MBA Applicant: I have two years of experience – should I apply?

MBA Applicant: I have two years of experience – should I apply?

(This post is not about the ISB, but I am starting it with some insights from my experiences at the school. I have covered the 2+2 at Harvard as well.)

A few years back, the ISB introduced the Young Leaders Program (YLP) and the Early Entry Option – admissions programs designed for candidates in college, or with less than two years of experience.  These products are testament enough that the Indian School of Business also wants more applicants with less experience in its program.  These decisions are not based on notions and fancies, but on well thought through facts discussed in various forums led by the School’s top management and Dean’s Office.

One of these facts, which should not be a surprise, is that the MBA market is also driven by supply and demand. And demand, for the most part, is driven by recruiters. One of the reasons the ISB introduced the YLP and the Early Entry Option is because there were indications from the recruiting community that they wanted more candidates in this demographic; candidates who could easily be molded into their corporate cultures. Having worked at the placements office at the ISB for a number of years, I can assure you that the number of jobs posted for such candidates has been on the rise.

So what do you do to increase the odds in your favor? In my previous blog for candidates with more than 8 years of experience, I have advised candidates to establish depth of experience.  For the younger generation, my advice is against establishing depth of experience, because you don’t have any!  In case you position yourself as an expert, you are likely to face tough questions from senior alums and staff members who have more experience than you.  Instead, focus on your value system and motivations – highlight your interpersonal skills by focusing on your journey and the choices you have made.  In my experience interviewing YLP and Early Entry candidates, I have observed that the panel invariably gives points to ‘likable’ candidates – candidates who are modest, and who display genuine interest in their future goals.  Don’t sound boastful about your achievements because it is too early in your career to be vocal about them.  Also, don’t try to cover everything. Harvard, as I understand, has a phrase for such candidates: scripted. Instead, be subtle – state your achievements, but focus your journey.

Here are some facts about YLP and Early Entry ISB applicants: They have higher GMAT scores, they have good grades in Xth and XIIth, and they went to well-known colleges.  There is no preference for a particular undergraduate program – in other words, there is no indication that a B.Com will have a higher probability of success than a B.Tech, or visa versa.  Winning candidates are also almost always working at a top firm, or have secured a job at a top firm.  Analyst roles seem to be popular in this group.

I have reason to believe that for the 2+2 program at Harvard, successful candidates are more likely to be American Caucasians with STEM backgrounds.  For Indian applicants targeting the 2+2, I recommend you get your profile evaluated by a consultant who understands Harvard.  In four out of five cases, I have recommended that the candidate push the application to a later date, and complete four years of experience.  For Harvard, it is also possible that women applicants from India have a slightly better shot.

As always, all advice is based on likelihoods and probabilities!  There are no rules to the game, and we are trying to maximize opportunity based on profiles and patterns. To learn more, do get in touch with us.


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