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Admissions Director Q&A: Anna Farrus of IMD

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We continue our series of Admissions Director Q&As with the leading business school in Switzerland.  Located on the shores of Lake Geneva, the IMD MBA does not just prepare you for your immediate post-MBA job, but looks at your long-term career.  Two key streams that run throughout the program are leadership and career development. During the program, students develop the leadership skills and self-awareness necessary to develop into top leaders in business. This doesn’t just involve teaching the basic MBA toolkit, but ensuring they have the global, digital, and entrepreneurial mindset that will give them the agility to make an impact in a fast-paced, evolving world.

The IMD MBA enables candidates to master uncertainty, and to adapt, reconfigure and respond to the digital revolution. The intense year at IMD also creates a very bonded and loyal group of 90.  IMD students join more than a diverse and global network.  In ten years’ time, classmates will still be supporting each other through personal and professional challenges and celebrating triumphs together, while maintaining their place at the heart of the wider IMD community.

We hear more about the program below from Anna Farrus, the Director of MBA Recruitment and Admissions who has worked in business schools for almost 20 years. Before joining the MBA team at IMD last year, Farrus spent almost 12 years at Oxford Saïd Business School heading up their Admissions and Financial Aid team, and before that worked in the MBA Admissions team at IESE Business School, in Barcelona where she is originally from.

Anna Farrus, Director of MBA Recruitment and Admissions at IMD

Farrus spoke with Clear Admit about IMD’s increase in gender diversity, the power of a small class size, the application and interview processes, and insights into making the most of your IMD essay.

Clear Admit: What’s the single most exciting development, change, or event happening at IMD in the coming year?

Anna Farrus: For the first time ever, we have achieved 36% women in the MBA. While we are still a long way away from where we want to be, I think this increase in gender diversity is sending the message that IMD is really working hard to achieve parity.

CA: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?

AF: The power of a small class and the strength of the bonds created. Participants are surprised every year that they end up not just with 89 other classmates, but with very close friends as well.

Moreover, the learning that they can get from over 600 years of shared professional experience combined with the professional input and expertise of our faculty, is something that is highly underrated, especially when added to our 1:2 MBA faculty ratio, which enables professors to get to know each participant, their profiles and future aspirations, personally.

Our leadership stream is of course well known to all, but what many don’t realize is that it includes access to 20 hours of individual psychoanalyst time where you can explore the deeper parts of who you are. And for many that is the challenge of a lifetime.

CA: Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. 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.)?

AF: The IMD MBA admissions process is very straightforward. Applicants need to submit their application by one of our four deadlines (1 Feb, 1 May, 1 July, 1 Sep). Once the application is submitted, the admissions team ensures all the information needed is there. The Admissions Committee then receives and reviews the application and decides who to invite for an interview. These decisions are communicated to the candidates approximately two weeks after the application deadline.

The interview is actually part of a full Assessment Day, which takes place in either Lausanne or abroad. The Admissions Committee then reviews the applications again alongside the information gathered during the Assessment Day and makes a final decision. We aim for the process to last less than 8 weeks from submission to final decision.

CA: 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?

AF: The essay is a very important part of the application as it allows candidates to tell us a bit more about who they are. It should therefore be very personal and written by the candidates themselves, as we are interested in learning more about their own experiences told using their own voice. Ideally, we will gain some insight into who the person really is.

CA: How many essays would you wager you’ve read in your tenure at IMD? Thinking about the essays that have been the most memorable, is there something they have in common?

AF: After one year at IMD, I may have read a few hundred essays. During my entire career, I would say I have read a few thousand essays. The most memorable are the ones that tell me something interesting about the person who wrote the essay. My best advice is be honest when you write the essay and remember who your audience is.

CA: Could you tell us about your interview process?  Approximately how many applicants do you interview? Who conducts the interview (students, admissions officers, alumni) and what is the nature of the interview (blind, non-blind)?

AF: We interview around 40% of our applicants, and interviews are conducted by members of the recruitment and admissions team, including myself. Our interviewers have read the application before the interview and are very familiar with the applicant’s background.

CA: Anything else you would like to add?

AF: I have the best job in the world. I get to meet amazing people from all over the world who want to join the IMD MBA program and become the leaders of tomorrow. We are in the business of changing people’s lives and that is very rewarding.

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.