Business School Interviews
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MBA Admissions Guide
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Undergraduate Admissions Guide
Once you submit your application to business school, the admissions committee will conduct a preliminary screening based upon your undergraduate GPA and GMAT scores. If you meet a predetermined "academic cutoff," you will likely be invited for a personal interview to further probe your suitability for business school. The personal interview is a critical step in the admissions process and should not be taken lightly; most Ivy League MBA programs will not accept a candidate without meeting him/her in person. Their motivation is threefold:
a) to assess
the overall "marketability" of each candidate
Those who are invited for a personal visit can be assured that they are "in the running" for admission, having demonstrated the academic prowess that is required for business school. The interview allows the school to determine whether your interpersonal skills are as stellar as your academic ones.
Some Ivy League schools don't issue invitations for interviews, but leave it to the applicant's discretion. Many candidates wonder if it's worth the time. We know for certain that it is. In fact, in many cases, it's your best opportunity to persuade the committee that you are a superior candidate.
Why do they require an interview? The applicant pool for selective MBA programs is filled with thousands of candidates who all look great on paper. They have perfect grades and GMAT scores, along with a few years experience in a professional setting. We know that most of them can handle the program and build a successful career after graduation.
But we are seeking only the BEST candidates: those dynamic individuals who possess that rare balance of academic prowess and interpersonal strengths to become an effective leader. We value many traits beyond what is on your application, including integrity, negotiating skills, sensitivity and good judgment. An interview is your opportunity to distinguish yourself from the pack and demonstrate your managerial potential.
Applicants are often stunned to learn that the interview can be weighted as high as 35% in the formula used to rank applicants. Some feel this is unfair because an hour-long interview doesn't adequately reflect their suitability for the field. How can a short meeting be weighed the same as four years of academic achievement? Quite simply, the interview isn't ABOUT academic ability; it's about whether you have the tempermental and psychological strengths required to be a successful leader.
The interview is an opportunity for the school to question you about your application, your autobiographical sketch or any issues on your transcripts or GMAT scores. But it is primarily a tool for the schools to screen out psychological misfits who may not be well-suited for top level management. Your interviewer wants to learn what you are like as a person and how well you respond and communicate. We want to understand your values, how you think and how well you handle yourself under pressure.
The school is committed to admitting students who are able to handle the rigors of business school on an academic, personal, physical and psychological basis. Your interview is your opportunity to convince us that you are up to the challenge.
Our interview questions are designed to identify your stengths and weaknesses for all of these criteria. We particularly probe the following five areas:
a) Professional experience. We seek students who have been exposed to the reality of business and the exhaustive commitment that is required to succeed in top management. Ideal candidates usually have experience working in a managerial position for at least two years after completing their bachelor's degrees. Be prepared to discuss your experience, including volunteer work, and how it shaped your understanding of business.
b) Knowledge of the field. Be prepared to discuss different specialty areas in business and their responsibilities. Interviewers will also expect you to discuss current issues in business, including the economy, taxation, foreign competition, the role of technology and ethical challenges in the field.
c) Personality. Leaders must communicate clearly, handle complex issues, manage stress and successfully interact with people from all walks of life. Be prepared to demonstrate that you are a happy, healthy, well-adjusted person with a strong commitment to leadership. Also be prepared to discuss your experience working on project teams, including situations which yielded less-than-optimal results.
d) Motivation. For many years, applicants flooded top MBA programs because they wanted to make the "big bucks." Others applied because they weren't happy with their current job prospects. Sadly, we've interviewed many candidates who could not articulate why they wanted the degree or what they hoped to accomplish in the future. This is an obvious red flag in the admissions process. Top business schools use the interview process to carefully screen out applicants who are fuzzy on their goals. Be prepared to clearly explain why you want/need an MBA, why you are applying now, and why you selected that particular school.
e) Balance. We seek applicants who are well-rounded and well-adjusted. There's nothing more disheartening than an applicant who looks great on paper who can only talk about his/her grades. There's much more to life and business than memorizing and regurgitating facts. Successful applicants are animated, full of life, with enthusiasm for their family, friends and the world around them. This is reflected through knowledge of current events, sustained interest in hobbies and outside interests and a strong interactive role in their communities.
Some schools offer applicants the chance to interview with admissions reps at regional locations throughout the US. The interviewer is usually an admissions committee member who travels throughout the country or an alumni of the school who lives nearly. The benefit of a remote interview is that the candidate does not have to invest the time and money in a visit to the school. Unfortunately, we feel the drawbacks of regional interviews far outweigh this financial advantage. Whenever possible, plan to visit the school for the full tour and series of on-site interviews.
A school visit is your best opportunity to see the facility, interact with faculty and students and impress multiple members of an admissions committee. You will see first-hand whether this is the right place for you and whether you will fit in. Being on campus also allows for a natural conversational flow about the program, equipment, class size, resources, etc., that is hard to establish off-site.
Once you have been invited for the interview, here are the important steps to take in preparation:
a) Confirm your interview via telephone and make sure you have proper directions
b) Confirm exactly who you will be speaking with and their professional titles. This will allow you to research their background and specialty area, which they will likely enjoy talking about. Be prepared for questions about the interviewer's specific area of interest.
Try to identify free blocks of time in your interview schedule to see the library, the computer area and classrooms. The interview is a two-way street, and you should invest every available minute checking out the school to determine if it is the right place for you. Plan to tour the town after the interview to get a feel for housing, recreation and living costs. If you are accepted, you will want to know right away whether this is a good school for you.
c) A week or so before the interview, send a copy of your resume to each person you are scheduled to meet. Bring along another copy with you to give to each person on the day of the interview. This can be a godsend if your file gets lost or if you are unexpectedly sent to interview with someone you didn't expect.
d) Arrive at the interview on time and properly dressed. For this occasion, conservative is best. The ONLY acceptable attire is a formal suit for both men and women, well-fitted and in a conservative color. Make sure your clothes are clean, neat and pressed and that your grooming is exceptional. For women, this means well-styled hair, no excessive perfume, makeup or jewelry. For men, wear a conservative tie, dress shoes and no jewelry other than a watch and wedding ring.
This may seem obvious, but we have seen many otherwise qualified candiates blow their chance for admission by wearing ridiculous clothing to the interview. We've seen short skirts, purple hair and sandals in the middle of winter. My last applicant had two visible tattoos and several body piercings in places I didn't know could be hygienically pierced. From the moment he walked in the door, regardless of what he had to say, I couldn't get past his own immaturity and poor judgment.
Your job at the interview is to convince a seasoned group of business school professors that you are a future member of their ranks. Step one is looking the part and respecting the professional dress code. Bear in mind, corporations that recruit from Ivy League MBA programs have strict rules for behavior and conduct. Candidates who don't have the sense to try to fit in before they are admitted don't have a chance of surviving the rigid training program.
d) Review as much information as possible on your formal application. Your interviewers will review your file before speaking with you and jot down notes for possible interview questions. Re-familiarize yourself with your grades, essays and research topics so they will be fresh in your mind before the interview. At the very least, be prepared to discuss your three most significant:
and what they mean to you
Whenever possible, incorporate these strengths into your answers. Also be prepared to discuss your weaknesses. Most applicants naively think that they don't have any shortcomings and are blindsided by these questions. Although it's difficult to talk about possible deficiencies, your job at the interview is to recognize questionable points in your background and to discuss them confidently and directly.
as much as possible about the particular business school and its program.
The more information you have, the better you can anticipate typical questions
and ask intelligent ones yourself. Be ready for the inevitable questions
about why you want to attend that particular business school. Don't say
something lame like it's location or low tuition; you'll sound limited
and shallow. Focus instead on the school's excellent faculty and their
reputation for finance. Know what areas of research they are famous for
and the companies that employ their graduates. Read every bit of material
you can find about the particular school and be prepared to customize
your answers to reflect its strengths.
What You'll Be Asked
You should be prepared for these potential areas of questioning:
* your childhood,
personality, family, college life, hobbies, sports and outside interests
Be prepared for a wide range of questions, from casual inquiries about your family to probing questions about ethical/legal issues. Also be prepared for general questions about current events and items of interest in popular culture. Nothing is more disheartening than interviewing an "academic genius" who doesn't know who the Vice-President is.
1) Keep your answers short, but informative. Be prepared to offer a 4 to 6 line answer to every question. This is enough to share a few thoughts and to stimulate further discussion if the interviewer desires. Try to avoid simple yes and no answers or responding in monosyllables. Show interest in the questions and sincere thought in your responses.
2) Avoid sounding self-centered. Cite your achievements, but demonstrate an appropriate level of humility. When discussing professional accomplishments, acknowledge the help and support of your teammates, mentors, teachers and role models.
3) Don't reveal insecurities. Accentuate the positive and don't dwell on the weaknesses in your background or application. Don't give any indication that you aren't willing and able to meet the rigors of business school. Your job on the interview is to convince them you are the right candidate: they won't believe it if you don't sound sure of yourself.
4) Watch your tone. You'll certainly be asked a few stressor questions that are designed to test your ability to handle conflict. Don't get defensive. Your tone can be revealed in both the words you choose and your voice. Practice responding to difficult questions with a friend before the big day. It will help.
5) Listen carefully to the interviewer, no matter how nervous you are. Too many candidates ask questions at the end of their interviews on topics that we've already covered. Although you'll be stressed during the interview, this isn't acceptable. It simply confirms that you weren't listening, which is the kiss of death for a business school applicant.
Successful candidates always ask questions at their interviews. In fact, the questions you ask reveal more about your suitability for business school than anything else. Here's what your questions tell us:
a) How seriously
you are thinking about the pragmatics of business school and how well
you understand the school's expectations
General Rules for Asking Questions
a) Only ask about topics you genuinely care about. You want to appear sincere and interested, not desperate for something to say.
b) Research the topic thoroughly before mentioning it so that you can engage in a subsequent discussion. Prepare for your interview just as you would for an exam.
c) Make sure the answer isn't obvious or has already been answered.
d) Ask the appropriate person. Faculty members can offer a better perspective on certain issues than business students and vice versa. Asking the department head about the social life on campus will be fruitless and embarrassing.
e) Watch your tone of voice and your body language. Many nervous applicants are unintentionally rude when they ask questions, which automatically puts off the interviewer. Be gracious and diplomatic in how you phrase your questions and reply to responses.
We also offer a professional mock interview service for MBA candidates. Before the actual event, have a dry run with an admissions officer, who will offer constructive suggestions to improve your performance.
Conclusions: Our Best Tips for Interview Success
1) Prepare for the interview extensively: review your application, learn about the school, and prepare answers for the typical questions
2) Practice answering questions aloud before the interview until you can handle all types of questions confidently
3) Walk into the interview with an air of confidence and professionalism. Offer a firm handshake and a professional demeanor
4) Listen carefully to the interviewer's questions and answer accordingly. Don't babble incessantly about a related topic or answer the question you wish he had asked
5) Be yourself. If your answers are ambiguous or inconsistent, the interviewer will likely consider you a poor candidate. Don't send out any unnecessary warning signs.
Your success will ultimately depend on your ability to sell yourself to the interviewer. (S)he is seeking the following traits:
If you have them, flaunt them! They will open the door to a wonderfully challenging, yet satisfying business career.