Management, marketing, finance… How masters select at university

Management, marketing, finance… How masters select at university

More and more candidates and files better and better put together: this is the observation made by many directors of master’s degrees in business management, particularly within IAEs, management schools internal to universities. What, inevitably, increase a little more competition. “For five or six years, the competition has been stronger. Students prepare better and obtain better scores in the required tests in management and English »notes Antonin Ricard, director of the IAE of Aix-Marseille, who saw the number of master’s candidates increase from 4,500 in 2019 to 5,300 in 2021. “As soon as the number of candidates increases, we can afford to be more demanding on all the selection criteria”notes Olivier Herrbach, director of the IAE of Bordeaux.

How can candidates stand out? During this period of compiling files for the start of the 2022 academic year, we interviewed those responsible for master’s degrees relating to business management (finance, management, marketing, audit, human resources, logistics, asset management, purchasing, CSR, etc.). If the grades are the main evaluation criterion, the personality, the career path or the professional project are all elements that count.

1- Grades and test scores, still just as important

Many educational leaders recognize this, “get excellent grades” remains sufficient to integrate the masters offered by the IAE in management, human resources, marketing, management control or even corporate finance. “Even if it’s hard to admit, grades are still a predictor of professional success”, estimates Olivier Herrbach, director of the IAE of Bordeaux, where the rate of selection in the masters is lower than 10%. Having good grades testifies, according to him, “a minimum of intellectual wing and an ability to respect the rules of the game”.

Apply, for example, to a master’s degree in marketing “with very low results in this subject in license, it is prohibitive”, notes Christian Varinard, director of the IAE of Lyon, where the selection rate is between 25% and 30%. In Rennes, Gwénaëlle Poilpot-Rocaboy, director of the IGR-IAE since 2018, recruits almost no students who have obtained less than 14 general average in license 3. “But we can retain a candidate with 13 if he has experience that seems really interesting to us”she says.

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In some masters, the teaching teams go back to the marks of the baccalaureate. For Elisabeth Bertin, head of the management control and internal audit master’s degree at IAE Bordeaux, “the marks obtained in French are a fairly reliable indicator of the quality of expression and the ability to understand”. Even if the note goes back several years. At the University of Lille, Jean-Christophe Statnik, director of the finance department, has also got into the habit of going back to the baccalaureate, but not for the same reasons.

He has seen better academic results in candidates since the start of the health crisis. An evolution, according to him, due “to the methods of control” knowledge, and not to an evolution of the level: “The exams carried out remotely distort our selection, which is why we go back to the baccalaureate. » The results obtained in the various management aptitude tests such as Score IAE Message and TAGE MAGE as well as language tests (TOEFL and TOEIC) also make the difference.

2- The oral, a way to earn points

The teaching teams interviewed are unanimous: the oral is not only an essential step in selecting the best profiles, but it also allows candidates who do not have excellent academic results – the “tangent files” – to make a difference. “An essential element to test motivation”, which makes it possible in particular to analyze interpersonal skills and the ability to interact, “Very important qualities in our field”recalls Valérie Mathieu, director of the master’s degree in marketing and management of services at the IAE of Aix-Marseille. “I am sensitive to the ability to listen, to the propensity to stop one’s speech oneself and to the ability to establish a dialogue”details the academic, sensitive to “relational empathy”.

“The candidate must have a strategic approach: what are the elements of my career that will make you want to recruit me”, explains Olivier Herrbach

Orally, we also note “the person’s ability to present their background and their professional project: these are my skills, this is what I have done and this is why I am here”, enumerates Gwénaëlle Poilpot-Rocaboy, of the IAE of Rennes, who notes a difference between the candidates resulting from an IUT and those passed by a university course. The first ones “are better prepared, have already been placed in a situation”, while the latter are “less organized, more stressed”. “We know it, so we weigh it”she says. “The candidate must have a strategic approach: what are the elements of my background that will make you want to recruit me”explains Olivier Herrbach of the IAE of Bordeaux.

Most often, this is an individual interview, which has been held remotely since the start of the health crisis, but some masters also organized, until the start of the epidemic, a collective interview with around ten candidates. . “We made them express themselves on various topics related to the news which concern the managerial culture with more technical questions”, describes the educational manager of the management control and internal audit master’s degree at the IAE in Bordeaux. A profession in which, she says, it is important to “know how to convince without imposing oneself and while remaining humble”. She thus remembers a candidate “who took the leaderanimated the interview, asking questions to his comrades with great humility, it was very interesting ».

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3- Defend a realistic professional project

The competition being increasingly strong, the educational teams take care to recruit students whose professional project is in ” adequacy “ with the content of the training. To verify this, they go through the cover letters and address the question in an interview. “If the student says to me: ‘I want to be an HR director or work in marketing’, that bothers me a lot. It also happens that the cover letter is not very clear on this point.notes Elisabeth Bertin, educational manager of a master’s degree in management control and internal audit in Bordeaux.

The jury also tries to verify, orally, whether the student has learned about the content of the courses, whether he has been able to talk to students in the program, whether he has discussed it with a internship supervisor. From what, once again, to measure its “real motivation, beyond the prestige of the training”. Thus, at the IAE in Rennes, we run away from those who “saw light and entered”. “Even if they are still in a process, we ask the candidate to find out about the content of the courses. »

4- The singularity of the course and the experience, a real “plus”

If the marks are average, the CV can make the difference, whether for internships or for other professional experiences. “It is important that the candidates have business experience but that they also have a reflection on their experience”, points out Gwénaëlle Poilpot-Rocaboy, of the IAE of Rennes. At the IAE of Aix-Marseille, the management takes care to diversify its recruitment: 30% of its students come from backgrounds other than the very classic eco-management license. “Many come from literature, law, scientific preparation”, lists Antonin Ricard, its director. Something to diversify the working groups.

In some masters, the members of the jury are also sensitive to the candidates’ ability to ” to assume “ a non-linear course, proof of a “great maturity”. “The course constitutes the depth of a person, it is more by detours than by straight lines that one builds oneself and that one learns about oneself”, notes Valérie Mathieu, of the IAE of Aix-Marseille. She remembers a candidate who had failed in medicine: “He told us how much he had struggled to accept this failure and recover from it, but that today he knew why he was there. » An exception, because ” often, she remarks, the student is not aware of the richness of his career”. “I fight for them to indicate their student job on their CV, because they are unable to value this experience… Whereas, when we discuss it with recruiters, it is sometimes the line that makes the difference . »

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Another strong point is a commitment to associations, humanitarian work or a passion that very often reflects personality traits. ” A high level athlete, remarks Gwénaëlle Poilpot-Rocaboy, itis a candidate who is not afraid of effort, who gives the best of himself and who is enduring over the distance. A candidate invested in the association shows the ability to give of oneself, to act collectively. » “Having a commitment is not a necessary condition, but it is a serious advantage on a CV”, believes Antonin Ricard. Especially since his IAE changed the content of his training by integrating, a few years ago, entrepreneurial experience and, more recently, civic engagement.

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