The Last Word: MBA Admissions Interviews

Your business school application has been submitted and reviewed. Your resume and transcript have been scrutinized. Your essays have been picked apart and analyzed. You’ve made it past the “border guards” in the admissions office and your goal of admission is now in sight.

But, there’s one more crucial step that can make or break your chances – the admissions interview.

At this point, thousands of applicants have made enough of an impression to merit further consideration, but – depending on the school’s selectivity – only about 40-60% of interviewees will be offered a seat in the incoming class. This is your biggest, best and final opportunity to convince the admissions committee that your candidacy is authentic, competitive and valuable. Literally, you get the last word! So, how will you make it count?

1. Be spontaneous.
Interviewers assess whether you can think quickly on your feet under pressure. Their job is to test and challenge, to probe the depth and breadth of your intellect. So, don’t memorize answers to the questions you think they’re going to ask. Rather, build stories around your strengths that you can adapt to a wide range of questions. And practice using “talking points” rather than memorizing a script so your responses will sound thoughtful and natural.

2. Be clear.
Interviewers allocate a limited time, usually about 30 minutes, to each candidate. So, every word counts. Clarity starts with having a solid structure – with a beginning, middle and end to every answer. If that requires taking a few seconds to collect your thoughts before you start talking, so be it. That’s far better than rambling until you figure out your point. And remember to articulate and modulate. Watch for subtle signs that the interviewer is having trouble understanding you.

3. Be human.
Interviewers usually maintain a “poker face” – without smiling or frowning. That’s intentional since they don’t want to reinforce or discourage an applicant. But this lack on emotion doesn’t mean that you should behave the same way. To the contrary, natural hand gestures and appropriate smiles can be very effective. And don’t forget about humor – a bit of self-deprecation here and there during the interview conveys the humility and confidence that business schools value. Don’t try to be “perfect” because the adcom will interpret that as an attempt to hide needs, vulnerabilities and blemishes.

4. Be knowledgeable.
Interviewers know that most applicants are considering multiple schools. So, they are looking for indications that you will accept their offer of admission if one is extended to you. You can address this best by including school-specific references in your interview responses. For instance, when you’re describing your career goals or personal interests, be sure to mention which of their courses, clubs, events, etc., are most relevant and appealing to you. Show the adcom that you know, love and are drawn to their MBA program as the ideal fit for you.

5. Be ready.

Interviewers know that you’ve had several weeks to plan and prepare since receiving their invitation. So, the time to begin is not the night before the interview. Start by immersing yourself in the application since that’s the information that convinced the adcom to interview you in the first place. Your “positioning” in the interview needs to be consistent with and complementary to the app. Then, consider how you’re going to align your candidacy with the offerings, culture and priorities of the school. And finally, work on your delivery to make sure that you come across as an eager, qualified and informed candidate. This requires practice! You can prepare on your own or with trusted friends, but having an expert like The MBA Exchange in your corner can be far more beneficial. A professional admissions consultant can provide you with strategies, tactics and tips and feedback that will help ensure optimal performance on interview day.