The Executive MBA has many similarities to the traditional full-time MBA and the part-time MBA. The programmes have similar curricula and aim to train highly-educated, skillful and successful managers. The MBA’s aim to train for a Master’s degree in administering business. Despite all the similarities, there is a key difference between the EMBA and MBA programmes. The “executive” word.

Herein lies the key delimiter between the profiles of a prospective EMBA and of a prospective MBA candidate. It is also the answer to the question which each prospective EMBA should ask him or herself – where do I need to focus my efforts to complete the rigorous admission process successfully.

Business schools define the ideal EMBA candidate as a leader, a professional with a serious career track and managerial experience, a critical thinker, someone with soft skills, someone who is good at communicating and motivating others, a team player, someone with style, charisma, uniqueness and outstanding personality.

For this reason unlike traditional MBA programmes, where admission committees focus on standardised criteria such as undergraduate scores, GMAT score, overall GPA, type of class, etc., EMBA admission, committees place less emphasis on such standardised criteria. The focus is rather on areas which reflect the personal and professional life of the candidate. Business schools have their own specific requirements for prospective EMBA students. Some schools have more criteria, some have less. Some schools insist on the GMAT requirement, some do not; some schools might ask for two letters of recommendation, some might require more, etc.

Despite the differences, all schools have one thing in common – the candidate’s professional experience. Unlike a regular MBA student where the requirement is for full-time work experience which is not necessarily management experience, if you target an EMBA degree you should have accomplished your own professional journey. Some schools even set managerial experience with proven successful career track as a criterion.

An EMBA is designed for the employee who is established in his or her own career and place of employment. The EMBA class is a diverse class with a huge variety of students – each an expert in his own field – business, finance, law, medicine. Everyone in the class contributes to that diversification of knowledge with his/her own experience and expertise. Admission committees do not admit a single less-than-brilliant class member. They are looking for real contributors to the diversity of the class. It is up to the candidate to convince that admission jury that he/she would be the right choice.

The best way for prospective EMBA students to convince the admissions committees is not to wait until the final round – the interview, but through the whole application process, i.e. through the overall application file, including the essays, references or letters of recommendation, and finally at the interview. The application essays are the opportunity for the candidate not only to demonstrate his/her strong writing skills but also to emphasise his/her personal depth. It also allows admissions officers to become acquainted with the applicant as a person. It is important to write relevant, concise, and informative essays which highlight aspects of the applicant’s character reflecting on him/her both as a person and as a professional. At the same time, it is an important opportunity to elaborate on areas which the applicant feels may be weak in his/her application.

This is also true of the candidate’s letters of recommendation. The referees should be picked very carefully; they should know the prospective student well enough to show his/her best traits supported by real-life experience examples from study or at work. Unlike MBA programmes which target candidates aiming for start-up and mid-level management positions, EMBA programmes attract leaders; candidates who have proved their managerial skills and who are aiming for a top management position as the next step in their career development. This is why the last step in the admission process - the formal interview, provides the opportunity for the candidate to show his/her best and focus on his/her leadership potential. At the interview, the candidate has his/her final chance to ultimately convince the admission committee of his/her abilities to be a leader.

The bottom line is to focus on everything which might show off your personal and professional qualities and bring your advantages and potentials to the surface, proving your leadership skills.