Frog to Dragon: HEC MBA & Tsinghua MBA Blog

The quest for wisdom, from France to China, of an HEC MBA & Tsinghua MBA dual degree student (class of 2011)

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Posted by at 18 August , 2009

Admissions » School selection » GMAT » Essays » Recommendations » Interviews » Focus on HEC

Interviews are the last hurdle before admission. They can make or break it and it’s probably fair to say that maybe only half of the bulk going to interviews will be accepted eventually.

However, I do not believe interviews are about skills, or about the candidate’s worth. Interviews are the single subjective step in an admission process. To put it shortly, I think that if one goes to the interviews, it means the admission commitee has already approved that you’re good enough to study there; but interviews are to evaluate if you’re fit for the school.

And it’s not so much about competition (although we know it is).
To me, fit is a bit like love: it has to go both ways or it won’t work. A motivation one can put into logic and describe well in essays, will not “sound” or “look” right in a face-to-face interview unless one is truly convinced about the benefits of a b-school for oneself.

My interview preparation method:

  1. Review the reasons why you applied to the school at the first place.
    And review your essays. As interviews take place somewhere around a month after the application submission, you may need to refresh.
    Have these reasons changed? The thought process of an MBA application doesn’t stop when the file is submitted and it’s likely that you’ll better know what you want from b-school at the time of interviews. As a result, some of the b-schools you originally applied to may be less relevant than others.
  2. Now that you know why you can take from the school, review what you can give to the school, and preferably something more than your successful career and fat IQ. Of course this point is about how unique you are, but also how willing to share this uniqueness you are.
    Does your style of sharing match the b-school’s style for this? For instance, an introverted person may not like a b-school which likes to put individuals on the spot, or a driver may feel frustrated at having to “carry” a group of other people who think differently.
  3. Then think of what you would like to tell the b-school about yourself. Something that’s not in the essays, though preferably related. Who are you? What matters to you?
    Also think of what you would like the person in front of you to tell you about the b-school he/she represents.

Of course, some people will do very well with a more straighforward approach and tips that can be found in various places on the internet. I needed more.

To come back to my original comparison with love.
Going to an interview, for me, was like going to a blind date. I knew both brides (b-schools) from their CVs. I knew that I could bring something to both, what each could bring to me and, to be honest, it was a bit of a head (LBS) vs. heart (HEC) call.

The blind dates proved decisive.

During the HEC two interviews I had with alumni, I felt the conversation flowed naturally. Although I was on the spot with the usual questions, my answers were straighforward and I could tell that the interviewers were having as much a good time as I was. I was genuinely thrilled (but not so surprised) to find that I was accepted to the programme… just 2 days before my LBS interview.

It’s possible that this annoucement weighted badly on my performance at the single LBS interview. I was litterally out of reasons why to go there. I knew I was capable to go there, but I had no motivation to. The interview ended up being as boring as it could possibly get without insulting anyone, and my application was unsurprisingly rejected.


HEC interview presentation sample :
Following some demand from a few readers, I’m uploading my interview presentation (PDF format) :

A few tips for the HEC interview presentation :

  1. Pick a topic you like and feel passionate about. Whatever that is. What’s important is that your personality goes through. Don’t forget that this presentation will lead to the more meatiy part of the interview.
  2. Don’t overload your presentation. The important part is you, not the dozens of slides or data that you’ll put together. Given the time length of the presentation (10 mins) avoid putting up more than 10 slides.
  3. Finally, review your presentation with a friend. An outside eye is fundamental in detecting unclear or useless elements. This review is also important to check if you’re OK timewise.

Admissions » School selection » GMAT » Essays » Recommendations » Interviews » Focus on HEC


31 Responses to “Interviews”

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  1. [...] haven’t written much since I came back to France (beside a page about interviews). True, things have been going slowly but it doesn’t mean nothing [...]

  1. Jack says:

    Hi Pam,

    could you give us some more info about the interviews, questions asked and your presentation.

    Thanks and good luck with the blog.

  2. pam says:

    Hi Jack,

    Thank you for your interest in my blog. Come back often :)
    I’ve written an interview feedback on, which you can find here.

    I will update the page with a deeper look at the HEC interviews, since they are a bit special.

  3. Digvijay says:

    Thanks for creating this blog. It is very useful for MBA aspirants like me. merci bien.

  4. Mizda says:

    Thanks for this great blog, really helpful for potential HEC MBAs!

    I have a question for you. Do you know if HEC ever grants an extension on the decision/deposit date? I have to give the deposit/decision to HEC before even hearing back from any of the 5 other programs I applied to…. so not a very nice situation to be in!
    Would appreciate any advice you might have!

    • pam says:

      Hi Mizda,
      I don’t really know about it as I didn’t ask it for myself…
      Best is that you ask the adcom.


  5. Amir says:

    Pam- Great details. what did you end up doing?

    Mizda- I am in a similar situation. What did you end up doing? Thanks!

  6. pam says:

    I’m not sure what your question is about…

  7. emin says:

    Hello pam, thanks for sharing the information. I posted here yesterday but my post was deleted during moderation most probably.
    Anyway,I am an applicant and have millions of questions in mind but for now I have a couple of them here:
    1-Does the interviewer really inquire to learn about your presentation’s theme with detailed questions or is it just to test whether you are able to transmit ideas within a restricted time in an effective way?
    2-How realistic do you think are the results of the “candidate profile assessment”?
    Thanks in advance.
    And by the way, in order not to flood the blog, would you please give me an e-mail address of yours?

    • pam says:

      Hi emin,

      Unfortunately, posts don’t just “get deleted during moderation”… They get approved/deleted when I review them… which may not happen every day due to my own schedule :)

      To answer your question about the HEC interview, it’s mostly to get a feel of how you convey an idea as some topics can be quite obscure. However, be ready to explain why you chose that particular topic.

      I’m not sure about the candidate profile assessment as I didn’t use it.

      You can send me an e-mail by clicking on my name on the left.

  8. emin says:

    Hi again Pam,

    Thanks god I got an interview invite today for Jan 11 intake. I am quite excited and I have a question regarding the interviews:
    Do you agree that HEC interviews are conducted mostly to clarify the final doubts about the candidate rather than making a decision about his/her capabilities? Because according to what I read on the Web, the post interview admissions rate is above 80 per cent.

    • pam says:

      Hi Emin,

      I’m not sure about the post interview admission rate. HEC claims to be the most selective MBA in Europe so, if this is true, either they have a huge cut with the essays or they have less than a 80% admission rate. It’s true however, that they investigate less skills than fit.

      After a year spent there, I can see that admission is very careful about creating a batch with a collaborative spirit. The intake has few superstars but we still manage to pull out great European events such as the MBAT or the Social & Sustainable Business Conference.

  9. emin says:

    Hey Pam,

    I think I should thank you for sharing your essays with new applicants since not many people are so open and frank about their applications and the whole process.
    Your essays give a clear picture of what the right answer looks like though there is not only one.

    • pam says:

      Hi Emin,

      Thank you for your comment :)
      I’d be hard pressed to think there’s a right answer, although it is true that I did get through the essay screening to the interviews despite a less than stellar GMAT. Anyway, these were my essays and they made sense to me.

      I have no problem sharing this type of information. As mentionned in the essays section, that was really A LOT of work and I was pretty happy about the result. If that can help others in formalizing their application, that will be good too.

  10. Arch says:

    Hi Pam,
    I do not know whether you still write or not, or shall continue to write here. I came to find this blog via heavy searching-thought it would be just another student blog but sincerely, I am shocked! I am surprised and I am happy!
    I am an Indian student, currently in my 2nd year of undergraduate studies (3 yea degree course), and planning to apply for HEC Grande Ecole program, hope if you could assist me on this. I have just started preparing for GMAT, and believe it, yours are the >>finest<< essays I have ever come across. You are not a literary person, but your essays are just awesome! Well written and just everything and particularly when I noticed your word counts-I was like-oh awesome!
    I just want to give you kudos. You must become some super busy person, earning over a 100000bucks, no matter what, I am sure you’re going to be success- a real one!
    Just thank you for your articles…and for everything…

    • pam says:

      Hi Arch,
      Thank you very much for the compliment!
      Like I wrote in my page on essays, that was a lot of hard work but in the end I was very happy about them :)
      I wish you the best of luck for your application to the Grande Ecole programme.

      Thanks again :)

      ps: And I don’t earn 100k bucks yet. I’m still a poor student. Hopefully I’ll have better (ie. positive) cash flows starting from next year when I graduate :)

  11. Archit says:

    I have two requests-
    I have searched for some sample HEC essays…couldn’t find much on them.
    Most importantly, I couldn’t find even a single dedicated forum/blog or anything on HEC Grande Ecole. My French is not excellent, its quite basic so I didn’t searched for them in French, but still…there is just nothing for HEC Grande Ecole program!
    Can you help me for them?

    • pam says:

      Hi Archit,
      Unfortunately I don’t have a single idea about how the Grande Ecole admission works for international students.
      I have no idea about blogs on the Grande Ecole programme as well…
      Sorry I can’t help you much :(

  12. Eugene says:

    Hi Pam,

    Great posts! Anyway I just wanted to check with you if you remembered how long it took before the got back to you on whether you’re pre-selected for the interviews? I sent my application last Thurs and am still waiting for it. If you didn’t make it will they inform you as well?


    • pam says:

      Hi Eugene,

      I think it takes anywhere between 2 weeks to a month to get a reply on preselection for interview.
      You will also get to know if you’re not selected.


  13. Eugene says:

    Ah…..ok. The wait is killing me….

    From your time there, was there anyone with 3 years of work experience? For me I have 3 years + 2 years in the army (which I only indicated in my essay and not explicitly anywhere else). Am regretting it now…sigh….

  14. Cancer says:

    Hi Pam,

    I have been pre selected for the 2011 sept intake at HEC.
    Your article on the interview tips was a great help.thanks.

    Could you please suggest a topic of the 10 min presentation that i have to make before the interview.
    I a confused and it will really help if you can suggest what kind of topics would be good.

    Thanks in advance.

  15. vjp says:

    Hey folks,
    There aren’t that many forums/links out there dedicated to the hec admissions process for 2011. Anyhow … I applied for the Sept 2011 intake and was preselected for interviews. The adcom certainly wastes no time in getting back – very efficient indeed.

    I had a question for you Pam:
    -> How long does HEC give someone to accept the offer of admission and do they give you enough time to consider the offer of admission knowing their decision regarding financial aid ?

    Thanks a lot.

  16. Eugene says:

    I got pre-selected!! Just got the email! Oh gosh I’m over the moon now haha…

    Time for presentations! Any tips (though I tink i wrote quite extensively in ur blog haha)

  17. pam says:


    Cancer, Eugene,

    Pick a topic you like and feel passionate about. Whatever that is. What’s important is that your personality goes through. Don’t forget that this presentation will lead to the more meaty part of the interview.


    If I recall correctly, HEC gave me 1 month to accept the offer. Acceptance came with a hefty non-refundable 6000 euros payment. Only after did I apply for financial aid.
    I know some people did pay the 6000 euros and ended up not coming. Maybe it isn’t so much when considering 2 years of tuition fees.

  18. Eugene says:

    Hi Pam,

    I got accepted in HEC :) Thanks for all the advice you have given thus far and hopefully everything has been ok for u. Till next time!


  19. Alex says:

    Hi Pam,

    I just want to say “Bravo” for putting this site together. It is very well organized and the information shared is concise and right on target. I have referred to your site many times during the application process and I am happy to report that I have been pre-selected for Sept 11′ intake.

    Another unrelated question for you: Seems you have been spending some time in Asia by now. What is your experience of the HEC MBA program recognition in Asia vs other international MBA programs ?


    • pam says:

      Hi Alex,

      Thanks for your compliment :)

      It’s hard to talk about other programs…
      In general, American programs are way better recognised than European ones. Chinese people dream of names like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Berkeley.
      This frame is IMHO mainly due to the fact that when China opened up back in the 80s, the very top students were sent to study at the MIT and Harvard. Hence the gigantic aura that nothing can compare to.
      I’d say US Top7 schools definitely + the Californian ones like Berkeley and UCLA are the way up in terms of dream value.

      I would say the HEC brand is still niche, although growing in the right areas. For instance, the SASAC (the powerful SOE supervision and administration body) partners with HEC for and EMBA for Chinese people and targeted at SOEs.
      I also found though is that the HEC alumni network is fairly active in Beijing.

  20. Mike says:

    Hello Pam,

    Thanks a lot for your time and effort building this blog.

    I wanted to ask Eugene if he could share with us his experience during HEC interview.

    Thanks a lot,


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