Congratulations, you got THE CALL! Now you have the opportunity to tell more of your story to the admissions committee as part of the interview process. Here are some tips to help you convert your interview into a seat in your dream MBA program this fall!
1. Know Your Story. Practice The Basics. For just about every program, you already know 80% of what you will be asked. Walk me through your resume. Why MBA? Why us? What are your biggest accomplishments? Practice answering these questions in cohesive two to three minute responses. Ask someone you trust to listen to your responses and provide tips on how to tighten your answers.
2. Prepare For THIS School. Everyone wants to be loved and business schools are no exception. You must have specific reasons related to how this program, these professors and these clubs will help you reach your goals. If you speak in generalities, your interviewer will assume that you don’t really want to be at the school since you did not take the time to make the personal connection. No school wants to waste an admit on someone who does not want to attend.
3. Never Let Them See You Sweat. For the 20% of questions that you can’t predict (What is the best book you have ever read? How do you handle surprises?), remember that how you respond is just as important as what you say. If you don’t have a ready answer, don’t panic. Ask for a moment to think or restate the question to give yourself more time. Then try to connect your response to a key theme and maintain confidence at all times.
4. Look The Part. A big part of being successful in an MBA interview is demonstrating professional presence. Essentially, your interviewer wants to be confident that you will be successful in the job search in two years. Wear something professional that gives you confidence. Pay attention to the little details- polish your shoes, trim your nails, iron your clothes. All these little things add to your overall professional presence.
5. Smile. The last piece of advice is the simplest. The most important thing you can wear is a smile. This is not an appointment for a root canal; it is an opportunity to express who you are and move closer to your short and long term goals. It is difficult to fake passion and enthusiasm. Enjoy the ride!
If Your Interview is on Skype or Zoom
Chances are you may find yourself doing a Skype or Zoom interview at least once during the MBA admissions process. While the basics of interviewing remain the same whether conducted in person, via computer, or by phone, there are a few extra things to keep in mind when being interviewed remotely. If you can master the Skype or Zoom interview, your chances for MBA admission are greatly enhanced. Here are five tips that can ensure your next remote interview is a sparkling success.
1. Prep Smart And Be Early. There is always the chance that your interviewer is going to be online a few minutes early and you want to be ready. In fact, for some schools this might even be a strategy to see how you handle unexpected events. Another reason to be online a bit early is that you want to spend those last few minutes reviewing the key points you would like to make during the interview, not scrambling to fix Internet problems or audio/visual connections. Go old-school and plug in to maximize your chance of having a strong enough connection to avoid technical issues. If using Skype, confirm the address of your contact in advance and have a phone number available in case you have trouble with the connection.
2. Pay Attention To What Is Behind You. Ideally you should have a very neutral background such as a white wall behind your screen and use a computer, not a hand-held device. I once interviewed a candidate who had a very bold black and white tapestry behind him and he also was using his cell phone. It was beyond distracting and made me feel like I had entered a psychedelic disco scene as he moved along with his hand motions as he talked with his phone. Check Tools/Options/Video Settings on Skype before the call so you can check the view your interviewer will see.
3. Look At The Camera. You want the Skype or Zoom interview to be as close as possible as talking to a person in the same room. The best way to do that is to make eye contact with your interviewer. For remote interviews you will need to look at the camera, not your screen. Practice with a friend before your interview and make sure to make direct eye contact as you participate in the interview.
4. Dress For Success. While it is true that no one will see if you are in your jammie bottoms, you will project with more confidence and professionalism if you wear the same thing you would wear in a face-to-face interview. Men should be well-groomed and women should wear the same makeup they would wear for an in-person interview. Dressing and grooming professionally sends the message that this school is a priority for you.
5. Smile! I’m saving the most important point for last. You would be surprised how in just the first five seconds of the interview a big smile can set the tone for a relaxed, collaborative conversation. I did not always make a formal note of this in my reviews, but as I reflect on what had the biggest impact on assessing charisma and confidence, I would say a seeing a smile played a large role in assessing those traits that are ultimately needed for acceptance into any top MBA program.
Donna Bauman is a Senior MBA Admissions Consultant at Stratus Admissions Counseling. Donna’s background includes 15 years working in MBA Admissions at UNC Kenan-Flagler as well as additional experience in career/academic advising and program management at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.