From the March 2012 EL Gazette
GRADUATE BUSINESS school admissions departments in the US have for some time used their large and highly organised volunteer networks of alumni abroad to conduct interviews with applicants for MBAs in the applicant’s country of residence.
But, as the Wall Street Journal reports, US business schools are now beginning to scrap this time-honoured (and cheap) method of screening applicants. Business school admissions officers told the WSJ that their principal reason for abandoning their reliance on international alumni was that they were concerned that some alumni weren’t interviewing candidates in English. Some business schools believe that alumni may make an assessment of candidates’ suitability for an English-medium MBA based on an interview carried out in a local language spoken by both the applicant and the interviewer.
Rob Weiler, assistant dean of admissions at the University of California’s Anderson School of Management, said that the evaluation of applicants’ English language competence had become ‘somewhat less consistent’ overseas. The school will continue to use some of its ‘trained alumni’ to interview applicants, but Weiler has over the previous year been remind ing them of the need to interview applicants in English only.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which has over 88,000 alumni worldwide, previously used ‘several hundred’ of these to interview up to 3,500 MBA applicants in cities around the world for around 800 MBA places. Now Wharton, at considerable expense, is ending this arrangement and flying its six admissions officers to do interviews in Singapore, Sao Paulo and ten other ‘hub’ cities, with a core team of 45 trained current second-year MBA students interviewing on campus in Philadelphia. The remainder of interviews are conducted via Skype.
Other unnamed university admissions officers interviewed by the WSJ expressed continuing confidence and trust in the integrity of their volunteer alumni interviewing teams, but weren’t sure if all reports were based on interviews that had taken place entirely in English. A candidate who came across as ‘engaging and insightful in their native tongue’ could still turn up at an MBA provider unable even to read the orientation material, said one. Graham Richmond, CEO of Clear Admit LLC consultancy, commented of the overseas alumni system, ‘If you get two French people in a room and ask them to speak English together, it’s just not going to happen.’