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Admissions Director Q&A: Benoit Banchereau of HEC Paris

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Benoit Banchereau has been working for HEC Paris for 5 years, first as director of marketing and admissions for the MBA program and now as executive director of marketing and admissions for the MBA programs (MBA, EMBA and Trium). He previously worked as marketing, communications and business development director for AT Kearney, Standard&Poors and Freshfields. He joined us for this edition of our Admissions Director Q&A series, providing insights into MBA admissions, the interview process and more.

Benoit Banchereau, Executive Director, Marketing & Admissions, MBA Programs, HEC Paris

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

Benoit Banchereau: How truly customizable our program is – it allows students to mix and match options to create a personal curriculum that addresses their professional and personal goals.

Another highlight of our program is the strong sense of community. The majority of our students live in on-campus housing, that gives them the opportunity to really bond with their classmates and make friends – and a strong professional network – that will last for life.

CA: How might the applicant experience look different this year due to COVID-19? How would you advise candidates to get to know your MBA program and student community if they aren’t able to visit your campus?

Until we are able to welcome visitors again to our bi-weekly Campus Visits, we encourage everyone to connect with us online. Our Virtual Information Sessions are designed to provide insight into campus life, the Admissions process, and the overall HEC Paris MBA experience. Our Marketing and Recruitment Managers also arrange one-to-one virtual chats for a more focused and personalized experience for our candidates. We also encourage anyone interested in HEC Paris to connect directly with our MBA Student Ambassadors, who will give insightful and honest answers about what the HEC experience is all about.

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.)?

BB: A Marketing & Recruitment Manager (MRM) connects with applicants from the moment they make first contact with us, so the time before submitting an actual application is just as important as the time after they have submitted it.  At HEC Paris, we try to get to know each and every applicant through email or phone before they apply, so we understand who he or she is and his or her goals. In addition, candidates can meet MRMs in person, as they travel the world, and can be put in contact with alumni living nearby to answer their questions about the program. Once they submit, the relationship doesn’t end.  As applicants move through the process, their Marketing & Recruitment Manager stays in touch. Once a complete application is submitted, applicants will know within 2-3 weeks if they have successfully made it through the pre-selection process. If they are selected to move into the final round, interviews with two MBA alumni will be scheduled. At that point, the applicant will hear from both their Admissions Officer and their Marketing & Recruitment Manager, who will offer them advice on their upcoming interviews.

In the 2 – 3 weeks following pre-selection, the candidate will meet with the two MBA alumni for one-on-one interviews. They will have the chance to both present on a topic of their choice and discuss with our alumni to assess their fit within the program. The interviews are traditionally in person and take place in over 80 countries. After these two interviews, we host the official jury, wherein we make admissions decisions based upon the feedback of the alumni and their written applications. The whole process takes 5 weeks, which means applicants will know if they’re admitted within 5 weeks of submitting their applications.

Once admitted, candidates can apply for a merit-based scholarship.

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?

BB: We want candidates to show us who they really are with their essays. They should be genuine – we don’t want them to tell us what they think we want to hear – we want to hear about their background and goals. In general, we advise candidates to think about why they want to do an MBA and how their background and goals fit together. Candidates should show us that they have taken the time to think about their future beyond HEC Paris and how we can help them achieve their goals. For all essays, we advise candidates to take notes on the topics and discuss their potential answers with friends/family. They should take time for reflection before writing them.

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?

BB: Top candidates will move on to the interview round of the application process. We receive over 2,500 applications per year and around 20 percent make it to the final round of interviews. The interviews are conducted by two MBA alumni. Each alumni interview is held separately, and lasts about one hour. The candidate can choose the city where the two interviews will be held. They will share a presentation on a topic they have chosen and have time to ask each alumni interviewer about the program and its culture. Interviews are typically conducted in person but have moved to video chat during the COVID crisis. Our interviewers assess if the program is right for the candidate and if both interviewers feel it is not, then a candidate is not admitted into the program. We believe that our alumni know best who will succeed and fit at the HEC Paris MBA and we put our ultimate trust in our past students.

CA: Anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or admissions process?

BB: We offer coaching throughout the admissions process – if you are working on your application, your Marketing & Recruitment Manager is happy to set up a call to answer any questions you might have. We look forward to connecting with you and getting to know more about your MBA goals!  Please connect with us and take the first step by filling out our Candidate Profile:

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.