Tuesday, July 31, 2007

B-school requires PPT slides for admission

So apparently Chicago's Graduate School of Business is going to require four pages of PowerPoint-like slides as part of its admission process this fall.

According to school reps, this will allow students to "show off a creative side that might not reveal itself in test scores, recommendations and even essays." Another rationale given by the school is that students will have to master this type of software before entering the business world.

One problem I see here is the vast majority of applicants will already know PowerPoint--if you get through high school and college without using it, I'm betting you're the rare applicant.

The larger problem here is the same problem employers face with supplemental questionnaires and work samples--namely, who did it? In high-stakes situations like school admissions and job applications, people are known to take, shall we say, less than ethical routes to increase their chances.

The benefit of something like GPA or the GMAT is identity verification--you can be virtually assured (as long as you can validate the numbers) that the person who's applying is the one that took that test.

With things like previous work samples, resumes, and now this PowerPoint idea, you have no idea who actually created the product. So you make an admissions or hiring decision based on an assumption. Do you validate that they actually created these documents? Probably not. Even if you wanted to, how would you do it?

It might not even matter, since this may be more of a way to add excitement to application reviews and to simply get more applicants, which the school acknowledges. There seems to be a trend among organizations to implement projects that aren't so much concerned with valid predictions of performance but with simply attracting attention. This will likely get even more blatant as organizations struggle to keep their staffing levels up in the coming years.

But we should keep this in mind: gimmicks may attract some applicants, but do they turn others away? What about highly qualified individuals who think, "Well that's silly." That's why the best solutions will pique interest while being as close as possible to the actual job (or school) environment. How about asking applicants to give a presentation as part of their interview--now that's a skill they'll need. Plus, absent any Mission Impossible-style disguises, you can be pretty sure the person in front of you is who they claim to be.

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