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Friday, March 28, 2014 at 12am

The Secrets to MBA Interview Success: Be Prepared

The Secrets to MBA Interview Success: Be Prepared main image

My first piece covered time management in GMAT and application preparation, this piece covers the next major step: the MBA interview. I have a few suggestions that can help you not only be better prepared to present yourself in the best manner possible, but also take some of the stress out of the process of MBA interviews.

MBA interview preparation: Do all your research beforehand

The first rule of MBA preparation, and the one that really lays the groundwork for the rest, is that you need to find out as much as possible about the interview before heading into it. MBA interview preparation is no different than the preparation you would do for a job interview, where you would research the company before meeting with their HR department. Search for information about your school's interview process from MBA/GMAT forums on the internet.

You can also speak to student ambassadors at the program and ask what they were asked during their interviews the year prior. I cannot stress this enough – find out as much as you can about the interview before ever stepping in the room. If you already have a good idea of what you will be asked, you can start to formulate responses weeks or even months before you step into that room, and the more familiar you are with the questions the much lower your chance of making a stress or panic induced mistake. As for what you should be looking for…

First, find out the MBA interview type. Is it a 'blind' interview, where the interviewer usually only has your résumé and not your full application? Will they have your application in front of them? These differences are important.

Typically in a blind interview, you need to be prepared to walk the interviewer through your career path and why you chose the positions you did, and what you brought to those employers. You will have to cover these points in an interview with someone in possession of your full application as well, but your resume takes center stage in the blind interview.

Next, find out who is interviewing you. I feel that this gets overlooked frequently, but it is quite important to know. If you can’t find out before the interview itself, at least keep these considerations in the back of your head as you step into the interview room. Is it a student, an admissions counselor, or some other administrator?  While the school may have an idea of the type of student they are looking for, each interviewer in a different position is going to be looking at you from a different angle. A current student may be thinking, is this the type of person that would contribute in classes?" while an adcom member may be thinking more, is this a person that will represent the school well in the future? This doesn't mean focus solely on these particular areas, but you will want to let your answers be influenced based on who is interviewing you. These suggestions are only a start; try and think of how the person interviewing you will be viewing you, and through what lens they will be viewing your answers.  

The next step in MBA interview preparation is to find out what questions other applicants are being asked, or have been asked in the past. Some of the same MBA interview questions will be asked by 90% of business schools; what would you bring to the class, what separates you from other applicants, describe a time you had to take a leadership role in your life, etc. But try and find out specifics, again using resources such as internet forums, recent alumni, current students, etc.

Once you have an idea of the MBA interview questions you will be asked, think of the main points you want to project to the interviewer and how your answers can facilitate this. Keep it simple, maybe two main selling points; don’t clutter up your presentation of yourself by trying to highlight too many things. You may also want to rehearse a few times. But I actually advise against over-rehearsing, since this can lead you to sound like you're reading from a script once you get into the interview, and you can actually stress yourself out trying to remember exact lines. Try and focus on your key talking points; what themes will you present to the interviewer, and remember this is basically an advertisement for yourself. Two other tips: make sure to dress appropriately and bring a copy of your résumé.

The right way to answer MBA interview questions: Accentuate what makes you unique

Once you’re in the interview definitely talk about what separates you from other applicants, by talking about what makes your candidacy unique or special. This could be anything from extensive international experience, unique certifications, or any number of factors. You need to accentuate what you would bring to the program, and how your experiences or personality connect with the program. In other words, "I took opportunity XYZ at my employer, and it helped inform my overall experience there; this is something I'd like to continue exploring in student government, investment club, etc." Simply stating that you've had some experience does not particularly aid your candidacy unless you connect it to the program and speak on how it will aid you and the program’s community which you will be in.

Thanks for reading.

About Matthew Sabourin

Matthew Sabourin is an IT professional from the Boston area. He is currently undertaking an MBA at the School of Management at Boston University, with a specific interest in the functioning of collective investment vehicles, particularly hedge funds. He will blogging regularly thoughout his MBA program. He has a GMAT Score of 730, as well as a 6 on the AWA section, and 8 on Integrated Reasoning. His other interests include fitness, birdwatching, and sports in general. 

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