Nine Tips for Acing Your Business School Interview
Once you have finalized your admissions essays, revised your resume and lined up letters of recommendation, doing well on the admissions interview is the next step on your journey toward an MBA. The admissions interview is a chance to show a side of you that test scores, transcripts or resumes might not reflect. An interview can convey your communication skills, personality and ability to engage in meaningful conversations. To prepare for your interview, consider the following strategies.
1. Do your research and find out how each school conducts the interview.
Some programs have a “blind interview,” in which the interviewer has not seen the rest of your application (including test scores) and simply uses your resume as a road map to guide the conversation. Other schools may give interviewers more background about your credentials. In addition to researching the format of the interview, find out as much as you can about your interviewer. Will you be speaking with an admissions director, recent graduate or alumnus? Will you be traveling to the school or meeting someone at a coffee shop? Is the interview conducted via video? It also is helpful to know whether you are interviewing one-on-one or as part of a group.
2. Know your resume like the back of your hand.
Create an “elevator pitch” for each job description and practice it to ensure that you feel comfortable talking about your current and previous roles. This also will help you highlight the most important aspects of each job in the little time you have to answer the question.
3. Reflect on your leadership skills and managerial experience.
Think about times you were challenged as a leader. Did you succeed or fail? If you failed, what did you learn? How do you motivate people to work together and meet goals?
4. Prepare for typical interview questions.
Review the most common types of MBA interview questions, such as why you want to pursue an MBA, your strengths and weaknesses, and more. Behavioral interview questions are increasingly common, so be ready for: “Tell me about a time when you worked on a group project? How were tasks delegated and how were people held accountable? What role did you play and what was the outcome?” The only way to prepare for these questions is to spend time reflecting on your career and specific situations you were in (both negative and positive) so that you have examples readily available to illustrate your points.
5. Tell your story to the interviewer.
In addition to reviewing your elevator pitch, think about your overarching narrative. Why do you want your MBA? Why now? And where do you see yourself after you have finished? Storytelling adds a memorable element to your interview and allows you to open up and share a more personal side with your interviewer.
6. Be specific about your future goals.
Even though your goals may evolve while you are in business school, it is better to say that you plan to work in investor relations for a Fortune 500 company, for instance, than to give a vague, noncommittal answer, such as you are interested in consulting or maybe investment banking. Be ready to elaborate on your future plans when asked for more specifics.
7. Pay attention to the details.
Nonverbal cues such as maintaining eye contact, dressing professionally and arriving on time may not assure your acceptance, but failing to dress for the occasion or showing up late certainly won’t help your case. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the interview so you won’t feel rushed and have the chance to relax before it starts.
8. Have questions ready to ask the interviewer.
Some prospective students focus so much on perfecting their elevator pitch that they fail to prepare questions for the interviewer. This common mistake can come across as a lack of interest in the program. To avoid this, come ready with questions that show you have done your research on the program.
9. Remain calm and collected.
You don’t want to appear nervous or fidgety in your interview, so use whatever relaxation techniques work for you. Maybe that means doing yoga or breathing exercises that morning or listening to music. Whatever you choose, the activity should help give you a sense of calm going into the interview. An admissions interview is a unique opportunity to showcase your talent and leadership skills, your personality and demeanor and explain why you are a strong fit for an MBA program. By planning for your interview ahead of time, you will be better prepared to speak with confidence and tell a compelling, cohesive story about your strengths as an applicant.