In a landmark decision, Harvard Business School’s admissions department has announced that, beginning next fall, all applicants will be required to submit their social media passwords to be considered for the full-time MBA program.
Admissions Director Chad Losee shared the thinking behind the change. “It was daunting to fill Dee Leopold’s shoes this year; the learning curve was certainly steep! Now that I have a class under my belt, I’m excited to bring a new perspective in leading the ladies of Dillon House. Our biggest challenge is sorting through thousands of near identical resumes from applicants at the same few banks and management consultancies. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether two individuals are in fact two distinct people! As a millennial, I realized that social media is a better way of actually getting to know the candidates. It comes down to the classic adage: ‘show, don’t tell.’”
Up until now, the HBS application has been designed to test whether candidates will thrive under the case method in the classroom. Losee concedes that success in the business world no longer depends on teachable business skills such as accounting, marketing, and ethics. If students are to be adequately prepared to make a difference in the world, they must have the innate EQ toto navigate the digital ecosystem as social media influencers. Losee quickly notes that “Selena Gomez has the most followers on Instagram, not Sheryl Sandberg.”
Candidates may wonder how the admissions department will judge in their social media accounts. In a statement released on Poets & Quants, the admissions department sought to ease the fears of would-be applicants.
“Our judgment criteria will not be much different from the way you judge your peers on social media. Ultimately, we’re looking at three things:
- One, is there anything hidden in your non-public photos from college that could lead to scandal in the future? That’s why we ask for your password and not just your account URL.
- Two, have you optimized your network? As in, do you have enough friends and followers to be considered reasonably social? What is the median level of attractiveness in your friend group?
- And three, how skilled are you at self-promotion? How much envy do your curated instagram photos inspire? This is a key indicator of social status and success in the future. For example, when you go on the Morocco trek over spring break, do you have the social capital to generate enough likes for your wild and precious camel-riding photo, even if it is the fourteenth to be posted?”
Losee acknowledges that they will have much to learn through the implementation. Thus, for the first year, specific platforms are not mandated and the selection of social media accounts will remain open-ended. The admissions department expects that most candidates will share their Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts.
In keeping with the international nature of the student body, the application will also accept WeChat or Line as a substitute for Facebook from candidates in the Asia-Pacific region. Candidates may also submit their Netflix accounts, but are cautioned to ensure that friends and family members have not polluted their recommendations. A representative from the admissions staff did stress that applicants with no social media presence should take time to rethink their career goals.
The technology department will begin work on the application in late May, following notifications to Round 3 candidates. They confirmed that the system will encrypt passwords to protect candidates’ privacy and dignity. A representative said, “We realize that everyone uses the exact same password across all of their accounts, so we will account for that in the, uh, code. We certainly wouldn’t want the HBS staff to be able to hack into candidates’ HBO Go accounts, even if it would save us $9.99 each month.”
Dee Leopold voiced her support, noting that it is not a significant departure from her “salad selection” approach. “I support Chad and think it is a great idea. At the end of the day, this is still about building the best salad, just with an emphasis on selecting the best-looking and best-filtered vegetables.”
Losee’s new system has been widely praised throughout the MBA admissions community as lending new credibility to the MBA admissions process. Outgoing Stanford GSB admissions director Derrick Bolton lauded the move saying it would counter the alarming common trend of desperate Bain & Co consultants who apply multiple times to HBS and GSB in the same cycle under various aliases. However, it remains to be seen whether other MBA programs will follow suit. MIT Sloan might start on a smaller scale by only requiring GitHub accounts, while Chicago Booth would likely not follow at all on the grounds that it would be a hopeless exercise to expect their applicants to have any social skills.
Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, announced his imminent retirement in June 2017.