Over the past few years, Bernard Garrette, HEC MBA Associate Dean, has a clear goal for the HEC MBA – firmly establish HEC as among the top three full-time MBA programmes in Europe. In order to achieve his goal, he needs students to ensure that students get the most out of the MBA programme, maximising their talents in order to have successful post-MBA careers.

There are two primary factors that allow the MBA programme to achieve this with its students – (a) accepting a better quality of students, and (b) ensuring that their personalities fit the programme’s, thereby allowing them to maximise the resources available to them.

Both these factors play in heavily during the admissions process.

The admissions process, therefore, focuses on five major elements.

  1. Evaluating the applicant’s personal motivation and ambition to do an MBA from HEC.
  2. Evaluating the applicant’s professional story and intellectual ability, ensuring they have the technical skills to contribute to the class.
  3. Evaluating the applicant’s professional objectives and their coherence, allowing students to enjoy their MBA experience and gain strong employment after graduation.
  4. Evaluating the applicant’s multi-cultural exposure and leadership skills, enabling them to be good team players, learning from as well as teaching their classmates.
  5. Evaluating the applicant’s emotional control and their capacity to positively represent the HEC MBA in a professional environment.

The GMAT and prior educational history, therefore, is only but a small part of an applicant’s profile, testing only their intellectual ability. The other four elements are equally, if not more important.

The application essays are meant to allow the admissions panel to gauge all five elements within an applicant. In terms of the importance of each stage in an application process, the essays are one of the most important.

The application form begins with housekeeping questions to understand the applicant’s ability to interrupt their lives to attend the MBA and to finance it. This, along with the first essay question, which essentially asks “Why MBA”, “Why Now”, and “Why HEC”, helps understand why the applicant wishes to join the HEC MBA. A highly motivated student will make the most of the facilities at his disposal, and will also positively represent the HEC MBA program in the future.

The next three questions, ones asking about a significant life achievement, an ethical dilemma, and a different life from the existing one, are again clearly linked to the five elements – numbers 2, 4, and 5 to be precise.

An admissions committee then evaluates the application form, which includes the essays and references along with the professional and educational past. Only students with a realistic chance of making it to the programme are moved on to the next level – the interviews.

Applicants are put through two interviews, usually with alumni or members of the admissions committee.

A unique element in the HEC interview process is the 10 minute presentation, where applicants make a presentation on any topic of their choice. These are critical portions of the interview process, showcasing a side of the candidate that may not have emerged elsewhere. The presentations have very clear objectives – to evaluate the candidate’s thought process, clarity of communication and presentation skills. Content is the most critical part of the presentation – is it interesting, factual, relevant, convincing? The freedom provided to the candidate to pre-prepare any topic of their choice and practice their delivery means that they cannot afford any major slip ups. The stakes are high. But if this goes well, it sets a great tone for the rest of the interview.

A candidate that has qualified for interviews has shown glimpses of almost all five elements required in a candidate. The interviewer provides tests all five elements and shares his inputs with the admission committee, who sit as a panel to make the final yes or no decision.

During the interviews, the presentations are usually very informative and interesting – ranging from insects as a source of protein to honeybees and their impact on our daily lives. Despite the very well delivered presentations, not all students make it through to the programme. This shows the quality of candidate that reaches the interview stages of the HEC MBA process. If the committee feels that an applicant’s profile isn’t strong enough or doesn’t fit the programme’s personality, they are eliminated ruthlessly.

After all, these are the two primary factors that ensure that Mr Garrette’s goal is met!