NUS MBA 14 March 2018

Top 5 traits MBA candidates should possess

The NUS MBA admissions team runs through thousands of applications annually and has to make swift decisions on which applications to shortlist for interviews. Ms Angelyn Ang who has helmed the MBA Marketing & Admissions Team at the Graduate Studies Office for 10 years, tells us how applicants can stand out from the crowd.

On one hand, it is unwise to be overly modest about your achievements, rendering the profile not outstanding enough to impress the reviewers. On the other,  it takes only one falsified piece of information to cease your chances of ever getting into the programme again.

Definitely not exhaustive list, but here are five traits we hope candidates are able to articulate and demonstrate to us:

Integrity is not only one of NUS Business School’s five core values of Excellence, Integrity, Innovation, Teamwork & Care, it is also key to ascertaining if a person is genuine and sincere, hence building trust and rapport with others. While it is tempting to boast of capabilities & magnify achievements in a bid to put one’s best foot forward, it is equally important to ensure that there is truth in what one claims to have accomplished.

With the right motivation, drive and energy, candidates are able to provide clarity on why they want to take up an MBA, and why at NUS Business School. While the want to fast track one’s career or do a career switch are valid reasons to take on an MBA, many individuals are misguided by the idea that graduating with an MBA equates a golden ticket to success i.e. post-MBA salaries will jump multi-fold, being guaranteed a senior management position in a choice organisation, or to enjoy an expatriate package while jet-setting the world, etc. What they don’t see is the hard work (e.g. many hours of practice, endless networking and countless interviews) put in by the successful alumni who manage to secure what they want. Candidates need to possess the right ambition and dynamism in addition to graduating with an MBA degree. So think about why you want to do it, and research on the areas that will really help you improve and succeed.

Clear career plan
Envisioning what you want to achieve in your career is critical as that will determine the type of knowledge and skills required to achieve your goals. Being able to articulate what specialisations or disciplines you’re interested in will help sharpen skills and also value add to the eventual resume. Some students opt to optimise their sabbaticals to complete additional professional certificates or explore entreprenuerial ventures, or even take on a double degree.

Presentation and communication
Apart from ensuring your application is free from unnecessary grammatical typos, one should also exercise good judgment in how you carry yourself when interacting with the members of the school at all times and not just during the interview. First impressions last a long time, and being well prepared through research and practice, complemented by an uplifted mood would put you in good stead to ace the interview.This includes your grooming, firm handshakes and the ability to communicate your responses and ideas are as important as the content of what is shared during interviews (even if it’s through a video-conferencing where you should at least have and tested out the webcam and internet connections). A strong introduction and good elevator pitch is half the battle won. Be attentive to questions posed as interviewers are looking holistically at an individual’s intellectual quotient (IQ), emotional quotient (EQ), adversity quotient (AQ) and cultural quotient (CQ). Answer straight to the point instead of rambling and beating around the bush. Bonus points for exuding enthusiasm and drive that demonstrates both analytical and creative parts of yourself.

Going beyond academics
Instead of giving a laundry list of what your work entails, think about your competitive advantages and key achievements. This could mean particular talents or skills you have acquired, leadership experiences, international experience or entrepreneurial spirit.Outside of professional successes, displaying interest in hobbies and volunteer work also help showcase aptitudes that contribute to “who you are”. So take time out to think about how you can best position yourself vis-à-vis many other fantastic candidates that interviewers are assessing throughout the day. Be prepared and make the best use of the time allocated to impress them.

That said, I end with a quote from Warren Buffett, the Chairman & CEO of Berkshire Hathaway – “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities – Integrity, Intelligence & Energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you”

Wishing you the best of luck in applying to the NUS MBA!

For more information on the NUS MBA programme, please visit