MBA essay questions include questions on ethics and challenges as well as diversity, goals, failure, team spirit and leadership. The MBA essay questions intend to understand the non-academic aspect of the applicant. Ethical dilemma questions aim to gauge the candidate’s maturity in handling issues.
Examples of ethical dilemma questions
Describe the most difficult decision you have made and its effect on you.
Describe a situation in which your ability to perform ethically was challenged. What was the issue, how did you handle it, and what did you learn from it?
Describe an ethical dilemma that you faced and how it was resolved.
When have your values, ethics or morals were challenged? How has this shaped who you are today?
For an incident to be an ethical dilemma, it should follow three conditions. First, there should be a decision-making authority, second, there should be at least two equally difficult choices which do not provide a complete solution and third, irrespective of the solution or course of action taken, some ethics were compromised.
Ethical Dilemma MBA Essay: The decision maker
MBA Essays are an attempt to know the social side of an applicant. The essay is about experiences of the applicant. The decision maker is the first and foremost condition for the MBA essay on ethical dilemma. If you were not the decision maker, this is not your essay. Please do not write it. You do not have to be embroiled in a big ethics issue to be able to write down an essay. The focus is on your decision-making skills and not the complexity of the case.
Ethical Dilemma MBA Essay: The ethical dilemma
Answers to questions on ethical dilemma are difficult to write because while it should not show you as an ethical person, being portrayed as an extremely honest person is also not recommended. Ethical dilemma questions are aimed to test the applicant’s maturity and judgement skills and not integrity. While answering questions on ethical dilemma, avoid quoting incidences which are illegal and question your integrity.
Uncomfortable situations lacking a choice do not qualify for ethical dilemmas. Worked under a tough boss who has made you work hard does not qualify to be an ethical dilemma.
Briefly, describe the incident. Also, mention what led to the situation along with your position on the issue.
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Ethical Dilemma MBA Essay: The options
When penning down MBA essays on ethical dilemma, always use an incident which has two or more solutions. Along with ‘ethics’ which is about right or wrong, the anecdote should focus on ‘dilemma’ this is about choosing one of two or more solutions. The situation should have two or more solutions which are equally difficult and unsatisfactory as well as unable to provide a complete solution. Therefore, the choice should not be between a right and wrong solution, but between two or more equally unsatisfactory solutions.
Ethical Dilemma MBA Essay: The conflict and resolution
There should be a clear conflict in the options towards resolutions. Discuss the circumstances which have caused the situation to arise as well as your personal values that have conflicted in the decision-making process. Along with the incidence, mention the pros and cons of each option and the affected parties. Analyse the consequences of the actions in all the options.
Elaborate on how you tackled the situation. Defend your decision. You should also be able to defend or explain why you chose one over the other. Was the decision favoured by all the decision making as well as affected parties? Discuss your decision and how you have reached the decision. Also, the merits it had over the other option? This will demonstrate your ethical decision-making skills.
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Ethical Dilemma MBA Essay: The impact
Measuring the impact of the decision is as important as the decision taken. Was the impact as expected? If no, what went wrong? What was the result of your decision? How did the decision impact you?
Ethical Dilemma MBA Essay: The experience
Analyse your learning. What were the lessons from this experience? What did you learn from the experience? Would you do it again if similar circumstances arise? Will you handle it any differently? Will you take some precautions?
Apart from the ethical dilemma, B-schools ask questions on diversity, goals, team spirit, leadership, passion etc.
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The MBA Ethics Essay
The heart of an ethical dilemma essay is a difficult choice that tests your values and character. The choice can come from your personal or professional life, but you must demonstrate your ability to analyze a difficult situation, present the pros and cons of your options, and explain the principles or values that guided your final decision.
Sample Ethical Essay Questions
Describe a situation in which your ability to perform ethically was challenged. What was the issue, how did you handle it, and what did you learn from it? (Duke)
Describe an ethical dilemma that you faced and how it was resolved. (Kellogg)
When have your values, ethics, or morals been challenged? How has this shaped who you are today? (Wharton)
Choosing the right topic is usually the most difficult aspect of this essay. One way to begin brainstorming is by asking yourself, “In what situations was I most uncomfortable or distressed?” Your answers should hopefully lead you to experiences that demanded you choose among two or more options, none of them ideal. Some situations will require you to choose the “right,” more difficult path despite the temptations of taking the “wrong,” easier path (e.g., giving a bribe to win a sales contract), i.e., long-term benefit vs. short-term expediency, respectively. Other situations will require you to choose between options with no clear right or wrong solution (e.g., laying off workers to sustain a company).
Consider the following structure:
Background – a brief but focused explanation of the situation, built around the details that illustrate the difficulty and importance of the choice you will face.
Progress – the sequence of events and your role in them that led to the difficult choice.
Choice(s) – the detailed pros and cons of each option; the more nuances of each choice that you can explain, the stronger you can demonstrate your ethical decision-making skills.
Results – to make a strong statement about your values, you should explain what you decided and how you reached your decision. You may also want to include the reactions of others involved to show either the positive influence your decision had or, in the case of a negative reaction, your ongoing commitment to your values.
Lessons – Why was this experience valuable? What did you learn? How has it impacted you as a person and/or as a business leader? Can you make a broader statement about the role of ethics in your decision making process?