Last Updated on January 30, 2023 by MBA Gateway Team
Following are some tasks that will help you prepare for the interview ahead of time.
Jazz Up Your Resume
Remember that the business school resume is less about the job description and industry jargon and more about your potential as a leader and business manager. Therefore, you should create a resume (ideally one to two pages) with detailed evidence of how you have managed people and developed new products or transformed a process, and finally, show the impact that you have had professionally and beyond. The resume chapter reviews the details necessary to create an excellent resume.
Talk to Products of the Programs
Most companies have employees who are alumni of top MBA programs. Don’t be afraid to invite them for lunch or drinks to learn about their MBA experiences and the subsequent impact on their careers. Current students can be a huge asset in helping you prepare for the interview as well. Finally, even fellow prospective students can be helpful by sharing their interview experience. (Online communities like Business- Week.com can give you a sense of the types of interview questions candidates are facing.)
Let’s add one caveat to this: do exercise wisdom when listening to other applicants because some may be eager to psych out their competition and everything they share may not be accurate. I once had a flustered client call me at 11:45 p.m. in a panic. A fellow applicant who had interviewed on the same day had gotten in her head by making her doubt her responses and her overall interview performance. It took a few minutes of reminding her of her strengths and what she had to offer before she realized she had been manipulated by the other applicant.
Know Your Story and Sell Your Personal Brand
Reread your application to ensure that you remember all the facets of your story. Make sure the following four themes come through as you present your story: passion, guts, impact, and insight. Share with the interviewer tangible examples of the impact you have had—demonstrate self-awareness not simply by talking about what you have done but by focusing on why you have made the choices you have made and the lessons you have learned along the way. It is also important to demonstrate that you are confident enough to take a risk (that you have guts) and step up to a challenge instead of simply executing your job description. Finally, come with great energy and share your passion with the interviewer.
Experience the MBA Program Firsthand
We have stressed the importance of visiting the MBA program you desire to join. Attending classes gives you a firm handle on the MBA program’s unique positioning and value proposition. This credible vantage point will enable you to speak authentically about your specific interests and what you will do while in business school. Ideally, you should have already visited the campus and attended classes prior to applying to the MBA program. The interview visit then ends up being a “confirmation” as opposed to a first-time visit where you are still gathering facts about the program.
Dress Appropriately and Pay Attention to the Nonverbals
Be conservative when it comes to your interview attire, and go with neutral colors such as black, blue, and gray suits. Female candidates may wear a skirt or pantsuit. Some candidates have asked me about the freedom to express themselves. My response is usually something along the lines of, “This time next year do you want to be entering your dream school, or do you want to be going through a reapplication process?” Given the level of competition involved in applying to a top business school, I would not take any unnecessary risks. When it comes to interview attire, I recommend playing it safe. If you are a creative type and that’s an essential aspect of your brand, then limit your creative expression more to the accessories you wear for the interview (for example, choose a tie or scarf in a tasteful color instead of a flashy red suit). You want your interviewer to focus on your leadership contributions, not your fashion-forward style.
Practice, Practice, Practice
I can’t stress enough the importance of practicing for the interview. Have someone you know pose interview questions to you and time yourself. Solicit feedback after the mock interview to identify areas where you need to improve and be willing to address any feedback you receive. Some people assume they are excellent interviewees and therefore fail to prepare for the interview. This can be a grave mistake. Regardless of whether you consider yourself a “natural” or you dread the interview, you should prepare for it. As with anything in life, the more practice you have the better. Candidates often tell me that they perform better after their first interview. You may want to interview first at MBA programs where you have an increased chance of being admitted (your safety program) than at stretch schools where your admission chances are slim. The more experience you have with interviewing, the more likely you are to improve your interviewing skills.
Go into the Interview Well Rested
Avoid going to work on the day you have an interview. If you absolutely have to go into the office, then do yourself a favor and set up the interview in the morning. Then return to the office in the afternoon. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of applicants who went to work on the same day of their interview and encountered an extremely stressful day.
Being frazzled before the interview is avoidable, so give yourself every advantage possible by going into the interview well-rested.