This year, MIT Sloan became the first top tier MBA program to ask applicants for an organizational chart that outlines the “internal structure of your department and company.”
Sloan’s application requirements already buck the M7 standard by sidestepping traditional written essays and soliciting a cover letter and video statement. MIT Sloan offers applicants a sample for reference, and will permit you to craft your own providing you’re as meticulous as possible. Adds Sloan:
“We should be able to see your line of reporting to the top of your organization, and to easily find you, your peers, your supervisor, their peers, and your direct reports, as well as any other recommenders from your current organization.”
This is an interesting move for MIT Sloan, and a great one. As a Fortuna expert coach and former Stanford GSB Alumni Interviewer, I’ve witnessed countless candidates struggle to concisely convey within the constraints of their MBA application how valuable they are to their employers. There’s no room in the resume to do this, and if you have a really important role but an opaque job title, it’s even harder to get the message across.
AN ORG CHART CAN DEMYSTIFY WHERE A CANDIDATE STANDS IN THEIR COMPANY
From the point of view of admissions, every applicant offers a resume rife with titles, many of which are hard to translate to an MBA context. For more well-known industries or companies, it can be clearer where an applicant sits within the hierarchy of their organization, as there’s an obvious career path and progression. For example, if you’ve started out as an analyst in a consulting firm, there’s a broader awareness of the hierarchy of promotion and conventional timeframe. Then there are other organizations with less standard career tracks where it can be typical not to be promoted in three to four years.
But it’s difficult for admissions readers to discern for many other companies, “how important is this individual in their organization?” “Where does her department fit in?” The org chart question is a smart way to get to that; as an applicant, you don’t want to squander valuable essay real estate on explaining it.
With the introduction of the org chart requirement, MIT Sloan is really trying to get at the questions of what you do, who you report to, how close you are to the top and how you interact with other parts of the company or entity. It’s also about understanding the pace of your progression and your career path – how you’ve evolved over time, your level of influence, the significance of your promotions, and whether your movement has been horizontal or upwards. The org chart is a visual medium that provides admissions the context surrounding your achievements and professional position at a glance.
THE ORG CHART CAN BE PARTICULARLY TRICKY WITHIN IN NON-TRADITIONAL ENTITIES
I had a client who worked for the economic development council for a major US city, in its strategy department. In his case, the option to submit an org chart might have vastly simplified his storytelling strategy. Instead, we had to think hard about how to succinctly convey his role within the city’s bureaucratic complexity. I remember asking him to walk me through the whole organizational chart, including his relationship to the mayor. Ultimately, he said: “We’re like the city’s internal SWAT team.” Which was a concise and brilliant ‘way in’ for us to articulate how he worked across various parts of the municipality and high level of decision-making influence he had at the city level.
That said, the org chart element can be tricky within a non-traditional organization. Another recent client was a senior engineer in a particular department at Apple, and frankly, her job title didn’t mean anything to someone outside of the organization. To complicate matters, Apple doesn’t publically publish its org chart, so it was up to her to convey where she existed within the company’s broader structure. Cumbersome as this may seem, this kind of mapping exercise can be invaluable for anyone looking to be a future industry leader.
I’ll go on record to predict this new feature of the MBA application to become a future trend: I wouldn’t be surprised if other top business schools follow suit.
Fortuna Admissions Expert Coach Heidi Hillis is an alum of Stanford GSB and former MBA admissions interviewer. For more insider information, check out Fortuna’s Business School Profile on MIT Sloan or request a copy of our Insider Tips Report.