“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
That’s a cliché, right? Sure is. And wasn’t that a tagline for dandruff shampoo? Guilty! But if you’ve ever flubbed an interview, it’s a lesson that you’ll never forget.
If there are 50 ways to leave your lover, there are 150 ways to turn off an interviewer. Personally, I’d go full-on salesman, rattling off facts-and-figures and benefits-and-proofs like a pre-Ziglar huckster. As an interviewer, a candidate once confided in me about his three D’s: drinking, divorce, and destitution (Talk about a triple threat!). You probably have stories of your own. Instead of answering the question, you’d squeeze in your time-tested canned speech. Maybe you skimped on researching the company – or the interviewer. God forbid you stumbled when asked to list your strengths.
There’s a popular statistic that 93% of communication is non-verbal, with your message conveyed by expressions, tone, dress, and gestures. If you’re slated to interview with an adcom or alum, you’ve probably mastered this so-called 93%. But your responses are similar to non-verbal communication. Beyond delivery, your choice of words and examples sends a message. They signal whether you’ll fit with the underlying school culture. And they reflect the experience, brainpower, and inventiveness that you’ll bring to the classroom. Even more, the questions you pose indicate just how prepared and truly committed you are.
To help candidates shine in their interviews, Chioma Isiadinso recently posted a two-part series on ‘how to prepare for an MBA interview.’ Isiadinso, a former Assistant Director of Admissions at Harvard Business School and co-founder of the admissions consulting firm Expartus, tackles this topic from two angles.
First, she lists the 25 questions that applicants should be prepared to answer. Not content to just supply the question, Isiadinso also includes strategies for how to respond. In the second part, Isiadinso turns the tables, providing 10 questions that you should ask an adcom (along with what you should look for in their response).
According to Isiadinso, “About 30-60% of MBA candidates receive an offer after interviewing.” Imagine sitting in the lobby of your target program. If you have someone alongside you, odds are that only one of you will be accepted. All things being equal, it will be how you present yourself that differentiates you.
If you’re gearing up for an interview this winter, here are some questions from Isiadinso (along with accompanying explanations):
1) What are your short and long-term goals? How do you plan to use your MBA?
Your short-term goals should be concrete and achievable, and your long-term goals should fit well with your passions and personality.
2) What are you most looking forward to in business school?
This is a great opportunity to show that you are ready for the challenges of business school and that you have thought about how you can use your time wisely.
3) Describe a time where you had to adapt to a different culture.
MBA classes are typically very diverse – show that you’re comfortable working with many different types of people and embracing unfamiliar cultures.
4) Why have you decided to apply to business school?
Be clear and concrete. You should be able to outline a practical career trajectory and articulate the advancement you expect from your MBA.
5) Why does this MBA program appeal to you?
Show that you have done your research. Have three or four very specific reasons and highlight any unique resources that you are particularly interested in.
6) How will you contribute to our campus?
Mention clubs and leaderships opportunities that you are interested in, and highlight any unique passions that you would bring to the student body.
7) Tell me about a time where you overcame a particularly difficult challenge at work. How did you add value?
Think of an unusual challenge, and be able to explain it concisely, without getting too lost in the details.
8) What kind of leader are you? Can you give me an example of a time when provided extraordinary leadership?
Again, have several leadership examples ready to go. Ideally, these will be action-based, with tangible results that you can easily prove.
9) What do you think about [national or international current event]?
It’s always a good idea to read up on current events before an interview, so that you can converse fluently if called upon. Be careful not to get too political- just express an opinion politely and move on.
10) If you could change one thing about your professional life, what would it be and why?
Keep your changes within the business realm- perhaps a different industry or team within your firm. You do not want your interviewer wondering why you even entered the business world at all.
Before concluding, adcoms and alums normally inquire if you have questions for them. Isiadinso points out that this serves two purposes. First, it helps students get beyond the branding. “Their answers can help you assess what it would really be like to be a student in the program,” she writes, “and if it is truly the best fit for you.” Even more, it reinforces a strong impression. “Asking intelligent questions shows interests and engagement,” Isiadinso adds.
Here are some questions to pose to interviewers, courtesy of Isiadinso:
1) What do you think sets this campus culture apart from others? See if their description of campus life fits well with your impressions.
2) What major changes do you see on the horizon for this program? If the program is considering changing its curriculum or teaching format, you should factor that into your decision.
3) Would you say that a large number of students enter [X field/industry that you are interested in]? How does the program work to develop relationships with that field or industry? Look for concrete, practical answers- your first-choice school should have an active alumni network in your field and be a resource well beyond graduation.
4) If you were in my position, with my career goals, what would you say are your program’s biggest advantages to me? Ideally, these answers will align with your own perceptions to confirm your interests in the program. If they struggle to come up with practical answers, you might want to dig a bit deeper.
To read the full list of 25 questions asked by business schools and 10 questions to ask your interviewer, click on the links below.
DON’T MISS: HOW TO PREP FOR AN MBA INTERVIEW