Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How to Make a Great First Impression with MBA Admissions Reps

Victor Cheng is an interesting personality in business pop culture.  He is a highly successful consultant-turned-entrepreneur and can often be found soapboxing somewhere on television or writing for and/or contributing to myriad publications.  The guy works hard and is very good at what he does, but one thing Mr. Cheng knows is that hard, quality work is just not good enough.  He knows that in order to be given the opportunity to show a company like McKinsey what you can do, you’re going to have to convince them that you can do it.
In an article about making a good impression during an interview with a top consulting firm, Victor lays out seven questions that every interviewer (including himself) is asking themselves for the duration of the meeting either explicitly or implicitly:
  1. The personality question: “Do I like this kid?”
  2. The professionalism question: “Can I put this guy in front of a client?” [dress, manners, language].
  3. The organization question: “Can she put forth a clear plan?”
  4. The analytical question: “Does he understand how to use numbers?”
  5. The insight question: “Does he get the main point?”
  6. The synthesis question: “Can she tie it all together?”
  7. The enjoyment question: “Will he burn out?”
While it is true that Victor Cheng lists these questions with something specific in mind (interviewing for a job at a major consulting firm), the list can be easily and safely generalized to any professional interview. 

In fact, the individual smiling and/or scowling at you across the table at your 
business school admissions interview will hold a list of questions in their mind closely derivative of the one above.  Furthermore, many readers will be attending the Road to Business School events. Admissions officers at these events will remember or forget you based on first impressions.
Here are some concrete steps you can take to prepare to make a great first impression and get the most out of Road to Business School events:
Get to know the MBA: You may have one or more friends or mentors who have been through the MBA process. Their perspective is valuable, and if you haven’t tapped into it yet, that’s worth doing as soon as you’re getting serious about a business degree. 
Get to know business schools:  Speaking with admissions staff at your top schools can help you understand their perspectives on the business world and find points of commonality for your application. You might already have a laser target on a very small number of business schools. I’m not going to try to talk you out of that perspective, which may be well informed. Regardless, try speaking with some programs about which you’re less knowledgeable. As always, avoid asking overly obvious questions, or making inquiries that are answerable through a simple web search. This process can help you refine your pitch to business schools and can also help you clarify your career goals and aspirations.

Don’t forget to talk a little bit about yourself: It’s amusing that prospective MBAs, who have a reputation at times for egocentrism, tend to speak to admissions officers at networking events such as Road to Business School without mentioning themselves.  You won’t be able to conduct an interview at a networking event, and if you appear eager to try to do so, you’ll come off as unpolished; but mentioning a little bit about yourself and why you want an MBA goes a long way. It makes you more interesting and helps admissions officers help you.
Your business school application is what gets you in the door.  The qualitative (essays, letters of recommendation, type of work experience) and quantitative (GMAT score, undergraduate GPA, years of work experience) information contained therein will speak for you.  But it is up to you to bring it home in the interview.  Kaplan’s Road to Business School events will put our students in from of admissions officers from top universities.  This is your chance to make a great first impression!

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