of engagement using questions that are open-ended, not directly asking about community service or charitable work. In other words, ‘play your cards close to your chest’ (I might as well go all in, now that I’ve committed myself to card-play idioms.)

You will greatly reduce the degree of embellishment and increase your ability to discover the most genuinely engaged applicants with questions such as:

  • Tell me about your most meaningful accomplishment outside the classroom or workplace. How have you grown because of this?
  • Outside of school and work, to what activity do you dedicate most of your time? Why?
  • What is something interesting about you that we will not learn anywhere else on your application? Why did you choose to share this?

Instead of getting five-hundred similar answers to the classic: “Tell me about your volunteer experience and what you learned from it” question, you’ll receive the entire gamut of possible unique answers to these open-ended questions. You may receive four-hundred and fifty answers that show engagement but have little or nothing to do with social consciousness (maybe you have an Olympic wrestler or somebody who has climbed Mt. Everest in your applicant pool – which are fascinating responses in and of themselves).

But more importantly, what you end up with (which other schools won’t) are those fifty responses where the applicant freely chose to discuss their community involvement because they genuinely care.

These candid, unembellished responses will help your school to enroll the next generation of socially consciousness MBA students.

Want to learn more about assessing students better? Talk to our team today!