Keegan Pierce first studied an MBA at ESADE Business School in 2009 and was so impressed with the program that when a job opening came up in the Admissions Office, he jumped at the opportunity. Joining the team in 2011, Keegan works in Spain but travels around the world, sourcing the very best talent for the business school's MBA programs.
In this exclusive interview, Keegan tells you what you need to know to get through the MBA admissions process at b-school. Find out what characteristics you need to get into ESADE, how the interview process works and why the career services department can help you land a job! Oh, and he has his personal tips on how to ace the interview....
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I came to ESADE in 2009 and studied the full-time MBA program as a student, graduating in 2011. My background previously was in communications and marketing. I also worked for a professional sports team in the United States for five years prior to joining the ESADE team, Major League Soccer team Chivas, based in LA.
As I was looking at the career opportunities here in Spain, an opening came up in Admissions Office at ESADE and because I had enjoyed the MBA, when the role came up I jumped at the opportunity.
What characteristics do you look for in MBA applications?
We’re looking for three to four main categories of excellence. First, we want to make sure that they have had strong professional progress, to make sure they’ve taken on increasing roles of responsibility and challenges in their professional careers. That’s important. We want someone who we can clearly see has strong leadership potential.
Secondly, we want people who have international and cultural experience. Not everyone has had the opportunity to live in work in different countries, but we want to see people who have a track record of working across cultural and linguistic barriers.
Finally, not only must they demonstrate excellence within their profile, from university grades to standardised tests, but also understand the power of team work, sharing and collaboration with other individuals.
Does it help to speak multiple languages?
It certainly does. The average student at ESADE speaks somewhere between three to four different languages. It’s not a prerequisite for being a student here; it’s just one more aspect we are happy to see in candidates.
What are some common mistakes that you see MBA applicants make?
One of the biggest mistakes that students make - it doesn’t happen often but sometimes - is not knowing their story. It seems like a simple idea because we all know our stories, but when you come to do an MBA you should have some idea of where you want to go afterwards, not for certain but to have at least thought through a plan A, B and C.
Often we want students who have thought through what their story is and how an MBA can help their longer term goals, and know how ESADE can help them get to where they want to be. Some candidates don’t show that they’ve done their homework.
Sometimes we have people who seem so certain of their path; you wonder whether they’re just saying the answer that you want to hear. As a candidate try to be yourself and be prepared to talk about goals, your strengths and weaknesses and why you’re interested in ESADE.
How does the MBA interview process work at ESADE?
We have a very international class, typically we have in a group of 150-160 MBAs, around 50 different nationalities represented. In order to achieve this our associate directors travel round the globe constantly; there’s not a week that goes by that we don’t travel.
We attempt to get in contact with candidates very early and we like to meet as often as possible in the countries and cities where they live, or host them here on campus.
We usually we begin by having informal contact to answer questions and also do a profile evaluation to see if they fit. Students then submit an application, and our admissions committee does a full review of the file: we decide at that point whether to interview you and if you’re not selected that’s the end of your process.
If you get an interview, you meet personally with associate admissions directors at your location or on campus. We ask a series of questions and interviews typically last 45 minutes, sometimes with an additional form of evaluation; a case or language assessment.
Do you have any tips for impressing the admissions team at ESADE?
Make sure you establish contact early on and give us lots of information for your profile - from your CV to taking the GMAT or GRE.
I suggest trying to contact ESADE students and alumni as much as you can; they are active on LinkedIn, so if you reach out to students using social media, you’ll be surprised to see how many are second or third degree connections (on LinkedIn). Try to reach out and see if they can answer questions about your experience, and sometimes they even give us feedback about the people they speak with.
Try to express what you’ve done and achieved in your essays, so that in the interview we can better understand your profile.
What are some of the best things about studying in Spain?
There are a lot of things that students enjoy. One is just the sheer degree of diversity, not only it terms of nationalities but also the varieties of profiles that people come from. They enrich your classroom experience.
We also have a dynamic international campus with not just MBAs but other Master's students and undergraduate programs.
What is the career services department like at ESADE?
One of the real advantages of being part of a larger University like ESADE that has undergraduate and postgraduate students, is that you get to leverage the companies that are recruiting here on campus. We have top companies in all sectors, from consulting with the big-four firms, to finance companies from all over the world that recruit here on a regular basis.
Being part of a large school gives you a great alumni network; ESADE has nearly 50,000 worldwide. We also have a career forum twice a year, one in the Fall and one in winter each year. On average 70 companies that recruit MBA talent come along, and it allows you to stand out and create contact with those companies.
Not only have we had a 92 per cent placement rate for the most recent completed cohort class of 2012, but also a placement rate of 85% outside of Spain: this is really is an international MBA.