How to Prepare for a Business School Admissions Interview, from an MBA Program Director | TopMBA.com

How to Prepare for a Business School Admissions Interview, from an MBA Program Director

By Stephanie L

Updated March 7, 2021 Updated March 7, 2021

Sponsored by University of Birmingham Business School

After a long and rigorous MBA application process, it’s time to look ahead to the MBA admissions interview. Most MBA admissions interviews are ‘invite only’ nowadays and are considered one of the most important aspects when it comes to securing your place on an MBA program.

If you find yourself being invited to interview, take it as good news that the busines school is quite interested in you as a candidate. Acceptance rates amongst business schools vary widely, so we spoke to Solon Magrizos, Programme Director of the Distance Learning MBA at the University of Birmingham Business School which ranked in the top 20 in the QS Online MBA Rankings 2020 to find out how you can best prepare for that all important MBA admissions interview.

How can candidates prepare for the interview? 

A well-researched candidate always makes a good first impression.

Also, there are two questions that every interview will include, one way or another. The first being: “Talk to me about your professional and academic experience so far”, and the second being: “Why do you want to do an MBA?”. It makes sense to prepare good, concise answers to these questions.

We also present a small business scenario to test candidates’ understanding and analytical thinking. In this, it is less important to come up with the right answer. Candidates should demonstrate their thinking, ask questions and make logical assumptions for the information they don’t know.

What should candidates keep in mind during the interview?

Two things. One, we only interview the small percentage of the applicants whose CV suggests they have the suggested requirements to be admitted into the course.

If you are being interviewed, it’s good news. It means we think you are good fit, and we want to confirm and test your soft skills and analytical thinking.

Secondly, candidates should keep in mind that the interview is a process with a dual mission – it’s for the university or business school to confirm that each candidate is a good fit for the MBA program, and for candidates to ensure that this is the right investment for their time and money.

Candidates should ask questions and share their concerns. We aren’t trying to trick them or confuse them. And if we don’t think that they are the right fit, it often is for their benefit as well.

What is a common mistake candidates make during the interview?

I often tell candidates to walk me through their CV. I make a point to tell them that I have it in front of me, and I just want their quick version to start the discussion. Surprisingly, many candidates see this as an invitation to talk for a long period of time about the details of each position in the past and as an opportunity to showcase all their strengths.

As ever in academia, understanding the question is an important part of the assessment!

What is something you would like to see candidates do more often?

Continuing from the point above, any candidates that can give concise and to the point answers make a good impression. Also, asking questions and making remarks go a long way. The ability to turn the interview into a friendly discussion rather than a boring Q&A is much appreciated.

Finally, I would like to see more candidates share their honest opinion – ask questions and discuss concerns. Often, most of their concerns can be alleviated by our discussion.

What makes the ideal candidate for your program?

There are two types of students that enroll in our program.

The typical pathway is someone who obtained an undergraduate degree with good grades and then moved on to work for a few years, including in a managerial position for a while. The second kind of student includes approximately 20 percent of our cohort – professional candidates who do not have a previous BA/BSc degree but have long (10+ years) managerial experience and commonly some other academic qualifications such as diplomas.

Both types are students who are determined, and motivated professionals interested to invest time, money and effort to advance their career.

They need to be good team players and have empathy. In the Distance Learning program it’s easier to forget that behind the screen and the emails there are students and lecturers who face their own problems and anxieties every day.

In the current climate, is there anything particularly different about the University of Birmingham Business School’s MBA admission interview process? If so, what can candidates expect?

The Distance Learning MBA hasn’t been drastically affected by the current climate so not much has changed. The admission process is very similar. However, we remain a bit more flexible when asking official documents from candidates, whenever universities and/or current employers can’t provide them due to the pandemic.

What isn’t new, but works really well during the pandemic, is our ‘one MBA’ approach. All Distant Learning students can take a few modules with the rest of our on-campus MBA students, if they wish to do so. This added flexibility helps students start the online MBA but with the option to experience the on-campus atmosphere when things return to normal. 

This article was originally published in December 2020 . It was last updated in March 2021

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Written by

As the Head of Sponsored Content for TopMBA.com and TopUniversities.com, Stephanie creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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