How personally connected do you get to your clients?
It’s one of these experiences where you get to know someone at a very close level. If you have been able to add value beyond what is expected, clients come back to you for more advice. It is very gratifying. I had a candidate who was working in Europe for a major consumer products company but in a function that wasn’t the front end of the business. He was in more of a process role and this person’s personality was more suited to business development or marketing. He looked at business school and didn’t think he had a profile for a top end program.
But you could see this person had done a few things that business schools would appreciate. He ultimately got into Kellogg and INSEAD and because his wife was working in Germany, he took up INSEAD for personal reasons to be closer to his wife. He told me how I was able to instill in him the confidence that his family instilled in him in 29 years. That was feedback from the heart. He was obviously happy that someone could achieve what he did.
After graduation last year he came back after a couple of offers from top end firms and I played the same role for him. He got an offer from a top global consulting firm, But he had more of an IT background and he had actually applied for their technology process and they encouraged him to look at the general management practice. He wasn’t giving himself the confidence he deserved. His question was: Should I take something I know I’m good at even though it may not give me that breadth of experience? Or should I throw myself in the deep and go there?
I encouraged him to take the dive. He still stays in touch. Someone who you developed a deeper relationship with lets you know what a difference you made in his life.
Given the tough odds against Indian candidates, how many schools should someone from India apply to?
You have to ask yourself what schools would you be happy to attend? That builds your list. Five is the optimal number. Five well chosen schools tend to be the right target for any client. It shouldn’t be fewer.
Sometimes Indian applicants might want to apply to eight or nine and you have to tell them they need to understand the school so the school can understand them. It’s often not possible to help them know eight schools intimately.
And what do you recommend to help an applicant understand a school?
It’s going beyond the school’s website and not having a sense of false security by reading so-called insider guides. You want to engage with current students and recent grads. You want to take advantage of information sessions in India by being the first to arrive and the last to leave. It’s human contract, even by Skype or email, where you can get some dialogue going with members of that community. Sometimes, we encourage them to look at opportunities that might come if they are visiting the West Coast for work. If they have a couple of schools on their list, they can stop by and visit them.
Do Indian candidates tend to favor certain business schools?
Yes. A typical example is Michigan Ross. It tends to be quite a favorite with Indian applicants because a lot of people may have gone their for undergrad and know the school. Wharton tends to be another favorite but it gets a lot of applicants from other geographies, too. Still, at those schools maybe even less than half is the admit rate for Indians as it is for the general applicant pool.