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by Megan Cassidy and Carolyn C. Wise | May 06, 2009


After your GMAT scores and MBA applications arein, it's time to get personal. Most MBA admissions offices complete aninitial screening process once they receive all the applications anddecide which students are lucky enough to be invited to interview. Ifyou receive an interview invitation, it means you've made it throughthe first round of cuts--congrats! An interview gives you theopportunity to put a face with your transcript, and shine above otherqualified contenders for top-tier programs. Your performance will alsohelp demonstrate your future potential and overall fit for the school;two qualities that can bump a borderline applicant into the "admitted"pile.

The best way to prepare for this make-or-breaksession is to approach it as a job interview. Although admissionsofficers are increasingly seeking diversity--of all kinds--in theirstudent body, professional, prepared candidates are uniformlypreferred.

Before to the interview

Know yourself: When preparing for aninterview, the first thing you should do is review your application.Read over your resume to remind yourself of your accomplishments todate. Check out your essays; is there a theme cultivated in youranswers? Your application tells a story, and your performance in yourinterview should complement it. If your essays described your work infinancial assistance for residents of a public housing project, youshouldn't wax on about how you plan to travel the world. However, thatdoesn't mean you should hit all the same marks. If there is somethingabout yourself and your experiences that you think is important butwent under-served in your written materials--something that happenedsince the application deadline, perhaps--the interview is a great placeto highlight it.

Answer prep: Each interviewer will haveunique questions, but that doesn't mean you can't prepare for thebasics and cover your bases on the gimmies. Have solid,well-thought-out answers prepared for the usual suspects: "Where do yousee yourself in 10 years?" "Why do you want to attend this school?""What do you want to get out of your MBA?" Arm yourself with specificexamples of leadership roles that you have taken on, and how yourprevious experiences will transition into your future success in thebusiness world. Remember that the interviewer may know everything aboutyou, or he or she may know nothing. Again, review your applicationmaterials (particularly your resume) when preparing for thesequestions--your answers will help the interviewer create a clearpicture of you and understand your ambitions.

In the few weeks before your scheduled session,acquaint yourself with as much literature the school and otherresources offered. School websites and Vault's MBA student surveys cangive you an idea of what the school might be looking for, and evenspecific questions they may ask.

Question prep: Interviews aren't just foranswering questions, they're for asking them, too. Come to yourinterview prepared with detailed questions about the school and itsprograms. However, not every question is a good question. If theinformation is readily available on the school's website, it's obviousthat you haven't put much consideration into the school. So do yourhomework. One good place to start is a question about a specificprogram or two; it will let the interviewer know not only that you aretruly interested in the school, but also what your academic interestsare.

The day of

Arrive early, dress nicely: This should bea given; dressing neatly and showing up on time shows professionalism,as well as respect for the interviewer and the program. Suits for menand pantsuits or skirt-suits for women are generally acceptable. Suitsfor men and pantsuits or skirt-suits for women are generallyacceptable. If you don't own a suit, don't worry. Just dress neatly andprofessionally--"business casual"--slacks or a skirt and an oxfordshirt and/or sweater will be fine. When it comes to promptness andwardrobe, it's best to simply play it safe. It's better to arrive earlythan right on time, and better to overdress than underdress.

Be human: If you're invited to aninterview, the school already thinks you have the chops to perform wellacademically. So one of the things they are looking to figure out inthe interview is whether you would fit in as a member of the studentbody--who are you really? Try to have a genuine conversation inyour interview; listen carefully to the questions and answer themhonestly. Certainly have ideas in mind of what you would like todiscuss, but don't memorize your answers. Interviewers can tell thedifference in a candidate who is truly passionate about the school andone who is reciting what he or she thinks the interviewer wants tohear. You can remain professional throughout the discussion withoutbeing a robot.

Following up

No calls, please: The interview processdoesn't end when you shake hands and get into the elevator. Send yourinterviewer a thank-you note by e-mail or snail mail a day or two afteryour session. Thank him or her for the time spent and include somethoughts about something you talked about. However, this is the busiesttime of the year for admissions, so don’t add to their frustration witha barrage of follow-up calls. Pestering the admissions office will notget you a quicker response. Most administrators agree that one simplethank-you note is ideal. Good luck!


Filed Under: Interviewing

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