MBA applications are cutting down on essay prompts and word counts, which means the MBA Interview is more important than ever. Adcoms want to get to know who you are as a person, how you think, and how you respond under pressure. It’s a tricky balance – to be charming while hitting the highlights of your resume – and it’s takes preparation AND practice.
Over the years, we’ve gotten a lot of the same concerns from nervous MBA applicants. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we get about the MBA Interview.
1. What do I do if I have a Skype Interview?
First, logistics. Make sure the technology works! Test out your webcam, get some good headphones, make sure your Internet isn’t going to drop out in the middle of the call. Practice on Skype so you’re comfortable with the format, and pay attention to the background. You don’t want last night’s beer and your guilty pleasure N’SYNC poster in the background. Keep it clean and tidy, or better yet, set up in front of a white or neutral background. There should be nothing that distracts from you and your brilliance. And don’t forget to double-check and triple-check the time difference!
Then, treat it as an in-person interview. Dress professionally (at least from the waist up!), get in front of your computer EARLY, and have your top 3-4 stories well prepared. Remember that it’s harder to build rapport on a Skype call than in person, so you’re going to have to work a bit harder. Your confidence needs to come in through your voice, facial expressions, and posture because it’s much harder to read body language on Skype.
2. What if English isn’t my native language?
The adcom understands that English is not everyone’s native language. So they’re not expecting perfection! But non-native speakers often freak themselves out, and get VERY nervous about their English before the interview… which throws them off balance. The best way to get over those nerves s to practice, practice, practice. You want to be comfortable in the interview, you want to engage the interviewer in conversation… and the more you practice your English, the more natural the conversation will be. Which is a GOOD thing.
But don’t MEMORIZE your answers, or else you’ll come off sounding like a robot. Which is a BAD thing. Instead, focus on talking in English, every single day, and telling your greatest hits. You’ll have to improvise depending on the questions you get asked, so you’ll want some flexibility in your stories. You want to get comfortable with the ideas and concepts behind your stories, as well as the English language in general (as much as you can!), NOT memorize a script.
3. How do you stand out in a group interview?
It’s NOT about standing out; it’s about how you contribute to the group’s success. You have to impress both with your creative input and, more importantly, your ability to move the group along. Focus on establishing trust with your fellow group members and building on what others say (Show you’re collaborative while also making a better point). Draw others out (Show you’re a leader who asks good questions). And make sure you’re coming across as a team player, not someone who wants to dominate the discussion.
For a really in-depth look at the group MBA interview, check out this article.
4. How do I make the MBA interview more personal?
Great question. Because more personal = more engaging. And more engaging is what you want!
Wanna know a secret? The best interviews are the ones when you don’t say much. We know this is probably a shock, but it’s true. This guy you’re sitting across from doesn’t want to know how you solve problems at work. He wants to know if you’re cool and fun, and if he’d enjoy having a beer with you on campus, or working in a group with you for a business plan. He wants to LIKE you. And the way to make that happen is to have a conversation. Just… chat. MBAs looove talking about themselves, so get that guy talking.
How? Whenever possible, research your interviewer before you go in. Find out as much as you can about him/her: background, current role, favorite food, whatever you can! Now, don’t camp out outside their house with fresh baked cookies because you know they love them, or anything (that’s creepy). But use the things you know/have in common, and casually slip that into your interview to make it more conversational.
5. Do I have to prepare differently if I have an adcom interviewer vs. a student?
Overall, prepare the same way as it relates to your background and motivations. If it’s the adcom, you can expect questions that are directly related to what you wrote in your app. You can also focus on new programs/initiatives at the school that connect with your interests.
If it’s a student, you can assume that they haven’t read your app, so you need to contextualize your answers more. The most important thing they’re thinking is “Would I want to be stuck on a boat with this guy?”. It’s really more of a “is this person cool/nice/smart” litmus test. So it will be more important to engage them on their own interests and talk about their experience at the school.
But other than that, the preparation is the same: know your best stories, be comfortable telling them, and charm the guy across the table (or computer!) from you.
For more on the MBA Interview, check out: