By Michael Sugarman
The business school application has been intense up until this point. It’s a great sign that you have an interview, but this is hardly the end. A lot is riding on this MBA interview, and eager candidates tend to be quite nervous about it.
What can you expect?
As a working professional, you’re probably used to a specific style of vague question that job interviewers ask—What’s your greatest weakness? When was a time you had to show leadership? Can you describe yourself from the perspective of your best friend?
The MBA interview is different. You’re effectively pitching the MBA program you’re talking to directly on why you should be part of its academic community, and how you’ll make it proud out in the real world once you’ve earned your degree.
This article will outline four big mistakes to avoid in an MBA interview. Some of these may come across as common sense to you but remember, this is a unique situation—you’ll want to go in incredibly well-prepared.
Here are the four big mistakes to avoid in an MBA interview:
1. Winging it
You have a lot riding on this interview. You may have top GMAT scores, a beautiful statement of purpose, and enviable letters of recommendations.
But if you show up unprepared for questions you should reasonably expect to be asked, your interviewer can tell. You do not want to come across like you aren’t taking this interview seriously.
Fortunately, you can predict some questions they will ask and prepare answers in advance.
Take enough time to prepare so you can come up with standout answers to the most common MBA interview questions—it helps to stage a mock interview with a friend or mentor.
Now, if you’ve made it as far as the interview stage, obviously your application has impressed this admissions office. Don’t drive yourself crazy about this interview, but a healthy amount of stress can ensure that you take it seriously.
2. Lack of research
Every business school has different protocol for conducting interviews. Given the fact that you won’t be in control of the interview format or environment, you may as well know what you’re getting yourself into—remember, preparation begets confidence.
Preparing for the specific interview situation will help you ignore environmental factor and focus solely on presenting yourself to the absolute best of your abilities.
3. Thinking this will be easy
Hey, maybe this will be easy for you. But you need to be ready for some tough questions about your academics, and be aware that you will more than likely be thrown curveball questions: Why did you get a D in two separate philosophy classes? Why weren’t you on any exec boards for your extracurriculars? What will you do with your business degree to address domestic child poverty?
Again, reading through those interview reports is a great way to prepare yourself for a grilling, but get someone who knows you well to give you some tricky questions in that mock interview you’ve planned. You want to prepare yourself for the shock of being asked something you have no idea how to answer to. Minimizing your opportunities to get blindsided will maximize your confidence during the interview.
4. Coming off as arrogant
Yes, this is business school, and yes, you’re going to encounter some arrogant people. But no interviewer is going to want to get the impression that you’re full of yourself. Remember that you are attending this MBA program to learn, and learning takes a serious amount of humility about who you are and how far you have to go.
Instead, prepare your key selling points and uptalk what makes you a truly unique candidate and driven person. Talk about yourself in the interview like you would to your mom’s friend who hasn’t seen you in years. She really wants to know about your successes and high points in your life, but you want her going home and telling her husband, “wow, Sheila’s kid is really full of it these days.”
Michael Sugarman is a Senior Tutor for MyGuru, a provider of online GMAT tutoring which helps students build customized study plans and focuses on a mix of core concepts and skills development and GMAT-specific test-taking strategies. Mike holds a BA from Columbia and scored in the 99th percentile on the GMAT, GRE and SAT, and scored a perfect 36 on the ACT. He has been tutoring privately for over five years in test prep, math, English, and reading comprehension.