If this HEC Paris admit had shared snippets of his profile before we guided him, we are certain the summary would have gone along the lines of

• Indian Male Applicant, Age 30, GMAT 680, 700, GRE 335, Rejected from all target US schools in R1 and R2
• Education- Fashion Technology in India (Non-IIT)
• WE primarily in Retail and E-Commerce Businesses (Think Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra)- 4 job changes (too risky?)
• Career Gap~ 1 year
• Intl Exp~ 8 months
• ECs: Yoga and meditation coach
• Post MBA Goals: Tech

We are sharing some interesting insights from our journey with our HEC R3 Admit, hoping this would help those looking for ideas and motivation to differentiate themselves in the late rounds

Beginnings are not to be ignored.
We tell our applicants to assess success and achievements objectively and in light of their own background story because that is how the schools would like to fairly evaluate candidates!

Our guy of very humble beginnings started his career as an entry-level executive in a sales role. What this person made of every opportunity to deserve better, exhibits the difference between an exceptional self-starter VS an average MBA applicant. We guided him such that his enterprising nature and motivation to grow were evident in all his stories.

Four job changes were likely to raise some eyebrows (and they did!)- but we were not dissuaded because better career prospects and a decent salary are sometimes both professional and personal needs. Moreover, the supervisors from current and previous organizations had great things to say about our candidate assuaging the concern about multiple job switches.

Find a purpose, not just a goal.
Our applicant has an employment gap of about a year. We learned how he had lost motivation at one point because of a personal tragedy and took a career break to explore mindfulness therapy, eventually becoming a certified yoga instructor and a coach to help others in a similar mental space.
Empathy remains undervalued unless one questions what makes life worth going through the ebbs and flows of achievements and failures. The most stimulating leg of the journey in preparing our applicant was helping him discover how he could use both his professional experience (in fashion, retail, and e-commerce) and his empathetic personality to conceive a meaningful purpose. That would make his short-term jobs, struggles, and career trajectory well worth going through the experience.

Our applicant dedicated his HEC preselection presentation to this purpose (covering business plan and impact, short-term and long-term goals, and how HEC is uniquely positioned in the heart of the industry in discussion). We could not be prouder of having done this exercise together since the interviewers were all praises for the idea.

Addressing the elephant in the room
Our insecurities surface when we fear being judged. The employment gap is a dreaded subject of conversation for job seekers and MBA applicants alike. But optimistically speaking, the employment gap can also be seen as an opportunity to pursue passion projects or activities that add meaning to our lives. Our applicant probably did not have an MBA in mind when he decided to take a break from his chaotic work-life and join a philanthropic organization as a yoga practitioner. However, his conviction to stay productive and learn a new skill during the employment gap served him well for the MBA profile.

The GMAT verbal score was another pain point for our applicant’s profile. We encouraged him to address this issue proactively, citing in the optional essay how he improved his score over multiple attempts, finally attaining the 96th percentile in GRE Verbal section.

Lastly, schools want to see how serious you are about joining their programs. Therefore, the applicants applying for late rounds should not miss an opportunity to explain the reason for late application. For this again, we encouraged our guy to stay optimistic but explain – in his case, working a reasonable duration in the new job as an expatriate and studying to improve his verbal score over multiple attempts. Sometimes honesty and integrity are rightfully rewarded!

For more personalized advice reach out to aanchal.sahni@insead.edu

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