We asked our consultants to share their best advice for interview prep. Here's what they had to say.
Round one deadlines have come and gone and that means one thing: it’s interview time. Harvard, Wharton, Tuck…every day another MBA program issues interview invitations. Get one? Congratulations! Go ahead and do a little dance. Jump around the room. Pat yourself on the back. That’s a BIG accomplishment.
…and then, start preparing.
Yes, the MBA interview brings you one step closer to that coveted seat in your target program, but it’s not a guarantee. It’s part of the selection process, and a very important one at that. The interview is your chance to come off the paper and show the admissions committee who you are as a real, living, breathing human being. That’s who they are accepting, after all.
There’s a lot you can do right and even more you can do wrong in your interview, and, well, you’ll definitely want to know which is which. So we asked our consultants to share their best advice for interview prep. Here’s what they had to say:
The best way to prepare for an MBA interview is to PRACTICE!!! There are a lot of questions that are pretty standard in an MBA interview and are also very common to many schools. It surprises me when I ask a candidate, “so why are you interested in coming to Wharton?” or “What would you say is your biggest weakness? and the person really struggles to answer. Granted, I’ve heard about situations where candidates were asked really off-the-wall questions like “If you were a cereal brand, what would you be?” but those are the exception. Talk to friends and family that have been through an MBA interview or do a search online for the most commonly asked questions. Then take the time to write out or fully think out how you would answer it. On the day of the interview, you will be nervous and you may not say everything you prepared, but can you imagine what you would say or not say if you didn’t even practice?
One word … visualization. Close your eyes and imagine walking into the interviewer’s office, shaking hands with the guy or gal and then getting into the interview proper. You are confident, natural, and prepared. Imagine the questions being posed to you, and imagine you answering those questions.
Do this visualization several times, each time with a different set of questions, and you’ll be more than ready.
Don’t “over-prepare.” Remember that an interview is dynamic. It’s a conversation. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers, only the message you want to deliver, and your ability to communicate it effectively. Memorizing answers is usually a poor idea, because you do not involve the interviewer. Instead, get a clear vision of your goals and your message, and think about how you can communicate it in the most clear and effective manner. At that point, it doesn’t matter what the interviewer asks you…
Speak to some alums if possible. Research extracurricular activities to come up with good questions about student life to ask the interviewer.
You need to be comfortable with who you are and your story. It’s surprising how quick someone will stutter over themselves when asked questions like: “Tell me about yourself,” “Walk me through your resume,” and “Where do you see yourself professionally in a few years?” The fact of the matter is, we’re not conditioned to talk about ourselves in this manner or in this context and stuttering with “umms” and “ahhhs” is not going to impress the interviewer.
You need to feel comfortable in your own skin and a good way to practice is to conduct mock interviews with some friends. Focus on topics centered on talking about yourself, your accomplishments, and your background. Since we’re on this topic, take this advice from a seasoned actor – DON’T USE A SCRIPT! Even though many B-School questions that ask you to talk about yourself are similar, many are just different enough to trip you up if you’re trying to follow a script. Any change in the wording of the question or a tangent will send you off your script, making those ‘umms’ and ‘ahhhs’ come out in spades. So, when you’re preparing, jot down some bullet points of the aspects you want to hit on and just practice, practice, practice.
Practice Practice Practice! Practice your answers to the most common questions until you can answer them in your sleep. Then forget about them and answer the questions as yourself. You’ll always have your practiced answers to fall back on.
For an interviewer, one of the most annoying thing is when the interviewee uses his 30 minutes as a race to pack in as many life experiences as possible without taking even a breather. Not only will your interviewer lose track of what’s going on, but worse, he/she is bound to TURN OFF.
Remember your interviewer has probably spoken with dozens of candidates before you and is going to speak with dozens more after you. Make it EASYYYY on them. Remember to speak slowly, naturally, and enunciate. And don’t forget it’s also a dialogue; don’t hog all the time for yourself :-). Now, even if you can’t get to that amazing story of how you successfully baked chocolate ice cream under a hairdryer inside of your grandmother’s kitchen cupboard, it’s okayyyy.
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