Many of the MBA applicants Julie Barefoot interviews were toddlers when she started working at the office of admissions for Emory University’s Goizueta Business School (Goizueta Full-Time MBA Profile). Barefoot, the admissions director for the school, recently celebrated her 23rd year with Goizueta. The job doesn’t get old, Barefoot says, adding that she looks forward to reviewing applications.
When Barefoot received her MBA from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School (Kenan-Flagler Full-Time MBA Profile) in 1983, she had little prior work experience and went into a three-month training program with her employer after graduating. Now employers expect MBA students to hit the ground running. For them to do that, Goizueta overhauled its curriculum three years ago and holds annual roundtables to find out from recruiters and students what it can do better.
In an interview with Businessweek.com reporter Kiah Lau Haslett, Barefoot described how Goizueta looks for applicants to add value to the school and their future employers, how its small size is an advantage, and what mistakes not to make when applying.
Describe Goizueta in one sentence.
Goizueta is a personalized, high-value MBA program that prepares candidates to add value from day one in their post-MBA job.
What does Goizueta look for in an applicant?
We look for individuals who are academically prepared for the program, but a lot of people who apply to our program can do the work. Best-fit students have progressive work experience, understand what it means to add value, and demonstrate initiative.
A progressive career means from when you graduated from college to what you do now, you have continued to work and grow in the responsibilities you have.
They also have strong interpersonal skills. They want to be in a team and work with others. A key trait of our students is that they want to make a difference outside of themselves and give back in different ways. I can think of examples in every class where students left the school for the better because they were there, either through the board fellows program [where MBA students serve on nonprofit boards of directors], leading an international trek, or starting a nonprofit business. Our students have a lot of self-initiative.
What are the demographics of the school? How diverse is it? How have you worked to increase diversity?
Our school is quite diverse: Typically a third are women. About 10 percent to 12 percent are American minorities. In terms of work experience, five years is our average, with a range of two to six years of experience. About 35 percent of students are international.
Why is the admissions interview so important, especially when it’s done early in the application process?
Interviews are conducted before the application is completed. One way we’re a little unusual is interviews are done mostly by members of admissions because we believe so strongly in the importance of the interview. I think it’s helpful for consistency and when the final application is reviewed by the committee, there’s an advocate there to answer questions about the candidate.
What are key mistakes applicants make?
The most common mistake we see is students mixing up the names of schools in the essay. We totally realize people are applying to more than one program but this shows a lack of care. Along those same lines, candidates in an interview will do a lot of research but then ask a question whose answer is readily available on the Web or in a brochure.
We notice a lot of résumés where it’s difficult to discern exactly what applicants did at their job and how they added value. Or their résumés aren’t sequentially written. And if you’re less than 30 years old, your résumé should be one page.
What disqualifies candidates?
Candidates cannot have a deficiency in quantitative preparation. Weak quantitative skills and no quantitative coursework are very difficult to overcome, and candidates may need to take some additional courses after college or retake the GMAT.
What is the philosophy behind admissions?
I always tell alumni our mission is to make our alums’ degrees more valuable. If we make thoughtful, informed decisions about admissions, our alums’ degrees will be more valuable.
How is Goizueta different from other business schools?
First, the size: We’re small, entrepreneurial, nimble. The curriculum is innovative and meets our students’ needs, and we feel that’s really important. Our culture: This is a warm, family atmosphere. Our students know each other and can develop relationships with the faculty, and the faculty wants to build relationships with them and energize them.
Your program is smaller than other schools. What are the pros and cons of a small program?
A huge pro is you can be nimble. We are [adaptable] to change because we’re not a humongous ship where if you try to change it, it takes you a long time. Our small programs have leaders, associate deans, whose primary focus is to work with that program. It’s pretty easy for them to make changes in their programs during the semester. That’s very difficult if you have a super-large faculty who don’t know each other or trust each other.
The downside is we can’t be all things to all people. We’re not going to have as many concentrations, nor are we going to have as many electives. Having said that, we have a fabulous array of concentrations, we have a really wonderful variety of electives. We have the right electives for what people want to study. If we don’t, students can create their own electives. Through the Georgia ARCHE [Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education] program, if there’s an elective at another institution in the area, they can take it at that school. With our exchange program, students can take specialized programs abroad. The advantages, which are pretty significant, outweigh the disadvantages of being small.
Describe the curriculum. When was the last time it was changed and how was the change received?
It’s very integrated. It’s intense. The fall term is even more intense than it used to be because students finish core classes in the first term. There’s more pre-work in the program that needs to be finished in the summer months.
The curriculum is realistic in that we realize MBA students are here to get a job or they want a better job. We want to deliver on those goals, so we intentionally carved out time for the job search process. That started three years ago and has paid a lot of dividends.
How did the recession and financial scandals impact admissions, the curriculum, and the job search? How did the school adjust?
I’m really proud of our staff and faculty, as well as students, for reacting in very positive ways. The class of 2011′s job placement results are the best we’ve ever had and that’s a tribute to their hard work. The faculty three years ago implemented a new curriculum ahead of the curve. We developed a management practice course that gives [students] real-world experience using ambiguous information where it’s not clear what the issue is and you don’t have all the information to solve [the problem]. These curricular changes enabled students to perform better at their summer internships.
How does the school help graduates find jobs?
We help students before orientation by providing personalized feedback for résumés and helping them prepare for the interviews they’ll have. We encourage our students to attend conferences and on-campus presentations and to participate in the treks that take place in November to New York, D.C., and San Francisco.
We have an alumni mentoring program [that] focuses primarily on the job search process. The alumni-mentor match takes place in early September and it’s a terrific way to enable our alums to give back and develop relationships with current students. Students can contact the alum about interview advice or negotiating a salary.
We’ve had cocktail parties with recruiters. Last year we set up in our courtyard fun and games for recruiters and students to hang out together. We’ve done bowling nights. From what I know, recruiters want these opportunities because it’s more interactive. In an interview setting, you can’t really tell how an MBA student is going to interact with others.