It is always exciting to receive the invitation for an MBA admissions interview. It means that the admissions committee is interested in you. They would like to get to know you better before they make the final evaluation of your application for admission. Your performance during the interview is also important for scholarship awards.
Each business school has its own interview format and questions. However, there are some major topics which you will be asked to discuss with your interviewer, no matter how the question will be phrased.
Why the interview?
The aim of the interview is for the admissions committee (AdCom) members to meet you in person and get to know you better. Once they have gained an impression of you from your written application, the interviewers will take this opportunity to uncover more details about everything that you have included in your application form - CV/resume, essays, letters of reference, transcripts and test scores. Although time flies during the interview, you will have the chance to elaborate on each topic, add the flavour of real life to your story, reveal what you are passionate about, and demonstrate your attitude, communication style and level of spoken English.
The school wants to make sure you will fit their programme and contribute to the class. They also want to be confident that you have the potential to be successful during your studies and in your post-MBA career. Schools want to be proud with their alumni, don’t they?
Short and long-term career goals are usually a subject in the application essays. However, the interview is the best way for the AdComs to see what you are really passionate about and committed to. It’s also a chance for them to assess how realistic your expectations are and get a sense of your action plan for career growth. The interviewers want to make sure that their school and programme will be an effective spring-board for you.
Why an MBA?
There is no doubt that any goal can be approached in more than one way. MBA programmes are just one of the paths that professionals can follow to grow as managers and business leaders. The interviewer wants to hear your arguments about how an MBA will be instrumental to your goals. Specific examples bring a lot of value. Share past experiences, career path, strengths and areas of improvement and how an MBA programme matches each of them to ensure your development.
Why this business school?
There are thousands of business schools and MBA programmes around the world. Each has its own character. Why did you select this one? What were your selection criteria? Give specific examples of how this school meets each of your criteria in terms of curriculum, student and class profile, career services, faculty and teaching methods, networking and international exposure, campus facilities, alumni network, and anything else which matters to you.
Whether you are applying to other schools and how they differ from this one may be another relevant topic to discuss. It sounds a bit tricky, but this is a great opportunity for you to show how each school is different and can meet your aspirations. And there is nothing wrong with applying to more than one school. This is a natural part of the process. Don’t be embarrassed by this question.
You are going to business school to gain knowledge, skills, to network and to make the best return on your invested time and money. You are going there to learn from peers, professors and practitioners. But they also need to learn from you. So you should have something worthwhile to contribute, as well as the attitude to share.
Just like an HR department in a company, the aim of the admissions committee is to put together a great team that can perform well, achieve and make a difference during and after the MBA programme. You know what the school brings to the table. AdComs want to see what you can offer. What is unique about your experience, personality, network, achievements, international exposure, community service, hobbies, and dreams?
Strengths, weaknesses/areas for improvement, uniqueness, team roles, leadership aspirations and potential, involvement, hobbies, communication style…personality. The AdComs want to get to know you. And the best part is that you don’t have to make anything up. Just be who you truly are in full colour.
The interview is a conversation. You can ask questions as well. Usually at the end of the interview you will be invited to ask any questions about the programme and the school. Take this opportunity. You have already read the school’s website and other promotional materials. There certainly is something that you are curious and impatient to learn more about. This also shows what you care about most.
Technical questions - such as when you will be notified of the decision – are usually discussed separately at the very end of the interview or at the start.
These questions form the skeleton of each b-school interview. And you should start brainstorming most of the answers before you even apply for admission to a school. Why not even now? Actually, I am sure that you have already started. Didn’t you? Seize this moment - think, dream, take notes, draw. Start your interview prep early.