Tuesday, October 27, 2015 at 2pm

MBA Interview Tips: 5 Easy Steps

MBA interviews

Now that you have attended to all the other details of your MBA admissions application, it’s time to add the final touch that could help you stand out from the other candidates – your MBA interview. This is your chance to show top business schools the unique attributes that you bring to the table that can’t be captured elsewhere – including skills in critical thinking, the ability to relate and communicate clearly, and the ability to perform well under pressure. The better you prepare, the better you will do, and with these five easy steps you can ace your MBA interview.  

1.  Understand the process – each school has a unique approach

As you prepare, do your research to find out what the specifics are regarding each school’s MBA interview process. Questions to ask include:

Who will be conducting the interview?

This could be any number of individuals, including the MBA admissions director, a recent graduate, or an alumnus. Since establishing a good relationship with your interviewer from the outset is key, it will help to know as much as possible about the person you will be interacting with.

What information will they have access to?

Some top business schools provide the MBA admissions interviewer with the comprehensive details of your application, and others might only have access to your résumé. There are a variety reasons for this, but it will help you better prepare if you know where you may need to fill in the gaps, as well as build on the information they already have on hand.  

Where will the MBA interview be held?

This is a significant variable that will impact your planning, since climbing into your car for a cross-country trip will be vastly different than logging into a video session. In addition, you may not be alone. Some top business schools perform group interviews, which would add a completely different dynamic to the process, so it will be best to know that ahead of time and prepare accordingly.

2.  Know thyself – your past, present, and future

This is your chance to show off the wealth of your past experience, the attractive attributes you currently possess, and the goals you have for the future.

Know your résumé inside and out, and have elevator pitches prepared to describe each of your past positions. You may think that you’ll remember the details of what you did 10 years ago, but the pressure of the interview environment can be an effective amnesiac.

The résumé conversation also provides a great bridge to show how your past experience has helped to build the skills and expertise that you currently possess. Understand that dynamic, and be prepared with a concise summary of who you are now as a leader.

When the questioning transitions to your goals for the future, be prepared with specific reasons for getting an MBA, instead of vague and generic responses. A laser focus on a specific role, in a specific sector, of a specific industry, is much more powerful than what you might like to eventually do with your degree.

3. Be prepared – for the MBA interview with a variety of questions

Certainly, you must be prepared for the typical interview questions that top business schools will ask, but you should be ready for behavioral queries as well. Since such responses require reflection, it will serve you best to have done that beforehand. Assess your past experiences with others, and decide what situations you will use to best describe your leadership or managerial behaviors. Be prepared to talk about things like group projects, the dynamics involved, assignments, accountability, outcomes, and your role in the mix.  

In addition, be sure to have your list of questions ready as well – since lack thereof is a common mistake that business school interviewees make. Be sure that you have done your homework and researched the program thoroughly, and use this time to show that your interest is acutely fine tuned. Asking in-depth questions helps to portray your diligence and commitment to excellence, and that you are serious about finding the best match to meet your personal and professional goals. 

4. Be a storyteller – providing a view of the real you.  

Although the ability to be concise is a plus, interviewers also want to hear the details of past experiences, and how that translates to being a great leader. Here, it will help to keep the writer’s mantra in mind – show, don’t tell.

When asked about challenging situations, be prepared with anecdotes that show off your problem-solving skills. When asked about your strengths, provide specific examples. When asked about your weaknesses, be honest with detailed examples about how you have used them to grow.

In addition, don’t be surprised if the interviewer seeks responses about your personal life, as well. The goal during this time is to get to know the real you – so be prepared with appropriate stories that show off your best side. 

5. Mind the basics – so you make a good impression from the start.

It might sound mundane, but failure to attend to basic principles of professionalism can hurt you before the first question is even asked.

Be on time, dress professionally, organize all documents, and display a demeanor of calm confidence. No matter how frantic you may feel inside, what matters is that you can portray from the outset that you belong in that chair. If you have gotten to this point, you have certainly faced pressure before. Use the calming techniques that helped you perform well in the past to perform well in the present. If all goes well, you will certainly need to call upon them again in the future.

Your business school interview is an essential component of your MBA admissions process for your degree, and the capstone of your diligent efforts to show that you are a top contender. Although it can provoke anxiety, the good news is that you can optimize your preparation and, with these five easy steps, be well on your way to acing it.

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Molly Greenberg is the community content manager for MBA@UNC, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s online MBA program. She was named one of Washington's 100 top tech leaders by the Washingtonian in 2015 for her in-depth media coverage of the business of higher education, education policy, education technology, and startups across the D.C, Maryland, and Virginia region. Connect with Molly at @mollygreenberg.

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