IESE Business School- Q&A with Admissions Director
Paula Mafra de Amorim, Admissions Director at IESE Business School
- How has your admissions process allowed candidates to get to know your MBA program and student community during the Covid times?
The obvious answer for this question is through more online events. However, we went beyond just offering more virtual events. We restructured our events calendar to have a good mix of global and local events, so candidates could have the international and more institutional perspective while keeping the richness of details they usually get in regional sessions. We are offering more Virtual Open Days, which provide candidates with the possibility of experiencing a case class with an MBA professor and hearing from alumni during the panel. It is our most complete event, and we are very happy we are now able to reach candidates we couldn’t before because the Open Days were held on our campuses.
- What was your deferral approach for your newly admitted students due to COVID in 2020? Do you have plans for increasing enrollment for the classes of 2023 & 2024?
We created a special deferral process where we analyzed all the requests and the supporting related documentation, and discussed each case in a committee. Although we had seen an increase in deferrals when compared to other years, it hasn’t reached a substantial number for candidates to be worried about a potential decrease in the admission rate. We have enough space in the campus to accommodate more people, if needed, while still adhering to our strict safety protocol.
- Walk us through the life of an application in your office. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.)?
The Admissions team at IESE is organized by region, therefore after the candidate clicks “submit”, the Associate Director responsible for that candidate’s country will read the application and take it to a committee. This committee is formed by the admissions associate directors of all regions and myself. We then decide who will pass to the next stage, which is the interview, and who will already receive the rejection letter. Interviews can be done virtually or physically but are usually conducted by one of the members of the Admissions Committee, who are all alumni from the school. Some candidates can also be invited for the Assessment Day, which is a group dynamic conducted virtually these days with the objective of getting to know more about the candidates in a different setting, more than just the interview. After completing these steps, we take all candidates to the admissions committee, where we discuss case by case and decide eventually on who we will admit, reject or waitlist.
- How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read the essays? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? What is one key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write?
The essays are extremely important for us, because we are genuinely trying to find candidates who would fit well in our school culture. We have strong values of ethics, collaboration and team spirit. IESE is also a school with high standards for academic performance, hence we expect applicants to demonstrate a certain driver for academics. These are some of the aspects that define IESE. With this in mind, candidates should use the essays to draw the links between IESE’s traits and their own. Although we understand candidates sometimes apply to multiple schools, they should try to avoid copying essays, since schools are looking for customization and uniqueness. As we all know, schools receive loads of applications so it is important to try to stand out. The best way to do that is through a good and thorough research on the school, have a clear understanding of your own motivations and strengths and be as genuine as possible. We are looking into understanding who our candidates are as people and not just from what is written on the CVs, so make sure to use each essay to show the different facets of who you are and trust the process. We care for our applicants with the humanistic approach that is so typical of IESE, and we hope you can feel our appreciation for you, despite the outcome of the process.
- Could you tell us about your interview process? Approximately how many applicants do you interview? Do you have any Interview tips for a Zoom call?
As mentioned before, the interview is usually done by a member of the AdCom. To ensure a good and fair assessment of the candidates and on their fit to our school, there is a tendency to over interview, with the number of interviews revolving around 70-80% of the applications we receive.
We have been using virtual interviews in our process for many years. Given the current situation, we all have gotten used to being in front of the computer, which can make candidates overly relaxed during critical moments. Hence, make sure you understand that this is a formal interview and to dress accordingly, fix your background and make sure you won’t be disturbed (although we know sometimes this can’t be 100% controlled).
The interview is supposed to be a moment where we get to know you, clarify doubts on the application and potentially create a bond. You won’t want any small and avoidable detail to ruin that experience and steal your moment.
- Is your MBA program test-optional for 2020-2021 and/or beyond? If yes, what other factors will you now emphasize more?
No, we are still requiring the GMAT/GRE as a mandatory requirement.
- What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?
I am going to answer this question as an alumna from the MBA Class of 2016, who, as an applicant in 2013, knew little of the transformational experience IESE could provide me. At IESE, I learned how to be a better person, not only a better professional. I learned that my point of view is just one among many and that business is not a science but something circumstantial that will be highly affected by the ones that are making the decisions. I learned that sometimes I can feel small among incredible and competent people, but other times I will feel great and special, and those moments alternate so we can practice our humility and confidence and go further. I made some of the best friends of my life and met people that showed me a different world. I received and gave support in moments when needed. And above all, I learned to learn, and this gives me the strong feeling that I will keep growing. I wish applicants knew more about how complete and life changing the experience at IESE can be.
- Anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or admissions process?
As I tried to reinforce in previous answers, we want to know our candidates at a deeper level, therefore, reaching out to us is extremely important. My team is available for quick chats before the application. We organize several events, with different topics and objectives, throughout the cycle. Take advantage of how open and friendly we are and ask your questions. Reach out to current students and alumni. They are the purest source to know about the experience IESE provide. By doing a good research, you will be able to truly know if what we offer is what you are looking for. I wish you the best of luck in the process!