Moving Towards a New Admission Process

Submitted by: Orsolya O.Szabo (Hungary), HEC Paris

Summary: Business schools have been rigidly using a limited set of traditional selection methods such as tests, resumes, essays and interviews. In order to select the most promising candidates, graduate management education needs to catch up to best-in-class corporations by adopting novel yet proven selection methods. The recommended approach is expected to increase diversity in the classroom and, in turn, in business globally.

Full Description: From human resources management, more specifically a recruitment point of view, graduate management admission processes seem to be rather outdated. Business schools, including top-ranked institutions, have been rigidly using a limited set of traditional selection methods such as tests, resumes, essays and interviews. In order to select the most promising candidates, business schools need to catch up to best-in-class corporations by adopting novel yet proven selection methods, which have been confirmed to possess higher predictive validity then traditional instruments.

Above all, incorporating Assessment Centers in the selection process could add a great value to the evaluation of candidates. Social skills are largely neglected by the current practice. Using group simulations to assess social behavior, such as collaboration, leadership or influencing, would be essential, as social competencies are key to success in business school, let alone in business. With business scenarios and in-basket exercises, individual competencies could also be evaluated more thoroughly than by essays or interviews.

The sole use of essays in the written application seems not only outdated but also one-dimensional. Presentations, films, posters, flyers, blogs, etc. are recommended as alternatives to give more space to candidates who are stronger in these domains. Although verbal and writing skills are important in business, testing these skills only can severely distort the judgment of candidates.

Following the pioneers of candidate assessment of the corporate arena would unquestionably result in a shift in emphasis towards “demonstrating by doing” in the selection process. As a consequence, graduate business institutions, including the most selective schools, are expected to admit prosperous students who cannot excel from the crowd based on test results and essays only, however, possess extraordinary skills in other fields relevant to business. The approach is also expected to decrease the admission of candidates who use significant external resources in completing their application file or gain admission mainly due to the highly predictable nature of the current practice.

The new selection model would inevitably increase diversity in the classroom and, in turn, in business globally. The more schools adopt these methods, the larger impact can be reached – even within a 2-3 years time frame.

Assessment Centers, let alone the alternative channels to present one’s professional background, career goals or strengths, are easily available to any institution regardless of geographic location, rank or ownership structure. Several consulting firms specialize in developing tailor-made yet standardized Assessment Centers and train professionals involved in the selection to use them with confidence and high efficiency.

The incorporation of novel tools in the selection process is primarily the question of recognizing the need for change. An obstacle may lie in that admission professionals are not aware of the strong methodological background and added value these methods could bring. First of all, schools need to note their high predictive validity, diverse nature and flexibility by consulting with HR professionals of leading corporations and external experts of the field.

Another issue to note is that developing a new admission procedure requires time and financial commitment; schools need to invest in the innovation. This may prevent some institutions from being pioneers. An immediate impact is likely to lie in the early adoption by top-ranked schools, which, in turn, would be followed by many other programs. Later, however, the application of alternative processes is neither highly costly nor significantly more time consuming than that of current practices making them accessible to all business schools.