So you’ve submitted your MBA application and got yourself an interview at a top business school (or two). Congratulations! But keep the champagne on ice for now – just as you invested time and energy into crafting your written application, now’s the time to focus on how to shine on interview day.
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As Benjamin Franklin once put it, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” so start getting your head in the game as early as you can. Here are nine top tips to help you ace your interview.
Know your application like the back of your hand
You may have secured an interview at a great school, but whatever you do, don’t throw out your written application yet. The interviewer(s) you’ll meet with will have taken the time to read your submission thoroughly and they’ll likely want to dive deeper into various statements you’ve made.
Be ready to talk intelligently about everything from your hobbies and travels to your grades and resume.
Focus on the impact these things have made on you, both personally and professionally.
Know your (dream) school and their program equally well
Have a thorough read of the school’s website before interview day, and watch videos of staff, MBA students, and alumni. This will give you a real feel for the people they’re looking for and the school’s ethos in general. See what makes a top online MBA program.
Browse blog posts and be sure to study the FAQs carefully so you don’t end up asking a question that you should know the answer to already.
This means that if and when they raise a certain point about the program, you can show you’ve done your homework (i.e. “Yes, I believe that was introduced in 2010, wasn’t it..?”)
Check out the school’s interview format
When it comes to interview styles, one size does not fit all. Some business schools will have members of the admissions committee conduct MBA interviews, while others will have students or alumni asking the questions. Some will largely host interviews on-campus whilst others won’t.
Find out all you can about where and how your target school carries out their interviews, roughly how long they last and prep accordingly.
Approach every interview as a completely new experience, rather than a “copy and paste” exercise.
Get the inside track on questions they’re likely to ask
There are a number of ways to do this. Firstly, hit up any contacts you have at the school in question (whether alumni or current students). Drop them a line or meet them for coffee. This is the perfect opportunity to ask not just about the school’s interview style, but also what the whole MBA experience can offer you. Secondly, head to Clear Admit MBA Interview Reports where, for free, you can read up on MBA interview experiences that others have shared. Thirdly, get Googling and read up on the most commonly asked business school interview questions.
Practice makes perfect
Or, rather, practice makes confident. Call in a favor from a friend, relative or colleague and ask them to conduct a mock interview (or two) with you ahead of the real one. By all means supply them with the kind of questions you’ve already researched, but get them to surprise you with a few curveballs too.
Naturally it’s harder to get objective feedback from the people who know you best, but ask for their thoughts on your answers and how you come across.
Better still, make an audio recording of the interview or even film it (a smartphone will do) so you can watch or listen back to really focus on what you want to improve.
What you’re aiming for are confident, concise, and interesting answers that demonstrate your unique strengths and personality – without sounding arrogant.
Listen very carefully
This leads us neatly to our next point: the interviewer wants you to answer the question they asked, not the one you hoped they would. On the day, make sure you focus on what they’re asking you and take the time to formulate your response before just diving in and speaking at, rather than to, them.
If you spot a chance to guide your answer towards one of your key points, do so smoothly.
Your MBA interview is, above all, a conversation between people, so be sure to listen and respond appropriately to whoever’s asking the questions. (Please note: this is an excellent tip not just for interviews but for life in general.)
Ask insightful questions
Have your own questions at the ready when the opportunity arises. An MBA interview is your chance to get the inside track on the school, student community activities, the campus, and the programme itself, so make the most of it.
Bonus points if you can ask questions that relate to the interviewer’s own personal experience.
Doing so not only demonstrates initiative, but also invites them to share something about themselves, building a personal connection.
Have the courage to be yourself
The interviewer wants to see you at your best, so don’t go in there and pretend to be someone you aren’t – be the best version of you that you can be. Answer questions honestly, don’t be afraid to crack a joke if that’s your thing (although don’t go overboard, or off color) and demonstrate exactly what it is that makes you tick.
Sooner or later, the interviewer is highly likely to ask you, “So, why this school?” Have that answer at the ready.
Explain not only why you think it’s the right fit for you, but also take the time to discuss why you think you’re the right fit for them.
Don’t neglect the basics
This may sound obvious but it bears repeating: know where you need to be and precisely when you need to be there. Check out your route and where to park before the day in question.
Choose an outfit that and makes you feel good, and make sure it’s clean and ready the night before.
Arrive on time, switch off your cell phone and remember: a warm greeting and a strong handshake can go a long way. Once you know you’ve got all the basics covered, you can relax and concentrate on the task at hand.