Whether it’s being unprepared or nervous, or if it’s just a bad game plan or a lack of focus, many prospective MBA students fumble away a great chance to make a good impression with a bad admissions interview. Think about the numbers: If most interviews don’t seal the deal, isn’t it in your best interest to put more effort into yours?
An MBA interview is less about sharing particular experience (since your resume takes care of that) and more about introducing the admissions committee to the real you and what you can bring to the program and your classmates.
What to Do
Here are some very easy and practical steps you can take to ace your interview:
Your experience isn’t limited to what fits on a resume. Be prepared to cite specific examples of when you’ve led teams or projects, other contributions you’ve made within teams, how you’ve handled crisis, and the feedback — both positive and negative — you’ve received from supervisors or mentors.
Research the School
You want to get an MBA here, sent your GMAT scores, and maybe even paid a deposit, so have a compelling reason why this school (or any school you’re considering) is high on your list. Look at the academic reputation, the companies and industries that recruit here, the research quality of the faculty, the location — every reason you should have for dedicating two years of your life to an MBA program.
It may not seem obvious at first, but as you research a school and think about how you fit into an MBA program, you’ll have some questions about the curriculum, career resources, the community within the school, and other important factors. Bring your prepared list and don’t be afraid to start a conversation about them.
Sweat the Small Stuff
Dress the part. Be on time. The little things are a big part of your overall presentation.
Get in Touch
As a prospective W. P. Carey MBA student, you will receive the same dedicated attention our admitted and current students do. Use that to your advantage and don’t hesitate to contact your admissions rep. If something comes up — “How do I apply for scholarships?” or “Can I connect with a professor before classes start?” — get the answers by reaching out in advance of your interview. Again, the more you know about yourself and how you’ll fit with the school and the program, the better off you’ll be when you sit down for your interview.
What to Avoid
A recent Bloomberg Businessweek article asked several b-schools about their worst interview experiences. Here are some of their hilarious horror stories you don’t want to repeat:
One school reported that two candidates burst into tears, and that one of those applicants never regained composure.
This may be your moment to shine, but it’s not an American Idol audition. Still, one MBA program remembered an applicant punctuating key points in his presentation with rimshots on imaginary drums. (Also: Don’t bring real drums.)
You want to demonstrate your knowledge, obviously, and what you bring to the table. But spread that out without taking 20 minutes to answer your first question.
Believe it or not, one interviewer was given a big hug by an MBA hopeful. That’s a no-no.
While it certainly demonstrated the confidence many business schools hope to see in a future MBA student, asking the interviewer out on a date was a terrible decision by one candidate. On the bright side, dealing with rejection builds character.
The bottom line with an MBA admissions interview is this: In most cases, you have roughly 30 minutes to an hour to present yourself and make a connection. You know that the other applicants have good GMAT scores, good grades, and some professional experience. Those aren’t the things you want to dwell on; a good GPA pretty much speaks for itself.
You need to think of yourself as a brand, and sell yourself as a brand that an MBA program can’t live without.