I'm one of those people who enjoy job and academic interviews. I’m weird that way, I guess. I’ve always viewed them as an opportunity to talk about the things I’m passionate about with someone who’s genuinely interested in hearing about my life and perspective. This mindset is, I think, the best bit of advice I can give anyone who is about to sit for an interview. Don’t view it as an oral exam or a minefield filled with traps. View at an opportunity to tell your story, be yourself (instead of sell yourself), and let your accomplishments speak for themselves.
But as I moved up in life, from being the one who was being asked questions to the one doing the asking, I’ve come to appreciate just how ill-prepared most interviewees are for job or academic interviews. Most of the “tips and tricks” for interviews are basic, but nonetheless absolutely vital to get right. And yes, some fall into the “things you should’ve learned in kindergarten” category, but having interviewed quite a few MBA and graduate school applicants, I can tell you that people get a lot of these things wrong! In that spirit, here are 10 tips for doing well in your MBA interview.
- Do your homework about the program you are applying to. Make sure you comprehend the company's core principles and objectives, as well as the particular course requirements and unique positioning of that MBA program.
- Most of the initial questions you’ll be asked are pretty standard, so prepare for those. In an MBA interview, you will likely be asked the following typical questions: Why do you want to get an MBA? What draws you to this specific program? What long-term professional ambitions do you have? How would an MBA assist you in achieving them? Don’t memorize answers for these questions (unless you’re a trained actor, it will come across as canned and stiff), but do know and practice the main ideas you hope to cover in response to these questions.
- Care about your presentation and ALL aspects of your communication. Speaking clearly and simply, making eye contact, and acting professionally are all examples of how to do this. Moreover, if you interview in person, be polite and respectful to the secretary or assistant who greets you. You CANNOT underestimate the important role that staff play in an admissions office, and if you blow them off or are rude to them because you don’t think they’re the ones making the decision… well, you have no idea how offices work. A bad word from a secretary or assistant can sink your application. So don’t be a jerk.
- Don the proper attire. For MBA interviews, professional dress is required. Wear a tidy, well-kept professional clothing whenever possible. As more and more interviews are taking place virtually, take 10 minutes to clean the space behind you, select some items that you think will show some of your best traits and display them strategically but naturally behind you, and recognize that the part of your home or office that you display is an extension of you.
- Show up on time. Give yourself plenty of time to account for any unexpected delays, such as traffic or problems with public transit. I wish I didn’t have to explain this… but I do. Being late is disrespectful, and conveys to your interviewer that you think your time is more important than theirs.
- Have a strategically built résumé and bring copies. What does this mean? At Gurufi, we have a CV / résumé specialists who helps you build a compelling CV. The trick for CVs when it comes to interviews, though, is that they are intended to be scanned, and not read meticulously. Most CVs get about 30-45 seconds of attention, max. So, make sure that it’s formatted in a way that’s clear, easily scannable, and highlights your key accomplishments. I like to think of a CV as a way to prompt the interviewer to ask you the questions you want them to ask you about. Conversely, do NOT include anything on your CV that you aren’t ready and excited to talk about. For this reason, I also like to include personal tidbits (“I have gone to 5 World Cups” is my go-to) because your interviewer will ask about it, and it helps to personalize me. At Gurufi, we can help you with this!
- Prepare some questions for the interviewer. You know a great way to end your interview with a dud? When they ask you if you have any questions, and you reply, “nope” it makes you come across as incurious and unprepared. ALWAYS have 2-3 questions ready for the end of the interview when they inevitably ask you this.
- Be passionate and happy. If interviews are miserable for you, this may be hard. BUT, remember: people like happy people, and they respond positively to passionate people. Display interest and love for the field you have chosen. The interviewer is looking for signs that you are enthusiastic about the chance to pursue an MBA and that you have a distinct professional goal fueled by a sense of excitement for what you do and hope to achieve.
- Be specific, tell stories, and give examples. The worst interviews are often when candidates talk in vague platitudes or obliquely reference their skills and accomplishments. Put meat on those bones! Give specific instances to support your qualifications and experiences. This will make your CV come to life and demonstrate to the interviewer how you have used your knowledge and abilities in practical settings.
- Be yourself. Yeah, I know… you’ve heard this a thousand times. BUT, if you show up at the interview trying to be anything other than what you are, or to sell a version of your future that diverges from what you actually intend to do because you think that’s what the interviewer wants to hear, it will come across as insincere and stilted. Also, I know that during the application process it’s hard to think this way, but you should view this as a two-way interview. You’re also trying to assess whether the school is a good fit for you. The only way that you can do that is to present your authentic self; if they’re not buying what you’re selling, the school likely wouldn’t have been a good fit for you.
These tips will help you get your MBA application over the goal line. Remember, don’t over-prepare, attempt to memorize answers, or show up with anything other than a sense of optimistic confidence.
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