Applying to Business School as an Entrepreneur

MBA AdmissionsFor the vast majority of business school applicants, pursuing an MBA is primarily about the opportunity to secure employment at their dream corporations. If you are one of the the ambitious few who are interested in entrepreneurship, your MBA dreams may align with incubating your own venture and forgoing the sanctity and security of the more traditional post-MBA career paths.

Applying to business school as an entrepreneur sets up a very specific set of considerations applicants should be aware of, however. Let’s discuss a few things that should be considered before applying to MBA programs as an entrepreneur:

Chances of Success:
How confident are you in the viability of your concept/business? Applying to business school as an entrepreneur is very risky from an application perspective. The Admissions Committee will surely scrutinize your plan and its potential for success, so it is important you have run a similar “stress test” on your concept or business.

Generally, business schools want to make sure their students are employed after graduation – an MBA who is not placed at a job at graduation (or 3 months after) can not only bring down the statistics of the school’s post-graduation employment report, but it can also cause that graduate to be an unhappy alumnus, which can lead to a negative perception of their MBA experience. As such, it will be best to make sure your entrepreneurial ambitions are clearly achievable, to both yourself and to the Admissions Committee.

Back-up Plan:
A high percentage of startup businesses fail. Do you have a contingency plan if your concept fails or if you just decide entrepreneurship is not for you? Schools will be looking to know that you have thought through all of the permutations and combinations of your decision. This can commonly manifest itself as an application question, essay prompt or an interview question, so have an answer ready that is well-thought-out and aligns with your past experiences.

Program Support:
Are you targeting MBA programs that have a track record of supporting entrepreneurship? The more your school is receptive to the challenges of the entrepreneurial lifestyle, the more well-received your application will be. Don’t think this makes your chances of admission much higher, as these schools are also looking to weed out those less committed to their goals. Also, some programs support entrepreneurs as alumni through funding and loan forgiveness, which could be advantageous during those lean early years of launching your business, and will be handy to keep in mind as you compile your list of target schools.

Timeline:
Does your timeline for diving into entrepreneurship make sense? Often, applicants will identify entrepreneurship as their short-term post-MBA goal. However, if the road map to starting your business appears a bit murky, shifting this short-term goal to the long-term may help make a better case for your profile. The Admissions Committee tends to be a bit more forgiving with long-term goals, given that so many things can happen before reaching them, but with short-term goals, the expectation is these should be highly achievable.

Applying to business school as an entrepreneur can be challenging, but can also represent a tremendous opportunity to pursue your dreams. Consider the above factors before you start your own application process.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more articles by him here.

How a Mock MBA Interview Can Help You Get Into Your Dream School

InterviewCongratulations, you made it to the interview stage! Now what should you do? Knowing the answers to the commonly asked MBA questions a) “Why an MBA?” b) “Why this school?” and c) “Why now?” isn’t enough. Even if you know all of the potential questions that you will need to address, a mock interview with someone who can give you honest and objective feedback will still be very helpful.

Your practice interview can offer you critical insights that may prove to be the difference between admission to your dream school and denial. Here are two reasons why you should have a mock MBA interview before the real thing:

Flow
Being well-prepared with your materials and being intelligent is not enough for a business school interview – you also need to know how to deliver your message in a natural and flowing manner.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore lost the one of the most narrow and controversial presidential elections in 2000. Well-known for his intelligence, Gore couldn’t connect effectively with his audience, often sounding like he was dictating a letter instead of having a conversation. In contrast, his rival, George W. Bush, came off as “somebody you would want to have beer with,” and could seemingly get away with missteps through his humor and charm.

Thus, don’t just count on your innate intelligence and knowledge in your interviews – practice your delivery, be aware of your mannerisms, and connect with your interviewer. Having a practice interview partner who can identify the bumps in your delivery can help you smooth these out through awareness and repetitions. This will help you feel more relaxed and confident, instead of having to organize your thoughts and search for precise words during the interview itself.

Facilitating mock interviews over the years, I have seen marked improvement for candidates who have gone through  these simulations before their real interviews. The difference between an interviewee who practiced and one who didn’t is night and day in terms of the flow and manner by which they get their messages across.

“Inside Words”
I remember watching an episode of The Simpsons in which the main character, Homer, blurted out loud words he thought he was only saying in his head. Thus, Homer had to remind himself of “inside words/outside words” to guide him on what he could and could not say in public.

Similarly, applicants get used to saying things that may be acceptable within their company or with their families, but may not be politically correct or appropriate for a business school interview. For example, within your team at work, you may know the “(insert nationality here) account” as the most difficult one, however, in citing this as an example during your interview, be very careful that you do not come off as associating negative traits in a generalized manner with a particular race, nationality, or other group.

Your practice interview partner can help you identify such pitfalls, not only in your words, but also through your body language, such as eye-rolls and shrugs, or even subtle changes in tone that may be sending an unintended message.

Polishing these rough edges in your delivery will allow you to shine during your MBA interview and convince the Admissions Committee that you are a gem of a find!

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. 

Playing Up Athletic Accomplishments in Your Business School Applications

For the MBA admissions game, applicants often feel that the content they should be including in their business school applications is limited to their professional and academic highlights. However, impressive personal details – such as athletic achievements and experiences – can also come in handy when building up one’s profile.

Just as a beauty pageant contestant would want to impress the competition judges with both intelligence and physical beauty, an MBA applicant will do well to win admiration from the Admissions Committee with different aspects of his or her personality, as well.

I know you are applying for a top MBA program (and not an NBA team!), but sharing that you are part of a national team or that you hold (or held) regional, age-level records in your chosen sport will still help your application. Apart from differentiating you from other candidates within your same industry, your accomplishments can also be used to show consistent character traits that have been common in your successes, which you can bring with you as you make the move to business school.

For example, you may highlight the leadership skills and drive that have allowed you to excel as captain of your soccer team as the same strengths that have been key to your success as a project manager. This will help you be more convincing when you say that these skills will enable you to be successful at the prestigious MBA program you are targeting. Likewise, accomplishments in competitive sports can also be effective in strengthening your personal brand – they could be additional illustrations of your reputation as an achiever or as a team player.

Sharing interesting personal anecdotes of how a particular athletic event changed your mindset or helped you grow as a person is another way to leverage your athletic background. Rich materials abound in this field – you can demonstrate your ability to collaborate with teammates, your resilience in overcoming personal setbacks (such as injuries or failures), and other positive traits.

One inherent advantage to showcasing your athletic background is that your stories will be easy to visualize (like an ESPN highlight reel), and the Admissions Committee will be able to better relate to the highs and lows that you share. Thus, your stories become effective set-ups for presenting lessons you have learned and how you have become the person you are today. Aside from strengthening your message by demonstrating it across various contexts, this also presents you as a multi-faceted individual.

Lastly, when presented properly, your passion for sports can be an effective “ice breaker” for your interviews or to help you build relationships with your future business school peers. Sharing a keen interest in a particular sport can develop rapport. Being associated with positive qualities such as strength, agility or gracefulness can only help you as you reach for that coveted spot at a top MBA program.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. 

How to Explain Work Gaps in Your MBA Applications

ChecklistIf you have a prolonged gap in activity – either at school or at work – on your resume, you probably already know that explaining it can be difficult. Being open and ready to address this “hole” in your profile with the Admissions Committee will greatly benefit your application. Let’s examine the two major ways you can tackle work and education gaps in your business school essays and interviews:

Be Open and Ready
Be prepared to answer questions from the Admissions Committee regarding your gap. Being ready to discuss your gap will allow you to be composed when asked about it during your interview. An honest demeanor will help keep the interview on the right track, while allowing you to explain the context of the gap. Addressing this openly in your essays also gives you the chance to take control of the message and show your character, personality, and purpose.  

Over the years, I have had successful clients who had gaps in their educational or professional history be admitted to top programs. Reasons for these gaps have ranged from choosing to take a break to explore other countries, to taking care of the family business, to recovering from illness. Being forthcoming about the reasons for these interruptions helped demonstrate their authenticity and made it easier for the Admissions Committee to appreciate their personal growth.

Add Another Dimension
Explaining the reason for your breaks will also allow the Admissions Committee to gain more insights about your personal life story and your priorities. For instance, an applicant who had to overcome personal issues to eventually complete his undergraduate degree reflected thoughtfully that his struggles at that key point allowed him to build resilience and empathy – the same qualities that have formed the foundation of his leadership principles. Communicated sincerely, a message like this will come across powerfully, especially when supported with the context of applicable leadership activities you may have taken on during, or after, your gap.

Another applicant had to take over the family business due to his father’s illness while he was still studying. Doing so helped shape his sense of responsibility at a young age, and his maturity served him well in taking on early leadership roles. Experiences such as these are attractive, as business schools look for applicants with strong leadership potential.

Additionally, your travels can be used to show your international motivation, openness to new experiences, and ability to relate to diverse cultures. Sharing your involvement with worthy organizations while you are on break will also give a peek into the causes you hold dear. Highlight this whenever possible, as it will show your personal enrichment and act as a unique addition to your profile.

To conclude, don’t be too secretive about your education or work gaps. Instead, use your gap as an opening to connect with the Admissions Committee on an even deeper level.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. 

Applying to Business School With a Non-Profit Background

NonprofitIf you’re applying to business school from a non-profit background, then congrats! The richness of the student community at many top business schools is due to the diversity of their student’s unique backgrounds and perspectives, so do not run from your non-profit experience – embrace it!

MBA programs have historically been filled with students from more traditional feeder industries, such as consulting and finance, but this does not mean these are the only industries Admissions Committees are looking for. There are a few factors to keep in mind, however, as you apply to top MBA programs from a non-profit background:

Academic Transcript
What type of coursework did you take as an undergraduate student? Was it primarily quantitative or more qualitative? These factors play a big role in how ready your candidacy appears for the predominantly analytical core curriculums found at most business schools. This issue is heightened even further if you also have a low GPA or poor performance in past quantitative classes, given that your non-profit work experience may not be perceived as analytically rigorous as other traditional MBA feeder industries. 

GMAT Score
Your GMAT score plays another important role in the viability of your candidacy. Your ability to achieve a competitive score, particularly on the Quantitative Section, could help dispel any doubt about your ability to perform in your first year at business school.

Interpersonal Skills
Although the non-profit sector still remains a relatively small industry for MBA applicants to come from, the transferable skills schools look for in candidates from this field are relatively similar those from other, more traditional industries. Showcasing your leadership and teamwork abilities will be critical to highlight your potential to make an impact on campus and as a future alum of the school.

Career Goals
Like many other applicants, non-profit candidates often pursue business school as an opportunity to switch careers – sometimes this career switch is a complete turnaround from their prior work experiences, and other times it’s just a subtle tweak to their career trajectories.

In both respects, it is important to identify the transferable skills that you have gained during your time working in the non-profit sector and how these skills will be able to be utilized in your future industry of choice. If there is a personal passion that drove your initial interest in your non-profit, try and connect that in some way to your future career goals, if relevant. Having a commitment to something that has a broader impact on the world around you has always been viewed positively by the Admissions Committee (when authentic).

Keep these strategies in mind as you plan out your approach for applying to MBA programs from your non-profit background.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more articles by him here.

How to Answer the “Post-MBA Goal” Question in 3 Steps

GoalsOne daunting, yet common question every business school candidate must answer at some point during the MBA application process is, “What are your post-MBA goals?”

In many cases, applicants do not have a concrete answer to this question – they just know that they don’t like where they currently are, but do not have clear post-MBA goals in mind. This kind of applicant will usually answer this question with something like, “I’ll explore my options during the program and go from there.”

While this is understandable, answering the question in this way could make the applicant come across as being unfocused, and doubts would arise as to whether the applicant has thought about his or her MBA goals properly. In these cases, it would be better for applicants to research likely post-MBA career paths with respect to their experiences and interests. This will allow them to state realistic post-MBA options, while also explicitly showing fit with the business schools they are interested in.

All things equal (as Econ professors love to say), identifying specifics will be the best way to go when discussing your future plans. Let’s examine 3 ways you can better define your post-business school goals to the Admissions committee:

1) Identify Career Fit with Your Personal Background
You would want to identify a goal that an MBA can help you achieve – that investing in a particular business school will create real value for you. In line with this, the Admissions Committee will evaluate how worthwhile and realistic your goal is given your previous experiences, current skill set, and potential future path with the school. This could include your academic potential, international exposure, work experiences, network, and personal passions.

Highlighting your unique qualities, track record of accomplishments, and resources you can leverage to make your future goals a reality is part of convincing the Admissions Committee of the feasibility of your post-MBA goal.

2) Showcase Your Knowledge of the Job Market
Identifying potential roles and the target market for yourself post-MBA, in the same way you would if you were creating a business plan for a new entrepreneurial venture, would clearly show the feasibility of your MBA plans. Matching your selling points in terms of knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences with the job market will be part of this process.

If possible, identify specific roles, companies, industries, and locations that are an ideal match for you – reaching out to people who have gone down a similar career path to the one you are interested in would help you determine if that particular track and the day-to-day realities that they experience match with your vision.

3) Emphasize Your Interest in This MBA Program
Finally, demonstrating keen interest in a particular MBA program by identifying how its culture, courses and clubs would fit your goals communicates a well-thought out plan. This will show the Admissions Committee that you took time to genuinely reflect on your personal development and what their unique school has to offer. Your interest will also help convince Admissions that you will readily accept a slot into their MBA program, if offered one.

With these tips in mind, be sure to invest your time and effort in researching the specifics of your target MBA programs and demonstrate that you have done so. If you are not yet confident in your answer to the post-MBA goal question, now is a great time to reflect and research – not only will a great answer to this question it strengthen your MBA application chances, but it will also give you clarity on the next stage of your life.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

Will Involvement in a Failed Company Hurt Your Chances of Being Accepted to Business School?

Letter of RecommendationIdeally, business school applicants would all be able to fill their admissions essays with great work stories showcasing contributions to their company’s success. Creating breakthrough products, transforming the company through original innovations, leading entry into a new market, generating record profits, and other similar accomplishments would all look great on an MBA application.

In reality, however, work circumstances and probabilities do not always play out perfectly – products can miss, campaigns can fail, companies can collapse, civil wars can break out, and global economic crises can ensue no matter how brilliant and dedicated an employee or entrepreneur is.

How, then, does an MBA applicant who went through these failures present himself or herself to be qualified for an MBA? Or how can a seemingly “ordinary” applicant elevate himself or herself from the pool of other applicants who may have more impressive success stories to tell? If this sounds like your predicament, showcase these three attributes to really make your application stand out:

Big-Picture Lessons
Recessions, industry down-cycles, and political crises can all contribute greatly to the failure of a company. However, there is a silver lining – not only do these circumstances provide the environmental context that removes blame from the applicant, but they also offer an interesting backdrop to highlight learning experiences that would make for rich classroom discussions.

If you experienced a business failure due to reasons like this, identifying the major lessons you learned will help display a high-level awareness of world events and their business impact, a quality that can be used to strengthen future leadership potential. At the company level, witnessing the impact of lost profits and jobs can provide you with firsthand experience of its effect on employee morale, corporate culture, and the real human concerns affected by difficult business decisions.

Personal Skills Gained
When struggling companies are forced to cut costs, this often results in the remaining employees handling more tasks, putting in more hours, and taking on bigger responsibilities, and all amidst a tense work environment. As such, employees lower on the corporate ladder may be able to have more involvement in reevaluating the whole business model, product lines, or distribution channels, and become part of the decision as to whether their firm should pull-out or stay in the market.

This accelerated exposure – usually reserved for very senior levels – can be a very difficult experience, however it can also be a good source of learning and growth in terms of skills, knowledge, and maturity. Explaining your business’ failure by showcasing the skills you gained from it can show the admissions committee that you know how to make the most of a difficult position and learn from your work environment.

Character Displayed
A family business may fail at an heir’s turn or a start-up may fall victim to a recession, but these “failures” may also be an opportunity to highlight character traits such as resilience and resourcefulness. Creating new opportunities or adjusting to a totally new environment will show adaptability and determination, which are strong qualities for a future global leader that admissions committees will pick up on. Even if the failed enterprise is directly attributable to you, displaying the honest self-awareness and accountability to identify areas for personal development – including how a particular MBA program will help correct these flaws – can create a compelling and authentic application that will help you stand out as a candidate.

So, will your involvement in a failed business completely ruin your chances of admission to business school? No! Explain the failure of the venture through the aforementioned traits, and the admissions committee will be able to see how a bad situation led to the development of a great MBA candidate.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

3 Things to Avoid During Your MBA Admissions Interview

MBA AdmissionsWould people like working with you? Can you communicate like an organization’s leader? When you interview for that coveted slot in your dream MBA program, these are some of the many areas you will be evaluated on. Chances are, at this stage you already know that you need to exemplify your ability to be on time, personable, and familiar with the details of your application.

Effectively communicating your personal highlights and your fit with the school will help you stand out favorably from the pool of other well-qualified applicants, but as you focus on presenting how exceptional you are, it can also be easy to fall for one of the popular pitfalls of the business school interview. Being cognizant of the details below will help you present yourself to your interviewer as a potential future leader who would be perfect for their school:

1) Steer Clear From an “Us vs. Them” Mentality
In day-to-day conversations with your coworkers, it can be easy to get used to generalizing negatively about other units in the organization. For example, referring to upper management as “out of touch” may feel true to you and your division. However, during your MBA interviews, you need to be more politically correct and sensitive – the way a CEO with the goal of uniting and inspiring the whole organization would carefully choose his or her words and delivery.

During practice interviews, applicants often fall into this trap when they explain examples of failures or challenging situations, as the language and tone used can give off the impression of a deeply-fostered “solo” mentality. Practicing with a sensitive listener will help call this out, allowing you to avoid this very common pitfall.

2) Hold Off On Generalizations
Related to the above, you must avoid tagging groups of people with a generalized label, whether it is by job functions, race, gender or nationality. While it may be funny for Dilbert to declare, “Marketing is only legal because it doesn’t work most of the time,” this sort of language should obviously be a no-no for you.

Likewise, highlighting an accomplishment educating the “backwards” people in one of your international offices by teaching them the “American Way” does not help in showing open-mindedness, and may actually concern your interviewer on your readiness to work with classmates from all over the world, or your potential to be a future global leader.

How then do you relate an accomplishment leading low-skilled blue-collar workers to align processes at the factory level with new technologies? You can still communicate the scale and context of this challenge without offending sensibilities – imagine describing one of them like you would describe a favorite uncle, doing so in an objective manner that would show both your appreciation and fondness at the same time.

3) End on a Positive Note
At the end of the interview, you are given the opportunity to ask questions. This is a great time to personally connect with your interviewer. Avoid showing doubts about your intention to push through with accepting an eventual offer to join the program (no matter how reasonable it is), or asking administrative details – these can always be addressed outside of the interview with better research and by connecting with the admissions office. Instead, engage the interviewer to talk about his fond memories with the school, evoking positive feelings that he would also have a good chance of associating with your particular interview.

By avoiding these three pitfalls, you’ll be sure to leave a great impression with your interviewer and bring yourself one step closer to gaining acceptance at your dream school.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

What is a “Good” Weakness to Put in Your MBA Application?

SAT/ACT“What are your weaknesses?”

Most MBA applicants find this to be the most difficult question to answer.

As professionals and entrepreneurs, we are trained to put our best foot forward in order to sell our businesses and ourselves. We think and rehearse how to best present our strengths, while hardly spending any time considering our weaknesses. Understandably, addressing this question during one’s MBA application essay or interview usually proves to be quite a challenge.

Asked to identify his weaknesses, a typical MBA applicant will ask him or herself two questions:

1) What should I avoid mentioning?
Everyone worries about giving an answer that will reveal a fatal flaw to the admissions committee and hurt one’s chances at being admitted to an MBA program. Thus, a frequent mistake is to answer this question using a fake weakness – saying something like, “I am too smart,” or, “I work too effectively,” does not really answer the question and will just irritate your audience. Presenting yourself as unrealistically perfect will also diminish the genuine strengths you have, and create doubt in the accomplishments you have discussed throughout the essays or the interview, as it makes you appear incapable of an honest self-assessment.

Another similar no-no is to blame somebody else for your weakness. Do not attribute a weakness solely to your work environment, personal circumstances, or ethnicity – this comes across as a reckless generalization and will not add any value to your case. It will also only shift the conversation into a negative tone and counter the strong, optimistic vibe that you want to be associated with.

2) What exactly are they looking for?
Admissions committees are looking for applicants who will greatly benefit from attending their school’s MBA program, and who can contribute to the experience of other MBA participants. Using this as a guide, the weakness question should be used to demonstrate character traits of self-awareness, ability to learn from failures, and open-mindedness to effectively use feedback and criticism.

An applicant should identify specific skills and knowledge gaps that he or she will need to work on in order to reach her post MBA goals – ideally, specifics of the target MBA program in terms of courses, culture, or community should be matched to these potential growth areas.

Executing this answer properly will put forth an honest reflection that shows genuine interest in a school’s MBA program and convinces the admissions committee that the applicant has really researched the school’s offering. Effectively demonstrating your potential to gain from, and contribute to, an MBA program through your personal story will help convince the admission committee of your fit with their school. Filling in details of how you have addressed your identified weakness or how you are in the process of doing so will also help show how proactive you are, and how you will greatly benefit from this particular MBA program.

A final tip: whenever you are asked about strengths and weaknesses in one question, whether in an essay or an interview, you must allocate time and space as evenly as possible between talking about the two. Most applicants spend 2/3 or more of the space they are given for strengths leaving little room to develop the weakness portion of the answer. This type of answer will look like it was just glossed over, and that the question was not answered adequately – it will also not allow you to make a proper case as to why you will benefit from the program.

A good answer to the “weakness” question strengthens your case to be admitted to your target MBA program even as you identify a real weakness. Skillfully weaving stories of your personal experiences, self-reflection, and vision through discussion of this weakness will make your profile unique and compelling to the admissions committee.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD.

How to Show Fit During the Interview Process at Kellogg

Kellogg School of ManagementIf you have received an interview invite to the prestigious Kellogg School of Management, then congratulations! Kellogg has historically been known as a program that really focuses on admitting “real people,” and thus, is one of the few top MBA programs that strives to interview every candidate. The program has long been known for its strong student community and this thorough interview process goes a long way in determining if potential candidates can make the cut in this area.

Hopefully, you have already conducted tons of research to prepare yourself for the big day. You know the ins and outs of the school’s academic programs, have a good handle of the recruiting advantages, and even have a comprehensive list of the top extra-curricular activities you’d like to lead. In addition to these factors, understanding the importance of fit at Kellogg is critical in identifying what the program looks for in potential candidates and how you can best position yourself for interview success. Let’s examine some key ways you can showcase fit to your Kellogg interviewer:

Intellectual Ability
This is business school, after all. Kellogg is looking for the best and the brightest, so it is important to project that you can hang academically, as well as bring a diverse point of view to the classroom. Utilizing professional anecdotes here can certainly do the trick, but the structure and style of your communication can also go a long way here.

Problem Solving Skills
Kellogg is looking for problem solvers! Whether in your personal or professional past, the school is looking for the type of people who can not only take on a challenge but also solve one. As a Kellogg MBA, you will be expected to solve some of the most challenging global problems in business, so showcase your track record here. For extra points, highlight instances where you solved problems in a group setting.

Leadership Experience
Although Kellogg has long been known as a top business school that emphasizes teamwork, leadership at the school is equally important. Focus specifically on your individual contributions as you regale the interviewer with your leadership experiences. Keep in mind, particularly for younger candidates, these experiences do not need to be limited to the professional side. Share your most impactful leadership experiences whether they are social, academic, or professional.

Values and Motivations
Kellogg is looking to admit people, so don’t be afraid to share personal aspects of who you are and what you value. A large part of your evaluation will be whether your personality and vibe can fit in at Kellogg, so don’t try to be anything other than yourself.

Extra-Curricular Activities
The Kellogg MBA is built on engagement, and as such, the school is seeking candidates who have shown a track record of engagement in the past as this signals a likelihood of being similarly engaged at Kellogg, and later on as an alum. Clearly articulate how you have engaged yourself in the past, as well as how you plan to engage yourself in the future as a Kellogg MBA. Be specific here, and make sure you have more than one example of your engagement goals at the school itself.

Interpersonal Skills
The ability to work with and lead others is core to all aspects of thriving in the student community at Kellogg. Although this may be the last criteria shared, it may actually be the most important. Don’t be afraid to include examples of how you have engaged with others in all aspects of your life, but remember, Kellogg will have a discerning eye for those inauthentic in this aspect of the evaluation. Also, how you carry yourself in person will be another key indicator if you have what it takes to join the Kellogg community, so keep this in mind.

Follow these tips so come interview day, you will be able to breeze through Kellogg’s interview process and put yourself one step closer to that MBA.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or take our free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here.

Admissions 101: You Don’t Go Into the Interview with a Blank Slate

Today we introduce a new series on the Veritas Prep Blog: Admissions 101. From time to time we’ll dig into various basis strategies for getting into the world’s top graduate schools, blowing up some dangerous myths along the way.

Today’s piece was inspired by the wave of HBS 2+2 Program interview invitations that were sent out yesterday. (Congrats to all of our clients who were invited! There are only about 200 of you!) Soon after learning he had been invited, one of our clients said, “I’m halfway through the door. As long as I don’t screw up the interview, I should be in.”

Well, that’s not exactly how it works.


It’s easy for an applicant to look at last year’s HBS 2+2 Program admissions statistics and think, “Wow, if they invited around 200 people and last year they admitted more than 100, all I have to do is be in the top half of interviewees and I’m in!” That line of thinking assumes that the admissions process is a perfectly linear one in which the committee cuts down the applicant pool and then starts fresh with the remaining applicants, forgetting everything they already know about them as they go into the interview. This sort of “admissions amnesia” just doesn’t happen.

In reality, the admissions office right away knows that it won’t admit a large number of applicants (for whatever reason: lack of fit with the program, underwhelming grades, no evidence of leadership potential, etc.), so it makes sense for them to just cut those applicants out of the process right away, since interviewing everyone just isn’t practical. (When you go on a first date with someone and just know right off the bat that it won’t work out, you don’t keep seeing them for a while.) So, they cut down the pool to a more manageable number before sending out invites.

But, as interview invites go out, they already have well-formed opinions about the remaining applicants: “John has terrific leadership experience but we wonder about his quant skills… Mary has very interesting career goals but we’re just not sure if an MBA is right for her… Tony brings it all to the table and looks like a very promising candidate.” They go into the interview with these opinions and questions, and in large part the purpose of the interview is to help them confirm what they know and find out what they don’t know.

(We should note here that HBS is somewhat unique in this regard. Many top schools conduct interviews blind, meaning that the interviewer hasn’t extensively reviewed you application. And other schools allow everyone to interview, rather than conducting them by invite only. However, this “the process isn’t perfectly linear” point still applies. It all gets fed into the final decision.)

Then — and here’s the important thing to remember — they then feed that information back into your entire candidacy, 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 thought I bombed the interview, but I still got in!” and “I was AMAZING in the interview, and my interviewer even said so. So why did I get dinged?” It’s because 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.

What does this mean for you? For those HBS 2+2 Program applicants, it means that some are already well on their way to being admitted, although they don’t know it yet. For others, it means that their odds aren’t great, but at least HBS saw enough in them to give them an interview, so they’re still very much in the game. For that latter group, 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 — your GMAT score, your essays, your letters of recommendation, your undergraduate work, and your work history — will still matter a lot.

To learn more about the HBS 2+2 Program and what they look for in college undergrads, call us at 800-925-7737. And, as always, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!

Top Ten Weirdest MBA Admissions Interview Questions

The admissions interview is one of the most important parts of the business school application process, because it’s the only time that the admissions office get a chance to meet the real, live you. Business schools rarely employ the “stress interview” technique, trying to make you squirm and seeing how you perform under pressure. The process is stressful enough, and they’re more interested in getting answers to their questions and getting to know the real you, than in seeing how well you can stand up to stress.

Still, every year we hear from applicants who were surprised by weird MBA admissions interview questions. Most often these come from alumni interviewers, which makes sense since they come from multiple industries, have different levels of experience conducting interview, and sometimes are keen to “try out” some interview questions they’ve heard on the job.

Just to keep you prepared for the slight chance that you may encounter these questions, below are ten of the most unusual ones we’ve ever heard:

  1. Sell me this pen.
  2. Look at this painting. What does it mean to you?
  3. If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
  4. How many golf balls are in the air around the world, right now?
  5. Why would [school name] ever want to admit you?
  6. What’s the best email address you’ve ever seen? Why?
  7. If they did a movie about your life, what actor or actress would you choose to play you?
  8. Are you a dog or a cat person? Sell me on why that animal is better.
  9. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
  10. I’m trying to land an airplane but don’t know what to do. Talk me through it and help me land.

You’ll notice that these questions are all over the place. The common thread running through the most useful ones is that they all have to do with YOU, while some of the other ones are just plain unusual. Either way, if you encounter such a question, know that how you react to it matters just as much as what your answer is. So, keep your cool, pause for a few moments (Don’t fear silence… it’s a powerful communications tool!), and have fun with your answers. If you want more help, Veritas Prep offers MBA admissions interview preparation as a standalone service.

Have you ever been asked a weird or unusual interview question, either for admission or for a job interview? If so, let us know!

Five Ways to Know Your Admissions Interview Is Going Well

By the time you get to the interview in the MBA admissions process, you’re probably already miles ahead of where you were just a month or two earlier, when you first started preparing your business school applications. Still, while you’ve perhaps become an expert on yourself, your interview skills may be a little rusty (or, maybe you never fully developed them in the first place).

While no two interviews are the same, we’ve conducted enough of them (and have prepared enough clients for them) that we know how to spot one that’s helping your cause vs. one that’s going down the tubes. Here are some signs that your admissions interview is going well:

  • You come off as confident without being arrogant. Many interview experts stress that you need to project confidence, while others tell their clients they absolutely cannot come off as arrogant. They’re both right, and you need to strike a balance between the two. You don’t want the interviewer to feel sorry for you as you sweat through every question and answer, but as little humility is always appealing.
  • Your answers are succinct. Perhaps the surest sign that an interview is going badly is when you find yourself rambling through answers. This means that you weren’t prepared for the question, or you have an answer but can’t present it in a brief, coherent way. Your answers should be conversational, but should always have a clear beginning, middle, and end, and should take no more than a minute or two each.
  • You manage to get all of your application themes on the table. If you go into the interview knowing that you need to really drive home your leadership ability and your analytical skills, for example, then you absolutely must do that by the end of the interview! Interviews often start off with “Walk me through your resume,” or “Tell me about yourself” — this is a great way for you to hit on your key themes right away.
  • It’s a two-way conversation. Interviewers will vary greatly in their style, but you ideally won’t do all of the talking during your interview. Comments such as “That’s interesting, tell me more,” and “That’s pretty impressive,” are good signs that you’re getting through to your interviewer.
  • … but it’s still an interview. Ideally, you will be able to strike a smart balance between having an enjoyable conversation but still maintaining the structure of the interview, making sure that your themes are covered and that your interviewer covers everything he needs to cover.. After all, when your interviewer is done he needs to answer some questions about you, and he can’t do that if you’ve just spent 45 minutes talking about politics and football. Make it enjoyable, but remember that it’s still an interview!

If you’re now preparing for your admissions interview and want some expert help, take a look at Veritas Prep’s MBA interview preparation services. Also, Your MBA Game Plan contains dozens of sample MBA interview questions to help you get ready. Good luck!

Veritas Prep in the Wall Street Journal


Last week the Wall Street Journal’s Diana Middleton wrote a great piece about things to think about while juggling a full-time job and the MBA application process. (Hopefully, in this economy, you still have a job to juggle along with your applications!) In “Getting Back to School,” she covers six important things applicants should do.

The article outlines six important steps you need to take in the process, from strategically planning the timing of your applications to gracefully departing from your job once you leave for business school. When Diana spoke with us, we emphasized one thing that many applicants don’t do enough: keep working on their candidacies even after they’ve submitted their applications.


“Wait,” you’re saying, “Once I send in my applications, I’m done! I can finally relax and stop hounding my supervisor for letters of recommendation and quit asking my friends to read my essays over and over.” You’re right that the deadline-driven stress of the application process is then over, but there’s still plenty that you can do. Two things you should do (and think about) were covered in the article:

  • Work harder in the office. If you keep working hard and seeking out new challenges and growth opportunities, then you’ll have more to talk about if you are invited to interview with your target schools. If you’re waitlisted, achieving something new in the workplace will give you a good reason to update the admissions office and boost your candidacy. And, if you’re rejected, then you’re already on your way to building an even stronger application next year. When it comes to your career, you should never let up on the gas pedal, but you especially don’t want to do it at such an important juncture in your young career.
  • Prepare for the interview.By the time you’re invited to interview (and hopefully that happens!), you should know your application inside and out. Some schools conduct their interviews “blind,” with the interviewer only knowing your resume, while other schools’ interviewers will know your entire application. In either case, anything that you put on your resume or in your application is fair game, and you should expect to be questioned about any of it. Also, it’s your job to know what the school’s interviewers tend to ask — you have enough time to prepare that nothing should catch you off guard.

Taking these steps will help to maximize your success this year, or — if you’re not successful now — they will give you a head start for next year.

If you’re still researching schools and deciding to apply, or are getting ready for your own admissions interviews, download our 15 free Veritas Prep Annual Reports. If you’re ready to craft your own winning application, call us at 800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today!

Round 3 Admissions Update from Wharton

Yesterday the Wharton admissions committee posted an update on its blog for everyone who just applied in Wharton’s third admissions round. Since they understand that waiting on one’s application status can put an applicant on pins and needles, Wharton’s admissions officers are deliberately over-communicating about what Round 3 applicants can expect in the coming weeks.

First, know that if your status currently reads “Received” or “Complete for Round Three,” then you are in good shape. “Received” just means that the office needs to match up your hard copy submissions with your electronic files, and within a week or so you should see your status change. “Therefore,” says the admissions committee, “please allow the Operations Team until Thursday, March 12 before inquiring about the completeness of your application.”

Regarding interview invitations, Wharton will start releasing them on March 30, and will continue to release them until April 9. So, once your application status is “Complete,” there’s no need to even check it again until the end of this month. Also on April 9, Wharton will notify all Round 3 candidates who have been denied admission.

Finally, if you are invited to interview, you must complete the interview by April 23. All interviewed applicants will receive their final admissions decision by May 14.

If you are invited to interview with Wharton and would like some professional assistance in preparing for the big day, Veritas Prep offers MBA admissions interview preparation services. Until then, good luck!

Wharton Round Two Admissions Interview Invitations

Yesterday the Wharton admissions office posted an update on its blog to let applicants know that the school will release all Round 2 interview invitations by tomorrow (Feb. 19).

The admissions committee explains:

The Admissions Committee has already begun releasing interview invitations and will continue to do so daily until 5:00pm EST on Thursday, 19 February 09. Due to the nature and complexity of the admissions process, there is no particular order in which invitations are released. Complete details on how, when, and where to schedule an interview will be provided at the time of invitation. Candidates who are not invited to interview and are no longer being considered for admission will receive a

HBS Round Two Admissions Interviews

Last week the Harvard Business School’s Dee Leopold posted a short message on the HBS admissions blog about the timing for Round Two admissions interview invitations:

On February 9 we will send out invitations to interview. The invitation will come in an email from HBS MBA Admissions and will contain detailed instructions about how to sign up for interviews both on campus and in hub cities. Please be assured that if we see you haven’t signed up for an interview by the end of the week, we will contact you by phone…thus there’s no reason to be anxious about lost emails, etc.

Shortly afterward, I’ll update you here as to how many invitations have been issued and how many we expect will go out between February 10 and the April 2 notification date.

Note the second part. While a majority of interview invites will likely go out on Feb. 9, don’t despair if you don’t hear anything on that day. The admissions office will be working through thousands of applications, and they may not get to yours for another few weeks or more.

Visit Veritas Prep for more information on Harvard Business School and how to ace the MBA admissions interview.

UC Berkeley (Haas) on Admissions Interviews

Peter Johnson, the Director of Admissions at the Haas School of Business, recently posted a message on the Haas blog to answer some questions and soothe some nerves regarding Haas’s admissions interview policies.

On the blog, Peter writes:

Contrary to popular belief, there is no fixed percentage of applicants who are interviewed, and chances of admission for those who do interview are based on the strength of the entire application package and the interview. In the past few years, between 25% and 30% of all applicants have been selected to interview–but keep in mind that this percentage has varied each year. It’s simply a reflection of the strength of the candidates in a specific round.

Although it’s a positive sign to be invited to interview, it doesn’t mean you’ll get an offer–but it does mean that the Admissions Committee saw enough strengths in your application to be seriously considering your candidacy, so it’s always a good sign!

Note that those percentages are just historical norms. You can consider them rough guidelines in terms of trying to determine your chances this year, but the number will always bounce around. So, spare yourself the insanity and just focus on nailing your admissions interview, rather than trying to calculate your chances! To that end, be sure to listen to the school’s admissions interview tips podcast.

If you would like more assistance in preparing for your MBA admissions interview at Haas or at any other top business school, take a look at Veritas Prep’s MBA admissions interview assistance package.

Dartmouth (Tuck) on MBA Admissions Interviews

Today Tuck’s Associate Admissions Director, Karen Marks, wrote a post on the Tuck blog about how the admissions office handles MBA admissions interviews. Her post says a lot about how the schools views applicants and how interviews fit into the overall Tuck admissions process.

Unlike many other top business schools, the Tuck School of Business has an open interview policy, meaning that any applicant can schedule an interview rather than waiting for an invitation from the admissions office. Tuck really looks at whether or not you schedule an interview (and make the trip to New Hampshire) as a strong indicator of your interest in the school. Marks explains that you are by no means ruining your chances of admissions by not scheduling an interview and visiting the campus, especially if you face circumstances that would make the trip difficult (e.g., you live far away, have tight finances, or have other obligations that prevent you from traveling). However, if you’re serious about Tuck, know that the most powerful way to show this is by visiting the campus and conducting an on-campus interview.

Regarding interview format, there’s a good chance you will be interviewed by a second-year student. Marks makes a point of emphasizing that these interviews carry just as much weight as those conducted by Tuck admissions officers. And meeting a second-year student gives you a great chance to further get a feel for how well you’ll fit with the Tuck culture.

Finally, Marks attempts to put an end to anxiety that domestic applicants feel over whether or not they get invited to interview by the Tuck admissions office. She sums up it all up by saying:

The bottom line is that it is definitely a positive sign if we invite you interview, in that it indicates our desire to learn more about you, but don’t read too much into it if we don’t extend an invitation. Most domestic candidates schedule their own visits, and we are unlikely to prompt you to do so.

So, don’t stress over whether or not you’re invited to interview with Tuck. But, if you follow their (and our) advice and schedule your own interview with the school, then this should be a moot point!

If you’re preparing for your interview with Tuck or any other top business school, Veritas Prep’s MBA admissions interview preparation service can help you maximize your chances of success.

MBA Admissions Interview Tips

Since many top MBA programs have started to release interview invitations for Round One, we thought it would be a good time to review some basic principles for how to effectively approach your MBA admissions interview:

In your interview, you want to come across as personable, confident, interested, interesting, and sincere. For everyone one of these descriptors, think of the opposite. No one would want to be surrounded by arrogant, tentative, indifferent, dull, or phony people. In short, you want to convey that you are who you said you are in your application, and you want to show the interviewer that you’re someone who would make a great classmate in business school. Yes, this may seem daunting, given the application themes that you already want to communicate. Most of these personality traits, though, should come through if you can relax and simply be yourself.

For the most part, your interviewer will set the tone of the discussion. As described earlier, some will be laid back and interested in getting to know you personally, while others will want to drill down on specific parts of your resume or application. Obviously, how serious or informal you are will largely depend on the person across from you. Your job is to make adjustments accordingly, and to answer the questions that they ask. But you must make sure that by the end of the interview you have covered the main themes that you came in with. For instance, you may have a laid-back, “get to know you” kind of interviewer who doesn’t ask you the kinds of pointed questions that would allow you to talk about your strengths. If this is the case, it’s perfectly appropriate to say, “By the way, there are a couple of things that I think make me a good fit for this school. I’d like to talk about them and hear your thoughts,” before the interview is over. You don’t want to be too transparent, but all but the most inept interviewers will appreciate the fact that there are certain ideas that you

HBS Interviews: Dee Leopold on Round One

The other day Dee Leopold posted a message on the HBS admissions blog regarding the school’s upcoming wave of Round One interview invitations. HBS will start contacting applicants to set up interviews on November 12, with many of the interview requests going out the following week.

As HBS and other top schools often do, Leopold reminds applicants that the timing of the interview invite is strictly a function of when the application is reviewed in the process — it’s not a reflection on the strength of one’s candidacy. There’s also no rhyme or reason in terms of alphabetical order, geography, or the date when the application was received. In other words, don’t bother trying to divine your chances based when you receive (or don’t receive) an interview invitation!

Leopold finished the post with a plug for the updated entrepreneurship info on the HBS web site. A few times lately we have heard HBS representatives emphasize the program’s entrepreneurship-related content… Something to keep in mind if you are an HBS applicant with a sincere interest in this area.

For more advice on applying to HBS, visit our Harvard Business School information page. For more advice on how to nail your HBS interview, take a look at our MBA admissions interview preparation service.