Having just completed an extensive overview of MBA interviewing, it occurred to me I forgot to address an area which affects a large portion of applicants: the off-campus interview. While it’s always preferable to do the interview on campus, due to travel and scheduling complications, most schools will make alternatives available, the most common of which being the off-campus alumni interview or the dreaded phone or Skype interview (you can probably tell which is my least recommended option!).
For the off-campus interview, you will likely be paired with an alumnus or alumna who either lives in your area, or is there on business travel. If you live off the beaten path, you will be given a multiple city option where you can travel within reason to connect with someone. This is definitely advisable over doing a phone interview, but I realize sometimes it’s simply not possible to connect in person. So much communication is lost or different on the phone (body language, tone, volume, eye contact etc.), so try to show up and sit down with your interviewer in person.
Many of the same or similar questions will likely arise which I detailed in the five part interview series, but typically we hear remote alumni interviews often seem a bit more casual than the on campus version. While this can make you feel more comfortable, rest assured it is just as official as the on campus type and will be your only chance to make an impression beyond your application. Try to connect with your interviewer and come with more questions than you might have on campus, since the interview will likely be more conversational and less structured.
If you do end up having to do a phone or Skype interview, make sure you are not on a cell phone if you can avoid it (sound quality and reception nightmares can ruin an interview). Also try to be in a quiet, private place without background noise (including barking dogs, opening doors or screaming children). For Skyping, the recommendations are similar, and an additional tip is to place your computer or camera up high and looking down on you instead of on the table angled up where the interviewer is forced to suffer through an hour of looking up your nose and at your ceiling. Using a headset microphone can improve audio quality dramatically.
One last tip: when it’s all over, make sure you obtain contact info on your interviewer so you can send a thank you note.
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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.