B-Schools Know How You Think, but How Do You Feel?

Author: Melissa Korn

Forget what you know. Business schools increasingly want to know what you feel.

Schools are trying to choose from a crowded pool of well-qualified applicants and get a sense of the human being behind the application by adding personality tests and scored, standardized in-person interviews to the traditional battery of essays, transcripts and recommendations. Now, prospective M.B.A. students need to shine by showing emotional traits like empathy, motivation, resilience and dozens of others.

Business schools increasingly want to know what you feel.

Measuring EQ—or emotional intelligence quotient—is the latest attempt by business schools to identify future stars. Since students typically start their job hunts almost as soon as they arrive on campus, the schools have little time to fix any faults.

"Companies select for top talent with assessments like this," says Andrew Sama, senior associate director of M.B.A. admissions at University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business. "If we are selecting for future business leaders, why shouldn't we be [using] similar tools?"

Since the fall of 2010, Mendoza applicants have been required to complete a 206-item online questionnaire called the Personal Characteristics Inventory. It screens them for traits the school has found in its most successful students and graduates, such as teamwork and leadership abilities.

It is difficult to determine the "right" answers. For example, one item asks, "What are your sources for new ideas?" The multiple-choice answers include "reading," "my own thoughts," "subject-matter experts," "family and friends" and "people I work with." Star students tend to provide the same responses, Mendoza says.

Paul Toboni, a first-year M.B.A. student at the school, says he "couldn't beat around the bush or give an artificial response" in the online test, unlike with interview talking points.

Still, the 23-year-old Mr. Toboni says he was pleased the school was evaluating his personality and not just the length of his résumé, since he was "shallow" on work experience.

Based on the assessment, Mendoza labels students "recommended" or "not recommended," though the school may ultimately admit a number of students in the latter category and may reject others in the former.

Mendoza plans to track this spring's graduates closely, as they are the first class admitted with the explicit consideration of EQ. The school says early indications show that those who scored well on the assessment are highly engaged in classroom and club activities.

For the entire article, visit WSJOnline.