Business Report - The Star |

Business Report - The Star

By Pavel Kantorek

Updated July 29, 2019 Updated July 29, 2019

As one of the final stages of the application process, MBA interviews can be a daunting prospect for an applicant that has spent many months, even years contemplating their business career. As a result, many make silly, even comical MBA interview mistakes that cost them dearly.

Congratulations may initially be in order on hearing you have been selected for an MBA admissions interview at one of your target business schools. But what now?

“First, remember that interviewers aren’t there to trip you up,” advises Gary Lindblad, assistant dean for the full-time MBA program at the Paul Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine.

“They want to get to know you and understand your career goals and how they fit with their school and MBA program. So, relax, but prepare.

“The interview starts when you arrive on campus, because anyone you interact with might have input,” Lindblad warns, highlighting that if your interview is held on-campus, being as courteous to the receptionist as you would be to the interviewer isn’t only good manners, but is also good business practice.

Be professional at all times

Other good advice Linblad has comes as he recalls a particular MBA interview mistake to be filed very much in the ‘don’t even think about it’ column.

“Don’t make the mistake of getting too comfortable after your interview is over and one of the MBA students is hosting you on a tour.

“A few years ago one applicant decided she really liked her student host, and asked him out. She not only didn’t get his number, she didn’t get the admission offer.”

This illustrates that friendly yet professional is the right tone for all your interactions at a business school. Arrive early, dress the part, and stay focused, just like a job interview.
Admissions interviewers are well aware that applicants may be interviewing for multiple schools at the same time. As a result, remain focused on each interview as if it is your only interview.

Knowing the curriculum, key faculty and specific program features are important in order to show that you have researched a school, and understand how enrolling will aid your career.

“MBA programs can afford to be choosy and they will by-pass a great candidate if they believe the candidate is not taking the interview seriously or if the student can’t make a case for why their program is perfect given their career aspirations,” states Dr Hasan Pirkul, dean and Caruth Chair of Management at theNaveen Jindal School of Management, University of Texas, Dallas.

Dr Pirkul explains that candidates who aspire to specific programs should be able to demonstrate that they understand the program, telling the interviewer about the subtler program distinctions that make it their top MBA destination.

Although the actual interview may only begin when you arrive, the MBA interview process should begin long before you sit in the interviewer’s chair.

Researching both the school and the program before you arrive will make it evident that you’ve done your homework and are highly interested in the attributes of this school.

Do your research

“It gives both the school and applicant an opportunity to really connect with one another,” says Stacy Owen, Wake Forest University director of graduate business admissions.

“More than anything, the candidate needs to treat a business school interview like a job interview: be on time, dress appropriately, be prepared, and be yourself.

“Regardless of with whom the candidate is interviewing, be it a student, admissions staff, or alumnus, the applicant needs to be a professional and remember that it is still an evaluation.

“Candidates need to make sure that what they share in the interview is consistent with what they wrote in their essays.”

Having established that it is crucial that applicants thoroughly research both the school and the specific program they are applying for, Wendy Ma, assistant dean and director of masters programs at Canada’s Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia says “the applicant should also identify why they would be a good fit for the school, as they may be asked to articulate this during the interview process.

“During the interview itself, be honest and sincere and use professional language to communicate,” Ma continues, saying her school looks for applicants who can answer their questions concisely and avoid drawn out or ‘fluffy’ responses.

“They shouldn’t try to circumvent a question if they don’t feel they can answer it strongly. A pet peeve of many admissions officers is when interviewees provide stock answers, so it’s important to provide personalized responses that make you stand out.”

After all the purpose of the interview is to get to know each candidate better, so the best advice may always be to be yourself.

Be aware of your surroundings!

As many programs recruit international applicants, they may conduct their interviews via video conferencing, and strong applicants will make sure that the interview is being conducted in a quiet location, that family members or noisy pets are not present, and that any items that could be deemed unprofessional are out of the camera’s range.

Dr Pirkul at UT Dallas has, on occasion, seen more than he should have.

“We have seen instances where the candidate is only professionally dressed from the waist up and then inadvertently stands up. We have had cats meander into the screen shot, and dogs jump from the floor.

“We have seen bookshelves full of questionable reading material directly behind the applicant. We have even seen family members moving behind candidates barely dressed.”

Perhaps it is best to remember that while your application may be flawless, it is what you do during the MBA admissions interview that either gets you an acceptance letter or a very disappointing rejection.

Review your own application prior so that your interview answers reinforce and expand on your written essays, and prepare follow up questions. The interviewer will ask you what questions you have for them, and they may be disappointed if you don’t have good ones.

Gary Lindblad of The Paul Merage School closes with one final thought “lastly, make sure you send a professional looking ‘thank you’ note or email… and spell our names correctly! Last impressions do matter.”

Ensure you avoid these MBA interview mistakes, and heed the advice. That way, you should be on the right track to impressing your future business school.

This article was originally published in April 2016 . It was last updated in July 2019

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Written by

Mansoor is a contributor to and former editor of He is a higher and business education specialist, who has been published in media outlets around the world. He studied English literature at BA and MA level and has a background in consumer journalism.


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