How to Ace the MBA Admissions Interview

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you’ve probably received at least one interview invite from one of your dream schools. Now that you’ve made it this far, make sure you seal the deal by getting yourself an offer of admission. Here is some advice on what you can do to ace the admissions interview for your dream business school.

1. Understand what you’re going to be asked.

I remember sitting in the Harvard Kennedy School library cramming for my HBS interview. It was 2006, and I was so sure they were going to ask me about the mortgage crisis, my stock portfolio (nonexistent at the time), and all kinds of other kinds of business news from The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. None of those things happened. But I just had no idea what they were going to ask me. One of the best free resources for preparing for MBA interviews on your own is the FREE Clear Admit MBA Interview Reports. (Navigate to the sidebar to see the reports separated by school.) I think it’s awesome that people are sharing their experiences and providing more transparency into what can be a nervewracking process.

2. Know what you wrote about in your applications.

It’s been a few weeks or maybe even a few months since you turned in your applications. You may not be 100% clear on what you wrote about in your Harvard essay versus what you wrote about in your Darden essay. Be sure to reread your application a few days or even a few hours before your interview so that you know what you said to the school. That way, if you get asked about something that you wrote about, your answer won’t start with a blank stare. This is another reason why you should always save a PDF copy of your completed applications.

3. Have a (recorded) mock interview.

This doesn’t have to be a super-fancy setup. All you need is a friend or work colleague to practice with and a laptop with voice recording software (e.g. Garage Band on a Mac or Voice Recorder on a PC/Windows computer). No need to buy mics or even to purchase any third-party software; just use what came on your computer.

Have your interviewer interview you for at least 30 consecutive minutes without breaking character. The way my team does mock interviews is that it is a one-hour session: 30 minutes of interview, 10 minutes of feedback, and 20 minutes for response re-dos. We score them 1-5 on each question (5 is best) and give them feedback on their responses and interview demeanor. Our clients are consistently very happy with the mock interview sessions they do with us, and they are also pretty fun! We don’t have a special mock interview package; all you have to do is purchase one hour of hourly coaching and we will pair you with one of our consultants for a mock interview that will get you ready to rock it.

I don’t recommend that you do a ton of mock interviews, because I still want you to sound natural and confident (rather than like a very prepared robot) in the actual interview.

4. Suit up and don’t wear anything “interesting.”

Most of you have a big advantage over me in that you’ve actually been out in the work world before you have your MBA interview. I was a senior in college, and we all know how lazy-sloppy-chic most college students dress. I bought a (brown?!) suit, my first pair of snow boots (with fake fur, of course), and was like, “Hope this works…I’ll just change my shoes in the bathroom.” Thankfully, I distracted the interviewer with my dazzling answers. 🙂 Don’t be like clueless senior year Kaneisha. Wear a suit and don’t wear anything interesting; no fancy cufflinks that stand out, no dangling chandelier earrings, no bling bling tie holder thing (I don’t even know what it’s called). Don’t wear remarkably fancy shoes or a tie that is immediately identifiable as some sort of ultra-luxury brand. Just wear a professional suit and a smile.

5. Have questions for the interviewer.

This part is muy importante, amigos. Near the end of your interview, your interviewer will ask if you have any questions for her. You should have questions for her.

Here’s some Ninja-level interview advice for you: Ask subjective questions with a positive spin rather than objective questions.

By subjective questions, I mean ask questions that relate to the interviewer’s experience and opinions rather than asking about specific fact-based or detail-oriented questions.

Ask: What did you enjoy most about your experience here as a student (if the interviewer is an alum)? (Note: They will always say the people, so you may want to add “besides the people” or something like that to get an actual interesting answer.

Don’t Ask: I saw that there are going to be annual treks to China offered. Can you tell me more about that?

This puts the interviewer in a position of looking stupid or possibly having to talk about something that doesn’t interest her. Everyone likes to talk about themselves to some degree or at least share their opinions. After listening to a parade of applicants chatter on about themselves, it’s going to be refreshing for the interviewer to get to talk a little bit about herself.

Other good questions to ask:

  • How do you think the [insert school name] community could be even better?
  • What do you think surprises new students the most when they start the program?
  • What do you think is an undervalued or hidden gem here on campus? (This kind of question has the potential to create a “we’re both in on it” type of bond between both of you.)

Do not ask:

  • personal questions such as “What were your grades like when you went here?” or “Was being in a relationship while you were here hard?”
  • simple questions that can be answered by looking at the website
  • questions you don’t actually care about the answer to (The interviewer will be able to see your eyes glazing over in boredom.)

6. Relax and be yourself.

You’ve been asked in for  an interviewer, because the admissions committee likes you and is interested in admitting you. Your job is to make it easy for them to admit you. Be yourself. Don’t lie. Don’t try to be some kind of person you think they are looking for. Be your best self. That is more than good enough. You will end up exactly where you are supposed to be.

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