The MBA Gatekeeper To Michigan’s Ross

Are there standardized questions asked of every applicant in the interview?

There are suggested questions but what I really provide guidance around are the dimensions that I want us to evaluate applicants on. I encourage interviewers to develop their own questions that would support their ability to answer our questions about teamwork or leadership or interest in Ross or the rationale for an MBA. Some of those questions are pretty obvious and there may be only one way to ask them, but others where we are trying to gauge teamwork experiences or emotional intelligence I provide suggestions.

We want to see, 1) a sense of professional direction; 2) a sound rationale for getting an MBA; 3) the ability to navigate complex group dynamics; 4) the potential to be engaged in the community, and 5) fit with Ross generally. And then we want our interviewers to assess their personal characteristics: How do they present themselves, how well do they communicate, and could you imagine this person as someone in your network?

Their ability to communicate in English is important, too. One of the things we found is that we are so intensively team-based and discussion heavy that it is critical our students are able to communicate in English successfully. Recruiters said the same thing.

How do you get this feedback? In letter grades, numbers, commentary, or all of the above?

There is a final rating of, ‘Yes, I think this person will be a great fit.’ Or, ‘I’m not sure this person will be a great fit, but maybe their application has more information on areas I wasn’t clear on.’ Or, ‘I don’t think this person will be a good fit.’ It’s one of those three categories.

This is an online form so they provide comments on each with examples of why they think this person has a good rationale for an MBA. We request the evaluation within 24 hours of the interview, and last year we didn’t have to hunt anybody down. We tell interviewers that ‘you could be the reason we delay a decision on a candidate and they’re pushed to the next round. Please don’t be that reason.’

After the regional experts look at it in concert with the interview, they make a recommendation. Then, the senior AD gets it and looks at the overall pool. He might say, ‘We have too many people who are consultants.’ He takes first pass and then I take the second pass. There’s a lot of shifting about. We’ll waitlist some, un-waitlist other people, until we get to a number based on our historical admission rates. After I look at it, I send it on to Valerie (Suslow) who looks at the whole thing and once she blesses it we start communicating with the candidates.

How do people find out if you’ve accepted or rejected them?

This is something I blogged about because I see on the forums that there is a lot of anxiety waiting for the Jan. 15th notification rate. Some of them would say, if they can start making the calls two days prior, why don’t they post the decisions two days prior?’ So I put it out there: Hey guys, you want to know two days prior. Just go check your decision online or if you are going to get a good decision, do you want to hear from us?’ Overwhelming, it was ‘stick with the calls. We love getting the calls.’ Applicants, prospective students and our current students weighed in on my blog, on Facebook and by emails. They said we love having that personal connection with the students who would potentially be a part of our student body.

The initial you’re admitted call comes from myself and the senior associate director.

And when you turn someone down does he or she get a phone call?

No. We email everybody the Friday before decisions will be released to say your decisions will be posted on Jan. 15. Don’t forget to use your email ID to check your decision online.

What percentage of interviewed applicants are accepted?

A high percentage, maybe 70%. I don’t know off the top of my head. Well, we try to interview people who are going to be wait listed as well so we get those assessments in advance. Those in round one who get waitlisted may stack up higher against those applicants in round two. So it’s nice to have already completed the interview.

How do you feel about applicants going on a forum and posting the questions they were asked by one of your interviewers?

I know that it happens and I can’t prevent it. I understand the desire to get the questions. If you are a smart person you’re going to figure out what an admissions committee might ask and you can prepare on your own anyway. If you want to short circuit the process and find the questions online, fine. At the end of the day, you are still going to have to tell your stories in your way. No one can do that for you.

I know that there are interview consultants and coaches out there, too. There is a consultant for everything. It’s hard to know who you’re getting anymore. At least the interview is probably the most accurate picture that you’ll get of how someone will be when they are in class or sitting in an interview for a job.

How personally invested do you get in the applicants? Do they become real people to you from the piece of paper that represents their application?

Not so much. It’s hard. After the interview, a little bit more. The people become most real when we are able to meet them in person. So many times they don’t become real to me until I meet them at our admitted student weekend, or if I met them when we were doing information sessions or other recruiting events. Then at least I got a mental picture of what is this person’s presence like and can match it with the application.

For the staff, too, they become personally invested. It’s only natural that once you meet someone and then you read their application, it’s easier to become an advocate for them. Or the converse can be true: You meet someone and you say, ‘Oh, not such a good fit. They look so good on paper, but oh my gosh, in person I had such a different experience.’ So it can work either way.

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