Preparing for an MBA Interview

Wherever practical and possible, it is always advisable to try to attend the school to which you are applying either as part of the interview process, or prior to attending an interview so that you get a much clearer idea of the atmosphere and feel of the school you are seeking to attend.

In some cases, schools can offer applicants an interview at a mutually agreed neutral location, when they have admissions advisers that are able to travel around the US. Attending a regional interview does appear to be a good option for many; you don’t have the added stress of travelling on top of your preparation for your interview and a lot less cost associated. However, it is still strongly advised to attend the school of your choice at some point for a personal visit if you can.

Preparing for an MBA InterviewWherever you are being interviewed, once you have received notification that you are to be seen you need to initially agree and confirm your attendance, either informally with a telephone call, or more formally via a letter of acceptance or an email.

During this confirmation process, you will need to ensure that you have proper location details, so that you can arrange your travel. Some schools have multi-site campuses or the admissions department may not be anywhere near the business school, so be clear on where you are going.

Next you will need to confirm the details of who will be interviewing you. Try to get their names and titles so that you can conduct some research ready to prepare some questions or gear some of your answers to areas that you know they will be interested in.

Good practice preparation

If you are being interviewed on-site, it is always a good idea to try to include some time either before or after your interview to do a short tour of the school to get a personal viewpoint. Remember that you will need to be sure that the school and the location are as right for you as you need to convince them you are right for the school, so finding out about housing costs, local amenities and school facilities is a crucial part of the preparation process.

Research the school, its alumni, the program you are applying for all as thoroughly as you can, so that you are aware of any nuances or differences this program may have to any of the others you have applied to and that you can repeat the key selling points of the school and at least some of its history. All of this shows you mean business and that you are treating this interview as important and with the respect that it and the school are due.

Also take time to go back over your own application so that you are clued up on what you have written and why and just what your own key points are in relation to backing up your application for the program.

On the big day, make sure you arrive at the interview early, by about 15 minutes at least. Also ensure you are correctly attired for an interview. Treat this as a formal occasion and not an interview for a school. This means suits, or at least jackets, and other professional clothing items for both males and females.

Try wherever possible to give examples with your answers, and not just a yes or no response. If you can back up your answers with some solid evidence of something you organized, achieved, took part in, managed, conceived or succeeded in that will be just what the interviewers are looking for.

Remember to be prepared to answer the big ‘why’ question. ‘Why have you applied to this school/this program?’ If you can’t sufficiently answer this, then you will find yourself up against it for the remainder of the interview.

Bear in mind not to ramble on, however much you feel you could contribute to an answer, try to keep your answers as succinct as possible, but with as much detail as you can, especially if it is an answer containing an example of something you would like to use to illustrate a point (see above).

Hopefully the interviewer will be skillful enough not to ask questions that would naturally elicit a one word answer (closed questions) but even if they do, try to make sure your answers are not simply yes or no to any question.

Make sure you don’t leave the interviewer with the impression that you won’t be capable of maintaining the level of academic excellence that they are looking for and try wherever possible to accentuate the positive in relation to your own achievement/skill levels. Try at all times to sound positive and confident, even if you are not, as your answers will come across sounding more truthful and enthusiastic.

Listen actively to what is being told to you by the interviewer and respond where you can to show you are listening and taking on board what is being said. If you don’t do this, you could be in the dangerous position of asking a question of your interviewer on a subject that has already been covered during the information giving section. This won’t go down too well and will make you either sound too nervous or not interested.

Too many candidates ask questions at the end of their interviews on topics that were already covered. Although you'll be stressed during the interview, this isn't acceptable. It simply confirms that you weren't listening, which is the kiss of death for a business school applicant.

Questions you should ask the interviewer

You may be prompted at the start of the interview to ask questions as and when they may come to you, or to save them for a specific time at which you can deliver them, but however you do it, you should prepare to ask at least some questions. Interviewers are not keen on candidates ending an interview by saying they have no further questions. The key to this however, is that you have actively listened throughout the entire interview and have been able to think on your feet and possibly adapt or change your original planned question for something either more or less specific, or about something completely new that has cropped up.

Make sure you don’t just ask a question about any topic just for the sake of it. It needs to be something that you genuinely wanted to hear about, or are concerned about.

Be prepared to expand or to enter into a discussion around your question if it warrants it. You could be opening a can of worms, so you need to be ready to deal with those worms!

As mentioned above, ensure that the topic hasn’t already been covered, or you will just sound disinterested.

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