GETTING on to an MBA course is not just about what it offers you, but what you can offer it. Business schools will put together cohorts that don’t simply contain the best candidates, but the right cross-section of nationalities, backgrounds and experience to build the most dynamic team. Programmes are generally structured in such a way that students should learn as much from their classmates’ shared knowledge as they do from lecturers. This means that experience over a certain number of years is not sufficient, though for most leading programmes three years will be a bare minimum. The important thing is the success you’ve demonstrated in that time and knowledge you’ve accrued – in other words, you’re obviously someone who’s going places.

“A person who has been in one job for several years and hasn’t really progressed won’t have a lot to contribute and nor will they benefit much,” says Sean Rickard, director of the MBA programme at Cranfield School of Management. “Someone who’s had a promotion every couple of years, been
head-hunted and moved companies, has a track record they can share.”

Elements that help give candidates an edge include experience of working internationally, since it indicates ambition and a knowledge of broader working practices and cultures; extra-curricular activity such as charity work or volunteering; and clear evidence of a propensity for teamwork – which is, after all, how an MBA class should work.