In this first article in our five part series on MBA Admissions Interview Best Practices, we share some important questions you should answer at the outset of your interview preparation.
There are number of things you should endeavor to find out in the beginning stages of your interview prep, including:
- Who will be conducting the interview?
- What information will the interviewer have about you before the interview begins?
- When will the interview take place?
- Where will the interview take place?
- How will the interviewer conduct the interview?
There are some important differences in each business school’s interview format and style, and it is beneficial to know what these differences are before you begin your MBA interview preparation.
Who will be conducting the admissions interview?
Generally speaking, MBA admissions committee members, current students, or alumni will conduct the interview. The type of person conducting your interview will affect your preparation. If an admissions officer is interviewing you, you should carefully review every element of your application. If a current MBA student will interview you, then your interview style will need be more collegial, and you will want to ensure that you have very solid answers about why you want to attend that particular graduate business program and what you could contribute to next year’s class if accepted.
In the case of alumni interviews, you will often be sent the name of your interviewer in advance. If so, you should learn as much as possible about him or her as part of your preparation. This isn’t to impress them with your research skills; rather, it just might help you tailor your messages somewhat to your audience. For example, you might prepare differently if you know you will be talking to the managing director of an investment bank versus the managing director of a non-profit organization.
What information will the interviewer have about me?
The choices are: 1) only what is on your MBA application resume (also known as a “blind interview”) or 2) everything on your business school application. In either case, you need to know your resume backward and forwards, but if your interviewer will have read your application, then you need to be prepared for probing questions about what you’ve written.
Put yourself in the shoes of an MBA admissions committee member and ask: “What questions would I want more information on related to the MBA application this candidate submitted?”
Don’t worry — admissions officers will not expect you to have all new stories. Then again, the interview might be a chance to add a new story or two to your profile, perhaps something exciting that has happened since you submitted your application.
When will the admissions interview take place?
Ideally, you would like to have about four weeks to prepare for an MBA admissions interview; so, if possible, factor that in when scheduling your interview.
A question that MBA Prep School students have asked in the past is whether they should grab the first few sign-up spots when the school posts them. All things being equal, perhaps, but never at the expense of thorough interview preparation.
Where will the admissions interview take place?
The options are generally: in-person in your local city, at an alumnus’ office, on the business school’s campus, or via telephone/video.
Another question MBA applicants have is whether they should interview on campus when that is an option. Traveling to campus to interview does demonstrate a higher level of interest in the school; furthermore, it can be a chance to visit campus, if you haven’t had a chance to do so already. Most admissions officers will tell you it makes no difference where you interview. We would say it does make a small difference.
What is the tone and style of the interview?
By spending some time in the MBA discussion forums and reading the interview accounts of previous MBA candidates, you will get a feel for the general tone and style of the interview. HBS, for example, is known for a probing and somewhat provocative interview style, whereas Kellogg, which interview all applicants, has a reputation for a more conversational and laid back interview style. Find out what style of interview you will likely face, as it will have a bearing on how you should prepare.