If you get into the HKUST Business school, here’s where you’d be working out your brain (left picture above) and your body (right pic). Great way to build the business skills and the stamina needed to take on the challenges of an ever-changing business environment.
If you are hoping to get a world-class education in Asia, the HKUST MBA is an excellent choice to add to your list. More than 90% of the students in the program come from outside Hong Kong. The HKUST MBA class profile is diverse (25 nationalities represented) and mature (average age is 30). The GMAT score ranges from 610 to 730. You’ll be studying with professionals who have worked in a wide variety of roles – consulting, operations, business development, accounting / finance, general management and IT / engineering.
Manish Gupta, from the MBA Crystal Ball team interviewed Sherring NG, Head, Marketing & Admissions, MBA Programs, HKUST Business School.
MBA Crystal Ball: Consulting and Finance seem to form a major portion of the areas where your grads go post MBA. Can you also demystify and share with us what type (management/strategy, HR, IT, real estate) of consulting roles are offered?
Sherring : Our graduates usually work in management consulting, IT consulting and healthcare consulting. Some of the recruiters include McKinsey, Deloitte Consulting, Accenture, Boston Consulting Group, ZS Associates, SMS Management & Technology and IMS Health Consulting.
MBA Crystal Ball: How much is the process driven by student themselves and how much does the school help in the process. Many Indian schools have the concept of placement week where students get offers on the campus. Does HKUST follow that model or is it more based on the process followed by many schools in the west?
Sherring : Our career office uses a “4C” strategy to help students manage their career development:
‘Clarify‘ their goals and interest through career coaching and professional assessment tools;
Develop their ‘Capabilities‘ by helping them gain practical exposure in their chosen fields through career clubs and summer internships;
‘Connect‘ students with recruiters through company and networking events as well as the internal job board;
And help students ‘Convince‘ recruiters to hire them by organizing career workshops and mock interviews.
Rather than just waiting for opportunities to fall into their laps, our students also take a proactive approach to reach out to the executives and companies. In fact, we found that the best jobs our graduates got were usually obtained through networking since those posts might not be advertised at all.
Unlike other MBA programs which have hundreds of students, we have a class of 100 to 120 students so their interests are more distinct. Instead of having large scale events, we usually arrange recruitment events with individual companies from different sectors throughout the year. Since different companies often have different recruitment timelines, this can better cater to our students’ needs.
MBA Crystal Ball: A related question on both careers and selection process. A large majority of candidates have a rich experience in IT (information technology). How do you decide and differentiate between candidates from IT backgrounds versus those from other fields? Are there opportunities available in that space post MBA?
Sherring : When we review applicants’ professional background, we put more focus on their career progression and quality of their work experiences rather than their industries.
We want to recruit students who can fit into our cross-cultural environment and excel in team work. So it will be an advantage if a candidate, regardless of his industry, has team leadership and cross-cultural experience.
An MBA is good catalyst for technical professionals to advance their careers because they will be equipped with more well-rounded business knowledge, and a better set of soft skills including interpersonal, presentation and negotiation skills, which are required for more business-oriented or client-facing roles in the IT industry.
In general, 5 – 10 % of our graduates are recruited into the IT and telecommunications industry. They usually have a technical background but are able to switch into more business-oriented roles such as business development, strategic planning, sales and marketing for technology companies such as HP, Amazon and Microsoft.
MBA Crystal Ball: What is the approximate proportion of intake between your 12-month option and the 16-month option? Is there any trend you can share in comparing that for candidates from the Indian sub-continent versus the rest of the world?
Sherring : A large majority of our students will take the 16-month option, which includes the internship and exchange opportunities. Those doing the 12-month program are usually not looking for a big career change and have some prior global exposure so they don’t need the internship and exchange.
Since Indian students usually want to change their job locations and get more global experience, a higher percentage of them will choose the 16-month option compared with the rest of the world.
MBA Crystal Ball: HKUST arguably has one of the highest number of essays amongst top bschools globally. Does this mean you put in most of the focus on a candidates work/personal experiences compared to other parameters like GMAT/Academics etc? How does your team manage to come up with common criterion to compare people from diverse backgrounds?
Sherring : For our admissions, we take into account the entire profile of the candidate when we review an application, which includes personal, professional and academic aspects. The essays are just one area we look into.
Even though we have 7 essays in our application, only around 200 words are allowed for each one of them. Through the questions, we want to have a more well-rounded understanding of the candidate as a person so that we can assess if his goals, personal traits and strengths will be a fit for our program.
We want to bring together a diverse group of students who will both benefit from and contribute to the program. Instead of selecting candidates based on a certain formula, we consider what they can learn from and bring to the MBA community.
So we will look at candidates’ leadership potential, their goals to see if their expectations align with what we offer, and whether they will be able to contribute to the class by exchanging knowledge and sharing experience with their classmates.
MBA Crystal Ball: There are a lot of scholarships and financial aid programs listed on your website. Approximately what percentage of the incoming class gets some sort of scholarship?
Sherring : On average, around one-third to half of our full-time incoming class receive scholarships or need-based grant from us in recent years.
MBA Crystal Ball: Are the scholarship essays assessed in conjunction with other parts of the application or these are evaluated on a standalone basis?
Sherring : Yes, we consider the entire MBA application together with the scholarship essay when we review the scholarship applications.
Candidates will be invited to apply for the scholarships after they have submitted their MBA applications and have been shortlisted for an interview.
MBA Crystal Ball: Have you started considering IR scores? Any thoughts on its relevance, timelines etc?
Sherring : The IR is designed to measure one’s ability to evaluate information presented in multiple formats from multiple sources and consolidate information to solve complex problems, which is required for our MBA studies and success in the business world. So we have begun to look at this score in candidates’ GMAT results.
MBA Crystal Ball: What are some of the aspects of a candidate’s profile that can overcome a low GMAT score? What chances does a candidate with say a GMAT score of 610 stand at getting admitted?
Sherring : The GMAT score and undergraduate grades are usually considered together in our admissions when we evaluate a candidate’s academic abilities.
If a candidate’s undergraduate performance is not that good, he should have a higher GMAT score to convince us that he could take up the MBA studies.
It is difficult to comment on whether a particular score is good enough for our admissions since we will review the entire profile of a candidate and the academic performance is just one area we look into.
However, as applications from Indian candidates are in general very competitive in the GMAT score, those applying with a score above 650 will have a higher chance to get into HKUST.
MBA Crystal Ball: Any interesting facts or lesser known things you’d like our readers to be aware of about the program or the location?
Sherring : This summer, we finally moved into our new business building, which overlooks the campus and has an amazing view of the Clearwater Bay.
There is a floor dedicated to our MBA students, which includes classrooms, a dozen of breakout rooms for group meetings, common areas and a lounge.
The building has become a second home to our students. They go to classes, hang out, work together and join activities there every day. And this has created a great sense of community among them.
We have seen students making good use of the new space too, such as organizing movie nights in the lounge and evening yoga sessions on the rooftop.
The HKUST MBA offers much more than breath-taking views any bschool can provide. It could get you access to one of the most vibrant and growing economies in the world. Around 95% of the HKUST MBA students got jobs.
In the post MBA jobs, many successfully changed their role (76%), industry (71%) and geography (66%). Half the graduating class increased their base salary by over 75%. If you want to be part of the Asia growth story, check out the HKUST Business School website for more details.
Read the interviews with the Admission Committee officers of many other top bschools.