In anticipation for your upcoming business school interview(s) you did your due diligence and found out a little bit about your interviewer’s background. Fantastic!
So, should you mention your findings during the interview… or would that be weird?
Thanks to social media and the ever-increasing number of online locations for people to post both professional and personal info, you may have found profiles ranging from your interviewer’s LinkedIn to their Instagram… even their Tinder.
Obviously, there are some things you might stumble across that you should not bring up in in the interview (any information you gleaned from their Tinder profile would be an absolutely excellent example of that). But as a general rule of thumb, it’s good to have some knowledge about the person sitting across the table from you to mention when the time is right.
Finding Common Ground With Your MBA Interviewer
OK, sure, the purpose of the interview is for the interviewer to interview and get to know you, but the best way to leave a mark on your interviewer is to do more than just answer their questions and impress them with your background. It’s really about forging a meaningful connection with them on some level.
To forge that connection you’ve got to find some sort of common ground to stand on. And to do THAT, you of course have to know something about this person, like their current job and professional background. That specific knowledge gives you multiple angles to pursue.
- Something about one of the companies they’ve worked for.
- Something about the city one of those companies is in.
- Something about the type of work or projects they’ve done.
Start by doing some basic research about your interviewer’s professional background. For the most part, you’ll be able to find them on LinkedIn and get an idea of where their careers have led them. What companies have they worked for? What not-for-profits have they been involved in? What LinkedIn groups are they a part of? Does that give you some interesting insight on what makes them tick? Now that you have a professional overview, take some notes on where your career aspirations or personal passions overlap. And when I say overlap, I mean genuinely overlap. You don’t want to be caught with your pants down.
You: One of the things I’m really passionate about is the humane treatment of animals.
Interviewer: Oh really? I’ve been on the board of the Humane Society for the last two years, it’s been a passion of mine as well.
You: **Performs a mental victory lap*
Interviewer: So tell me what led you to wanting to help animals? What organizations are you a part of?
You: I’ve always been a large proponent of clean energy.
Interviewer: Oh really? I’ve been on the board of Ameresco for the last two years, it’s a passion of mine as well.
You: **Performs a mental victory lap*
Interviewer: How’d you become interested in clean energy? Is there a specific segment you’re most interested in?
You: I actually did a really interesting internship at Suzlon where my group focused mostly on wind energy, but I’ve always been interested in learning more about other types, and maybe even pursuing it further. I’ve done some research on my own, but do you mind telling me a little more about the Solar projects that Ameresco has been working on? I hear that…
Next, do some research on your interviewer’s personal background. Now, I’m not saying you should scroll through their Facebook profile, find out what they did last year for their aunt Vicky’s birthday and tell them how creative it was. That would probably either make the rest of the interview very short, or very uncomfortable. That being said, it is absolutely to your advantage to dig up a thing or two about them. You never want to walk into a conversation without knowing at least something about the person you’re about to speak with. After all, have you ever had a good conversation that was totally one-sided?
What you DON’T want to do is walk into the interview and say, “So, I read online that you’re from Detroit and you have a husband, three kids and your guilty pleasure is eating at The Golden Corral.”
What you DO want to do is steer the conversation in the right direction, knowing what you know, and get the interviewer to bite the proverbial bait:
You: “I spent some time in Detroit working on a project for ABC company.”
Interviewer: “Oh, you worked on a project in Detroit? I am originally from Detroit.”
You: “Oh yeah? Where abouts?”
See how that works? If you do it right, having that information on your interviewer can really enhance the entire interview experience, simply because it allows you the opportunity to ask them about themselves too. People love talking about themselves, their hometowns, their favorite sports teams, their favorite restaurants, etc. And if something about YOU is relevant to the interviewer because of their personal experiences, knowing that ahead of time will allow you to steer the conversation in that direction instead of glossing over something you could have bonded over. Just like a job interview, much of the MBA interview is also about fit. Are you someone who will be a fit personality-wise on campus? Are you personable? Will you work well in a group setting? Forging that all-important personal connection with your interviewer will help the interviewer check the right boxes when evaluating you.
So find out whatever you can about the person who will be interviewing you, then figure out a smart and relevant way to work it into the thirty or so minutes you’ll have with him/her. That will get the conversation flowing… and a successful interview underway.
Sure, interviews can be daunting. You only have one shot to nail it. So the course of action is to practice, practice, practice. And get some coaching if you need it. There are a ton of amazing resources at your disposal from online courses like this one from our friend Mateo Chang at Your MBA Interview (which we highly recommend). We’ve also tossed in some links to additional resources from our blog below. Enjoy!