As the Associate Director of Admissions at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, I met and evaluated thousands of applicants. Most were well prepared and professional, but a surprising number of candidates made mistakes that eliminated them from further consideration. Despite perhaps seeming obvious, each of these errors happened more than once.
Here are a few of the worst MBA interview mistakes that I have seen – still things to avoid, even now, when the majority of interviews are virtual.
Showing up late
You absolutely, positively need to be on time. Even five minutes late is enough to create a bad impression. Please be sure to check the time zone, and triple-check that your technology is working. If something truly unanticipated and verifiable happens (like you are trapped in a broken elevator without cell service) it is ok to share this – but definitely do not say that you are late because you ran into one of your fraternity brothers and lost track of time catching up. Better yet, just don’t be late.
Not wearing a suit
Err on the side of caution. This is a professional setting, and if you wouldn’t wear this to a job interview it’s probably not appropriate for your business school interview. Please wear a tie, and avoid sheer clothing, sparkles, and anything that would work well at a bar.
Talking on your cell phone, texting, or checking your email
Yes, this has actually happened during interviews – more than once. It should really go without saying that your phone should be turned off completely, not just silenced, and hidden from view during the conversation. So, silence your notifications and make sure that you stay focused on the interviewer, not on social media.
Casual body language
It is not a good idea to chew gum, put your feet on the desk, or pace in circles. Also, please leave your shoes on your feet.
Although applicants are encouraged to be honest, please choose your anecdotes wisely. Stories about devastating breakups, cheating on tests, and lying to employers will not enhance your candidacy. Also, avoid using the question and answer section to blurt out unhelpful truths, like the fact that you aren’t super interested in their school.
During your interview, they are evaluating your judgment, as well as whether or not you will represent the school well in front of recruiters. Cursing is a remarkably bad indicator of both these factors, and will not reflect well.
Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Yale, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Her clients have been awarded more than 36 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top-choice schools.