News, advice and resources for business school applicants

Interview Tips

Advice for business school applicants who are preparing for their MBA admissions interviews.


Perfecting the Virtual MBA Admissions Interview

shelly heinrichClear Admit’s own site and many others are filled with advice on how to apply to an MBA program, write an effective essay or choose a strong personal reference. Participating in an MBA admissions panel or fair can also help you strengthen these components of your application. Less discussed—but increasingly more important these days—is how to prepare for a virtual MBA admissions interview.

Shelly Heinrich, Director of MBA Admissions at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, recommends visiting the campus for an in-person interview if at all possible, as do admissions staff at many schools. “There is no better impression made than one that is done in person,” she says. “Additionally, the more you visit a campus and interact with staff, students and alumni, the more informed you will be about the program and the better choice you will make on where to enroll.” Continue reading…

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New Interview Timeline at Stanford Graduate School of Business

Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) piloted a new interview process in Round 1, compressing the timeline to four weeks and notifying applicants who were not admitted sooner than in past years.

“This pilot was in response to applicants’ feedback that if the answer is a definite ‘no,’ you’d rather know earlier to save you from spending months obsessively refreshing your email and calculating your odds as well as to give you more time to work on applications for other schools,” read a recent post on the Stanford MBA Admissions Blog. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: Interviewing the Interviewer

We’ve been offering a good deal of advice lately on how to conduct oneself and prepare responses to MBA interview questions.  Today we’d like to highlight the importance of thinking about what you might ask. Virtually all business school interviewers conclude their discussion by offering the applicant a chance to ask some questions about the program.  While it might be tempting to claim that you’ve already learned all you need to know about the school, this is actually a great opportunity to gain additional insight, show your enthusiasm about a specific element of the curriculum or community, and demonstrate that you appreciate the opportunity to learn from your interviewer’s experiences.

Here are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind while thinking about what you might ask:

1. Focus on the positive.  Now is not the time to conduct due diligence or express skepticism about a school’s academic program or career resources.  You’re still marketing yourself to the adcom at this stage of the process, so you’ll want to project enthusiasm and demonstrate a desire to become more familiar with a program’s merits and your potential fit.

2. Avoid the obvious and the obscure.  Because this is an opportunity to tap the interviewer’s unique knowledge and point of view (and he or she will assume that you did your basic research before applying), it’s best to avoid asking questions that could be answered by perusing the school’s website or speaking with anyone you might happen to encounter on campus.  On the other hand, you don’t want to ask something so obscure or specific that your interviewer might not have an answer.  Seeking the interviewer’s opinion on or impression of some element of the program often makes for a discussion that both parties will find interesting and enjoyable.

Continue reading…

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Chicago Booth Alumna and Former Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Consultant Offers Interview Tips and Insider Knowledge to MBA Applicants and Students

Heidi-150x150-1Clear Admit recently interviewed Admissions Counselor Heidi Granner, who has conducted over 200 interviews of top business school applicants and students in her roles at Chicago Booth, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and Roll Global.

Can you describe the basic protocol or format of the typical Booth on-campus interview? Was this the same as when you applied to the program?

Booth on-campus interviews are typically 30-45 minutes long and are conducted by Admissions Fellows – trained 2nd year students who are paid members of the Admissions Office.  They are typically quite conversational and friendly.  Students are generally evaluating the candidate from the perspective of whether they would want to be in a study group with them.  Study groups work together very closely and rely on each other, so traits important here are intelligence and reliability, as well as having a clear sense of humor and direction.  Also, Booth takes its intellectual legacy very seriously – they will be looking for demonstrations of intellectual curiosity and interest in academics.  You might receive a question such as “What is your favorite book?” or “What was your favorite class in college?”

I still remember going to Booth’s campus on a cold February day and being so impressed with the campus and administration.  The University of Chicago’s overall campus and Booth’s Harper Center in particular, are really spectacular. The campus has a traditional brick and ivy feel and the Harper Center is modern and open.  I definitely suggest a campus visit and/or interview on-campus if you can make it.

I got into Booth despite what I feel was a shaky interview. I used that experience – and my desire to get into strategy consulting – to focus on becoming more polished and effective in an interview setting. Once I started at Booth, I knew I needed to drastically improve.  I focused tremendous effort on preparation, including seeking out a second year mentor who spent a lot of time coaching me.  I ultimately received full-time job offers from McKinsey, BCG, and Bain.  I say this to encourage everyone that there is great potential to improve and preparation is key!  Getting into business school is extremely competitive, so take advantage of every opportunity to shine.

Can an interview entirely change the outcome of an application?

Absolutely. While it is possible to get admitted with a below average interview performance and it is also possible to get denied with a strong interview performance, on the whole it is a very important facet in the process at all business schools.  The interview is your only opportunity to “put a face” to your candidacy.  In addition, it is the school’s best opportunity to really test your English language abilities, interpersonal skills and overall presence, not to mention your true interest in their program.  Working in an admissions office, I found that decisions really do come down to so many more intangibles than just test scores and resumes.  And interviews are an excellent chance to tell your own story and make a personal connection.

What were some of the most common mistakes or missteps you observed while conducting interviews at Booth?

  • Awkward conversation or engagement as a result of being overly formal or being too introverted.  I suggest using the same communication style as you would with your day-to-day boss – conversational and friendly, but respectful.  The interviewers almost always genuinely want to get to know you and are rooting for you to do well.  They are generally giving you the benefit of the doubt going in, so it is yours to lose.  Smile – warm and friendly goes a long way.
  • Not preparing.  It’s difficult to have a strong business school interview performance by “winging it.”  The schools are looking for detailed and structured responses, and want to see that you have researched the programs, which really makes conscientious preparation imperative.  Business school interviews are not the same as job interviews – for example, you have to explain your job in layman terms, the evaluation criteria is generally much broader than in job interviews, and the topics are far more wide-ranging.  I have seen many successful applicants neglect this preparation step and ultimately have disappointing results.  Also, little things can go a long way – bring two copies of your resume, your business cards, a pen and pad of paper – all together in a folio.  Not having one of these screams that you are not prepared.
  • Body language.  It’s important to practice good posture and not fidget.  You’ll also want to mirror your interviewer’s body language to some degree.
  • Not precisely and concisely responding to an interviewer’s question.  It’s important to listen to the specific question being asked and respond appropriately.  Many candidates will ramble on and on before getting to the point.  It’s fine and (sometimes necessary) to speak for 1-2 minutes in answering a question, but it’s important to clearly and directly answer the question at some point and to convey the specific actions you took and impact you made that are most relevant to the topic at hand.
  • Arrogance.  MBAs have a common stereotype of being arrogant – coming in to a situation and already knowing it all.  Admissions offices are very sensitive to this stereotype and work very hard to weed people out who are not willing to learn. While presenting yourself as a confident individual is important, remembering to balance that with an inquisitive spirit or humble nature will make you a more attractive candidate.

Any particularly memorable exchanges, either positive or negative, that highlight specific points applicants should keep in mind either in terms of Booth specifically or just in any MBA interview context?

These are all “little” things, but perhaps since they come to mind first that reinforces how important these “little” things are in an interview.

  • Having questions prepared to ask me and being genuinely interested in the answers.  Alums and students will almost always enjoy talking about their business school experiences and appreciate when applicants are engaged in the conversation. An applicant who asks a question but seems to tune out as I respond loses appeal and would make me question whether they were truly committed to the school, or whether they could be an effective listener and contributor to team projects.
  • Arriving late.  An applicant would really have to knock my socks off to be recommended after they showed up late to the interview.  They are digging themselves into a massive hole. The two years you are in business school are going to be chock full of activities, responsibilities and deadlines. Showing up late to an interview that you are well aware of suggests that you would not be a reliable member of the community.  Leave yourself PLENTY of time and just go to a nearby coffee shop if you are  too early.
  • Interviewee having badly chipped finger nail polish or otherwise looking a little ‘rough around the edges.’  It’s critical to present an overall professional and impeccable appearance.  Shine your shoes, iron your suit, and only carry one bag/briefcase (ideally not a bag plus a purse), shave and generally make sure you’re presentable.
  • I remember once asking an interviewee about a recent acquisition in his industry I had read about that week on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  He hadn’t heard the news and didn’t have a perspective.  I suggest reading the business news, particularly for your industry and company, on a daily basis in the few weeks leading up to your interview.  The Economist and The Wall Street Journal should cover your bases.
  • Being overly casual. I once had an interviewee bring in and drink a Red Bull during the interview.  I don’t recommend bringing in any food or drinks unless offered water, and choosing to enjoy an energy drink is especially distracting.

What is your perspective on the rising trend of schools including a video interview/essay component to the initial application (a la Yale)?

I think schools are considering video strategies due to the limitations that alumni interviews have revealed over time. Admissions offices are in a difficult position of needing to conduct a large number of interviews and not having the staff resources to do so in a short time frame, so they often rely on alumni interviews.  While alumni interviewers’ opinions are obviously valued, the admissions office also knows that the evaluation report can be heavily skewed based on that person’s individual biases and perspective on what makes for a strong candidate. Most alumni interviewers receive minimal training, and there is little consistency in interviews across alumni. There is also concern that the interviews are being conducted in the local language rather than English, which might make it harder for the adcom to accurately gauge whether a foreign applicant would truly be prepared and comfortable with the all-English classroom environment they would encounter at a top U.S. school.

So I think short videos are an efficient way for the admissions office to get their own eyes on every applicant.  They can personally observe applicants’ communication skills, particularly English abilities for international applicants, while utilizing the same overall evaluation process for all.

This year I’ve observed that many applicants aren’t familiar with how to optimize their video presence.  For example, having the light source coming from front rather than behind and not having distractions in the background make for a more aesthetically pleasing video response. In addition, smile!  I do practice videos with my clients to tweak their presentations.

What is the mock interview process like for you and your clients? What’s your strategy or approach to these practice sessions? Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: MBA Interview Prep

With interview invitations from a number of programs already on their way out to Round One applicants, we wanted to offer some more advice on this element of the admissions process.  Last week we posted some very basic etiquette information that will help candidates ensure that everything is in order on the big day.  Today, we turn our attention to some steps one can take to prepare for the interview itself.

1) Know what to expect. This might go without saying, but interview types and duration vary across programs.  For instance, nearly all invited Stanford applicants interview with alumni, while on-campus Wharton interviews are conducted by second-year students and admissions staff.  Candidates for Columbia admission participate in an informative resume-based chat, while HBS and MIT interviewers have in-depth knowledge of the applicant’s entire file.  Thinking carefully about the format of the interview and the person conducting it will influence the sort of questions you might come prepared to ask and help you arrive at a mindset conducive to success.

Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: MBA Interview Etiquette

With interviews imminent for Round One applicants, we wanted to turn our attention to this important step in the admissions process and share a few very basic pointers on interview etiquette.  Though the content of your application materials and comments during the interview are of paramount importance, it’s also crucial to put one’s best foot forward and make a positive initial impression.  Here are a few guidelines for interviewing applicants to keep in mind:

1) Dress the part.  Unless meeting with an alum who explicitly specifies a more casual dress code, assume that business attire is appropriate. Continue reading…

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Dartmouth / Tuck MBA Interview Registration Opens

The admissions committee at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth has opened its online registration portal for applicants seeking to schedule interviews for the 2013-2014 admissions season.  Applicants should note that interviews are conducted Monday through Friday, and the first date for on-campus interviews is September 9.  Those applying as Early Action candidates to Tuck must complete their interviews on or before November 1, while the window is extended until November 6 for November applicants. Continue reading…

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Clear Admit’s Stacey Oyler Discusses Preparing MBA Applicants for Wharton’s Team-Based Discussion

Rather than simulating a group interview, Clear Admit admissions consultants are preparing MBA applicants for the new team-based discussion (TBD) component of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School application by helping them focus and hone the ideas they will present as part of the exercise, Senior Admissions Counselor Stacey Oyler told PoetsandQuants (P&Q) as part of an article published yesterday.

“We decided that trying to simulate a group interview wasn’t the ideal approach for prepping candidates,” Oyler told P&Q. Instead, she and other Clear Admit admissions counselors are helping clients focus on the compelling ideas they will present as part of the TBD, setting expectations for what the interview setting will be like – including the types of other applicants they may be grouped with – and sharing insight about what Wharton will be assessing, Oyler continued. Clear Admit, founded by two Wharton MBA alumni, including one who worked in the Wharton admissions office after graduating, prides itself on its Wharton expertise.   Continue reading…

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Round 2 MBA Admissions Update from UCLA Anderson School of Management

300px-UCLA_Anderson_School_Collins_Center1The MBA Admissions office at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management released an early batch of Round 2 decisions late last week, according to a post on Anderson MBA Insider’s Blog. “This was a relatively small group of applicants and we are still evaluating files, conducting interviews and sending out interview invitations,” wrote Associate Director of Admissions Jessica Chung. Chung added that some admitted students received fellowship offers as part of these early offers, but that fellowship funds remain for future Round 2 and Round 3 admits as well.

“We’re excited to see lots more great applicants in the mix, and interview invitations will continue to go out over the next several weeks,” Chung wrote. She added that applicants can expect a few more batches of early decisions in advance of the April 3rd final notification deadline. Continue reading…

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Admissions Tip: The Interview Final Touch

Over the last months, we’ve focused on helping applicants prepare to answer the various questions they’ll be posed during their interviews, but there is one in particular to which we have not paid much attention.  Today, we wanted to offer a few tips in navigating the nearly inevitable interview finisher: “Do you have any questions for me?”

This seems like a harmless inquiry, and indeed poses a great opportunity, but there’s actually a fine line to walk here.  You certainly want to take advantage of this opportunity to show the interviewer that you appreciate his or her time, perspective and knowledge.  In determining what to ask, however, you need to avoid those questions to which you could easily find an answer on the school’s website (remember that it’s imperative that you show you’ve done your homework), as well as those that are so specific or obscure that they will stump the interviewer.  Another sort of question to avoid are those that seem to be critical of the program or too concerned with other applicants; now is not the time to ask about application volume or the strength of the pool this year. Continue reading…

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Stanford Graduate School of Business Admissions Official Debunks Myths Surrounding the Interview

 

The Admissions Committee at Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) does not assign a specific weight to the interview in its admissions process, which means that acing the interview does not in and of itself guarantee admission, nor does having a bad interview necessarily blow your chances. This according to a recent post to the Stanford MBA Admissions Blog by Associate Director of Admissions Allison Davis. In the post, Davis debunks several key myths surrounding the admissions interview.

“There is no specific weight assigned to the interview; the interview is one part of a comprehensive process,” wrote Davis. “The written application, including the essays and letters of reference, is a critical part of the evaluation process. The interview is a key source of supplemental information.” Continue reading…

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