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The MBA Interview: A Guide

August 18, 2011 :: Admissionado Team

mind blown

While the application requirements for every MBA program are different, the MBA interviews are not. No matter where you go or who you speak to, there’s not much variation in the questions they’ll ask and the responses they’re hoping for. And after spending countless hours writing and editing and re-writing all those essays, that’s a very, very good thing.

Less work for you, right?

So how does one ace an MBA interview, wow the interviewer and guarantee admission into their dream MBA program? Well, to start….

1) Think about your BEST stories. The greatest hits, if you will. Know them inside out, and be able to tell them. Get comfortable to the point where if someone asks you a question with unusual wording, you can quickly adapt your story to accommodate. The only way people get tripped up in interviews is when they are “stumped” by questions.

The guy says, for example, “describe a time when you did X and Y,” and you cant think of an instance! That’s bad. You don’t want that. Ever.

Come to the table with 3-4 amazing stories. Stories that work no matter what. Stories that, if you need to, you can tailor them to fit the need. You will NEVER be stumped, because you have these great, cool, leadership-oriented stories ready to go. You will tweak them all by 15% or so, to answer whatever questions come your way.

Go into the interview with the stories that YOU will tell–no matter what he asks you. Rehearse them, tell them in different ways, know them backwards and forwards. Don’t MEMORIZE them, of course; you need to get into a conversation, not deliver a programmed response. That’ll just encourage them to TRY to throw you off guard. It (and every aspect of the interview) has to come naturally; the goal of repetition and rehearsal is to make you SO comfortable with these stories that you should be able to ad-lib and tell it in different ways.

2) Get them talking. Adcom folks (especially at places like HBS, Wharton, etc) are notoriously… type A. Self-centered. Get the person talking about himself. The more he/she talks, the better he will feel about the interview. Remember, b-school (and perhaps business in general?) is about hanging out with people, building trust, drinking beers. Get this person talking, enter into a dialogue, make it….normal. Jon Frank, PE’s founder, tells the story that the best interview he ever gave was when he lost his voice with a cold and could barely speak. So he listened. And the interviewer loved him.

Don’t talk too much–you just increase the chances that you’ll say something he/she doesn’t like.

3) Know every stitch of your resume. Some folks will scrutinize the thing and ask you ridiculous questions. Some will ask you walk them through your resume. Just know it cold. Shouldn’t be hard, after all… that thing is a version of your greatest hits. But be familiar with any specific numbers in there in case you get a nit-picker.

4) Know your backup plans. Don’t just have a plan B, have a plan C. and D, etc etc. Show these cats that you are gonna succeed no matter what.

“What if you don’t get into b-school?”

“Well, my people love me at work, I will go back and kick ass, take on as many new projects as I can to beef up this and that, I’ll do this and that to boost xx yy and zz, and reapply next year.”

“What if you don’t get that job at McKinsey?”

“Well, McKinsey’s ideal for this and that reason, but there are a bunch of excellent firms where i can get tremendous experience like x y and z. The important point is for me to xxx and yyy. If the job market is unseasonably bad, that’s okay; I can learn xxx by doing THIS instead. One way or another, I’ll keep myself on track to do XXX and YYY in a few years.”

Just show them that you’ve thought everything through, that you’re not depending on 1 thing to create magical opportunities.

5) Practice, practice, practice. In front of a mirror. Record yourself. Get comfortable with your answers. Practice will help you eliminate oohs and uhs, and nervous laughter or weird conversational ticks. Get your answers down to 2-3 minutes or so. Know them in your sleep.

And…that’s it.  You master these 5 things and you’ve mastered the MBA interview. For every single interview. At every single school.

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