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商院访谈:The MBA Gatekeeper At INSEAD  

2016-12-29 02:42:29|  分类: 学校与选校 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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商院访谈:The MBA Gatekeeper At INSEAD

 


 BY: NATHAN ALLEN ON OCTOBER 18, 2016 |

 

 

When applying to an elite business school there are some obvious things to mention. Recent promotions at work. Timely and relevant accomplishments. Undergraduate sports and activities. There are also things to leave out. Too much information in a personal essay, says Virginie Fougea, INSEAD’s new director for MBA recruitment and admissions, is a mistake made by some candidates every year.

“It’s like they want to check if you are reading all of the application,” Fougea tells Poets&Quants in her Fontainebleau, France office.

After two decades in various roles in INSEAD’s admissions office, there isn’t much Fougea hasn’t seen. Over that time, INSEAD’s establishment as an elite business school has legitimized the one-year MBA. Intake after intake, the school’s mission to be the “business school for the world” has manifested in cohorts that regularly include students from at least 70 countries. What’s more, the “dominant” countries usually don’t make up more than 12% or so of a cohort. Everyone is in the minority, administrators say around the school’s European headquarters.

STILL NO PLANS TO DISCLOSE ACCEPTANCE RATES

While INSEAD might be the most diverse school in the world in terms of nationalities, its admissions office might be the least transparent. INSEAD is the only elite school that doesn’t disclose how many people apply or how many are accepted. Previous Poets&Quants reports have speculated the acceptance rate to be around 30%.

“We feel it gives them the freedom to decide which school they want to apply to depending on their profile, depending on the network they want to belong to, depending on the family they want to be part of,” Fougea says of INSEAD’s decision not to disclose those numbers. “And they should make a decision based on what fits their need and career plan, rather than trying to speculate on their chances.”

That might be, but still, it’s odd not to disclose information that other peer schools have long divulged. But the school with campuses also in Singapore and Abu Dhabi certainly marches to the beat of its own drum. In a wide-ranging and exclusive interview, Fougea speaks about the school’s long-term efforts to increase representation of women, how to prepare for its four new video interview questions, prepping for the two alumni interviews, and some of her favorite — and least favorite — applicants over the years.

INSEAD is one of only a few elite B-schools that does not publish acceptance rates. Can you share why you don’t publish those rates and shed any light on chances applicants have for admission?

The reason why we don’t communicate those numbers is primarily because it drives people to wrong conclusions. It starts creating the thoughts of ‘I have more chances’ or ‘I don’t have any chances so I should not apply or even consider this.’ We feel it gives them the freedom to decide which school they want to apply to depending on their profile, depending on the network they want to belong to, depending on the family they want to be part of. And they should make a decision based on what fits their need and career plan, rather than trying to speculate on their chances.

Same thing on the number of applications per round or per intake. It is important to prepare a good application. That’s what matters — an honest and genuine application. That’s the aim behind that.

This was the first year INSEAD used a video portion to the application. How did it go?

We love it. The way the application process works, we were not meeting people for interviews. The admissions staff does not meet applicants. This is giving us the opportunity to see people, see how they think on their feet, how they communicate, and it’s nice to see them come to life.

After watching the first round of videos, do you have any advice on how to prepare for the questions?

We have seen a vast majority of very, very good videos. People got it right from the first round. It’s true that more and more, you can read articles and see how to prep for video interviews. Companies are recruiting more and more through video interviews. This generation is used to this and we could see that. They were at ease. They were looking into the camera. They were expressing their ideas in a clear manner. It’s a short video. It’s one minute for four times. And they got it right.

Besides looking into the camera and being at ease, can you give any more examples or tips on what applicants can do or what a successful video looks like?

We could tell people were prepared but not prepared in a rigid or strict way. They were prepared to give their honest answers. The questions are not tricky ones. The idea is not to trap people with difficult questions. The idea is really to get to know the people better.

Are you noticing any trends in who is applying to INSEAD?

We see post-MBA students aiming for telecom and engineering roles. Prior, we see a number of petroleum and oil and gas industries because of the economy and it hasn’t been easy for them. So we saw a number of people coming from that industry. We saw more Latin Americans this round. Definitely more Asians. Those are the major differences. For the U.S., it has been stable with a slight increase.

What do you make of the increases in Latin American and Asian applications? Have you put more marketing and recruiting efforts there?

Definitely. It’s a little more marketing. It’s always additions of efforts and you’re never really sure which it is. But it’s definitely a presence. We have somebody based in the U.S. and she travels from north to south. For Asia, the Singapore campus helps a lot. And also the Tsinghua program with the EMBA. That raised awareness for sure.

Did these changes in trends surprise you, or was it something you expected to see?

Not necessarily expected, but hoping, yes.

What about the population of women in the program? It’s lower compared to elite U.S. schools. Is this something you are working on?

We are actively working on this. We love diversity and that also means diversity in terms of gender. And 30% is a great number when you look at what it means in terms of numbers. Since we have a class of 500, it’s still more than 100 women. It’s a big number and reflects the pool of applicants. Because we recruit worldwide, in some countries and regions where we recruit, women are not necessarily thinking about an MBA program. So it is a fair proportion of the applicant pool.

We hope to raise awareness among women in countries where an MBA is not on top of their list. So it will be more of a long-term effort rather than tapping into people who know about the MBA and taking the GMAT.

Are there any types of people or backgrounds you are targeting now?

We’re lucky enough to have very interesting stories in the applicant pool. I cannot say what we are hoping to get, because it is the surprise that comes out of the pool that is exciting. When we receive the applications, it’s always a surprise to dig into this big pool and discover unique stories. You never know what you will get, and that’s what makes our life so interesting and ever-changing.

If you want an example of an extreme profile, there was this Syrian lady who was managing in Damascus just when the war started. Even for her GMAT, it meant she had to go outside (of the country), which was a bunch of tricky steps to do to apply. She was admitted and now works for L’Oreal. She is amazing. The personality is amazing. But it’s just one example.

 

Do you all have a culture you are trying to build within the school that is reflected in who you accept?

Yes, the interpersonal skills, leadership skills, self-awareness are elements we want to see. We want to see those skills highlighted in the letters of recommendation, in the interview process with alumni — this is very important to us. We believe that leaders of the world have these personalities. They have self-awareness and interpersonal skills.

How do you recommend applicants communicating those skills?

It’s coming between the lines. You read it between the lines. You see it when they comment on their weaknesses. When commenting on achievements, they talk about what they learned from it. Whether it’s a success or failure, you can see through their learnings what they have made of the experience. And easily through the lines, you can see the resilience and lessons learned — positive or negative. We see that in the videos, essays, and interviews.

What is your best advice for applicants to catch the attention of members in your office and get the alumni interview?

Essay number one is very important to us because this is where we can understand the personality and see on paper, ‘Who is the person?’ When you start reading and cannot stop, it’s a great essay. Just like reading a great book, you are reading the great story of a person. The recommendation is to be honest in the essay and communicate what makes them unique and different instead of writing what they think we want to hear.

Sometimes I talk to people and they have very interesting stories to share and when I ask why it wasn’t in their essays they say, ‘You are a business school, I didn’t know you would be interested in learning this.’ And that happens primarily in essay number one. It’s not as much being too personal, thinking what they have experienced through life and what makes them unique and who they are is something we don’t want to know. But we do, because in a way, the projection for the future is coming back to their experience and what makes them the unique individual they are.

I’ve heard from admissions consultants that sometimes student athletes will omit the fact they played varsity sports in college and that’s a big deal for admissions staff. Is that true for INSEAD?

Absolutely. At that level, yes. For sure. And the contrary is true, you also have people who are giving you a long list of activities that are not interesting.

What are some things that will sink an application from the beginning?

Bullet points in an essay. I mean, it’s an essay. Again, it’s their story. But if you have bullet points describing your life, it’s something that we will notice, at least in the back of our minds. Because of the diversity of people we recruit, we don’t want to make speculations. If the person has written in bullet points, we try to go to the next level and think, this is weird, and not clever for us, but we don’t want to stop somebody from shining in an interview even if the essay was not well-written.

So we are very careful with making assumptions and not being biased by anything because of the diversity and in some cultures it might be fine to write like this. This is why the pool of evaluators are coming from a diverse background as well. The team has different nationalities, passports, passions for the same reason.

What are some other things you emphasize besides GPAs and GMATs, if we haven’t already spoken about them?

Indeed, we touched a little on this. The academic part is based on fact. You have the transcript, you have the GMAT, it’s very easy to calibrate. And then we move on to the videos, essays, and letters of recommendation. And this is where we pay more attention. Because we are looking for personality and all the soft skills. It’s more on the leadership skills and ability to contribute to the program. And the capacity to work in multicultural teams. Those are the three areas where we spend the majority of the time evaluating.

What are the biggest misconceptions applicants have of INSEAD?

That they need French. This came up over the weekend. Sometimes the level of GMAT, as well. Sometimes people think if they can’t get above 700 they have no chance.

What is your best advice for preparing for the alumni interview?

To get some background information on the alumni. If they have been assigned to interview a candidate, it’s not a random pick. It is because we feel it best fits the applicant profile to express their ideas and to see how they come to life and how they communicate and how they express their feelings, learnings, and knowledge.

It’s two interviews and with Google and LinkedIn it’s very easy to know a little bit about them. Also, because the format of the interview is two-way communication — it’s not a case-based interview — the interviewers will have a conversation with the candidate exactly like if they were in their groups as classmates.

In which part of the application process do you see applicants making mistakes?

I think the biggest ones are before the interview — rarely for people we decide to interview. Some of them are, again, inappropriate essays.

Are you referring to bullet points in essays or outside of bullet points?

Outside of bullet points. It’s too much information. It’s not the length of the essay and the wrong information would be fine, we don’t want to make assumptions. It’s inappropriate information. I don’t understand, but we always get a few.

Can you give us some examples?

Yes, there was a story about being in a bath with three people. I have no idea why. We get that at least once per round. It’s like they want to check if you are reading all of the application.

Wow, that is incredibly odd. Let’s switch gears. How much do the alumni interviews influence the final decision from your office?

I wouldn’t be able to give it a precise percentage, but if both interviewers say definitely admit, and the rest of the application is good, the person is very likely to be admitted.

What if everything in the application packet is stellar — top GMAT scores and GPAs, very well-written essays, and solid videos — and both interviewers say no?

Then the person will be denied.

So the interviews carry significant weight.

Yes, they do carry some weight. The difficulty comes when they have differing opinions, in which case we can do a third interview or we can decide based on the videos and essays and go one way or the other. We do consistency ratings on the interviewers as well to see whether one has more or less experience.

We have others that shine in the interview when the application was so-so. It happens enough that when we take pre-selection decision, we feel like giving that person a chance.

 

Are there differences in who typically applies to the different intakes?

For the September intake, we see people who apply to multiple schools, so they often have a Plan B. And for the January intake, you have people who are usually just targeting INSEAD. That’s the main difference. But in terms of quality, it’s the same quality of applications. We recommend the January intake for people who are 100% committed to going into banking afterwards because that fits the recruiting season better.

In January we also see people who are 100% committed to doing some sort of drastic change. So, not just geography, but also function or sector. In that case, we see them going into the January intake because of the possibility of doing the internship and that gives them the opportunity to give it a try and see if they fit the new sector.

Are you seeing changes in career goals and values of applicants?

Sustainability is definitely a word we hear more and more. Social impact, social innovation are definitely trendy words. Entrepreneurship, startup are also coming in either short-term or long-term goals.

Which schools are you competing with for your best applicants?

From the GMAC data, we see we compete against LBS, Harvard, and Stanford. If we admit people who have withdrawn, we see those are usually the schools where they are going.

Do you have any applicants that stand out in your mind over the years that you took a chance on and they really thrived and exceeded your expectations?

The poker player. He was a professional poker player. And I was really wondering whether he was playing with INSEAD and how much he was gambling with his application. That was difficult for me to imagine the person — not in the class — but after in the alumni network. And for the Career Development Center team. I sought their advice as well for an opinion on this person. The application was good. Everything was properly written. The GMAT was fine. But why an MBA? He was perfectly fine. People loved it and loved him. That was five or six years ago and I’m not sure where he is now. We debated his application for sure.

Is there anything you feel applicants should know about you or your team?

One common trait for the entire team is the fact that we are all attached to our candidates in a way. We have an admissions committee, and so, we are indeed a gatekeeper, but the admissions committee makes the final vote. And the admissions committee is comprised of alumni and faculty. Sometimes when the admissions committee denies somebody we like, we say, ‘OK, don’t feel strong, don’t feel bad for this person.’ But we have this bonding and way of getting attached to our candidates sometimes, for some reason. Sometimes it’s someone who called, or someone who was nice, or someone you met on the road, but it’s hard when the admissions committee denies someone you’ve become attached to.

Do you have an overwrite button you can push?

Nope.

Any final thoughts?

I’m sure we could keep going for ages. But I think we covered most of it.

 

 

以上内容摘自:

http://poetsandquants.com/2016/10/18/mba-gatekeeper-insead/ 

 

 

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