B-school admissions interview preparation can pay off with a seat in the next class at your dream b-school and even with a generous scholarship. It is never too early to start your preparation.
Here is what you should do at each step of your MBA preparation, so that you ensure an interview invitation and are happy with your interview performance.
Although the interview normally comes at the end of the process, there is something to do at each step of your preparation for admission. Let’s look at some tips.
Step 1: You are now selecting b-schools
School selection is essential for your chances of admission. You can find the right match when you strike a balance between your expectations, what the school offers to meet them and what your potential is to gain admission to that school.
During the interview you will discuss, among other topics, your career aspirations, your areas of improvement and how each particular school can help you prepare to land the job you are striving for.
When researching schools, make a list of all of your selection criteria and get evidence about how each school satisfies each criterion. Be as specific as possible. Here is an example:I want to join a big-4 management consulting company in the UK upon MBA graduation. – These companies have a long history of recruiting MBA graduate from school A. My academic background is in finance and I am an ACCA holder, but I need to improve my strategic management skills and fine-tune my leadership style. – School A has a concentration on business strategy and a business leadership series of presentations by top executives. – School B has a lot of students with an academic and professional background similar to mine, but I prefer to get perspectives from a more diverse group of peers. So school B will not be my primary choice at this stage.
In this way you will not only have the right programmes on your list, but you will have answers and arguments to some of the essential interview questions.
Actually, you may well be meeting business school representatives while still researching schools. They will certainly be impressed if you have the answers to the questions above. Making a nice first impression on a b-school representative will help build good communications and will certainly help in the research and application process.
Step 2: You are now preparing your MBA application
Part of the interview always focuses on how you overcame challenges and what you learned from them, what you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses in both personal and professional aspects.
Ask your recommenders to comment, among other things, on your areas of improvement, your potential for business leadership and your capacity to benefit from post-graduate education in management. The recommendation letters are usually submitted on forms provided by business schools, but there is always space for additional comments.
Although you will not have access to the recommendation letters, during the interview you can refer to experiences that your recommenders observed and that illustrate your potential for improvement, challenges you overcame and lessons learned. It will be great if you ask for direct feedback on these topics from your supervisors (even if they are not your recommenders), your colleagues and even close friends who know your professional aspirations. The right time for this is really when you are working on your application package and you will have plenty of examples to put on the table during the interview.
There are several elements on your resume/CV which will create good grounds for discussion during the interview.
Profile and MBA-related career objective should come immediately after your name and contact information on the resume/CV. This should be a strong and clear statement, up to 50 words, that will serve as your unique ‘tag’ for the members of the admissions committee (AdCom).
Be creative and make it really reflect your personal style. Just as a start, you can use this model:<Your unique background and experience>, <your career aspirations>, <why MBA> (at <this b-school>).
Your resume/CV should clearly convey your personality, just as your photo does. So, do not limit yourself to professional aspects only. Mention hobbies, outside-of-work commitments and achievements, and anything which makes ‘you’ really ‘You’. There is never enough space on the resume, but you should give the facts. In this way you are actually inviting the interviewer to give you the chance to elaborate on them during your meeting.
Here is what the Wharton MBA admissions officers share:
The Admissions Committee wants to get to know you on both a professional and personal level. We encourage you to be introspective, candid and succinct. Most importantly, we suggest you be yourself.
Personality should be the major trait of your essays. What Wharton advises above is true for both the resume and the essays. But what are the cookies for the interview preparation which you can integrate in the essay?
Convey how you are unique and what your contribution to the programme will be. Why should the school give you a seat in the class? What can your peers learn from you, what experience do you have to share in class discussions and group work? Everyone goes to business school to learn from others, which means that everyone should have things readily available to share.
Most b-schools aim to build diverse classes in terms of nationality and culture, but also of academic and professional background, positions and personalities. Tag your outstanding features in the essays so that you have the occasion to provide details during the interview.
Step 3: You have already submitted your MBA application
Start researching how your selected business schools conduct the interviews. Find out all details related to the format (face-to-face or distance – Skype, phone, etc., one-to-one or a group interview, on-campus or in a location in your region), and who the interviewers are (admissions director or officers, programme director or professors, alumni or current students).
Prepare to perform at your best during the interview. Practise simulating a similar format. If it is a distance interview (Skype or phone), think about the location where you will deliver the interview; think about what you will wear; what will be in the background, etc.
Interview preparation sometimes involves professional help. Some applicants work with a coach in order to practise for the interview. They usually go through the typical interview questions and the appropriate manners.
Step 4: You have just been invited to an MBA interview
Celebrate the fact that you have been invited to an admissions interview. Then, come down to earth and realise that the real competition has just begun. An interview invitation only means that the AdCom is interested in you, but in no way does an invitation reveal your chances of admission. So, focus on the next step of the interview preparation in order to make the most of your personal meeting with the interviewer(s).
The interview invitation will provide all details about the format, the person who will interview you, etc. Make all arrangements to ensure that you will feel comfortable during the meeting.
Most importantly, go back to your essential reasons for choosing this school, your career aspirations, areas of improvement, etc. Read again your resume/CV, essays, application form to make sure you can give details about all facts mentioned there.
Get into the right mindset. The interview is a personal meeting, when you and the school should make sure you fit well together. If you find out that you actually do not ‘belong to each other’, this is actually a positive outcome. Why invest in a partner (the b-school) that is not the best one for you?
But if you have made a wise school selection and made the most of your test preparation and application package, you should have an occasion to celebrate after the interview.
Step 5: You have just completed your interview
Immediately after the interview send a thank-you letter to your contact in the admissions office. During the interview you will be informed about when you can expect a decision. Be patient and enquire about results only after the notification deadline has passed. Admissions officers, believe me, know how excited you are about hearing back from them. They do their best to put together a great MBA class for you to ensure you have a rewarding experience.
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