An admissions interview invitation means that all the hard work you have done on your written MBA application has paid off. Now, it is time to prepare for the “final exam” of the business school application process.
In this second article in the series, we share three interview best practices that admissions experts have developed to ensure that MBA applicants shine on “final exam” day.
- Send a message with your appearance
- Be concise, concrete, and conversational
- Show, don’t tell
Send a message with your appearance
You certainly need to “dress for success” for your MBA admission interview, but you also need to be aware of the non-verbal messages you are sending. Research shows that more than half of the messages conveyed and received in a face-to-face meeting are non-verbal in nature: gesture, physical appearance, and attire can heavily influence your business school interviewer’s perception of you.
In addition to being well dressed and brushing your teeth on interview day, practicing your interview responses in front of a mirror is recommended. Better yet, ask friends or the interview coach who mock interviews you to offer feedback on your non-verbal communications in addition to assessing the content of your interview responses.
During the interview, don’t forget to smile! Too many MBA candidates provide truly brilliant answers to the interview questions, but look as if they are being tortured while delivering them.
The best way to keep a smile on your face is to adjust your attitude and intention towards the MBA interview. B-school candidates who go into their admissions interview with an attitude that it’s an opportunity to share their strengths and put their best foot forward tend to smile more than applicants who view the interview as an interrogation.
Be concise, concrete, and conversational
Limit most of your answers to no more than 60 seconds. While practicing, record and time yourself to see how long it takes you to answer the typical questions you learned about in the previous chapters. For a multipart question such as “walk me through your resume,” you might get away with a two-minute response. However, the general principle is that it is always better to give a concise answer and allow your interviewer to ask follow-up questions on an aspect of your answer that intrigues him or her, than to try to say it all in a single response.
Avoid generalities in your answer to MBA admissions interview questions. General claims include statements such as:
• I made a real difference as a team leader.
• I learned a ton on that project.
• I really grew from the experience.
• My work helped the client cut costs.
These claims are not convincing or memorable; you need to be concrete and offer specifics, supply examples, and quantify results:
• Explain the difference you made.
• Tell the interviewer what you learned.
• Describe a few ways you have grown.
• Quantify how much costs decreased.
Do your best to create a conversational flow – a dialogue not a monologue. If the tone is conversational, your interviewer will perceive you more positively. One way to keep the interchange going is to ask for direction or feedback about your answer. For example, if you are asked to tell them about a team you led, and you have two strong stories, one at work and one in community service, ask which one the interviewer might like to hear. Once you’ve finished an answer you might check-in to see if they’d like to hear more about one of the aspects you mentioned briefly in your story. Use this technique sparingly, however. You don’t want to come off as pandering or insecure.
Show, Don’t Tell
In an MBA admissions interview, sharing your strengths is essential, but don’t just rattle off a list of superlatives and sound bites. Can you imagine an interviewer reporting back to the admissions committee:
“We should accept her because she told me that she is creative, dedicated, and a capable leader.”
A list of empty claims will be dismissed or quickly forgotten. You want the interviewer’s report to read:
“I think we should accept her. I was really impressed by the fact that a non-profit organization she started in college grew to over 100 members and has now delivered over 7,000 hours of volunteer time to hospices in three states. Her achievements show that she’s creative, dedicated, and capable of leading organizations.”
By telling stories, you will demonstrate your strengths to your interviewer in a memorable and compelling way. That’s what we mean by “show, don’t tell.”
There’s More to Come…
In the third article in MBA Prep School’s MBA Admissions Interview Best Practices, we will share more tips that will ensure you excel in your business school interview.