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Interview Invitation: “Willy Wonka Ticket” for MBA Applicants

June 9 2015 By The MBA Exchange
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We are extremely pleased to share this guest post by Master Admissions Consultant Pauline Jennett.

You may recall the iconic children’s movie, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, when Charlie received the lucky “Golden Ticket” granting him access to the famed candy factory. Likewise, at the moment that MBA applicants receive an interview invitations from their dream business school, many of them feel that they have obtained their golden ticket. However, in both of these scenarios the coveted ticket provides only access — ticket holders must still overcome a series of challenges in order to win the final prize: a lifetime supply of chocolate or admission to bschool, respectively.

While serving as an associate director of admissions at Harvard Business School, I interviewed hundreds of applicants. Subsequently, as Master Admissions Consultant at The MBA Exchange, I have advised on interview preparation for candidates targeting top business schools worldwide. Drawing from these experiences, I realize that achieving success in an admissions interview takes serious planning, preparation and practice after the invitation arrives.

Here are 4 key steps to consider, if and when you receive your “golden ticket” for a business school interview:

1. Know Your Resume
Common “ice breaker” questions include: “Walk me through your resume” or “What would you like to highlight on your resume?” This important document captures the key factual aspects of your life. As the resume serves as the bedrock of your candidacy, it’s essential for you to have prioritized and memorized details of your personal, academic and professional achievements so you can instantly answer probing queries and confidently showcase your strengths.

2. Leverage Your Essays
In some cases, an admission interview is “blind,” in that the interviewer has not read your essays. In other cases, the interviewer may have thoroughly analyzed your entire application. Either way, it’s important for you to revisit your essays so you can recapture the details and recall the feelings and emotions you shared about your life. Remember all of the highs, the lows, the triumphs and the failures so you can talk succinctly, clearly and truthfully about the overall themes and underlying support points.

3. Manage the Interview
While you can’t predict or control the questions being asked by the interviewer, you can and must manage your responses — strategically and tactically — to convey the most compelling, authentic, balanced and convincing story possible. One way to do this is to moderate any “extremes” that may have been conveyed in your application. For instance,

• If you come from a highly advantaged background, choose examples that convey your humility, empathy and approachability.
• If you have limited cross-cultural exposure, give some evidence that you are comfortable and confident about engaging with different people in unfamiliar surroundings.
• If your academic and/or professional profile are highly technical, then feature examples of your emotional intelligence and interest in social endeavors.

4. Manage the Post-Interview
The formal questions come to an end, and you stand up to leave. Breathing a sigh of relief, you say to yourself, “It’s over!” But, remember – you are STILL being evaluated even as you walk out of the room. Casual, parting comments such as “So, how do you feel now?” or “What are your plans for the rest of the day?” are additional chances for you to portray sincere interest and to demonstrate graciousness. Always remember, the interviewer is a human being who, like you, wants to be respected and appreciated. So, in addition to saying “thank you” and shaking hands, promptly send a thoughtful email and/or handwritten note expressing your gratitude for the interview and continuing consideration of your candidacy.

Just as Charlie and his fellow golden ticket holders were evaluated at every factory station, you are also being observed and judged during — and immediately after — your MBA admissions interview. Through thoughtful planning and diligent preparation, you’ll maximize your chances for admissions success. As Mr. Wonka said to Charlie: “Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted. He lived happily ever after!”

(c) 2015 Pauline Jennett All rights reserved