If you have been invited to interview, your application has enticed the admissions committee – you are on the right path towards a potential admission. That said, there are no guarantees that interviewed applicants are admitted (each school’s interview to admissions ratio varies) and must make every effort to showcase your candidature and move the admission pendulum forward. The interview is an opportunity for the admission team to delve deeper into your personal and professional story; it is imperative that you do what is necessary to prepare for the interview.
Below are three (3) steps that you should take the better prepare:
Re-Read Your Application
While you have spent a great deal of time on your application, chances are a few weeks/months have gone by since you worked on it. It is good practice to re-acquaint yourself with the stories you’ve shared and message you’ve presented, and re-direct your mindset towards admissions mode of thinking. Re-read your application in its entirety.
Typically, the interviewer has read your application, either in part or in full, so being mindful of the stories you’ve already presented is critical, as you do not want to be repetitive. When you think of new stories to share in your interview that highlight your contributions to your community and leadership experience, for example, think of new anecdotes that convey the underlying themes in your application.
Be ready to talk about your work. Be mindful that the interviewer might not be familiar with the technicalities of your field. Use the pre-interview preparation time to diligently outline how you will convey what you do to a non-industry person. For example, if you are a chemical engineer, and a part of your job involves finding the lowest cost for raw material without it affecting the environment, then make the connection to the importance of the role – in agriculture, choosing the wrong chemical can damage the soil, which hurts the crops, and affects nature. In other words, paint a mental picture for the interviewer about what you do using language a layperson can understand. It is unfair to expect an admissions member to understand your field fully, so use this opportunity to teach the interviewer about the exciting work you do.
Re-Research the School
You should also take the opportunity to re-research the school. If you have kept notes from your initial research, re-read them or re-research the schools and re-acquaint yourself with the reasons you applied to the program. What is it about this program you find enticing? How will the coursework help you develop professionally? What opportunities does the school offer that made you apply? What are the school’s placement metrics? Do those metrics support your post-MBA goals? Gather as much information as possible, as it will be useful to the conversation during the interview. Being prepared to not only speak about yourself but also about the value of the program and the institution showcases a seriousness with how you approach crucial decisions and the earnestness with which you take the interview.
A part of being a successful student is your willingness and ability to ask questions and learn. Having questions prepared in advance gives the admissions team at least two (2) impressions about your candidacy: (i) you are serious about your education and continuous development, and (ii) the critical nature with which you evaluate the information available on the school’s website showcases an individual who takes every opportunity to learn and grow.
Prepare at least five (5) questions and order them by the level of importance before the interview. You may not have the chance to ask all five (5) questions, so having the most important answered first is crucial to making the most of your time with the admissions representative. Do not hesitate to bring your questions with you at your interview – the admissions team will only view this as a sign of being prepared.
After you have gone through these steps, solicit the help of a friend and/or a person you trust to help you prepare. You can prepare questions for them, or they can ask you questions. The idea is that you should practice out-loud your “pitch.” Ask your friend or a person you trust for constructive feedback, including the language you use to answer questions, the clarity of your ideas, and any other component that may help you polish your presentation. Also, ask that they evaluate the content and the clarity of your questions.
As Robin Sharma writes in “The 5 AM Club,” “Sweat more in practice, bleed less in war” (134). On the day of the interview, smile, be yourself and enjoy.