Hey, MBA applicants, let’s turn the tables for a few minutes. Rather than being an eager interviewee seeking acceptance to your dream business school, imagine you’re the interviewer who helps decide which MBA applicants are admitted or denied.
Perhaps you’re an HBS admissions officer, maybe a Stanford GSB alum or a Kellogg second-year student. In any case, you’re assessing who will benefit most from this education, add the greatest value for faculty and classmates, and positively represent your school for decades after graduation.
It’s been a long day for you, having met one-on-one with a long list of MBA candidates, each well-qualified and highly motivated to succeed. However, the first two candidates you met this morning stick in your mind as you pack up and head home for the evening.
They both had similar GPAs, test scores, resumes and personal backgrounds. So similar, in fact, that you’re going to select only one of them for admission. Ultimately, it comes down to interview performance. Which candidate would you admit?
When you greeted her in the waiting area, “A” said, “Thanks so much and have a great day” to the receptionist. “A” started the interview with a firm handshake, a warm greeting, and some thoughtful observations about the school. She was dressed professionally, as if attending an important business meeting.
In her responses, “A” maintained eye contact, paused momentarily to collect her thoughts, and answered the questions asked. In several instances, she went beyond the specifics of the question to add insights regarding her relevant motivation, feelings, learning and values.
“A” had a solid handle on her resume and application content, but added some breadth and depth to your knowledge of her background. She shared a reasonable hypothesis for her near- and long-term goals, linking them to her past and present as well as the desired MBA education at your school. Even when you threw her some curveball questions, “A” handled them with confidence – and even an occasional dash of self-deprecating humor.
Just before leaving, she asked you two questions about elective courses and campus clubs, revealing knowledge of what the school offers as well as a strong desire to add value. She departed with a handshake and smile, followed 30 minutes later by a thoughtful thank-you note summarizing your conversation and reiterating her desire to join the incoming class.
As “B” was sitting down for the interview, she first asked about how long the conversation would take. She was dressed neatly but casually, as if going shopping with friends.
In her responses, “B” made it a point to start quickly, but tended to stumble or ramble after a few sentences. Her answers were generally complete but, in a few instances, ignored some part of your question.
“B” was proud to present facts and figures regarding her background, but seemed guarded in revealing thoughts and feelings related to what she had accomplished. When it came to describing post-MBA career goals, “B” said she hoped to return to and advance within her current management consulting firm after graduation, but didn’t volunteer any improvements or initiatives she would like to lead. The only smile you observed from “B” during your conversation was a nervous one when she glanced at her smartphone – for the third time.
As your interview concluded, “B” stood and started to put on her coat. Approaching the exit, you invited her to pose any questions. After some hesitation, she asked which elective courses aligned with her work experience, and whether your school had a Consulting Club. As “B” shook your hand and walked toward the elevator, she didn’t look at or speak to your receptionist. And you haven’t received any follow-up note since the interview.
So, which of these two MBA interviewees would you admit? Obviously, it would be “Applicant A.” Not because she seemed “nicer, smarter, more accomplished” but because she seemed “better” – for the school, for the future career she described, for the culture of the program. However, such a successful approach to interviewing doesn’t just happen. Serious MBA applicants realize that it takes planning, preparation and practice to be at their very best on interview day. Guidance, support and feedback from an expert in MBA interviews can make all the difference in the world.
If you’re an applicant with an upcoming interview at your dream business school, we encourage you to work with a professional advisor at The MBA Exchange. Our team features former admissions officers and interviewers who know first-hand what it takes to win at your target school. Our interview prep consultation – reflecting three decades of MBA interview experience with over 5,000 clients – is the most comprehensive solution on the market. Here are the highlights of what the service includes:
• Proven, proprietary strategies and tactics for MBA admissions interviews
• Interview practice using our exclusive, web-based video facility
• A one-hour, real-time, recorded mock interview with insightful, constructive feedback and actionable advice from a former admissions officer or MBA grad from your targeted school
• HBS ONLY: Support for the Post-Interview Reflection (PIR) that’s due within 24 hours after the interview
Did you enjoy this exercise? Did it feel comfortable and powerful being the admissions interviewer for a few minutes? Well, even though you’re actually the interviewee, you can also feel comfortable and powerful if you plan, prepare and practice thoroughly with a pro.