Before you begin your interview preparation there are a few things you should find out about your admissions interviews.
- 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 school’s interview format and style and it is good to know what these differences are before you begin your interview preparation.
Who will be conducting the interview?
Generally speaking, 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 student will interview you, then your interview style will need to be more collegial, and you will want to ensure that you have very solid answers about why you want to attend that particular school and what you could contribute to next year’s class if accepted.
In the case of alumni interviews, you will often have the name of your interviewer in advance. If so, you should learn as much as possible about him or her in advance. 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 resume (also known as a “blind interview”) or 2) everything on your 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 follow-up and probing questions about what you’ve written.
Try to think like an admissions committee member: “What questions would I want more information on based on my application?” In these cases, admissions officers will not expect you to have all new stories. Then again it might be a chance to add a new story or two, perhaps something exciting that has happened since you submitted your application.
When will the interview take place?
Ideally, you will have about four weeks to prepare for the 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 interview take place?
The options are generally: in-person in your local city, at an alumnus’ office, on campus, or via telephone/video.
Another question applicants often have is whether they should interview on campus. Traveling to campus to interview does demonstrate a higher level of commitment; it can also be a chance to visit campus if you haven’t had a chance to do so already. The admissions officers will tell you it makes no difference. We would say it does make a small difference.
What is the tone and style of the interview?
By spending some time in the discussion forums and reading the interview accounts of previous applicants, 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 interviews all applicants, has a reputation for a more conversational and laid back interview style. Find out what style of interviewer you will likely face as it will have a bearing on how you should prepare.
Unit Review: Understanding the Admissions Interview
- Adapt your preparation based on who will be interviewing you and what they will already know about you.
- Devote approximately four weeks to your interview preparation.
- Interview on campus if possible.
- Find out about the school’s interview style and prepare accordingly.