Your MBA Admissions Interview Is Just One Piece of the Puzzle!

Admissions interviews are underway for Round 1 applicants at the top American business schools. If you were lucky enough to receive an invitation to interview with a top-ranked MBA program, this thought has almost certainly gone through your head recently:

“Great! I made the first cut! Now, I wonder what my chances are?”

This thinking is correct. You did make the first cut. And by “cut,” we mean that admissions officers looked at the whole applicant pool and, seeing that some applications were just too weak for those people to stand any chance of getting in, let those people that they were no longer being considered. No reason to interview those applicants if they’re clearly not getting in, right? So, yes, you did make the first cut. The admissions committee at least thinks there’s a decent chance that you’ll be admitted. Congratulations!

But here’s where many applicants’ thinking goes awry. Has this thought gone through your head recently?

“Now I just need to nail the interview. If half of those being interviewed will be admitted, I just need to be in the top half of all of the applicants they interview, and I’m in!”

This isn’t quite the right way to think about the process. The reality is that the admissions committee already has a point of view on your candidacy, and on the candidacies of the other thousands of applicants it will interview. You’re not all starting over in the next phase of the admission cycle… It’s more like the committee now needs to completely round out the picture of who each applicants is, and then it will make its final admit/reject/waitlist decisions. You’re not starting over from scratch… You’re bringing with you all of the strengths and weaknesses that the admissions committee already associates with you.

Once your interview happens — whether it’s a blind interview or is conducted by someone who knows your candidacy well — the school then feeds that new information back into your entire application, and they then decide on what to do with you. You could walk into the interview with them already loving you, and do just okay in the interview, and still get in. You could go into the interview with the admissions committee having lots of questions about your fit with the school, and you could earn rave reviews from your interviewer, but ultimately be rejected because of those questions that were raised before you ever walked in the door.

Both types of examples are very common among applicants. Every year we hear from applicants who say, “I know I bombed the interview. It was the worst one of my life. But I still got in!” as well as those who say, “I nailed the interview. My interviewer even told me so! So how did I not get in?” The answer is simple: The interview is just one part of the process, and it’s compared against everything else in your application before a decision is made. Every part of your application matters right up until the moment when a decision is rendered.

Guess what: You may already be well on your way to being admitted, although you don’t know it yet. Or, your odds may not be great, but at least the business school saw enough in you to give you an interview, so you’re still in the game. (Again, they’re too busy to interview you if they don’t think you have a shot, so you DO have a shot!) If the latter scenario applies to you — and you simply won’t know if that’s the case — the interview will obviously matter more. Since you don’t know which camp you’re in, you need to prepare for the interview like it matters a ton. But know that everything in your application still affects your chances, right up until you receive your final decision.

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