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The No. 1 trait Harvard Business School looks for in MBA candidates

Photo: Rick Friedman/rickfriedman.com/Corbis via Getty Images)

Harvard Business School ranks as one of the best b-schools on the planet, which makes it highly coveted by students around the world.

But since HBS admits only about 12% of applicants, it’s crucial that you stand out from the crowd.

Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, which helps clients earn admission to top MBA programs, says HBS looks for 10 traits of ideal candidates, including initiative, integrity, and self-awareness.

Of those traits, the most important is high-impact leadership. Blackman calls it the “big kahuna” at HBS.

“When evaluating your leadership potential, the admissions committee will be looking for evidence that you have made a positive impact on the communities of which you’ve been a part, both personally and professionally,” she says.

The committee understands that you’re in the early stages of your career while in pursuit of an MBA, so they don’t expect that you’ve “led an entire company or founded a not-for-profit,” she says. They appreciate all types of leadership, be it running a student newspaper, advocating for a social cause, or taking on leadership roles in the workplace.

Still, you need to provide hard proof that you made a difference. It’s not all about the scale of your achievements, Blackman says, but rather “the fact that you left indelible footprints.”

“This makes perfect sense when you think about it, because your past leadership achievements are the best gauge of your potential for realising your future ambitions,” Blackman says.

This is an update to an article originally written by Steven Benna.

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