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How to Recover from an MBA Interview Fail

November 22, 2012 :: Admissionado Team

Let me tell you a story. And by story, I mean “nightmare MBA interview experience.” Dude gets an MBA interview invite, opts for a phone interview because he lives halfway around the world, and is told to contact his interviewer to schedule the official interview time. The guy spends some time prepping for his interview – practicing his answers in front of a mirror, etc.  So far, so good, right?

Just wait.

So, he calls the interviewer, as instructed, to schedule the interview…. and ends up having the interview on the spot!

Yyyep. Enter: panic mode.

Truth is, no matter how much you plan every little step of the MBA admissions process, you can always get thrown a curve ball. So what are your options?


Well, the first thing you can do is prepare… and expect the unexpected. When it comes to contact with your potential interviewer, assume that any time you talk with him/her, it could potentially be your interview. Once you find out who your interviewer is, go ahead and look them up online to learn what you can about them. What is their career focus? What are their interests? What did they do while they attended your prospective school? Going beyond studying up on your interviewer, study up on the entire interview process:

The Five Worst Interview Mistakes

Preparing For the MBA Interview

The MBA Interview: A Guide

In that same spirit, the broader lesson is simple: don’t procrastinate. We’ve seen more than a few people hurt their admissions chances by waiting until the last minute on getting letters of recommendation, getting transcripts, even taking their GMAT or TOEFL tests. So, if you don’t have to wait, don’t wait.

In the case of our unfortunate friend, he went through the interview on the spot and felt like it went great, although his interviewer wasn’t even fully prepared for the interview (he didn’t have a copy of the candidate’s resume!). So, if your interview gets sprung up on you unexpectedly, what else can you do? Well, start off by taking a deep breath. Don’t panic, be graceful, and be tactful.

What’s that mean? For one thing, it means that you can be respectful while being your own advocate. You can tell the interviewer that you have another commitment at the present time (work, family, etc) and need to reschedule for a definite date in the future. That way, you’ll guarantee that both you AND your interview will be ready for the big chat.

If, however, you decide to go through with the interview and feel like you crashed and burned, don’t go nuts. Send the interviewer a thank you email expressing your appreciation for their time and consideration, and re-emphasize the points you discussed during the interview (your experiences, why you’re applying to their program, your future goals, etc.)

Now, let’s say your interviewer was unprepared, rushed through it, took work calls during the interview (yup, that’s happened!) or didn’t give you a “fair” interview. Email the adcom to inform them that your interview has been conducted, but respectfully express your concerns about the interview process. Whatever you do, don’t whine or try to make a big stink about it. Get in, make your point, and get out.

Much as you try (and expect), things aren’t always gonna go your way when it comes to the MBA admissions process. So you just gotta be prepared… for anything. As a future leader/manager/CEO… that’s probably a good skill to have anyway, eh?