10 Steps to Nailing the Interview
1. Know your application. Your interviewer will know your application cold – every bullet point of your resume and every sentence of your essays – so you should too. Review your application thoroughly before you interview and be prepared to talk about any piece of it – from the obscure club you joined your freshman year of college to the golf handicap you listed under “personal interests” on your resume.
2. Practice, practice, practice. You’ll never be able to prepare for every possible interview question, but there are certainly a few you should practice answers to. More importantly, practicing will help you project confidence and feel comfortable come interview day, and that will go a long way in communicating your strength as a candidate.
3. Prepare good anecdotes. You’ll almost surely get a “tell-me-about-a-time-when” question at some point during your interview. Even if you don’t, having thought through a few anecdotes about a time you worked on a team, overcame an obstacle, or failed at a task will ensure you have an arsenal of material to fall back on.
4. Plan interview day logistics carefully. Showing up late, getting lost, forgetting to bring a pen or paper – all easily avoidable sources of embarrassment and stress if you plan the logistics of your interview day carefully. Create a checklist well in advance, tour the campus early or check out a map, and make sure you arrive with plenty of time before you’re scheduled to start.
5. Bring the right materials. Come prepared with a copy of your application, some blank paper, and a pen to take notes if appropriate. It will demonstrate your preparedness and make you feel more confident in the process.
6. Treat everyone you meet with kindness. A negative report from a receptionist, a current student, or a professor can kill your application quickly. It doesn’t matter whom you meet or in what capacity, always present your best face, be courteous, and be professional.
7. Dress professionally for the interview. Applying to a school for business requires attire to match. Dress in appropriate business wear, and consider bringing an extra outfit if you’re traveling from out of town in case something happens to the first.
8. Expect to be stonewalled. Your interviewers will be well practiced, and each one will have a different interview style. In general, though, expect your interviewer to be stoic during the actual interview, even after they greet you with warmth. Don’t be thrown if the interviewer doesn’t seem to be reacting much to your answers. It’s perfectly normal.
9. Ask smart questions. Depending on the interviewer, you may have the chance to ask one or two questions at the end. Don’t waste the opportunity; it’s a great chance to set yourself apart from other applicants. Avoid questions with answers that could be found online or that you could ask of just about anyone. Try to demonstrate the thought you’ve put into picking that school and the uniqueness you’ll bring to the program by asking something specific about your area of interest.
10. Follow up. Some MBA programs provide a formal process for following up after interviews. Take care to write thank you notes to your interviewer, any staff you met, or professors or students that you interacted with during your visit. If you don’t have the contact information for the people you met, send the thank you to the appropriate general office mailing address.
Our Experience – From the Founders
Kyle’s Interview Experience: Coming out of my interview, I was far from confident. I felt I stumbled on one question in particular — “What companies do you admire?” — and muddled my way through a few others — “How was your leadership experience as a Resident Assistant different or similar to other leadership experiences you’ve had?”. In hindsight, I was probably a harsher critic of myself than I needed to be.
There were undoubtedly some tough questions, though. At one point the interviewer just said, “Recommend something to me. Anything.” I don’t think I could have ever prepared for a question like that, but I managed to turn it into a great opportunity. I recommended a documentary that I had just seen and that happened to tie nicely to why I wanted to attend business school. In fact, when my interviewer called me a month later to offer me admission to HBS, she even mentioned that she went back and watched the documentary after my recommendation!
Still, if I had to go through the process again, I would have practiced the interview with a few friends or alumni before heading in for the real thing. I’m not sure there would have been any overlap in the questions, but it undoubtedly would have given me a little more confidence during the actual interview, and that would have been very welcomed.
Vincent’s Interview Experience: Most of my interviews went well. There really is no secret to doing well in your MBA admission interview: prepare hard. Before each interview I would read through my essays for that school multiple times to make sure that I was comfortable explaining every part of my application. I knew my resume in and out, and I also reviewed my online application (MBA programs often ask you short questions when you submit your application online). I was aware of what was happening in the world and of course in my professional field (if you haven’t done so, purchase a subscription to the WSJ and spend 30 to 60 minutes every day catching up with the news). I also read the local newspaper the morning of each of my interviews in case the conversation started with small talk about a recent local event.
During the interview, I tried to tie my various interests together; for example, I explained how playing American football taught me valuable lessons about leadership that I could apply when leading my team at work. I also tried to keep smiling, even when thrown a curve ball. Your admissions interview shouldn’t be torture. Yes, you’ll be tested, but if you have made it this far, YOU very likely own your destiny. If you prepare well enough, that spot is yours to take.