MBA Admission: Interview Recommendations

The significance of the MBA course admission interview varies from college to college. For students, looking for distance education degree, it might be not required at all. For example, when I was looking for the suitable college, one of the main criteria was no interview at all. I was not sure if I can convert my relatively poor spoken English and my heavy accent to a winning card. But for you, that might be not an issue at all, and you can waive the limitation, I intentionally placed for myself.

You may know that some schools are very aggressive about interviewing candidates. Kellogg, for instance, is terrific about it. The school has long set the standard for interviewing. And not only does UNC – Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler) require an interview of U.S. applicants, but it requires that the interview be conducted on campus. So the interview can be important at some schools and, at those schools, I certainly would not list it last.

Who Should and Who Shouldn’t Interview?
If you think you’re a bad interviewer, stay home. Let your application do the talking for you. So it’s up to you. But if you feel comfortable meeting new people, then go for it. A lot of applicants have to meet new people daily as part of their jobs, so they get very good at interacting with strangers. Those people should always interview, as that can scientifically improve their admission chances.

Should I Interview with an Admissions Officer or an Alumnus?
It’s best to interview with someone on the admissions committee, but that isn’t always possible. You shouldn’t worry too much, though, if you end up having to interview with an alumnus or even a current student. That person will write up a report that will go into your file. Just try to get along with your interviewer.

A Few Recommendations on the Interview Arrangement

1. You have to know if you should ask for an interview or wait to be invited for one. If you have to ask for an interview before the application materials are received, then take care of that as soon as possible, even if you’re not certain that you will definitely apply to the school. It’s free and necessary, so just get it out of the way. I realized that the interview works both ways. Just as you’re selling yourself to the admissions officer, they’re trying to sell the school to you also. This may give a different perspective about the school that may change your mind about applying there, or encourage your decision to apply there.

2. If you’re going to try and arrange an interview with a popular school around an MBA fair, call early, because those slots fill up early.

3. Find out who is interviewing you and look up some background information for conversational fodder and insight into the interviewer’s perspective.

4. Practice the interview with someone who has ample interview experience. Although your answers may be correct, this will allow you to hone your body language, e.g. eye contact, posture, and minimal hand gestures. Also practice ad lib interview. You never know what the interviewer might ask. If you practice thinking on your feet, you will no doubt think better on your feet.

5. Whenever possible, interview with someone of the opposite sex.

6. Dress formally unless your interview is with an alumnus and the situation calls for casual clothes.

7. Relax! Don’t come off as stiff and overly formal. You want your interviewer to like you, so treat him or her like a friend.

8. Prepare your answers ahead of time.

9. Always plan to arrive 15 minutes early. Parking at some campuses can be difficult and most of the time you will need to obtain a parking pass and go back out to your car to place it in your window. (Usually the MBA program office can help validate and suggest parking locations.)

Typical Interview Questions
The questions asked by admissions people at different schools are often surprisingly similar. So, you can prepare your session quite well, based on the other people experience and advices. There is a little variation, but the basic interview process goes as follows.

Phase 1 – Your Upbringing and Undergraduate Experience
Be sure to prepare a brief outline of your upbringing before going to your interview. But don’t bring the paper with you. It’s easy to get lost and ramble into a long pointless diatribe when talking about your upbringing, so make your replies short and to the point.
They will generally ask a number of questions about your undergraduate experience.

* What was your major?
* Did you like it?
* Do you think your grades are an accurate reflection of your ability?
* Did you work as an undergrad? (This is important because it may help to explain why your GPA isn’t 4.0).

Phase 2 – Work Experience since Leaving College
You need to know your whole work history before walking into the interview. Look up the approximate dates of promotions or job transfers. The questions go something like the following:

* What was your first job out of undergrad?
* Have you been promoted?
* Have you ever supervised employees?
* Have you switched firms? If so, why?
* Can you give me an example of a time that you demonstrated leadership?
* What is your definition of teamwork?
* What would you say is your biggest weakness?
* What are your greatest strengths?
* How would your colleagues describe you?
* Make sure you have numbers in your tips, the revenue and profit numbers of the organization you are working for or numbers related to your industry.

Phase 3 – Career Goals & MBA Plans
This is the part of your story that has to hold together. If they ask about career goals and you tell them something that is completely inconsistent with your experience, you’re going to be in trouble.

* Be sure to mention a career goal that actually requires (or benefits from) an MBA.
* Be able to answer the question, “Why do you need an MBA?”
* Be able to answer the question, “Why do you need an MBA from this school?”
* What makes you stand out among other candidates?
* What are your expectations of this program?
* Where do you see yourself in ten years?
* Tell me about a specific situation in your professional career where you solved an important problem.

Phase 4 – Your Turn to Ask Questions
Be sure to study the school before interviewing so you can ask informed questions about it. Ask insightful questions. Do not ask questions whose answers can be found on the website. Knowing specific details about the program should convince the interviewer that you are serious about attending his school. Do not be afraid of asking a candid question near the end of the interview, e.g. “Do you think I am the type of person who would fit into Wharton?” Most likely, the interviewer will be honest and provide you with valuable tips. And let the interviewer know that if you are accepted, you WILL attend.

There some other questions you might want to ask:

* Quote a comment that you read about the school in an article like “X tries to increase the average GMAT”. Ask the interviewer about how the school plans to increase the GMAT and what is the rationale behind it (make sure that you ask the question pertaining to that school, don’t ask about X if you are not interviewing for X).
* How strong is the alumni network of the school?
* What are the events that alumni organize?
* How strong is the alumni network in your country (if you are an international student)?
* What kind of partnerships does the school have with other business schools?
* How strong is the association of the school with the parent University?
* Can you take courses at other schools in the university (like school of engineering, etc.)?
* What is the ratio of tenured to visiting faculty?
* Does the school have chaired professors and centers for advanced studies in topic of your interest?

During the Interview

* Be relaxed. The interview panel might try to gauge your reaction by putting you under stress.
* Do not waver once you have answered. Confidence is the key.
* Don’t show your desperation to get into any particular school. This is not the end of the world. If you are the right candidate, the school needs you as much as you need them. This attitude will also surface in your confidence and relaxed approach.
* Be enthusiastic and cheerful during the interview. If you allow it, it will be like meeting someone interesting at a cocktail party.
* Be polite (even if the admissions secretary is busy and doesn’t have time for your request).
* Make eye contact. You don’t have to necessarily look at your interviewer 100 percent of the time, but make as much eye contact as possible without making the other person uncomfortable.
* If offered a beverage, accept graciously.
* Be yourself (pretending to be something you’re not will quickly surface in these informal conversations…and being yourself is the only way to ensure consistency across conversations and interviews).
* You should use simple wording and short sentences to keep the interviewer’s attention or he/she may get bored and impatient. Stimulate the atmosphere with a lively voice and an occasional enthusiastic giggle if appropriate (i.e. Smile with your heart). This is essential to creating a good impression on the telephone. Furthermore, you should be able to sense through the interviewer’s voice, rather than eye contact or facial expression, his/her reaction to your answers and make appropriate adjustments quickly. In a word, you need to convey to the interviewer, in no more than 30 minutes, that you are the person he/she is looking for.

After the Interview

* Write a thank you note or letter to your interviewer as soon as possible.
* If you have met and spoken to other admissions representatives, write to them as well. Your notes and/or letters are sent to your file and are considered when your application is reviewed.

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