Best Interview Practices
You made it this far…only a little further to go.
By the time you’ve reached the interview stage, you’re battered and exhausted. You stressed over every sentence in your essay. You spent nights and weekends prepping for your GMAT. You’ve read everything – and seemingly talked to everyone – about your target schools. Joining an MBA program is a life-changing step. Even if you’ve embraced it, it’s natural to wonder, worry, and doubt.
Now, here you are…crunch time. It all comes together in one morning or afternoon, when you sit down with an adcom, student, or alum to make your case. Call it defending your life, where they’ll dissect you over who you are, what you’ve done, where you want to go, and why your goals – and your plans – are right for you. If you’re wary in any of these areas, an interview can be a painful process. Even if you’re confident, there are still plenty of ways to blow an interview.
In a recent five-part series published in Beat the GMAT, MBA Prep School outlined many of the best practices for portraying yourself as gracious, confident, capable, and memorable in an MBA interview. Last week, Poets&Quants shared some of the preparation required to gear up for an interview. Here is some additional advice from MBA Prep School on how to sell yourself in an interview:
- Smile: “Too many MBA candidates provide truly brilliant answers to the interview questions, but look as if they are being tortured while delivering them…B-school candidates who go into their admissions interview with an attitude that it’s an opportunity to share their strengths and put their best foot forward tend to smile more than applicants who view the interview as an interrogation.”
- Be Concise and Concrete: “Limit most of your answers to no more than 60 seconds…For a multipart question such as “walk me through your resume,” you might get away with a two-minute response…[In addition], avoid generalities in your answer to MBA admissions interview questions…you need to be concrete and offer specifics, supply examples, and quantify results:
- Explain the difference you made.
- Tell the interviewer what you learned.
- Describe a few ways you have grown.
- Quantify how much costs decreased.
…Don’t just rattle off a list of superlatives and sound bites. You want the interviewer’s report to read:
“I think we should accept her. I was really impressed by the fact that a non-profit organization she started in college grew to over 100 members and has now delivered over 7,000 hours of volunteer time to hospices in three states. Her achievements show that she’s creative, dedicated, and capable of leading organizations.”
- Know the Program Intimately: “Going to business school is probably one of the biggest personal investment decisions you will make in life… you need to do extensive research on the business school that is interviewing you so that you can build a convincing case to your interviewer about your motivations for applying to their specific program… Along those lines, be sure you know about new developments in the program, and, if possible, link those current events to your interests, skills and values.”
- Prove You Are a Fit: “Because many candidates are qualified, objectively speaking, your goal is to provide evidence to the interviewer that you are a better fit than the competition. The way to do so is to highlight your Fit Qualities. In your MBA interview preparation, you need to identify the qualities that the MBA program you are interviewing with values above all others. These could be things like leadership potential, creativity, or emotional intelligence. Use your knowledge of the school’s Fit Qualities to choose interview stories that prove you are an amazing fit!”
Michelle Stockman, a former Columbia Business School admissions insider who’s helped clients gain acceptance at Wharton, Booth, Darden, Kellogg, and Ross, also penned her own “interview advice” column this week in Accepted.com. For starters, she encourages applicants to have responses nailed down in these eight areas:
“1. A walk through your resume (Focus on what you accomplished and learned at each job, and then why you transitioned to the next position)
- Why you chose your undergraduate college
- A story when you accomplished something extraordinary in the context of your job
- A story when you influenced stakeholders to help you make an idea become a reality
- A story when you led a team to produce quantifiable results
- A story when you failed
- Your career goals
- Why you want an MBA (make it school specific).”
To tell such stories, Stockman encourages applicants to follow her SOAR method:
- “Situation: Give background and context to the situation such as where you were working, what your role was, and who were the stakeholders involved. Be succinct, yet specific.
- Objective: Describe what your goal was, and any obstacles that complicated the situation.
- Action: Discuss how you proceeded toward your goal, and how you overcame your obstacles.
- Result: Quantify the impact that you had on the situation.”
In addition, Stockman believes students should add a fifth component to their responses: L for Learn, which covers “what you learned about yourself from the experience.”
For brevity, much of the advice from MBA Prep School and Michelle Stockman were not included in this article. To read more, click on the links below.