Francois Ortalo-Magne, pictured, values curiosity.

  • One of the best business schools in the world is London Business School.
  • Dean François Ortalo-Magné said he values curiosity and humility in prospective students. So he pays special attention to students' willingness to ask questions.
  • Other MBA admissions executives say they also want to see a student who is confident but still humble.

"There are people who have answers," said François Ortalo-Magné, "and there are people who have questions."

Guess which type of person he prefers?

Ortalo-Magné is the dean of London Business School, which, according to education specialists QS Quacquarelli Symonds, is the No. 4 business school in the world. He told Business Insider that, when speaking with prospective students, he pays special attention to their willingness to ask questions.

"The more curious people don't have so many answers," Ortalo-Magné said. On the other hand, less curious people "know what they want. So they meet the dean and they are really keen to convey what is it that they know."

There's nothing inherently wrong with prospective students who flaunt how much they know. "I respect that," he said. "It's just we are a much better community for people who come with curiosity."

Ortalo-Magné said there are a few traits he values in applicants (though he noted that he doesn't read applications) and wants to cultivate in students: humility, generosity, openness, and curiosity.

He is hardly the only business-school leader to prize these traits - especially humility.

"Humility is the magic word," Dee Leopold, then the director of admissions at Harvard Business School, told Forbes in 2011. "It is a quality that is not diametrically opposed to confidence." Leopold said that, in their written applications, applicants should be honest and clear above all.

Stephanie Fujii, then the director of admissions at Berkeley-Haas, told Forbes, "A candidate who can express his or her achievements and potential without being boastful, and can reflect on both successes and failures with humility and awareness is more likely to be admitted and more likely to thrive in our program."

Meanwhile, Kari Graham, the former director of graduate admissions at the University of Denver's Daniels College of Business (she's currently the director of graduate student services), told US News & World Report in 2017 that some of the most memorable interviews she's held are those in which applicants described what they learned from their mistakes.

If you want to go to a top business school, you have to be willing to learn.

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