Business School admissions interviewing can be nerve-wracking to say the least. Everything you have worked your entire career for is on the line as you sit and sweat, waiting in your target school’s office for the one shot you will have to make a case in person for a seat in business school.
But if you do find yourself in this situation, consider yourself one of the lucky ones, since only about 20% of applicants are invited to interview at top schools. The better news is, about 50% of the interviewees are admitted on average! While that still puts you in a precarious tie with a coin-flip, it’s still far better than the low double or even single digit percentage of general applicants who are admitted.
While most schools interview applicants by invitation only, there are a few who allow applicants to call and schedule an interview during certain times of the year. Certainly if you are applying to one of these schools, you should take advantage of the visit and interview opportunity. If you are applying to invitation only schools, you can spend the time waiting for the call in preparation.
The best way to prepare is to mentally re-visit your career history and “know-thyself,” being able to draw some specific examples from your past to address common questions. It is certainly useful to have an idea of what you consider to be your greatest strengths before you go into an interview. Although the interviewer will most likely ask some pointed questions, you may also encounter something as broad as “So, tell me about yourself.” Either way, you should have in mind what you want to convey about who you are before you go into any interviewer. Make sure you have some specific examples which demonstrate your claims, including why are you right for the program at your target school and why is that particular program right for you?
It shows particular organization and forethought if you know some specifics about the program to which you are applying and can explain why those features fit well with your personality/ career goals. For example, if your target school considers themselves particularly strong on leadership and international business, then if you have any, certainly highlight your familiarity with any languages, and that you have traveled or worked abroad, for example. Drawing out specifics from your own experience will assure you don’t blend in with the crowd. These are things you should have prepared in advance to discuss, just don’t “memorize” your responses lest you appear over-rehearsed or canned.
Consider yourself in control in an interview. Answer the questions that are posed to you, but have in mind a few key things that you want to convey, and make sure that you get them in. You want use the opportunity to show how you are different from the thousands of other applicants, not to blend in to the crowd. Remember, this is your one shot to sell yourself and convince the adcom that you deserve a slot. Put yourself in their shoes. What would impress you if you had to choose the “right” students for your program?
You might even consider writing a personal statement as an exercise, or outlining/listing your key attributes, and what makes you successful as a leader and teammate. Since teamwork is vital in business school, highlighting specific examples of how you have led and/or worked in teams will be valuable to an adcom. In my follow-up post, I will list some typical interview questions you might expect.
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Scott Bryant has over 25 years of professional post undergraduate experience in the entertainment industry as well as on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs. He served on the admissions committee at the Fuqua School of Business where he received his MBA and now works part time in retirement for a top tier business school. He has been consulting with Veritas Prep clients for the past six admissions seasons.