Assembling the perfect MBA class at IMD Business School

IMD Business School has a stringent admissions process to ensure their MBA class is the perfect blend of candidates. But how do they do it? To find out, we spoke to Anna Farrus, the Head of Recruitment, Admissions and Career Development at IMD Business School.

In short

The rewarding nature of admissions

“I love the fact that we change people’s lives,” Anna states. (00:45)

Anna Farrus doesn’t hold back when describing the effect that an MBA from IMD Business School can have on people. Having worked in the admissions industry for 20 years, it’s a subject she can talk about with plenty of confidence.

Now the Head of MBA Recruitment, Admissions and Career Development at IMD, she says her job satisfaction doesn’t come from exam results or rankings. The real value comes from seeing the personal development of MBA students during their time at IMD.

“We help people develop themselves and achieve goals that sometimes they didn’t even think that they could achieve,” she enthuses. “For me, that’s very rewarding.” (00:51)

Personal development is only possible by finding candidates who complement each other and are willing to learn from each other. Anna and her team are only able to do that because of a stringent admissions process.

“We really pay attention to the candidates that we admit into the program,” she explains. “We want to get to know every candidate very well because we want to make sure not only that they’re going to grow, but they are also going to help others in the class grow. That is very important for us.” (01:28)

The case for applying early

With a little over 100 spaces for more than 600 applicants, the IMD MBA is an in-demand program. As the places fill up, it becomes harder to find that perfect mix of candidates that Anna talks about.

“I always say the first person that we admit into the program is the easiest,” she says. “The second one is going to be a bit more difficult because we also want to ensure that we have different profiles and different skills represented.” (02:43)

Anna adds, “When we are at the point where most of the class is filled, we have to really look into the different candidates applying to ensure that they’re not already represented in the class. Also that they’re going to bring something interesting for the others to learn.” (03:09)

It’s perhaps an admission that it’s better to apply early for your MBA – particularly if you’re coming from an industry or location that’s typically overrepresented in MBA cohorts. By applying early, you can make your application the easiest one to accept.

Forging reflective and responsible leaders in the IMD MBA

Although IMD gathers a diverse set of candidates from all walks of life, the program itself is unified in its objectives. For IMD that means one thing: developing leaders. And not just any type of leader.

“The MBA that we have is unique in the sense that we consider it to be a leadership development program – and probably the longest leadership development program in the world! We really think, especially in this challenging environment that we’re living in at the moment, we need to be able to develop reflective and responsible leaders,” Anna explains. (07:27)

Given that one of the aims of the program is to develop leaders, candidates aren’t required to have leadership experience. If you’re in that boat, Anna says you should demonstrate your potential to be a good leader in your application.

“We’re interested in potential, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have had to lead projects or lead people,” she says. “If you haven’t, demonstrate throughout the application form, the CV, and the essay the experience that you think could make you a good leader – the kind of leader we’re looking for.” (09:46)

What IMD is looking for in MBA candidates

Despite IMD’s focus on leadership, Anna says it’s not the most important feature they look for in candidates. It’s not your GMAT score either.

“The most important aspect that we’re looking for in a candidate is to have an open mind,” she says. “To be able to work and interact with people from different cultures, different backgrounds that have different points of view. Also to accept sometimes that what you think is not necessarily what everybody else thinks.” (13:01)

Finding a set of candidates with these shared values comes back to the admissions process at IMD. It’s only through this process that Anna and her team can find applicants that are a good fit not only for the school, but for each other. If you want to be part of a cohort that’s perfect for IMD, Anna has a final piece of advice for you.

“Being yourself is the best thing to do. We’re trying to get to know each one of you very well, and so being yourself is the best way of doing that.” (15:49)

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