The Executive MBA and the Interview Process |

The Executive MBA and the Interview Process

By QS Contributor

Updated March 31, 2021 Updated March 31, 2021

Brushing up on your interview skills can help you go much further in the MBA selection process.

The executive MBA is a highly selective graduate business education program. Usually associated with managers who have extensive work experience – around 10 to 15 years – EMBA candidates can differentiate themselves from MBA students with their level of prior work experience. Students augment weekend classroom sessions with full time employment and graduate within two years.

Today, the Executive MBA Council – a trade group of schools with EMBA programs – boasts more than 200 member schools with well over 300 different executive MBA programs, according to Forbes.

No matter how many slots there are to compete for among EMBA hopefuls, one of the most important parts of the application process is the graduate business school interview.

The interview is one of several components that demonstrate your career history. But your business school application isn’t limited to the interview; essays and evaluation also play a part in summarizing your professional and personal history.

These elements help paint the picture of a working professional applying to an EMBA program. Each component of the application process deserves careful attention and no singular part should be treated less important than the next, although admissions officers agree certain aspects of the executive MBA application process receive more weight than others.

The interview

The interview process is essential for admissions and strongly encouraged to take place face-to-face. Don’t despair; phone interviews are an option for international and cross-continent applicants. Some schools use teleconferencing services to bridge the two parties.

The formality of the interview can vary from school to school but regardless, don’t underestimate the importance of the interview in the evaluation process. If an interview is scheduled, then you have passed a round of internal reviews and now it’s time to meet the admissions team.

Wear professional attire, understand the audience, have a working knowledge about what the interviewers want from their applicants, and come prepared to discuss personal and professional achievements.

Bring a few copies of your resumé as well as pen and paper – it’s acceptable to take notes during the discussion. Treat the interview as if it were a high-profile meeting. You may meet with members of faculty, admissions, EMBA administrators, and even the Dean.

Josie Powell, PR Coordinator at Saïd Business School says, "Interviews are generally conducted by faculty who will be teaching the course and the interview takes about 30 minutes. It's a formal interview, the candidate should expect a similar format to a job interview."

Expect many open-ended questions during the one-hour session. The admissions committee want to get to know more about you as a person and what makes you stand out in your own words.

They will evaluate on attitude, communication skills, general intellect, and most of all your compatibility with potential fellow classmates and ability to contribute to the group dynamic.

As Diane A. Sharp, Director of Admissions of MBA Program for Executives at The Wharton School says, "Interviews are one-on-one and with a member of the Admissions Committee. They last approximately forty-five minutes. We focus mostly on job history and why an MBA is necessary.

“We are looking to see if the individual has positive interpersonal skills and has examples of leadership in his/her past."

It’s important to demonstrate what sets you aside from other EMBA applicants. If you volunteer, belong to a political or religious organization, or even play an instrument, interviewers want to know as it gives them a better understanding of who you are and what separates you from the next candidate to walk through the interview door.

Given that business is a global discipline, it is advisable to discuss your international experience at length including any business conducted overseas, any family living in another country, a foreign language you may speak, and experience working with people in other cultures. Admissions officers value international experience.

General discussion points

Asking questions is encouraged. You want to make sure this particular program fits your needs and career goals. Be inquisitive but avoid asking questions that can be answered in the school's literature like what is the emphasis or strength of this program, size of class, or typical classes.

Put the feelers out to see if your career and background is the right fit for the school. If the program has a pharmaceutical track, then inquire how this would work for someone not in the same field. Sample discussion points:

- Work experience
- Conflict resolution and problem solving
- Relationships with peers and superiors
- Personal successes and failures
- Professional successes and failures
- Ability to manage changing environment
- Extracurricular activities: volunteer work, hobbies, and other personal and professional accomplishments

How to respond

Have you ever considered why bus doors are always located opposite the driver's seat? Or why manhole covers are round?

These classic interview questions by top consulting firms are meant purely to judge your intellect and reasoning process. They want to see how you think and measure your ability at drawing conclusions in cogent and meaningful ways.

Sample questions

The heart of the interview is to get to know you more and test whether you have fully weighed all the options and considerations with this endeavor. Here are sample questions you can expect to be asked:

- Why the EMBA and what led you to make the decision about attending business school at this time?

- How will the EMBA assist you in achieving your short and long term goals?

- What are you looking to get out of the program?

- Tell us about your work experience and how an MBA will fit with plans for the future?

If you have not given the consideration as to why you want to go back to school or fully understand the responsibilities and demands of the education on work life and personal life then trying to figure this out during the interview will sink your objective of getting accepted.

Scoring system

No school will reveal their secret formula, or lack thereof, but they do report similar types of grading systems whether it is a one to five or A, B, C, D, and F.

In the end, it comes down to the program directors who know what will or won’t work, as Francis Petit, Associate Dean of Global Initiatives and Partnerships at Fordham University, Gabelli School of Business says, "I make 100 percent of the admissions decisions. We discuss the program, discuss their background and determine if this program is a good fit not only for the applicant to Fordham University but Fordham University to the applicant."

You’ve completed the application, passed one of the admissions teams reviews, and as they’ve taken the time to meet with you it suggests they are serious about you as a program candidate.

In return, you want to show the same mutual interest and respect. Use our suggestions to get your foot through the door and earn a spot on your dream EMBA program.

About EMBA World:

EMBA World is a New York City-based organization dedicated to helping employees and employers understand options regarding graduate level business education and in particular the Executive MBA. Jason A. Price, MS, MBA, is Director of EMBA World founded in 2003, and author of The Executive MBA: An Insider's Guide for Working Professionals in Pursuit of Graduate Business Education. Jason is a frequent speaker to media on graduate business education issues and publishes industry articles periodically on the subject. The Insider's Guide can be found at online bookstores or at EMBA World You can reach Jason A. Price at [email protected].

This article was originally published in November 2019 . It was last updated in March 2021

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