Your GMAT score, your GPA, and your work experience make up the bulk of your MBA application package, but one of the most intimidating and important parts of your application is your MBA interview. At Manhattan Admissions, we encourage our applicants to prepare thoroughly for the interview because this is your chance to truly sell yourself to the admissions committee. Chances are, many applicants will have similar numbers as you, but a strong interview can make you stand out and even offset a lower GMAT score.
Business schools place a great deal of importance on the interview because they understand how important interpersonal skills are to future business success. The interview is your chance to highlight your strengths, explain any perceived weaknesses in your application, and showcase what you can bring to the table as an MBA candidate. That being said, here are five tips to help you prepare for your interview.
- Research Each School.
You’re not preparing for one interview – you’re preparing for one interview per MBA program that you’re applying to. The four questions you’ll need to be able to answer for every program is:
Why are you getting an MBA?
Why our particular MBA program?
What would you bring to your classmates?
One of the best things you can do to prepare for an interview is to reach out to current students in the program and talk to them about their experiences. The more specifics you can cite as to why you want to attend a particular program, the more compelling an applicant you will be.
- Rehearse the Interview.
Most MBA admissions interview are no longer than 30-45 minutes, which isn’t a lot of time considering what’s riding on the interview. MBA admissions officers have told us that they can tell very quickly whether someone has prepared for the interview. If you don’t practice, you risk meandering answers without focus or a uniform theme. The questions you will be asked are quite standard, so ask a friend to help you practice your MBA admissions interview.
- Highlight your Strengths, then Show Them.
The “strengths and weaknesses” question is one of the most common MBA admissions questions, so be prepared with concrete examples that backup your claims. You don’t want to simply recite a list of positive qualities – you want real-life examples that show those qualities. For weaknesses, be prepared to explain what you’ve done to overcome your weaknesses. MBA admissions officers admire students that work on their weaknesses while developing their strengths.
- No Monologues.
The interview should be a conversation not a monologue, so be aware that there is a human being on the other end of the phone. While the focus of the interview is finding out more about you, you also want to avoid rambling on for ten straight minutes when answering a straightforward question. This is where rehearsing the interview with a friend can pay dividends – they’ll let you know if your interview answers are turning into a speech.
Also, don’t panic if you’re asked a question you haven’t prepared for. It’s okay when given a tough question to say, “That’s a good question – let me think for a minute.” A thoughtful response will always be better than panicking and throwing out the first thing that comes to your mind.
- Tell Me About Yourself.
This will very likely be the first question that you’re asked. What the admissions officer is looking for is a 3-5 minute career summary. Start with your education, then talk about your work experience and what particular skills you’ve developed. The best answers are cohesive narratives that lead to an MBA being the next part of your career development.
The best answers will also be tailored to the program you’re applying to. Explain why each particular program is such a good fit for you at this stage in your career. Finally, don’t be afraid to throw in a sentence or two about your hobbies and interests – part of an admissions officer’s job is to assemble a class of diverse, well-rounded individuals.
Once the admissions officer is done asking questions, you will have an opportunity to ask some questions as well. Don’t ask for any general information that can be found on the school’s website – instead, rely on your research and ask specific questions about a schools particular programs that interest you the most.
If you’ve made it to the interview, you’ve already established yourself as a strong candidate for the school. Do your homework, practice your interviewing skills, and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine. This is your best chance to sell yourself and convince the admissions committee that you will be a valuable member of their next MBA class.