All About Business School Interviews: Questions and Much More

InterviewThe process of applying to business school involves several steps. Filling out an admissions application, writing an essay, and submitting GMAT or GRE scores are just a few of those steps. Another important step is the interview. An interview allows business school admissions officials to get a look at the student behind the application. It also gives a student the chance to ask the admissions officials a few questions.

At Veritas Prep, our knowledgeable consultants help students prepare their admissions application, create a convincing essay, and organize all of the documents and deadlines involved in applying to business school. We know what business schools are looking for, and we share that valuable information with our students. Consider some typical questions asked of business school applicants, and learn some other helpful tips for students getting ready for an interview:

Typical Questions Asked During Business School Interviews
For students who want to study business, interview questions can range from the academic to the personal. Generally, the official conducting the interview starts by asking a student why they want to attend that school. The interviewer is looking for specific answers to this question. For instance, a student may bring up certain internship opportunities available due to the school’s longtime relationship with a variety of companies. Or a student may mention the school’s average class size of just 30 students. These answers show that the candidate is familiar with what the school has to offer.

Another typical question asked in business school interviews concerns a student’s strengths and weaknesses. This question reveals the character, motivation, and work ethic of a student. The answer helps to reveal a student’s suitability for the study program. It’s a good idea for a student to mention what they are doing to improve in any weak areas.

Generally, students are asked about their career plans and how a degree from business school will help them in the pursuit of a particular profession. Students will also be asked about their academic accomplishments and their leadership skills. All of these answers and others help an interviewer to envision the candidate as a student in the business school.

How to Prep for the Interview
One of the best ways to prepare for interview questions is to review a school’s website. Most school websites include information about class size and faculty member qualifications. Also, there are statistics on the number of students who find jobs after graduation. This is an efficient way to find specific facts.

Students should practice answering potential questions with a friend or family member. The person playing the interviewer can offer helpful suggestions on how the student can improve upon certain answers. Plus, students can use this opportunity to come up with questions for the interviewer about the school and its courses. Our consultants at Veritas Prep have the skills and experience to assist students as they prep for their business school interview. Our online experts have inside knowledge about the admissions process.

What to Bring to the Interview
Most of the time, a business school has a copy of a student’s résumé at the interview, but it’s a good idea for students to bring a few extra copies of their résumé with them too, since there might be additional officials in the interview room. Students may also want to bring a copy of their GMAT or GRE test scores as well as a copy of their latest transcript. A student may not need to take any of these documents out of their folder, but it’s a good idea to have them on hand just in case.

What to Wear to the Interview
Dressing in an appropriate way plays a part in a student’s success in an interview at a school of business. Interview questions and answers are the most important elements of an interview, but a student must also make a good visual impression. It’s best for a student to wear conservative clothes and have a well-groomed appearance. A student doesn’t have to invest in designer clothes to make a positive impression on an interviewer – just look neat and professional.

Our MBA consultants at Veritas Prep guide students through the process of applying to business school. We have the resources to prepare students for the GMAT, advise them on their admissions application, and offer strategies for success in business school interviews. Call or email Veritas Prep today and let us partner with you on the path toward an advanced degree in business.

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 FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

3 Common Mistakes MBA Applicants Make Choosing Essay Topics

Law School Applicant SurveyOne of the most undervalued steps in the business school essay-writing process is to make sure the essay ties in with all of the other components of the MBA application – the resume, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and GMAT scores. In the process and stress of making the major life decision of attending business school, many applicants often anchor their essays by one of the common factors below, and thus, lose out on presenting a stronger overall profile.

Let’s examine these mistakes one by one:

Professional Domain
A candidate’s pre-MBA industry, company, and job function are all important, so it is understandable that these may be top of mind when brainstorming for examples and highlights to include in your essay. When it comes to the MBA application essay, however, it is always best to consider mixing in different elements of your life experiences – ones that would help complement your resume and not just elaborate on what the reader will already glean from it.

Extracurricular activities, especially those that are not related to your profession, help show a multidimensional personality, so it would be wise to discuss the ones you are involved with in your essays. For instance, an accomplished banker with excellent academics may be better off sharing leadership experiences with his mountain hiking group rather than detailing how he was able to do well in the CFA exams. In this case, valuable space in the essays can be better used to show additional dimensions of the applicant’s profile.

Most Performed Activity
Another common error, especially when creating your resume and even preparing for your interview, is to focus on the activities you perform most frequently. As critical as operational and maintenance tasks are, it would be better to play up more attention-grabbing tasks. For example, it would be better to showcase how you led the financial review for your company’s new distribution model or new product lines than to describe the regular payroll disbursements you assist with.

In short, when asked to describe what you do, it is not always best to prioritize your activities by the number of hours you spend on them. Instead, choose the ones that would be the most exciting to discuss, and the ones that will highlight more of your strengths.

Technical Accomplishments
Applicants from technical fields typically want to share their most technically challenging work. Sharing complexity does demonstrate deep expertise, and that your company trusts you to take on tremendous responsibilities, however you must also consider if there are better examples that would better showcase your experiences with collaboration and leadership.

Remember, the MBA is geared towards developing your ability to work with people, whether it is through motivating teams of people, mentoring individuals, or managing challenging relationships. Thus, details on your technical accomplishments should be shared in a way that is understandable to non-industry readers. Details on these more technical achievements should be descriptive enough to show impact and expertise, but concise enough that you still have room to display the key transferable skills you learned from this accomplishment, such as leadership and teamwork.

Following the tips above should help you decide how to use the limited space in your MBA application and present a complete picture of your unique personality.

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

Written by Edison Cu, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for INSEAD. You can read more articles by him here

All About College Admissions Interviews (and How to Ace Yours!)

InterviewIf you are applying to any schools that offer admissions interviews, it’s likely the interview invitation will come shortly after you submit your application. With application deadlines occurring right now and in the coming weeks, it wouldn’t hurt to start preparing for this important part of the application process.

Admissions Offices typically employ their large alumni base to conduct admissions interviews. These people are located around the world and can interview applicants based on geographic location. Alumni interviewers are given a “guide” on what to evaluate, not necessarily specific questions to ask. This means that not all interviews will be the same, and each alumni interviewer will use their own questions and tactics to evaluate the same criteria:

  1. Personal attributes
  2. Involvement & impact
  3. Academic preparedness
  4. Overall fit for the institution

For a successful admissions interview, I recommend practicing your responses to questions about:

  • Your personal academic interests
  • Your personal extracurricular interests
  • Your interest in school-specific programs/opportunities

Additionally, it’s important to know that most alumni interviewers will not review your application before the interview. If they don’t see if before the interview, they’ll never see it. Remember, the best interviews end up being more of a conversation and less of a question/answer session!

In preparation for your interviews, I would recommend coming up with 3–5 questions to ask your interviewer about their school experience. This is an opportunity for you to learn more about the institution as well, and having prepared questions is often regarded positively. Don’t forget to remain professional in all of your email correspondence with your interviewer as well. Their evaluation of you begins at the first communication.

If you’re interested in coaching for your college admissions interviews, feel free to check out our admissions consulting services! We’d be happy to help you ace your college interview!

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 request a free MBA Admissions Consultation for personalized advice for your unique application situation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTube, 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.

Applying to Business School with a Gap in Employment on Your Resume

Successful ApplicantOne of the biggest red flags Admissions Committees encounter during the business school application process is an employment gap on an applicant’s resume. This is unfortunate because for those afflicted, this is often an area that is usually out of the applicant’s control.

Most people are not looking to have an employment gap on their resume, and such periods of joblessness are usually the result of a series of unfortunate events. This problem was much bigger during the global economic crisis a few years back, but the effects of this event still remain on many resumes.

If you have a work gap on your resume, know that it is not the end of the world and that you are not alone on this front – how you mitigate this blip on your resume will be more important to MBA programs than the gap itself – however, don’t completely ignore this issue altogether. Do not treat a gap in employment as something that will not be a concern for the Admissions Committee.

At the very least, if it is a material employment gap, this issue should be addressed in the optional essay. As with most topics you discuss in your optional essay, your explanation and clarification of the employment gap should be concise and to the point. Admissions Committees are not looking for a long-winded string of excuses here – be direct, take ownership of the incident, and identify lessons you learned from it, if appropriate.

Another way to confront an employment gap is through one of the more traditional MBA application essays. If the reason behind the gap or the results of the gap have had a profound impact on your life or career (and it makes sense given the essay prompt), it may be appropriate to take a deeper dive into your situation. A full-blown response like this requires a more nuanced degree of thoughtfulness, so it will be key to do some self-reflection and really identify the underpinnings of your employment gap.

The business school interview represents another area where your employment gap can be addressed by a member of the Admissions Committee. This is probably the most direct way your employment gap will be explored. Keep your explanation simple and avoid making excuses or blaming others. A major mistake many in this position make is disparaging an old employer or an ex-boss. This may actually come across as unprofessional and it generally leaves a bad impression on the interviewer.

Do not let a past employment gap set the tone for your future success at business school. Be prepared to address your history, and take ownership of it in a way that positions yourself for success in the MBA 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 FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ 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.

Know Before You Go: What to Expect When You Go to a College Admissions Interview

InterviewFor some students, attending a college admissions interview is part of the process of getting into a school. An admissions interview gives college officials the chance to learn about the goals and qualifications of a student. In turn, it gives a student the opportunity to express their great interest in studying at that particular school. Not surprisingly, students can expect to answer lots of questions during this meeting. That’s why it’s a good idea for them to study practice questions for college interview day.

Though no two interviews are exactly alike, there are some questions that are commonly asked by college officials. Students may want to take note of this collection of typical school interview questions so they can prepare to offer sincere, intelligent answers:

A Student’s Choice
“Why do you want to attend our school?” This is one of the most common admissions interview questions. A student should be as specific as possible when answering this question. For instance, a student who plans to study business may point out that the school has solid relationships with several companies that offer internships to students. Perhaps this student wants to work as an intern for one of those companies. Another student might express the desire to learn from a world-renowned biology professor who teaches at the college.

Students would be wise to go online and visit colleges’ websites to find out more particulars about the schools prior to visiting them. Information on a school’s website can help students answer any number of good college interview questions.

Our admissions consultants at Veritas Prep are available to help students in a variety of ways as they move toward acceptance into college. Our consultants have practical experience with the admissions process and know what college officials are looking for in a potential student. We review college applications and suggest changes that focus the spotlight on a student’s talents and achievements.

Personality Questions
An individual can learn a lot about a student by asking personality-related interview questions. College officials may ask about a student’s strengths and weaknesses. When answering this question, a student should place the focus on their strengths. It’s also a good idea for a student to offer examples of how they are trying to improve in weaker areas. For instance, a student may say that they have some challenges delegating tasks as the leader of a team project for school. The student could add that they are taking a course on leadership and reading a few specific books written by successful leaders to learn some helpful strategies.

Interviewers may also ask students to choose adjectives that are self-descriptive. Students should be honest when selecting these adjectives. Remember that an ambitious student can be confident without sounding arrogant.

Questions About a Future Career
Many school interview questions have to do with a student’s plans after graduation. Officials want to know how a student will use their college education in a future career. As an example, a student who plans to study art history may use the knowledge learned in college courses to prepare for a career as the curator of an art museum. Another student may explain that earning a marketing degree will prepare them to start their own retail clothing business. Once again, a student must be as specific as possible in answering questions about a future career.

A Student’s Questions
After answering a lot of good college interview questions, students often get the chance to ask some of their own. Students can prep for this portion of the interview before the meeting by coming up with a few questions about the school. They may want to ask about the various resources available in the library for individuals studying a particular subject. Students sometimes ask about the services offered by the school’s career resource center. Lots of students inquire about opportunities to study abroad for a semester.

Interviewees should ask about two or three things that aren’t covered on the school’s website. Students who ask thoughtful questions are likely to be remembered by college officials as the admissions process moves on.

Students who’d like the assistance of a professional Veritas Prep consultant when applying for college can contact us via email or phone. Our knowledgeable consultants offer tips and advice to students so they can make the best possible impression on college admissions officials.

Do you need more help navigating the college admissions process? Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

MBA Interviews: How to Answer the “Where Else Are You Applying?” Question

MBA AdmissionsUndertaking the interview process for business school applications can be a nerve-wracking experience for many MBA candidates. Along with the excitement of having the opportunity to make your case to the representative of a school in person, comes the anxiety of potentially saying the wrong thing.

For the most part, as an interviewee, you will know what is coming during the interview – most interviewers will ask you about your career progression, life experiences, career goals, and interest in pursuing an MBA at their school – but one specific oddball question often sneaks in for many programs every year. What other schools are you applying to?

This questions presents a confusing challenge to interviewees, and figuring out how to approach this seemingly benign question tends to cause more anxiety than comfort. Let’s explore a few tips on how to best address the question of where else you are applying:

1) Answer the Question
This is not the time to be philosophical about your opposition to sharing this information with the Admissions Committee or the moral conundrum this question may put you in. The more of an issue you seem to have with this question, the more trouble you will be in with your interviewer. Answer the question directly and prepare to move on to the next one.

2) Answer Strategically
Do not feel like you have to list out every school you plan to apply to when this question is posed. Be strategic here, and only share the schools that align with the applicant narrative you are pushing. Out of the schools you are applying to, I would say pick the schools that relate most to the one you are interviewing with, and avoid bringing up any unrelated schools you may also be applying to. The Admissions Committee will be assessing the consistency of the narrative you are spinning and your thought process. If you are telling them you want a small school experience at Tuck, then don’t tell them you plan to apply to HBS, otherwise everything else you have said will ring hollow. So just make sure you are being consistent and that your overall story makes sense.

3) Answer Concisely:
There is nothing worse than a candidate rambling through a long-winded response during an interview, and this gets even worse when a tough question is involved.  Avoid the potential for the perception of a disingenuous response by keeping it tight. Being concise is your friend here, and limits the opportunity for any potentially misplaced words.

Ultimately, this question is not a major source of information for the interviewer and only really trips up the anxious, nervous and unprepared. So make sure you are none of those three descriptors and use the above tips to knock this simple question out of the park!

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 FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ 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?”

When prompted to discuss their weaknesses, many MBA applicants will ask themselves two questions before starting the essay:

  • What should I avoid mentioning?
  • What are they (the admissions committee) looking for?

If you can answer these clearly and honestly, you will be able to craft a thoughtful and compelling response that will enhance your application. Let’s dig into each question:

What should I avoid mentioning?

It’s easy to fret about revealing a fatal flaw that dooms your application, but avoid the temptation to respond with an obviously false weakness. Fans of the TV show The Office should know: Michael Scott’s “I work too hard, I care too much, and sometimes I can be too invested in my job” is not going to win you any points. By making you appear unrealistically perfect, it doesn’t actually answer the question, and it diminishes the strengths and accomplishments you’ve discussed elsewhere in your MBA application. Additionally, it portrays you as incapable of honest self-evaluation, something you should strive to avoid.

Another mistake is to attempt to externalize the weaknesses you choose to discuss. Attributing flaws to your work environment, personal circumstances, or other factors comes across to the reader as reckless rationalization, and it will not add value to the narrative you’re trying to create. It also shifts the conversation into a negative tone, which runs counter to the strong, optimistic vibe you want to be associated with.

Finally, avoid mentioning weaknesses outside of your academic or professional life. Don’t discuss your Netflix binges or your ice cream addiction. They aren’t relevant to your future career, and it’s hard to spin them into influences on the MBA applicant you are today. You need to be personal, but not that personal.

What are they looking for?

Admissions committees are seeking applicants who will greatly benefit from attending their school’s MBA program while also contributing positively to the experience of fellow MBA students. With that in mind, questions about weaknesses should be used to demonstrate positive character traits such as self-awareness, ability to learn from failures, and honest acceptance of feedback and criticism.

To successfully answer this question, identify specific skills and gaps in knowledge that you will need to address to achieve your post-MBA goals. Ideally, you will target them to the MBA program for which you’re writing this response. Think in terms of the school’s courses, culture, and academic community, and reflect on how they fit your potential areas for growth.

An effective answer will put forth honest self-reflection that shows genuine interest in a school’s MBA program and convinces the admissions committee that you have thoroughly researched what the school has to offer. By demonstrating your ability to benefit from, and contribute to, an MBA program through your personal narrative, you will help convince the reader of your fit with your target school. Providing details about steps you have taken to address your identified weaknesses (or how you are in the process of doing so) will help demonstrate how proactive you are and how greatly you will benefit from this MBA program in particular.

What do I do?

With everything discussed so far in mind, here are some tips for effectively addressing your weaknesses:

Be honest

Falling back on cliches (like Michael Scott’s) will only detract from your application. Providing specific flaws and addressing them earnestly will give you the chance to discuss the influence they’ve had on who you are today. Every applicant has flaws, but not every applicant will use them as a chance to display who they truly are.

Be personal

Choose and discuss weaknesses that are yours. Avoid deflecting blame onto coworkers, bosses, or others. The question is about you, and trying to rationalize them as the fault of others takes away from your ability to provide honest self-assessment. By addressing personal flaws, you have the chance to portray your self-awareness.

Be professional

You’re discussing your background in your application to a professionally-focused business school, so make sure to keep the weaknesses you choose to discuss work-related. You can discuss flaws that manifest in areas outside of your career (for example, a struggle with organizational skills), but be sure to tie them into your professional life and future ambitions.

Be proactive

Any weakness you choose to discuss gives you the opportunity to show the steps you’ve taken to address the issue. Struggled with quantitative work in undergrad? Discuss how your current job has given you the opportunity to improve those skills. Have a hard time being assertive or taking responsibility? Find examples of situations where you’ve done so, and how you learned from those experiences. By treating your weaknesses as opportunities for growth, you have the chance to portray yourself as an applicant who recognizes their areas for improvement.

Be even-handed when discussing strengths AND weaknesses

You may encounter a question that prompts you to discuss strengths and weaknesses in a single response. Many applicants will spend a majority of the essay discussing their strengths with only a cursory mention of their weaknesses. This leads to a couple of problems: it appears that they’re trying to gloss over their flaws, and it doesn’t allow them to make a proper case as to why they will benefit from their target MBA program.

Look at your weaknesses as a chance to enhance your application by presenting compelling reasons for both your interest in the program and the value you can provide to your fellow MBA students. Discussing your strengths and weaknesses in equal measure gives you the best opportunity to make your case persuasively.

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 admissions interview in the MBA application 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 and your MBA goals, your interview skills may be a little rusty, and your admissions interview strategy may still not be solid (or, maybe you never fully developed them in the first place).

Understandably, most applicants see the MBA admissions interview as the most nerve-wracking part of the application process. The face to face and live nature of this portion can be stressful to many, particularly for those who are less experienced presenting themselves in this format or less comfortable thinking on the fly (after hours and hours of essay rewrites and edits to get my story perfect, now I have to explain it to a stranger in real time?!). Preparation with key MBA admissions interview themes, examples, common responses, and delivery will greatly reduce anxiety with the admissions interview.

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

1) You come off as confident without being arrogant. Many MBA admissions 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 a little humility is always appealing. Candidates are advised to put their best foot forward in admissions interviews. This is true but make sure this indeed your foot! Refrain from making up stories, stealing credit, and shifting blame, these tactics are very risky and will negatively affect how you come across (twitches and micro-expressions are a telltale sign to the interviewers that something is amiss). You do not have to be perfect or be the best. Interviewers are looking for authenticity and self-awareness, somebody who will be able to work well with others and be open to growing during their MBA experience. Sharing areas where you know made mistakes and where you can grow is the first step towards demonstrating them. For reference, see how former US President George W. Bush was able to use his gaffes and pedestrian academic track record (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpDJb3ZQu0Y) as jokes to charmingly build relatability to the masses in spite of his privileged upbringing. Coming off as a real, authentic human being makes it easier for the admissions interviewer to root for your success than putting forth an illusion of perfection, which will just shatter your admissions interview’s chances of success.

2) Your answers are succinct. Perhaps the surest sign that a business school admissions 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. Practicing your answers and preparing a basic structure on how you organize them would greatly help your admissions interview. Organizing with a list, e.g. “my 3 strengths are creativity, persistence, and collaborating with teams” is a great way to start your answers with organization and structure. You can then signpost with an example for each, imagine pausing to start a new paragraph, this prevents you from rambling, and keeps the admissions interview on track by sustaining the listener’s attention better. You may also imagine the way football coaches would summarize key reminders on the whiteboard for easy reference. You should have this in your mind to guide your interview. If you are unsure of where to go with your answers or if you should share further details, you may politely clarify with your interviewer, “Did I answer your question?”, or “Do you want me share more details?”. Respecting your interviewer’s time and attention, while clearly presenting yourself is a good path towards admissions interview success.

3) You manage to get all of your application themes on the table. If you go into the MBA admissions 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 admissions interview! MBA admissions 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. A good MBA admissions interview strategy would also be to prepare examples that can touch on 2-3 key qualities. For example, leading a new product development in a foreign country can show leadership, innovation, and cross-cultural collaboration. Having 3-4 examples that you know you can use several ways can greatly reduce stress and awkward moments during you admissions interview. Some interviewers can prompt you with “Can you give another example?” after you have shared your carefully prepared first one. Ideally, your examples would show a wider range across work functions, geography, and accomplishments. Facilitating admissions interviews, we know that hearing the same project come up again and again during the interview is not as interesting as hearing a new story. Aside from keeping the interviewer engaged, it would be best to present a wider range of experience, it also increases the chances of hitting a topic that the interviewer appreciates and relates to better. In addition to getting all your application themes on the table, you want to leave the admissions interview with a sense of personal connection with the interviewer.

4) 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 business school admissions 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. Reading non-verbal cues, a spark of excitement through the interviewer’s body language such as a smile, a nod, or a lean forward can prompt you to discuss an example or a subject further. This would help you make a stronger and deeper impression during your admissions interview. Showing interest and respect to your interviewer is also essential, remember that this is an actual conversation, your interviewer would also have pride, ego, and even personal biases. Thus, be in the moment and responsive to the conversation on hand, and not be too focused on delivering a prepared material. Whether we like it or not, the personal rapport with the interviewer will affect how your admissions interview is evaluated. Even your body language, and how you interact leading up to the admissions interview and afterwards can impact your chances.

5) … 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 MBA admissions interview. Make sure that your themes are covered and that your interviewer covers everything he needs to. 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!

Speaking of politics, watching politicians, particularly presidential candidates delivering campaign speeches and debating can give you great insights into the tips discussed in this article. Preparing talking points, sharing personal stories, visual examples, substantiating with figures, and building a personal connection with the audience are all key elements of the MBA admissions interview process. Look carefully and you will see how flaws, and mistakes are turned into assets by making the candidates feel more human, relatable, and likeable. Take it with a grain of salt but watching post-debate analysis by political pundits on both sides can help accelerate your learning curve on the rationale for the carefully crafted wordings, deliveries, and responses, as well as the unexpected errors. Many of these observations are interestingly applicable to your MBA admissions interview, too.

Finally, make it part of your MBA admissions interview strategy to outline key themes, highlighting and recapping them at key points. This allows your admissions interviewer to easily make notes of your profile. Your interviewer will be making an interview report on his general impressions of your key qualities, and why you should pass the admissions interview. Make it easy for him to justify an “Admit” -and to clearly summarize to the rest of the committee the salient reasons for making that recommendation!

If you’re now preparing for your business school admissions interview and want some expert help, take a look at Veritas Prep’s MBA admission interview preparation services. An experienced consultant who has seen the best practices and common errors from hundreds of applicants will save you valuable time and reduce your anxiety – putting you in the best shape for your admissions interview. Insights on what to highlight in your profile and how to best tailor your answers to best fit what the target program is looking for are also important contributions that your consultant can make towards your MBA admissions interview success. Additionally, the book Your MBA Game Plan contains dozens of sample MBA admissions interview questions (and answer strategies for each) to help you get ready. Good luck – you’re made it this far in the MBA admissions process, so now let’s finish the job!

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.

And as always, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!