The experience of having an MBA interview with a b-school alum is distinct from interviewing with a member of the admissions committee. So, too, is the preparation. What can you expect in this scenario and what does it mean for how your candidacy will be conveyed? Most importantly, how should you prepare?
Firstly, having an alumni-led interview is a signal the school values the perspective its grads can bring – both to you as a candidate and to the interview process itself. True, alumni interviewers are not the final gatekeepers and won’t have the final say in whether you’re admitted or not. But their influence provides vital insight to the admissions committee as your file is holistically considered at decision time.
Stanford GSB, INSEAD, Columbia, and Northwestern Kellogg are some of the top schools that deploy alumni to conduct admissions interviews, while others enlist a second-year student, like UCLA Anderson and Yale SOM. INSEAD, for example, tries to pair you with one alumnus who has a similar profile to yours and another who has a very different background for the sake of diversity. Some programs, such as Berkeley Haas, reserve the right to throw you into any number of scenarios – with an alum, second-year student or a member of admissions (or some combination of the two).
5 KEY FACTORS TO KEEP IN MIND ABOUT THE ALUMNI-LED MBA INTERVIEW
In general, alumni-led interviews are conducted blind. This means the only thing your interviewer knows about you is your resume. Still, that’s not always the case – the LBS interview is one exception, in which the alumni interviewer gets your full application in advance.
Some interviewers arrive with questions sent from someone on the admissions team. Others have carte blanche to go off script into their own line of questioning, using your resume as a starting point. Some interviewers prefer to prepare by glimpsing at the overall review and highlights of your file; others prefer to hear your story without knowing anything (or very little) about you beforehand to avoid biases.
Many schools, like INSEAD, will supply you with the interviewer’s contact details and expect you to reach out directly to arrange a mutually convenient time and place. You might be invited to meet your interviewer at an on-campus location, at a coffee shop, or, more commonly, in his or her office. If you’re opting for a video interview, keep these tips for a virtual MBA interview in mind.
By design, the alumni-led interview lends itself to be a conversational experience, allowing both interviewer and applicant to gauge fit with the school. Yet it often depends on your interviewers’ personality and what they do professionally.
Some interviews could be 30 minutes; occasionally they can run to two hours. On average, interviews run about an hour. While schools offer guidelines to alumni interviewers, the duration of your interview with an alum may vary widely depending on the flow of conversation, and the time they have available. (If you’re weighing whether to choose a virtual interview, know that zoom interviews lend themselves to a shorter experience than in-person.)
View my full article on the Fortuna Admissions blog for 7 tips on how to ace the alumni-led interview.
At the end of the day, your alum interviewer will be reporting back to the admissions office with specific insights, observations, and assessments related to your interpersonal skills, abilities, performance, and potential fit with the program. In addition to making a persuasive and memorable case for your candidacy, your interview with an alum – unlike with a member of admissions – is also an invaluable opportunity to discern the school’s fit for YOU. Don’t miss a chance to turn the tables by asking thoughtful questions from someone who has been in your shoes.
Melissa Jones is an expert coach at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Assistant Director of the INSEAD MBA Program. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.
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