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80: Stand out as a candidate applying to Financial Services companies and Business Schools – with Pascal Michels


The Career Farm podcast - Stand out as a candidate applying to Financial Services companies and Business Schools - with Pascal Michels

In this episode I'm joined by Pascal Michels, Head of IESE MBA Admissions, who talks about his varied career.  He shares his experience of moving into finance after an MBA and offers advice about how candidates can make the best impression when applying to top business schools like IESE.

Pascal’s career can be divided into phases.

The first, in Internal audit, culminated at the European Commission and fulfilled his personal goal which was to achieve international diversity in his professional life.  However, it was also here that he realised his mind-set was not that of a civil servant and he wanted a different direction.

Standout as a candidate in financial servicesAt that point, like many career changers, he chose to do an MBA.

The MBA became the perfect bridge, enabling Pascal’s move from public to private sector and his physical relocation from Brussels to London at Citibank.

Working in financial services at CITI he followed his natural interests and got involved in recruiting for the financial management program on campuses.

This experience led him to move into career coaching in the financial services area for IESE and his eventual advancement to head of MBA admissions there.

Hints on the application process

A lot of “bright sparks” apply for MBA programs.  How can you be different?

In the podcast Pascal shares his hints for how candidates can differentiate themselves so they stand out from the pack of highly-qualified individuals where intellectual ability is only the start.

What can you do to differentiate yourself and what should you not do during the application process?

He shares what works and what he has seen go spectacularly wrong.

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Financial careers require more than just technical ability

If you’re interested in going into the financial sector after an MBA then according to Pascal it's probably a given that you have the technical skills to succeed.  Recruiters will be looking for more, and communication skills are high on the list of requirements (among others he talks about).

Understanding the power of networking and how to benefit from what he calls “the network effect” is hugely important, and personal branding also plays a role.

You’ll want to look at your CV again after you hear Pascal’s take on what impresses and stays with an interviewer long after the interview itself.


Pascal enjoys reading fiction and has often found that literature resonates in the business world. He imagines business schools incorporating literary works into business courses in the future.

He recommends Malcolm Gladwell’s "The Outliers" as an interesting read about success.


"Youth is wasted on the young",  George Bernard Shaw

Pascal sees too many young people who spend energy keeping their options open, playing it by the book and generally being very risk averse. His advice is to be bold, say "yes", do things. Think about the great stories you’ll have to tell in the years to come!

A great tool to help you with your career planning

As I mentioned on the podcast, this Summary Sheet download is a great way to start planning your next career move.

Filling in the sheet will help you to create a framework that you can use to consistently evaluate different jobs and career options.

It will also help you to gather the evidence you need to perform better at applications and interviewers - employers love candidates who have done some career thinking and know what they want! Hope you find it useful!

Click Here To Get The Summary Sheet


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