MBA Admissions Q&A: IMD |

MBA Admissions Q&A: IMD

By Mike Grill

Updated May 13, 2023 Updated May 13, 2023

Based in Lausanne, IMD is currently rated inside Europe’s top 10 and first among institutions at which one can study an MBA in Switzerland, according to the 2014/15 edition of the Global 200 report. Switzerland is a country with an established market for MBA jobs and one in which we often see some of the world’s largest salary levels reported by those who employ holders of the degree.

But, if you’re interested in applying to the IMD MBA program, then you should heed the warning of the school’s MBA recruitment manager, Paola Eicher, when she explains that an application is “down-graded” each time one of their application criteria is not met. In the following Q&A interview, Eicher also has some useful words of advice about the right way to approach the school’s admissions process, emphasizing the value in candidates ensuring “a particular school is the right choice for their personal and professional development.” Read on to find out more…

What are the most important aspects of the IMD MBA application process besides GMAT score, prior GPA, and current job position?

The IMD admissions committee uses a combination of criteria to evaluate a candidate, including essays, the GMAT, academic performance, work experience, career goals, international experience, and leadership potential. Overall, we are looking for candidates who are outstanding across these criteria and who will also contribute something unique.

What is a common mistake you see applicants make?

I wouldn’t necessarily speak of one single mistake but rather a lack of coherence or care that devalues the quality of some applications. At IMD, we work with flags, so every time there is a criterion that is not met, the application is down-graded. One thing to be particularly aware of is cut and paste – if an applicant mentions another school as their dream school and then tells us their strength is ‘attention to detail’,  there is definitely incoherence there – proofreading is also important.

What is something you would like to see applicants do more often?

I would say that three things are crucial to put up a sincere, personalized and relevant application:

  • Understand the focus of each school; what is different, how would this uniqueness help you reach your goals, does it match your preferred learning style, does it complement your background, open doors…
  • Gather the information from diverse first-hand sources: admissions office, current participants, school website, alumni, information sessions, campus visits.
  • Become more self-aware and reflect extensively on the relevance of your plan and on the alternatives. Engage your family or partner in the process from the start. They will be your strongest support before, during and after the program.

It’s important to take the time to reflect. Applicants will spend an average of 100 hours on their GMAT preparation but how much time do they spend on self-reflection to guarantee an MBA and a particular school is the right choice for their personal and professional development? (Ralf Boscheck, director of IMD’s MBA program, looks at some of the ways in which applicants can evaluate an MBA program in’s Faculty Voices section).

What is the IMD interview process like?

Applicants selected for interview come to Lausanne for a whole day of assessment. This day is critical to our selection process as you can tell a lot more from watching and interacting with a person than you can from paper. It is as much for us to meet and learn about the candidate as it is for the candidate to learn about IMD. Once the process is finished, the candidate receives our final answer within two weeks.

The majority of our assessment days take place on campus, however when possible we offer selected candidates the option of interviewing in Singapore and Sao Paulo if they apply to either of the first two (of five) admissions rounds.

What are some of the tests, official documents, and other hurdles that international students must negotiate?

International students represent about 97% of our class, which means that we have a very efficient and personalized participant services team to support the students with relocation to Switzerland, including visa, housing and insurance. However, we do require official transcripts and diplomas to be translated and certified in English.

How can a candidate overcome a lower GMAT score?

Obviously it depends how low the GMAT is. The majority of our accepted candidates score between 620 and 740. If candidates are at the lower end or below, they can compensate by highlighting exceptional analytical skills through undergraduate transcripts and career achievements. Or, if the verbal is low, we will pay particular attention to their English during the assessment day – after a whole day on campus, we typically have a clear idea of their level.

MBA admissions tips

Essay(s): Use quotes, cite the sources. Be personal and genuine.

Interview: Answer the actual question and do not try to the lead the interview.

Letter(s) of recommendation: Brief your recommender on your future plans and why you think an MBA would be important for you.

CV/résumé: Present your achievements and responsibilities clearly. Do not go into technical explanations.

School visit: Do your research before the meeting, prepare a set of questions and make sure the answers are not on the home page of the website.

This article was originally published in November 2015 . It was last updated in May 2023

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