How to Approach and Prepare for Your MBA Interview?

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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 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 chapter on the resume reviews the specific details necessary to create an excellent resume.

Talk to Products of the Programs
Most companies have employees who are alumni from 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 ques-
tions candidates are facing.) I will add one caveat to this: do
exercise wisdom when listening to other applicants, because
some may be eager to psych-out their competition and every-
thing 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.

182 THE BEST BUSINESS SCHOOLS’ ADMISSIONS SECRETS
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 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 on your job
description. Finally, come with great energy and share your
passion with the interviewer.
Experience the MBA Program Firsthand
Throughout this book I 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

Interviews: How Interviews Are Viewed by the MBA Board 183
would not take any unnecessary risks. When it comes to inter-
view attire, I recommend playing it safe. If you are a creative type
and that’s a key 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 on your fashion-forward style.

Practice, Practice, Practice
I can’t stress enough the importance of practicing for the inter-
view. 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 inter-
view. 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 prac-
tice you have the better. Candidates often tell me that they
perform better after their first interview. You may want to inter-
view 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 expe-
rience 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 into 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.

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