MBA interview: Consider it as important as a job interview
MBA News Barbara Bierach / 03-08-2011
“Some of them read from a prepared speech, some of them may have pat answers from what they anticipate are going to be the questions, some of them try to embellish their experience. What we’re looking for is the right fit for the individual, and the program”, says Joan White, Associated Dean of MBA Programs at the University of Alberta School of Business in Edmonton, Canada. So think twice if you have landed an interview at a business school and you think that means you are in. Experts say you have just reached another critical test.
Applicants are often stunned to learn that the interview can even be weighted as high as one third in the formula used to rank applicants, observe the experts from ivyleagueadmission.com. Some feel this is unfair because an hour-long interview doesn't adequately reflect their suitability for the field. But in fact the interview isn't about academic ability; it's about whether you have the psychological strengths required to be a leader.
The reputation of any respected MBA program rests largely on how well its graduates do in the real world, so the admissions team must be convinced you will not only do well academically, but go on to thrive in the competitive world of business. The interview allows the school to determine whether your interpersonal skills are as stellar as your academic ones.
Some schools don't issue invitations for interviews, but leave it to the applicant's discretion. Many candidates wonder if it's worth the time. Many experts will tell you for certain that it is. In fact it's often your best opportunity to persuade the committee that you are a superior candidate.
Once you have been invited for the interview, confirm via telephone with whom exactly you will be speaking. A week before the interview send a copy of your resume to each person you are scheduled to meet. This may be obvious but still: to ace the interview, treat it like a major job interview. Arrive conservatively dressed and that means business attire even if it's a Skype video call. For women: well-styled hair, no excessive perfume, makeup or jewelry. For men: wear a conservative tie, dress shoes and no jewelry other than a watch and wedding ring.
Interview questions are designed to identify your strengths and weaknesses and probe mainly the following areas: professional experience, knowledge of the field, personality, motivation and personal balance. So focus on what you can do for them and for future employers, not what they can do for you. Talk about your skills and the value you've extracted from your business experiences and how that can transfer to the classroom and boardroom beyond. Review as much information as possible on your formal application. At the very least, be prepared to discuss your three most
- significant accomplishments and what they mean to you,
- personal attributes of which you are most proud;
- the abilities that will make you an excellent leader.
Also be prepared to discuss your weaknesses. Scott Comber, director of Dalhousie University's Corporate Residency MBA, says the interviewers want concrete examples from your past that show why you're a good candidate. "Give me three things you've done to develop yourself in the last year," he says as a sample question. But also: "Tell me a time when you've really struggled academically."
Be prepared for a wide range of questions, from casual inquiries about your family to probing questions about ethical issues. Also be prepared for general questions about current events and items of interest in popular culture. "Nothing is more disheartening than interviewing an 'academic genius' who doesn't know who the Vice-President is, write the experts from ivyleagueadmission.com. They advise:
· Keep your answers short, but informative.
· Avoid sounding self-centred.
· Don't reveal insecurities.
· Watch your tone. You'll certainly be asked a few stressor questions that are designed to test your ability to handle conflict. Don't get defensive.