Today’s post comes from Manhattan Review Hong Kong, a well-known provider of test prep and MBA Admissions Consulting in Hong Kong for Top Business Schools.
For most, the MBA admissions interview can, by far, be one of the most terrifying stages of applying to business school. At Manhattan Review we encourage applicants to place enormous attention to this stage of the game. How many times have we seen an average GMAT score offset by glowing recommendations, outstanding leadership skills across community and career, and lastly, the interview process.
Needless to say, business schools put a great deal of emphasis on the interview. The key to winning in the interview is developing a strategy, preparation and confidence. How else could the admissions committee discover your interpersonal skills? What’s more, how else could they dig deeper to alter any ‘red flags’ they may have had after reviewing your application? Undoubtedly, the interview is your time to shine, in person, so have a look at the five areas below you’ll want address before the significant day:
Do Your Homework.
Research the school and its program. Get to know the format for the interview so you’ll be able to anticipate questions and prepare your answers in advance. Be sure to know the answers to the following four questions:Why an MBA? Why is now the right time in your career to pursue an MBA? Why our school? What contribution can you make to our program?Make a strong effort to talk to current students and alumni. Ask direct questions about their experiences in the school’s program, on campus, and particularly during their interviews. Don’t be afraid to ask for some sound advice.
Most interviews are approximately from 35 to 45 minutes in length with time at the end for questions. Obviously, your time is limited. The more you rehearse, the more organized and confident you’ll come across in the interview. Admission members have told us they can spot a candidate who hasn’t spent time practicing. The dead giveaways: answers to questions lack cohesive focus or worse, are too short to offer any substance, let alone answer the questions asked. A good way to practice is by using a mirror so you can monitor your facial expressions; actually see how you come across physically; and learn to make better eye contact.
Back Up Everything You Say.
You don’t want to churn out a list of your strong points without backing them up with stories and specifics. Talk is definitely cheap if you have no examples. It’s one thing to say you have leadership qualities, but another to prove it with concrete examples. For instance, proving your leadership qualities can be broken down into different characteristics – anything from being a creative thinker to championing your colleagues through to a series of successes on the job. So have at last 3 examples you can call upon to illustrate your strengths. Lastly, all yo have to do is figure out what it is about your background that demonstrates, beyond a doubt, you are the best possible candidate. Then prove it with specifics in your interview.
The biggest mistake most applicants make in interviews is droning on and on. Be conscious of time and try to give focused answers. If you’ve practiced beforehand, you should no trouble answering most questions quickly. If more information is needed, you’ll be asked for it. If you’re asked a question you haven’t prepared for, it’s fine to take a moment. You might say, “that’s a great question…let me think for a second.” Wouldn’t an answer that had some thought behind it be better than a rushed and unfocused one?
Tell Me About Yourself.
This question is essentially a 2-5 minute career summary. You’ll want to present it in a chronological flow in order to encourage additional discussion. Start with college, mention other degrees you have, and summarize with areas to emphasize your skills, such as particular times or events impacted by your leadership, problem-solving, or analytical skills. Next, stress your interest in the particular school and make a rational and convincing case why this school is a great fit for you, followed by why you’re a great fit for the school. Mention your hobbies, interests, and passions outside of school as they are all pieces of the puzzle that is you. And let your personality shine. At the end, you’ll have time to ask the interviewer questions. Have a few ready – don’t ask questions about information that is easily found on the school website. Gear your questions to topics that will help you get the information you need to discover if the school is right for you. Be thoughtful of time. Some questions might be best saved for your follow-up email.
Last of all, arrive earlier than the scheduled interview time so that you don’t appear rushed and disheveled. Be polite to everyone you encounter. Remember, the admissions committee already believes you are a strong candidate for their program. The interview is your chance to re-enforce their initial assessment, in person, and prove what they already believe to be true. Go for it and good luck!
We recommend that you attend our free interactive MBA Admissions Webinars where you gain lots of further useful insight into the MBA Admissions process from our consultants who have worked on the admission committees and evaluated candidates for top business schools in the US and in Europe. Good luck with your conquest for an MBA!