Thursday, November 20, 2008

MBA Admissions Interview Tips

Since many top MBA programs have started to release interview invitations for Round One, we thought it would be a good time to review some basic principles for how to effectively approach your MBA admissions interview:

In your interview, you want to come across as personable, confident, interested, interesting, and sincere. For everyone one of these descriptors, think of the opposite. No one would want to be surrounded by arrogant, tentative, indifferent, dull, or phony people. In short, you want to convey that you are who you said you are in your application, and you want to show the interviewer that you're someone who would make a great classmate in business school. Yes, this may seem daunting, given the application themes that you already want to communicate. Most of these personality traits, though, should come through if you can relax and simply be yourself.

For the most part, your interviewer will set the tone of the discussion. As described earlier, some will be laid back and interested in getting to know you personally, while others will want to drill down on specific parts of your resume or application. Obviously, how serious or informal you are will largely depend on the person across from you. Your job is to make adjustments accordingly, and to answer the questions that they ask. But you must make sure that by the end of the interview you have covered the main themes that you came in with. For instance, you may have a laid-back, "get to know you" kind of interviewer who doesn't ask you the kinds of pointed questions that would allow you to talk about your strengths. If this is the case, it's perfectly appropriate to say, "By the way, there are a couple of things that I think make me a good fit for this school. I'd like to talk about them and hear your thoughts," before the interview is over. You don't want to be too transparent, but all but the most inept interviewers will appreciate the fact that there are certain ideas that you’re trying to get across before the discussion is over.

If you have a stone-faced interviewer who won't laugh at your jokes, don't press the matter. Act professionally, answer the questions that are asked, and make sure to hit your main themes. In a way, these interviews can sometimes be easier because the interviewer's business-like questions will more likely give you a chance to strut your stuff. If you have a downright hostile interviewer (which happens from time to time), don't let yourself get flustered or goaded into an argument. Relax, think of it as the interviewer's half-baked way of testing your mettle, and answer the questions as they come. Don't be argumentative, but don't be afraid to be assertive, either. A hostile interviewer may be looking for poise and confidence more than anything else, so make sure to demonstrate these.

These tips have been adapted with permission from Your MBA Game Plan, the leading guide on MBA admissions strategy. For more hands-on help with your interviews, take a a look at Veritas Prep's business school admissions interview preparation services.