2013 Virtual Panel: Exploring European B-Schools with IMD, HEC Paris and ESADE

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2013 Virtual Panel: Exploring European B-Schools with IMD, HEC Paris and ESADE

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Linda Abraham: Hello. My name is Linda Abraham. I am the founder of Accepted.com and the moderator of today's chat. First I want to welcome all applicants to the virtual panel, and I want to congratulate you for taking the time to learn more about different MBA options and the advantages of a European business school. It is critical to decision making process and your admissions chances that you know as much about the schools you are applying to and you know as much as possible about the different options out there. Being here today allows you to ask our expert panel about these top business schools and the benefits of an International MBA.

I also want to give a special welcome to our panel: Marie-Laurence Lemaire, HEC Paris Senior Development Manager; Jeroen Verhoeven, ESADE MBA and Executive Masters and Associate Director of Admissions; and Lisa Piguet, IMD Assistant Director MBA admissions and Marketing. Thanks to everyone for joining.

I'm going to take advantage of my position as moderator and ask the first question. Marie, Jeroen and Lisa, what's new at your respective programs?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Yes. Welcome everyone and welcome to HEC Paris. What's new? A lot of things are going to be very different from September 12 because the MBA program will be moving into a brand new building, it will be top of the range in terms of facilities for the students and for the staff. It will be a very different environment, and so we've been looking forward to this building. The grand opening is tomorrow, so the school is in a little bit of a turmoil right now, but it's going to be really a good success.

The second thing is also a reshuffle of the curricular. This is going to be implemented September 12 as well. We have new classes introduced in the core classes like Ethics, for example, with a very strong development in Leadership. We also have a brand new portfolio of electives, aiming towards doing business in Europe and developing soft skills as well. I'm not going to really talk about all that right now, and I'm sure within the conversation there will some other item that I will be able to pinpoint in the new program. But a new building, a new program, a new age for HEC Paris.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much.

Lisa Piguet: Sure. Welcome to IMD in Switzerland. It's a lovely, sunny day here. It has not been the last few days, so we're very happy about that. At IMD, the biggest thing I would say that changed was we have a new program that started in January this year, where essentially, it's still an 11-month program, and the focus still is the year-long leadership and personal development with the psychologist.

The big difference is that we have this new kind of dynamic learning where we've implemented more projects into the program, because what we actually saw through the academic research is people actually learn better when they actually have projects that they can work on, the information seems to stick better. This current class, it started in December, they're half-way through. They've had more projects as they go. They may have Finance in the morning, for example, and then go work on one of their projects in the afternoon so the information actually sticks better. In terms of the program itself, we still have all the same business fundamentals, with the focus on entrepreneurship and leadership. Besides that, I would say, more than anything, it's a lot more projects.

Linda Abraham: Great. Okay. Thank you.

Jeroen Verhoeven: Yes. Thank you very much, of course, Linda, for organizing this, and for my colleagues to be available as well to help the candidates with some insights in studying in Europe. Like HEC, ESADE is also moving to a new building, brand new campus. I guess that shows that there's a lot of interesting things happening on the European MBA front. It is a brand new building with a specific focus on innovation, on the open and cross innovation, and also, of course, to fuel entrepreneurship. It's basically a business park with a lot of attention for innovative start-up companies, where the MBA facilities will actually be located right inside that brand new building. Again, this is something very exciting for us. We're not in all the way, to tomorrow. We have to wait about one month, but we're anxiously waiting for that moment to move into our new building.

In addition to that we also have some changes in the program. As some of you may know, ESADE actually offers a flexible format of the MBA: 12, 15, or 18 months, where the idea is to really adapt the MBA to one's particular needs, whether or not you look for an internship, whether or not you would like to go on an exchange program, et cetera. This has been implemented approximately two years ago, and the change we're now implementing is that the decision format, the decision point when you actually decide your program length, has even been pushed backward.

You will spend from September to May studying all in the same cohort, and then you will decide if you want to intensify, finishing in 12 months, or if you want to do 15, or 18 months. Really allowing people to get a personalized experience, almost as sort of a tailor-made suit, really made to fit. Those two things I would highlight as the new things: later decision format within the flexible MBA, and obviously a new building, which we're very excited about.

Linda Abraham: That’s great. I also want to ask, just before we continue, I want to ask the applicants here, and I'm going to put up a poll. What stage are you at in the application process? The poll is up now, and the options are: Researching schools to apply to, Submitting your application, You've already interviewed and you're waiting for results, you're waitlisted, or other.

Eighty-six percent are researching schools to apply to, 7% have already submitted the application and 7% are in some other category. Okay. Most of you are in the application stage, which is pretty much where I would expect.

Maybe can you each also give just a brief over-view of the application process at your schools?

Jeroen Verhoeven: At ESADE we run a staged admissions process, where we have five stages in each year, we divide the admissions processes in cycles. When people apply in the 1st round, by a certain date they'll get their decision. Basically, of the total places we have, which is 180 places, we tend to divide the number of places by each stage, with slightly more places available in the early stages, to sort of reward early voters.

As is probably very common in this business school world, you'll have to go through an online application process, you'll have to submit supporting documents, you'll have to do your tests, depending on your English level, you'll have to do the TOEFL test, of course there's the GMAT.

Then you'll be selected whether or not you'll pass the interview phase. After the interview, which is always done by somebody actually from our admissions committee, you'll be taken back to the admissions committee for a second evaluation, and then we are able to provide you with a final decision from the admissions committee. Turn-around time of all of that, if your application is complete, is about 3 to 4 weeks.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you. Approximately what percentage of the applicant pool is interviewed?

Jeroen Verhoeven: I would say we tend to interview quite a lot. About 60-70% actually makes it to interviews, because we really want to give people the best opportunity that they have. And then out of the total applicant pool, we have about one-in-three that are admitted.

Linda Abraham: Do you conduct Skype interviews, as well as in-person interviews?

Jeroen Verhoeven: We do, we do, although we have a preference, of course, for face-to-face interviews. Amongst my team members, and myself included, we do travel around the world to make interviews available, and obviously a lot of candidates come to visit us on our monthly open days. If, for some whatever reason, our agendas do not coincide, we do also interview by Skype, but always with somebody directly from the admissions committee, as to get a direct link between the candidate and the admissions committee.

Linda Abraham: Okay, wonderful.

Lisa Piguet: Our admissions process is slightly different than most peoples' out there. We have 5 deadlines, like Jeroen was talking about. We start in February. We have a little bit different intake. We actually start in January and we finish in December. Our interview timing is a little bit different. The first deadline is February, then, we have April, June, August, and September. When people actually apply, it's a fairly long application process, or application itself. If they submit their application, it takes about a month to read their application, and then they get a call for interview.

Now we don't interview like most schools do, you actually have to come here, to Switzerland, we're right outside Geneva, and you spend a whole day with us. It's essentially like a corporate assessment center, going through various exercises throughout the day. Once that day happens, then we will get back to you within 10 business days of that particular day that you're there.

That being said, we do interview in two other places in the world, so we take a whole team to Singapore, which we just finished in May. We do that once a year, every May. And we'll be going to Sao Paulo in September for the Latin Americans. We do two off-site interviews, where we fly the teams down there and we conduct the interviews just as if they were actually here at IMD. So it's a little bit different process. We receive anywhere between 400 and 600 applications per year, and we interview roughly 200 of those people, and 90 get in. Class size is 90.

Linda Abraham: Yes, thank you very much.

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Yes. For us, it's slightly different. Again, each school has got its own particularities. We have about 200 applicants a year, divided into a September intake and a January intake. The September intake has roughly about 150 places, and January, roughly about 50 places.

We have an enrolling process with specific deadlines that is specified on our website, so I'm not going to go through the different dates. The actual recruitment process, it's an online application. You have to really concentrate a lot on the essays, because it's a very important part of the application, where we really ask specific questions, so you need to really answer those questions, and have a check on your spelling and do your homework on this. It really does take time, to really concentrate on those essays.

We also need a GMAT test, although we've recently accepted the GRE, you can take either the GMAT or the GRE. An English test for the non-English speakers. You need two recommendation letters. When you have your entire file together, you submit online, and you will be preselected for interviews. We conduct the interviews on a local basis, so wherever you are, most of the time we have alum in the region where you live, so you will have your interviews done locally, wherever you live, through the alum network.

The interview process is slightly different from most schools, because we open the interview with a 10-minute oral presentation from the candidate on a topic of his or her choice. It is a different kind of approach, because the person can talk about anything. Obviously, it's much better to talk about something which is not work related, but if the person wants to talk about a leadership experience or something like that, it's fine, but to avoid any kind of technical presentation.

Then, it's question and answer. The interview is mainly to discover a person, and also for the person to discover the school, because, through the interview process, we want to make sure that the match is really right, that the candidate fits the school, that the school fits the candidate. This is a both-way kind of interview. Bring your questions, because it's really good for the alum to be able to talk about his or her program, and it's a way for you to discover things that you haven't really gone through before. The whole process takes about 5 weeks; you have an answer from us about 5 weeks after submitting your application.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you very much. Thank you all for your excellent summaries. Let's turn to the applicant questions. Angie asks the first question, and it's probably on everybody's mind, let's start with it. She writes: "Hi Linda, I have a question. How has the placement rate been effected by the current economic crisis in Europe, especially in Spain? Also, what is the placement rate like for those wishing to work for an American company, but still interested in foreign assignments?" Jeroen? You're in ground zero.

Jeroen Verhoeven: Yes. I was betting this question would come up. It's a very logical question, and we get it basically every single interview that we do. Here we have to distinguish one thing, because obviously in Spain, the situation is very serious. There are a lot of sad things happening in this country. Luckily, in that sense, for a school like ESADE, we are, of course, an extremely international school, where we have links with companies from all over the world, including, of course, Spanish companies that are not only operating in Spain, but also elsewhere.

The question, "How has employment been effected?" If we look at the number of people actually, let's say, in jobs at three to four months post-graduation, that has only seen a very small decrease. Very small, maybe one or two percentage points, 3 percentage point maximum. However, we do see that it has been more difficult for people to actually work in Spain, including also our Spanish MBA applicants themselves, who often, actually, look for an international, top international MBA, to actually escape, in that sense, from some of Spain's economic problems.

Just to give you an example, Banco Santander, Spain's main bank, actually gets 40% of the revenues out of Brazil and 22% of the UK, and only 8% out of Spain. Although Spanish companies may have some difficulties in Spain, there are still plenty of opportunities elsewhere. Having said that, the problems in Spain don't mean that Spain will be completely wiped off the map, of course, it's not like that. Sometimes the media, they tend to be a bit alarmist and exaggerating. I get questions all the time.

Yesterday I was asked by a candidate from Canada, she said, "Has the security been decreased in Spain because of the economic problems?" Of course, it's not like that. There are serious economic problems, but by being able to: A, work internationally and B, have a lot of different sectors, you can very much reduce the economic downside effect. For people who specifically want to work in Spain, there are certain growth sectors that are still very interesting.

We look at, for example, technology-fused innovation, some smaller company start-ups that have seen a very huge increase. Certain sectors, such as, for example, telecommunications is big in Spain, although, of course, French, with Orange, is doing a great job in getting quite a big share of our market. There are definitely sectors where there are a lot of opportunities. Healthcare is still a very big sector in Spain.

I would say it has to do a lot with your particular sector, but my advice is always be flexible and be aware that working in Spain now is more difficult than a few years ago, and if you want to do so you'll have to probably accept lower salaries than in Frankfurt, Amsterdam, or, not even to mention, New York.

Linda Abraham: What about ties to Latin America?

Jeroen Verhoeven: Ties to Latin America? That is, of course, a big thing. Even before we spoke about things such as internationalization, business schools in Spain and Spanish companies were always looking at the Latin-American market, which is sort of a natural homeland. We've seen, of course, some problems there, now with Argentina, with it actually being internationalized.

But incidents like that apart, there is a very strong economic, very fruitful economic relationship between all Latin American countries and Spain, obviously taking into consideration the language factor there. And for those who are in the states, of course, California, but other big cities as well, Spanish is always a very important language to speak from a business perspective.

Linda Abraham: Wonderful, thank you. Marie, how is HEC affected?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Well, in France at HEC, we have a different kind of focus. We place a lot of our students in the industry sector, and you still have some very interesting sectors of activities developing in Europe. I would mention the energy sector. We place a lot of our students in the energy. Aviation is also very strong. I would mention also the luxury business. As you're very well aware, a lot of companies in the luxury market come from France, and maybe they don't sell, obviously, most of the products in Europe, but Asia is a big development for them.

You could work for a French company based anywhere in the world, depending on the sector of activity you would like to reach out. I would say here, that, for international students wanting to go to Europe in order to study an MBA program, you really have to be aware that some sectors of activities are still booming in Europe. And obviously, despite the crisis, there are very good job opportunities in Europe, outside of Europe, and most business schools in Europe will place the students on the global perspective, in global companies, maybe not necessarily based in Europe, but outside of Europe. That's mainly to add something to the Spain problem, I would say.

Linda Abraham: OK, great. Thank you, Marie. Lisa? From what I read, Switzerland is actually going just fine.

Lisa Piguet: Switzerland is. We are very, very lucky. I'm sorry for you guys. I heard on the radio yesterday that we have the lowest unemployment rates right now than we've had in around 25 years. Switzerland is still very healthy, as well as Germany, by the way. It's still doing quite well.

We're a little bit similar to HEC, where we have a very strong industry focus, so a lot of our MBAs go back into industry, the second being consulting. Interestingly enough, IMD has one of the stronger career services groups out there, and so this last year, the 2011 class that just graduated in December, had higher placement results than the previous year, which actually you would think it would be the opposite. They had, roughly 85% of the class, had an offer at graduation, doesn't mean they took the offer, and we just got the results from the Career Services Council, which is, all the big schools belong to something called the Career Services Council, where they have to report numbers, and we just got the results back for what they call the 3-month after graduation results. Ours are actually higher than they were the year before, again very interesting.

The other thing that's shifted for us, a lot of people do stay in Switzerland. I think it was Angie who asked a question about working for an American company overseas. In Switzerland, we have roughly 325 multinational European headquarters here, based right outside IMD's territory here. So between Lausanne and Geneva, we have probably half, and some are based in Zug, some are based in Zurich. You do not have to have the other language to work there, it's only in English. A lot of MBAs do stay in Switzerland, but they have "global positions", they're technically based here, but traveling all over the place.

We have a lot of Americans in the program that do actually stay in Europe and/or go to Asia. That's the other thing that's shifted for us this last year is that the placement rates in Asia have really gone up, which is, again, a little bit surprising, considering we've heard that Asian countries want people with really only Asia experience now, but, in our case, we were able to place a lot, it's 25% of the class, actually, last year went to Asia, which is really high. For us, things are still really very rosy. Now I can't say that that will be that way a year from now, but for the moment we're very pleased.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you. It's interesting how different the perspectives are. From the American perspective, you're all so close together. Enrique asks, "What do you offer in terms of language training?" Lisa, do you want to start with that?

Lisa Piguet: Sure. If any of you have actually done your research on IMD, you'll realize that it's a fairly intense program. It's known from the MBAs, they'll talk about it from the alumni, therefore we don't have language requirements and we don't really expect anybody to necessarily learn another language.

We have an alum, actually, with the same name, in Mexico, that the person just asked, and somebody asked him when I was with him one day, and he said: "Yeah, you end up learning restaurant French," because you really have no time in this kind of a program. We literally pack a 2-year program into 11 months. So you have really no time to learn another language, unless you try to learn it before you come in, but it's not really feasible. Unless you kind of have some base knowledge before you come in here, you can speak to the restaurant staff, to the people at the grocery store, but in our case, everything is pretty much done in English. Switzerland is so multi-cultural and multi-lingual that almost everybody you meet here speaks English. So yes, we don't have another language requirement nor do we teach language classes.

Jeroen Verhoeven: At ESADE, the Spanish language is compulsory in the first part of the program, then it becomes optional, and then it is very much to do with how much time do you spend for your MBA, because if you do the MBA in 12 months, then the story is pretty similar to what Lisa said. I mean, then it is very difficult to really get to a professional proficiency level, but if you are able to stay a little longer and if you come in with a certain basis in the beginning, it is very often possible to get to good levels of Spanish so that you can actually use that professionally.

One of the reasons for many people, actually, in studying MBA in Spain is to get a business impulse in their Spanish that they may have picked up, let's say the restaurant Spanish that they may have already had, let's say from living in California, then to come to Spain to give that a more professional business outlook, that's one of the clear advantages that can be used, either back home in the US or, of course, if you work with Latin America or in Spain.

I just wanted to quickly come back to Linda's comment. You said from the US point of view it all looks so similar, Europe, and yet you have different perspectives.

Linda Abraham: No, I mean in terms of geography. I am keenly aware that Europe is very diverse.

Jeroen Verhoeven: No, I know, but it's exactly the traction point that we can offer, because if you, for example, jump in the car in California, you have to drive a pretty long way... well, you can drive south to Mexico and they speak Spanish. If you start driving north, you'll have to drive a pretty long way and you'll still hear English, and that's the attraction. That a relatively small geographical space, you can hear many different languages, you have completely different views on business, which is now part of the problems, because everything is focused, it's geared together in that single format of the Euro, but yet there are so many regional differences. It's a bit of a paradox. It's very interesting and not always easy. I really like your comment, because it is one of our attractions as sort of Pan-Europeans that we can have this diversity within a relatively small geographical space.

Linda Abraham: Yes. My parents, my father was Europeans, my mother is European. I was born in Europe. My mother speaks four languages, and we never thought, my sister and I never thought of her as being particularly multi-lingual because my father spoke eight. When we grew up, we're like, "Wait a minute, we speak English", and we both ultimately learned something else also, but it wasn't anything like that. My father was particularly gifted with languages, my mother certainly is also good at it, but, again, in comparison… you grow up and you get a different perspective. An American’s perspective, speaking two languages is an achievement.

In the European context, it was just no big deal to speak three or four. I don't know if you would agree with that or not, but at the time that they grew up, in their milieu, it was not that unusual. My father was unusually gifted and unusually motivated in that direction, but that's a different story.

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: I just wanted to add something, because at HEC languages is part of the curricular, and we really do focus on languages. We have a slightly longer program because we have a 16 month program. Therefore we have a little bit of time to play with. I'm not saying that it's going to be easy, and that everything is really smooth running and you have plenty of time to play around. You really do work very hard and you have a lot of classes to attend, but languages for us is a key to become a global manager.

A lot of people come to HEC with only English, and in that case we really ask people to take on French, so that would be compulsory, and you would be earning credits towards languages. People coming with one or two languages will need to take on a third language or a fourth language. So for us, language is really part of the learning process. It's part of learning cultures. It's part of opening up to a different type of business as well. It's part of becoming a global manager.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much. Let's do get back to the applicant questions. Diego asks, "With all due respect, I would like to know why choose a European MBA instead of a US MBA? What is the main difference/advantages?" Marie, why don't you start this off?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Yes, this is a tough one. Why US versus Europe? Well, a simple question, what do you want to do after your MBA? If you want to work in the US and be happy with your job, the job that you will find over there, I would say, stay in the US and you will be happy. You will get a great education, because you have great schools there, highly ranked and so on, so that's fine. But if you want to have a really strong diversity, get mixed up with different cultures, people coming from all over the world to have a very rich sharing of experience from people coming from countries that are so remote, sometimes you don't even know where they are on the map, an MBA in Europe is really the place. I'm sure in Spain, in Switzerland, as well, this is happening, but really the major difference between doing an MBA in Europe or doing an MBA in the US, if you want to make that jump into becoming international and to have that experience, an MBA in Europe would be the big difference that it will make on your CV.

Linda Abraham: Great. Lisa?

Lisa Piguet: Sure. I'm American, I actually can relate to the person who asked that question. I'm also Swiss, but I was raised in the US. The one thing about the US is that you have a different kind of, I would say, education process there. But I think I would touch on what Marie just said about the international focus of Europe, the programs here, it's very different than the US. I know when I was in business school, for example, I would be sitting in a class of 90 and it would say Mexico, it would say this, it would say that, but everybody spoke like me. They might have considered themselves Mexican, for example, or Argentinean, but in fact, they were born and raised in the US just like I was.

But in the European schools I think you really will see, and it's well known out there, you'll actually see the true international diversity that is represented worldwide. So in our program this year, we have 46 nationalities with 90 MBAs, and they're true… we have one Swiss. We don't really attract a lot of the domestic people necessarily, by design.

I think that's what you'll see, you'll see it being very international, and, despite what everybody reads about Europe, it actually still is okay and still carrying on. There are still a lot of multinational headquarters here and a lot of people want to work in those companies, with the hopes of going elsewhere. I think Europe is one of those places you can do that. Like Marie said, if you really want to stay in the US, you're probably going to attend a 2-year program and you probably will end up staying in the US, more likely than not.

Linda Abraham: Yes, that's true. It makes sense.

Lisa Piguet: If you want a global career, my advice is to go to Europe.

Linda Abraham: Jeroen, what's your response?

Jeroen Verhoeven: I'm completely in line with Lisa and Marie, it's the diversity, and it's the options that you could work internationally, but I would also link that somehow to back home in the United States, and somehow have a differentiating factor. There are a lot of top, top schools in the US, but there's also a lot of different people who go to those schools. If you can present yourself in front of a group to having said, "Okay, I've done my MBA in Switzerland, in France, in Spain," it is definitely something different. It will make you stand out. Standing out, I think, is very important when you're looking for a job. And also, if you look at today's world, where things are more and more interconnected, to use Thomas Friedman's word, “the world's flat. Competition comes from anywhere, anytime”. So in order to be successful in that fast-changing, interconnected world, having that cultural savviness, hopefully with some additional languages, as well, that can really give you the added advantage to land a job also back home, not even including all the interesting options that we might offer in Europe.

To give you an example of that, the other day I was talking to one of our New York alumni, he works for Bloomberg, and he says, "You know, because I studied in Spain, often I get these calls from the management saying, “Hey, you were the guy who did that MBA in Spain. Why don't you go off to Buenos Aires to help us out with this project?" So he's often pulled in projects that he said, "I would never have been invited for those interesting initiatives, weren't it for the fact that I've actually done my MBA in Spain." I think there are a lot of additional advantages, apart from the cultural richness that you can have, studying here in Europe. I think from a business perspective, there's also a clear added value to considering European options.

Linda Abraham: Thank you. Just to play devil's advocate on that, I can certainly hear the argument that the American who goes to Europe, or the Indian who goes to Europe and then wants to return to India, I think the logic of it would be somewhat similar. The person who steps outside the comfort zone and does something different and a little bit more challenging, a little bit less comfortable, has some benefit from it.

But what about networking? The person who goes to the US school has that US network, if they want to come back to the US. Could you address that concern?

Jeroen Verhoeven: You've raised a very valid point there. In terms of pure numbers, of course, at least a Spanish-based school, we can't offer the same network in terms of numbers that a US-based school can give in the US, but if it's a real local network you're interested in, then, yes, I find it difficult to compete, but if it is a global network that you're interested in, then I tend to say that the odds can be turned be around. In our case, I put my hands in the fire, that's the same for my colleagues. As Lisa said, they only have only one Swiss person. The international network that is important. I would say there is added value to studying in Europe, if you're looking somehow for an international ingredient.

Let's say, if you work in Texas, you want to stay in Texas the rest of your life, it's perfect. Then maybe it's not a necessity to study in Spain, then you might be better off, in that sense, to stay home. So in that sense, also, what Marie said, I would link it directly to: what are your goals? And you have to make plus and minuses and if a big local network is important, then I agree. That's something, the local network, in terms of big numbers, we can't offer. It would be more international.

Linda Abraham: Okay. Well, Lisa and Marie, if you want to add something, you can. If you're happy with Jeroen’s answer, I'd like to move back to the applicant questions.

Lisa Piguet: I would totally agree.

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Yes, I do agree as well, but at HEC there is the possibility to combine those two factors, because we offer quite a few double-degree programs and we have about 50 different options of exchange programs. So if you want to have experience in another country in Europe, or, in another part of the world, let's say Asia, or back in the US for example, you would be able to either do a double-degree or do an exchange program in those countries. Therefore having access to a local network, maybe the career services of the partner school, and so on. So although you might want to come to Europe for an MBA program, you still have the possibility of linking with your home country or discovering another part of the world as well. You can combine those kinds of things and I'm sure HEC is not the only school to provide that kind of facility in the program, in exchange places.

Jeroen Verhoeven: Very good point. Thank you for pointing that out. Actually, we are one of your exchange partners, so I'm happy that you pointed that out.

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Yes, exactly.

Linda Abraham: And that actually leads to the next question, and we have a couple of questions in this area, on this topic. Enrique asks: "Can you comment on international exchange program? Who should apply for it, how do you apply for it, how long does it take, when does it take place, in the context of all of your programs?" For HEC specifically, Angie asks, "Can Marie address the dual program with NYU, Stern, and HEC?"

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Okay. I can only talk for HEC's program, but the way the exchange program works is that you go for an exchange program at the end of the 16 months for 4 months. The selection process is done on campus by HEC. You give us different choices of schools, and there will be a selection to assess, and you will be granted a place at that university or another one. You will be granted your first choice, or second choice or third choice, according to very specific criteria.

This selection process will take place in January every year, so if you enter in September, you have a little bit of time to think about your exchange program partner and have time to choose and to inquire and so on. If you enter in January, you need to be pretty much on top and do your research before you enter the program. We have about 50 different partners throughout the world. We have a lot in the US. We have some in Europe as well, and ESADE is one of them. We have London School of Economics, and we have several others. We have some in Latin America, we have plenty in Asia as well, so we really cover the whole world.

Concerning double-degrees, they're slightly different. They will end up being mainly 24-month programs because you will be doing mainly your core phase, your fundamental phase, at HEC or the partner school, and then move on to the partner for the customized phase, so the different electives, and so on.

Specifically for the NYU program, you will be earning two MBAs, one from HEC, one from NYU. You can start in either school, so you need to go through the recruitment process at both schools. If you're admitted to both schools, you can choose to come to HEC first or go to NYU first, and then move onto the partner. The school will select you, each school will select you, and there's a cost involved. You will pay the school according to the number of months that you will spend there. Our program is 16 months, and if you go for the NYU double-degree, you will spend only 12 months at HEC, so you will pay the fees, the tuition fees, according to the number of months that you will spend at HEC. The same for NYU. So depending on the double-degree program that you want to go for, it will be slightly different, because every partner school will have a different kind of process, I'm not going to go through them all. We have quite a lot of information on our website about double agrees and exchange programs, but I just wanted to pinpoint and answer the question for NYU.

Linda Abraham: Wonderful, thank you Marie.

Lisa Piguet: At IMD, due to the duration of the program, being 11 months, we don't have an exchange program with any school out there. What we have in place of that are something called international consulting projects, which essentially, the MBAs spend roughly 10 weeks outside IMD, and it could be anywhere in the world. They travel to all countries, all cities. They're everywhere. They get to pick. They're always with top multinational companies. They're essentially doing consulting projects for them. That’s what we consider an exchange program, our exchange program. We just don't have time in such a short program to actually go some place for any length of time.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you.

Jeroen Verhoeven: At ESADE, because we have the flexibility of 12, 15, and 18 months, it is actually a combination of exactly the two things that were described previously. So depending on your goals, would you like to do an internship or would you like to do an exchange program, those questions can then lead you to the program format decision. And, in case you would like to do an internship, which is very important considering the local network factor, because that is obviously something that a local school gives you, through the exchange program can be assessed. Then you will have to do a 15- or 18-month program.

For those who do an 18-month program, you can actually do both options, you can do first a corporate internship, as Lisa explained, that can be done also, in our case, anywhere in the world. And then you can combine that with an exchange program in one of the schools. There is a selection process. We have about 40 partners as exchange students, but there is a lot of competition for that as well. So we actually do look at grades obtained in the first half of your MBA, and that will then push you higher on the bar in terms of getting your first choice.

Generally speaking, both US schools and Asian schools are very popular. The US schools, because we get a lot of people from the US and who like to get that US influence in their MBA, or people who are interested in the US and do not come from there. And Asia, of course, because of all the dynamic things that have been happening there in the last couple of years, so that's also a very interesting option. Europe is, of course, a top option, but for the exchange program, people, when they come to Europe, they tend to then try to go for an exchange in a different continent.

Having said that, we every year have a couple of students going also with our European partners, which are very important, sort of make the European cause even stronger, if I may call it like that.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you very much. Roberto asks, "What advantages/disadvantages are there with the one-year program?" Lisa, I believe your program is the shortest, so I want to start with you. We'll see if Marie and Jeroen have anything to add to your answer, okay?

Lisa Piguet: The big difference is, obviously, our MBAs are slightly older. The average age is 31. And so, normally when you're that age, there's a high cost for taking two years out of your work, that's a huge advantage of a one-year program, especially because we're putting a two-year program into 11 months. Now, what does that mean? It means that you're probably going to work a little bit harder, but you probably don't have to be out of the workplace very long. That’s definitely the advantage. You're with people that are slightly more mature normally, when you do a shorter program, and who tend to have more work experience. The learnings, I think, are better.

The two-year programs, I think, are much better for younger people, only because nobody in the programs actually will really have that kind of experience. I think it's good if you're under, probably, 25 to do a two-year program. A lot of people have this misconception that two-year programs provide better job opportunities. I'll give you an example. At IMD last year, it's a one-year program, 97% of the class changed geography, function, or industry, without an internship, and being an 11-month program. That's really high, we don't really feel when you're 28, 29, 30 that you really need an internship at that point, because we're quite good at training people how to use transferable skills. If you look at those results, they kind of speak for themselves. I think, the little bit older you are, I think you're more geared to a one-year program. The younger you are, maybe you're more interested in a two-year program.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Thank you. Jeroen and Marie, do you have anything to add to that?

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: Yes, I fully agree with what you said, Lisa. We have a 16-month program, but our students are slightly younger than yours, the average age is 29. We see a slightly younger population, but slightly longer program, but not quite a two-year program, you can see how all this fits really well, exactly as Lisa is actually saying. People with slightly less work experience, but yet a little bit more time, to go for a short internship, for example, or maybe work on a consulting project, or do things like that, with hands on. They don't have as much work experience as the people, maybe, at IMD, being 31-years-old, so all that makes complete sense. Depending on your age, depending on what you want to do, you will fit one program or the other.

Remember what I said earlier in the panel, mentioning that in the interview you need to fit the program and the program needs to fit you. This is exactly what we're talking about here. You need to be clear on your goal, you need to be clear on your project. You are a certain age, you have a certain experience, and you will fit this program much better versus a different program, either being a program in Europe or a program in the US. Choosing a program is always very difficult, but you need to do this introspection and see, "What do I want to do once I graduate from an MBA? Where do I see myself in the next five years?" in order to choose the right program for you.

Lisa Piguet: One thing, I don't want to give people the wrong impression. Our average age is 31, but we will take people that are 25, with a minimum of three years full-time work experience. You won't see too many of them in the program, I think we have two or three that are 26 this year. When we interview them, the big thing that we're looking for is maturity, are they willing to step up to the plate, and are they willing to give information. Because sometimes people that are 25, 26 have a hard time with people that are 34 and 35. That’s what we're looking for, so they're not all 30, 31. We do have some younger ones. The 80% range is 28-34.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you very much.

Jeroen Verhoeven: No, no. Actually both of your comments describe perfectly if you look at our statistics, when we look at what actual program format people choose, because the one-year format, the 12-month format, is exactly what you described. It's sort of the more mature people. The average age of that program with us is 32, who want to sort of get the knowledge as quick as possible without doing, maybe, long internships et cetera. If we look at the people who go for our 18-month option, they tend to be a bit younger, they tend to be more career changers there, who use the internships also to relocate in terms of functions and sectors.

The whole idea is, because there are different profiles, with different matching program lengths, that was the whole idea of bringing that all in one option, where people have also first the time to see, "Which is the actual format that's best for me." You don't have to choose that before you jump in, but you have a couple of months time to think, and that perfectly describes the comments that you both made, so I'm very much in line with your thoughts.

Linda Abraham: Great. Thank you very much. Okay, let's move on to the next questions, from Miraj. "While statistics are nice, it would be great to know what special efforts does the career office take to place or connect students in the other regions outside of Europe, say in India, Singapore, or China? Good question.

Jeroen Verhoeven: Yes, good question. And actually, the career services team, it either functions with sector specialties or geographic specialties. In our case, we have a wonderful lady called Mary Granger, who I'm sure one of my colleagues today will have met her on the road sometimes because she travels a lot, and she takes care of career services and admissions, actually, for Asia. What she does, she does a lot of business development. So she goes out. Her role is Asia-only, so she goes out to Asian companies and to talk about their needs, filters that back into the program, and filter that back to career services, and because we're a relatively small program, there can be literally one-on-one conversations about certain students. She will be able to bring certain profiles of students right in front of recruiters in Asia. It's a very much a one-on-one thing, both for the companies, as well as for the students. Actually, for us, Asia is our biggest pool of incoming students, so it's a very important market for us, and number two would be the United States.

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: What career services will do for students to place them in companies in Asia is mainly to take the students to Asia. Career students will work very closely with students through the different professional clubs, and every year we organize, with the students, what we call a trek. A trek is a group of students traveling to a city or a region in the world, and during that time, it lasts for about a week to 10 days, you visit companies. You have your CV ready and you have appointments with HR, with people who will be willing to talk about the different jobs available in the company and so on. It is really down to a presentation of your skills, your resume, and an opportunity to really go in the company and talk to the HR people.

This is something that is very popular with the students, so we organize a lot of treks everywhere in the world, quite a lot in Asia. We have a very strong base in Beijing and Shanghai, because we have an executive education place there. So we have a very strong link with the alumni network in China. We place a lot of our students in the luxury sector, and obviously China is a very strong place for the luxury development nowadays. But also, Japan. Japan has quite a lot of opportunities in that sector of activity. All those things are happening in the career services.

Lisa Piguet: We are pretty much like HEC, in the sense that we have career treks. For Asia it's Singapore. What happens is you get a three-week break in July at IMD, and they usually go the first or second week of the break. In normal times, they take about a third of the class to Asia to do exactly what HEC was just describing. And then, now, we've added Dubai to the list as well. We have a big group going to Dubai this year.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Sergio asks, he says: "Good evening. This is Sergio from Mexico City. We've heard and read a lot about that one of the European MBA programs' key strengths is international focus, even though I have also heard that there is a huge challenge of keeping the students' alumni networks together, especially due to the wide variety of nationalities involved. What are IMD, HEC Paris, and ESADE doing to keep those networks strong and continue building upon them?”

Jeroen Verhoeven: While we first spoke about numbers, in terms of pure numbers, I was in that count, say in a sense, referring to MBAs only, but if you look at the case of ESADE, the numbers actually exponentially grow if we take in other programs of ESADE, for example, executive education. Our Buenos Aires campus, they do a lot of programs for mainly Latin American based companies, so if we look at ESADE-wide programs, connecting different programs together, the numbers actually do increase quite a bit.

And what we do, we have international chapters in place, for example, in Mexico City, Sergio, we have an ESADE alumni chapter as well, where we do a lot of activities. They can be helping when we have treks visiting certain countries, which we do to different countries, either run by students or by ESADE, as a program office of careers, often a combination, actually, of both. There can be interesting lectures, there can be a lot of different activities to bring people together. In order to get the quorum there, enough people to actually do interesting activities, we do have to link, we have to build bridges between the overseas programs, MBA, and executive education. That gives us the critical mass to do things in many countries of the world. We currently have 35 chapters up and running, and more are popping up, so there's definitely interesting things happening on that front.

Lisa Piguet: We’re very similar to what Jeroen was saying. In terms of the MBA alumni group, what we say about IMD, they're very tight. It's a very tight-knit group, and depending on what class you're from, you usually will be friends with, really good friends with over half the class. I know from just previous years, the class reunions they have almost every year in one of their respective countries, roughly 50%-60% of the class members actually show up every year, so that says a lot about it. But we're similar to Jeroen, in that we do a lot of executive education. Doesn't mean necessarily E-MBA but Exec. Ed. here at IMD, and we train anywhere from 8,000-10,000 executives or managers on campus every year. Those are part of your alumni network as well.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Enrique asks, "I could not find recruiters lists for the schools. Can you comment? Who are your top recruiters?"

Marie-Laurence Lemaire: I'm just going to give just a few figures. We have about 44,000 alum throughout the world, in 113 countries, so it's a very strong network, because we have the undergrad students, we have the masters program, we have executive education, we have the MBA program, so all those people relate to each other under one umbrella, being an HEC alum. We have 69 different chapters abroad. We really have a strong alumni network, and we have different chapters, like women at HEC, people working in specific sectors of activities will build a different professional club, and so on. All that is really taking place, and really standing the alum together. To go back to your question,: The top recruiters. HEC has got this specificity that we work with the HEC Foundation. The HEC Foundation is a group of 40 companies that got together and put money on the table for HEC to do research, to give scholarships to foreign students, and so on. Those 40 companies are the top recruiters from HEC, because in return for their investment into HEC, they will recruit our students. From all our different programs, from the masters, from the undergrad, from the MBA program, those people would come, according to their needs, the job that they need to fill in. They will come to a specific program to fill up their positions.

We have top recruiters in top French companies, but also global companies. We have placed quite a lot of our students in Amazon last year, that was very unusual, because a couple of years ago, Amazon was absolutely not recruiting any of HEC's graduates, so that was very new. Every year you can see a switch in different companies. You have French banks, you have top industries, ArcelorMittal for example, but you also have Indian companies, you have German companies as well. So it's very global, and it really varies according to the job market.

Jeroen Verhoeven: Similar in line, I would say just a couple names of the biggest recruiters, actually last year, were Johnson & Johnson added us, Inditex, of course owns the whole Zara chains et cetera, Banco Santander was big, also Google, and Credit Suisse. All of them hired several people at the same time. It's extremely diverse, because of the fact that we have focus on both banking, consulting, and what we call “the industry”. We really do see people going into both of those sectors. More so non-Spanish multinationals than the actual Spanish multinationals, apart from some very big Spanish multinationals, the majority, I would say, 80% of people do get placed for either German or Swiss, or French multinationals that are operating worldwide, obviously.

Lisa Piguet: Yes, we're the same as the other two, in the sense that most of them are top multinationals that are coming here. Today, for example, we had J&J and Dupont here doing company presentations. All the top consulting firms come here, McKinsey, BCG, Bain, they all come here to recruit MBAs every year. It just varies. It vacillates from year to year.

Linda Abraham: It’s depending on the job market, right?

Lisa Piguet: Yes, exactly, but to answer his question, at least on our website, you could find the people that actually were recruiting last year. I don't know about the other schools.

Linda Abraham: Okay, alright. Enrique, you can check out IMD if you're interested in that explanation. All right, well Marie, Lisa, and Jeroen, I want to really thank you for participating today. Thank you to the applicants who are here; I think you've asked great questions. I want to give a special thank you to Marie, this was her idea, so a special thank you. It's really been a pleasure.

If you have additional questions for our panel, please e-mail them to Jeroen, Marie, or Lisa.

We value your feedback, and indeed we schedule events based on your feedback, including our upcoming event, which will be "The G-MAT Score: Implications for your MBA Application." It's a free webinar that I'm giving on June 20th, and it's a direct response to feedback that we got from applicants attending our Q&As and other webinars.

Marie, Lisa, and Jeroen, thank you so much again, you've given wonderful answers. It's been a pleasure. Thank you very much. Have a good evening, for those of you in Europe. Have a good day, for those of you in the US.

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