If you are hoping to get into an MBA program, it is likely that there is one element that you are positively dreading: the interview. This part of the application process is so unpredictable, because you don’t know who will ask the questions and how, how you will feel, how they will feel, and so on. Additionally, different programs attach different levels of importance to the interview. Below are some tips to master your MBA interview, so you no longer have to worry about it too much.
1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Never go into an interview unprepared. Preparing yourself means:
• Reviewing your application, so that you can remember what you highlighted more than anything. Some business schools, including Harvard, base their questions on your application.
• Reviewing the different questions that you may be asked. Check online forums and blogs for this. Practice your answers so that you can give a focused, concise, enthusiastic response.
• Coming up with questions that you want to ask your interviewer. Asking about research that the school is involved in is a very good question, and also the approach that they take with regards to the area that you are specifically interested in.
• Practicing with others, for instance, holding mock interviews with questions they are likely to ask you.
• Researching the philosophy of the school and thinking about how you can align that with your personal interests.
Some of the answers you need to prepare yourself for in particular include:
• What is your career plan?
• What are your future goals?
• Why do you want to get an MBA degree?
• Why have you chosen this specific school and program?
• What can you bring to the school?
• What are some examples of achievements you have completed?
Try to have five main pieces of information ready that you believe will put you in the best light. Then think about how you can incorporate them into your answers.
2. Learn the STAR Method
The STAR method of interviewing is adopted by many schools, including Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result. By focusing on the four elements of STAR, you should be able to properly answer any situational question you are posed, which are common during interviews. Following STAR means that your answer will be to the point, which is exactly what interviewers want to hear. Additionally, practicing and familiarizing yourself with the STAR method trains you to give answers that are confident, informative, and natural.
3. Learn to Listen
Listening skills are incredibly important, and you are likely to learn about this if and when you are accepted in an MBA program. What you must avoid is to try and give a big, great answer that you have already prepared, when the question is not really relevant to that answer. You must listen to the question and find out what the interviewer really wants to know. Take your time to formulate your response.
Listening properly also tells you what tone the interviewers are looking for in your answers. Conversations may turn lively, but you should never be flippant or even cute in your answers. Similarly, even if the atmosphere is friendly, it does not mean that you should start pouring out all your doubts. Try, at all times, to be humble, while highlighting your key skills (influencing others, achieving objectives, and relationship building are always good ones to share).
4. Be Ready at All Times
If you have been invited for an interview, you know that you have the skills that the school is looking for. Hence, what they are looking for is some further clarification. During the interview, you may be confronted or placed in a difficult situation, simply because they want to see how you respond under pressure. Always expect the unexpected, in other words.
5. Try to Start a Conversation
MBA students are preparing themselves to become leaders, and leaders can guide conversations. Learn about using the “windows” technique, which means that you use the answer to a specific question to open a window to talk about something that you really want to talk about instead. Essentially, you influence the interviewer to ask a follow up question. MIT Sloan is known for using structured interviews, yet they also admit that they have been impressed with students who are able to use the “windows” technique.
6. Don’t Forget the Basics
There are a few basic things that you have to remember about interviews:
• Know how long your interview will be, and plan your time around that.
• Arrive ahead of time.
• Take a moment to get your thoughts together.
• Make sure you are dressed appropriately.
• Send a thank you note, highlighting something specific that you liked after the interview.
• Have any paperwork you take with you properly organized. This looks professional and instantly demonstrates that you have record keeping skills.
There are a lot at stake when you go for an MBA interview. The interviewer understands this and knows how much you have riding on it. Being under that type of pressure is something you will have to get used to if you get accepted to the program, finish it, and take on a leadership position in the workforce. Hence, while the interviewers will make some allowances for nerves, they will want to see that you are able to relax as much as possible. This is a type of soft skill that is hard to teach, and interviewers will be very impressed with you being able to do it.
The interview to an MBA program (See 9+ best online MBA programs for 2017) is a dreaded element for most students, but also a vital one. Interviews are held for two main reasons:
a) It gives the school an opportunity to delve deeper into the information you have provided during your original application – this is why you must review it properly before you go to your interview.
b) It gives the school an opportunity to see how you deal with uncomfortable, stressful situations, speaking to people in a formal manner. Those are skills that you will need to have if and when you graduate from the program.
Always try to keep at the back of your mind that, since you were invited for an interview, you have all the necessary skills and experience to take part in the degree. An interview is not an opportunity for the school to trip you up, in other words. Additionally, your interview panel is rooting for you, because they are already impressed with you. It may be a very anxious time for you, but it is one that you should actually approach with pride in your own achievements and abilities. As they say, “proper preparation prevents poor performance”, so with confidence and preparation, you should be able to ace your interview!