As Harvard Business School and other top MBA programs start sending out interview invitations for the 2010-2011 admissions season, we’ve been getting more and more questions about how to prepare for these interviews. We’ve written before about how you don’t go into your MBA admissions interview with a blank slate. Even in the case of a “blind” admissions interview in which the interviewer may have nothing more than your resume, the admissions office already knows a great deal about you, and you can be sure that what the interviewer learns will be fed back into your file. Then, that whole file will be considered, meaning that the interview, while it comes later in the process, is not a final hurdle, but rather one more piece of the whole pie.
Therefore, it’s important that you be an expert on YOU and everything that’s in your application. Admissions officers are not looking for discrepancies so that they can say, “A ha! We caught you in a lie! Automatic ding!” But, you do need to ensure that the person in your application and the person in your interview are the same.
To make sure that it all fits together, ask yourself these there things as you prepare for your admissions interview:
How Would a Stranger Describe Me After Reading My Application?
It’s naturally somewhat difficult to look at your own application through the eyes of a stranger. Sometimes enlisting the help of someone else (either an MBA admissions consultant or a friend of a friend, who is someone you can probably trust but who doesn’t know you very well) is a good way to get a view of your application through those eyes. However you do it, ask yourself what themes emerge. Are those the same ones you wanted to emerge? (You’d be surprised how, even just a few weeks after submitting your application, your view on how strong your application is can change!) If so, then how can you reinforce them in your interview? If not, and you’re lucky enough to still have an interview invite, how can you get those themes on the table in the interview? Remember that this information will be fed back into your overall application, so you still have a chance to work them into your overall application story.
How Well Does My Story Fit with My Target Business School?
It’s easy to assume that getting an interview invitation means you’ve already done the two main things that every applicant must do to succeed: Demonstrate fit with your target school and stand out from the crowd. However, many times admissions officers will see a strong applicant and say, “Seems like a star, but we wonder how well he’ll fit in here,” or they may ask, “If we admit him, what are the chances that he’ll actually come?” The interview is an excellent way for the admissions committee to answer these questions. You can demonstrate strong fit by reinforcing the message that your career goals and what the school offers match up well, by showing a deep knowledge of the school (not by asking your interviewer “softball” questions that you can easily answer on your own), and by demonstrating a real enthusiasm for the program. Many of our clients have turned their applications into acceptances by demonstrating fit — which was the one big question mark that still hung over their candidacies — in their interviews.
What Questions Do I Hope They Ask Me?
These seemingly simple question is one that we frequently present to our clients. For one, it forces them to actually consider about these questions and think through their answers, which prevents the likelihood of a disastrous flub on a simple, slam-dunk question. This exercise also helps your organize your thoughts in terms of what messages or themes you absolutely know you must get onto the table before the interview is over. Looking back at your application, perhaps you now wonder if your career goals seem unrealistic. Either they ask you about this and you can put this question to rest, or you hit the issue head on yourself, mitigating this risk on your own.
Getting ready for your interview with Harvard Business School or another top MBA program? Veritas Prep offers specialized MBA admissions interview preparation services with turnaround times as short as 24 hours. For more help in getting into the world’s most competitive grad schools, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!