What are the most common mistakes I can make in an MBA interview?
I will be applying to business school in 2020, but interviews have always made me nervous.
What mistakes do interviewees tend to make during the interview, and how can I avoid doing the same?
This week's question was submitted by an anonymous reader.
This week's Applicant Question is answered by Kate Richardson, senior consultant at Admissions consultancy, mbaMission.
With solid preparation, I believe you can avoid many of the common mistakes.
1. Not showing thoughtfulness about your reasons for an MBA
No matter which school you are interviewing with, you must be prepared to explain a) what are your post-MBA career goals? b) why do you need an MBA to achieve those goals? and c) why is now the best time for you to pursue this path?
To avoid this mistake, first, go back and read the essays you submitted. You likely addressed these questions already and since many interviews are solely resume-based, your interviewer will not have read those essays.
Next, for your goals, make sure you can identify an immediate post-MBA target role, target industry, and at least two target companies.
Be prepared to explain a backup short-term goal too, and your long-term vision or ideal job (think five to 10 years out). Next, identify two to three specific learning goals or skills you want to build during the MBA that will help you succeed along that path.
These should not be generic goals like ‘learning to lead’; deeply consider, for instance, which areas of leadership you need to improve upon or how you will need to demonstrate a different kind of leadership in the future.
Finally, honestly reflect on what sparked your interest in applying at this point–are there personal, external, or industry factors prompting you to apply now? What is your alternative if you do not get your MBA, and why is the MBA a better route?
Be prepared to share your thinking on these types of questions.
2. Not demonstrating true interest and enthusiasm for the school
I tell applicants all the time that you must nail the ‘Why this school?’ question!
Write out a bullet point list of three key reasons why the school is a good fit for you, then write down three resources at the school (for instance, courses, clubs, conferences, or professors) that align with each reason.
To do this exercise, you must have done your research on the school. Scour the school’s website, memorize course and club names, attend admissions events or information sessions, talk to students and alumni.
You can reference that research and those interactions with the school in your response. Finally, run these reasons past someone who knows the school to make sure the reasons do not come across as too cliché.
Check out another Applicant Question: Why Was My MBA Application Declined? 4 Common Reasons
3. Talking too much or too fast
Most interviews will start with an introductory question, such as 'tell me about yourself, or 'walk me through your resume'.
Try to keep this response to no more than three minutes. For other questions, try to adopt a logical framework or structure (such as STAR) to prevent yourself from rambling.
Finally, it can be hard to honestly self-assess whether you talk too much or too fast, so this is one reason why mock interviews can be very helpful.
Arrange at least one, ideally a few, with a friend, colleague, mentor, or admissions consultant, and directly ask your mock interviewer for feedback on your timing and pacing.
4: Not having questions prepared for your interviewer
At the end of most interviews, you will have a chance to ask questions of your interviewer.
First, research ahead of time who typically conducts interviews at your school. Have multiple questions prepared in case you interview with a current student, an alumnus, or an admissions representative.
Do not ask questions that can easily be answered online (like what are the required courses?). Rather, focus your questions on your interviewer’s experience.
For a student, questions could include: Why did you choose to attend this program? What has been the most valuable course you have taken so far?)
On a final note, having helped hundreds of applicants prepare, and conducted MBA interviews myself, I know that it is common to have some nerves at this stage of the process.
Ultimately, your goals in the interview are to be yourself and demonstrate your excitement about the school. While practice is advised, and you should do your research to ensure you understand the school’s interviewing style, be cautious not to be too scripted or rehearsed.
The interview should feel like a natural conversation between you and a trusted mentor or colleague. Good luck!
Ask an Admissions Expert a Question
Next week, you'll have the chance to ask Scott Edinburgh, founder of Personal MBA Coach, anything you want about getting into business school.
Scott founded Personal MBA Coach in 2008, and has helped hundreds of applicants into their ideal business school program, with a 96% success rate. Prior to his admissions consulting work, Scott occupied various roles in consulting, financial services, and corporate development.
He currently serves on the board of directors for AIGAC: the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants.
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