The Columbia MBA Interview – A Fresh Lens
“Do I want this person in my network for the rest of my life?”
In an Accepted-hosted Q&A session, Emily French Thomas, Columbia MBA Admissions Director, provided the following insight into the Columbia MBA application interview process: social and emotional IQ are key.
Columbia interviews are conducted by alumni, and French emphasizes that for them, a strong current running alongside and beneath the conversation is that question at the start of this post: Do I want this person in my network for the rest of my life? Considerations like “Would I want to work with this person” and “Would I want to be on a team with this person” may be objective factors for evaluation, but such evaluation will always be formed in part by the interviewer’s subjective response to you, the interviewee.
So, in the interview, pay attention to the person, to the vibe, and respond and adapt accordingly. It’s not a matter of becoming gregarious if you are reserved or vice versa – it is about connecting with the other person by being your authentic self. And this is important because both alumni and adcom are seeking students who will contribute to their program and their community; they’re invested. That raises one more point: they will be looking to see that you appear and behave professionally – even if the interviewer is around your same age and you meet at a cafe. By being professional, you are showing respect, and you are showing you belong.
Of course, your alumni interviewer does greatly care what you say! The interviewer (and by extension the adcom) usually looks to learn whether you have a clear sense of what you want to do in your career. Using social IQ, listen carefully. “What is your career vision” is quite a different question than “So, what do you want to do right after graduating?” The former is more expansive and reflects interest in your hoped for longer-term impacts; the latter seeks practical, concrete information about your next career step after earning your MBA. Also, they often are interested not just in why you want to come to Columbia, but also in how you plan to take advantage of being in the Big Apple.
Director French also discussed process. She noted that the interview is “one piece of the puzzle” – it’s helpful to see it that way, not as binary pass-you’re in, fail-you’re dinged. This mental framework encourages a more fluid give-and-take. Also, the interviewers do prepare a written report on the interview, which becomes part of that puzzle.
If you would like professional guidance with your Columbia Business School MBA application, check out Accepted’s MBA Application Package, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the CBS MBA application. For one-on-one interview prep, check out our Mock Interview Package.
Cindy Tokumitsu has advised hundreds of successful applicants, helping them gain acceptance to top MBA and EMBA programs in her 15+ years with Accepted. She would love to help you too. Want Cindy to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
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