Friday, October 24, 2008

The B-School Interview

Getting Started
As you approach the interview process, start by looking at what role each school expects the interview to play. A school may request that all candidates interview on campus because they really want to gauge the applicant’s fit with their community. Other schools may ask alumni to conduct interviews, either with a set of questions provided by the school or with their own questions. In this case, the school may be less concerned with fit and more concerned with getting a second opinion. Some schools may require you to give a presentation as part of the interview, which serves as another means of gauging your thought processes. By identifying the school’s expectations from the interview process, you can better direct your preparations. is a good resource for identifying some of these intricacies.

Preparing for the Interview
As you prepare for the interview, take advantage of advice from the many others who have already gone through the interview process. Again, and other MBA-prep websites have collected feedback from applicants, including specific questions that they were asked in interviews for different schools. Use this list as a template and think through how you would answer each one. As you develop your answers, be sure to think about elements of your experience that you want to communicate in the interview and how you could work them into different types of questions. You can’t guarantee the questions the interviewer will ask, but you want to make sure you’re able to highlight the key elements of your story. Also, it’s a good idea to re-read your application as you prepare. You should know from your communication with the school whether or not the interviewer will have seen your application prior to the interview. If so, be prepared for several specific questions about what you wrote. Finally, be sure you have good answers to four sure-fire questions: why do you want to get an MBA?, why at this school?, why is now the right time?, and walk me through your resume. These are pretty sure to show up in one form or another.

A second step in your preparation should be reviewing your research about specific elements you like about the school. Are there any clubs you want to join? Why? Perhaps you are excited about international study opportunities or specific classes. Be prepared with several school-specific items that you can work into your conversation with the interviewer. This shows that you are truly interested in that school and know why it’s a good fit for you. Finally, use this preparation to build a list of intelligent questions that you can ask the interviewer when they open the floor to you. Invariably, you will be asked if you have any questions, and you want to avoid asking questions that could easily be answered by reading the school’s website. Use these questions to show the interest you have in the school, its faculty, or its program.

The Interview
Before interview day, prepare for the logistics: you may need to invest in a new suit (pants and skirt suits are both common) or accessories. Looking and feeling confident and professional will be to your advantage overall. When interview day arrives, be sure to arrive at the interview location early. If you’re interviewing in a new city, give yourself plenty of time to navigate. If the interview is held in a less traditional location, such as a restaurant or bar, plan your menu options ahead so you don’t have to think about it during the interview and can focus on conversation. Regardless of location, be sure to have several professional copies of your resume with you—one for each person who will be in the room. Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake and eye contact. Throughout the conversation, listen to what they’re saying and asking. This will help you identify opportunities to work in the facts you want to communicate to the interviewer. Finally, try to be relaxed. I know it’s not easy, but the more you can help yourself relax, the more confident you will come across.

In the end, regardless of the outcome, if you’ve invested the time to prepare well, you will be proud of yourself for putting your best foot forward. Good Luck!

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