11 Tips for Acing Your MBA Admission Interview
You’ve taken your GMAT, identified your schools, and submitted your MBA applications. The next step: patiently waiting to hear whether you will get an interview or not. As the next step in the application process, the interview is a chance for schools to confirm that you are as good as you say you are and determine your fit within the school.
Each business school conducts the interview process in a slightly different way. For some schools, your interview will be directly with the admissions office, while others will connect you with alumni who live locally and will conduct the interview on the school’s behalf. The interviewer will then send detailed notes to the school with their recommendation as to whether you should be accepted or not. Some schools require multiple interviews, some only one.
Generally these interviews last up to an hour. They include a range of questions about your motivation for pursuing an MBA, why you are interested in that particular school, and what your future plans are. Here are 11 tips to help you prepare for, and ace, your MBA admissions interview.
- Be professional right from the first email. When you receive an email inviting you for an interview and asking you to set a time or connect with an alumni for the interview, respond promptly and professionally. This also includes arriving to your interview on time, dressing appropriately, and following up afterward with a thank-you note. The interviewer is shaping an opinion of you right from the first communication. This is just like a job interview, and every moment counts.
- Speak to alumni ahead of time. Alumni are a fantastic resource and are most likely more than willing to answer questions and share information with you. They went through the interview process themselves and may even be involved in conducting interviews. They can give you some tips on what a particular school is looking for and what to expect.
- Re-read your application. It may seem obvious, but make sure to re-read the application you submitted to a particular school before going to your interview. Your interviewer will have just read it, so make sure you keep your messages and answers consistent. Why do you want to earn an MBA? Why do you want to earn an MBA at this particular school? They are likely to ask you some of the same questions that were in your application.
- Tell your story. You worked on bringing together your story in your application. Make sure you present your story clearly. Your interviewer wants to see where you have come from, where you are now, where you want to go, and how the MBA—and that school’s MBA in particular—will help you get there. Your story is what makes you unique and interesting and sets you apart from other candidates.
- Practice your key messages. An interview is an opportunity to sell yourself. Think about the key messages you want to communicate during your time with the interviewer and practice ways to convey these clearly and concisely. Practice with friends and family. The more you practice, the more naturally your responses will come out during the interview. You don’t have very long to impress. Have a few short stories ready to use during your interview that will help strengthen your application.
- Know the school. Apart from re-reading your application, you should also spend some time looking through the school’s website again. Be clear about why you are interested in that particular school and even what particular programs, clubs, events, and opportunities that school has that you plan to engage in. If you have visited the school, mention that.
- Think about your gaps and weaknesses. Often an interviewer will be given some notes as to what questions to ask a specific candidate. These are usually questions relating to inconsistencies in your application, some of your weaknesses, or concerns the admissions office has. Think carefully about your application beforehand so you can identify what gaps and weaknesses you have, and be prepared to address them if they are brought up.
- Answer the question you are being asked. During the interview, listen carefully to the question the interviewer is asking and answer that question. You can add in information that you want to get across, but make sure you are answering the question first. Too often a candidate doesn’t actually answer the question that is being asked but instead takes the opportunity to offer superfluous information to the interviewer. This can be counterproductive. Don’t be afraid to request a repeat or clarification of the question if you aren’t sure what’s being asked.
- Stay calm. You will most likely not know what will happen during the interview before it happens. Go in confidently and calmly and prepared to tackle anything sent your way. Some schools will present a candidate with a question and ask them to put together a short presentation based on that question for the last 15 minutes of the interview. There is no right or wrong approach. Just take it one step at a time and be confident in whatever you present.
- Bring your own questions. You will often have opportunities at the very beginning and end of the interview to ask questions. Alumni and admissions officers love to share information about their school to interested candidates. Further confirm your interest by thinking of a few smart questions that will get them talking. Don’t ask obvious questions, as this won’t help your case. Identify questions that help you gather more in-depth information about the schools while at the same time further connecting to your interviewer.
- Be authentic. Be yourself! Don’t go into an interview pretending to be something you aren’t. Interviewers can see through that. Every school has a particular culture, and interviewers are looking for potential students who will fit into that culture and add to it. They are looking for individuals whom they would have loved to have in their programs based on their professional experiences and their personality. If they gave you an interview, it’s because they are interested. Be confident with your application and try to enjoy yourself.
If you are invited for an MBA admissions interview, the school is already interested in you, so give them everything they need to follow up your interview with a firm acceptance letter.