Now that we’re getting further along in the business school application cycle, it’s time to start thinking about interviews.
If you’ve already been offered interviews at schools you’re applying to, congratulations! Schools typically only interview applicants they’re seriously considering for admission, so if they want to talk with you, you’ve cleared the biggest hurdle in the process. And if you’re still waiting, don’t lose hope—many b-schools will invite applicants to interview all the way up to their notification date.
Regardless of where you are in the process, it’s never a bad idea to start thinking about how to rock your interviews. Here are six things to make sure to do as you prepare—complete them and you’ll be able to walk into the interview confidently and ready to impress.
1. Do Your Research
Not all interviews are created equal. Just to keep things interesting, each business school conducts a unique interview process. For example, some schools do group interviews, as opposed to individual interviews, and some do case interviews instead of behavioral interviews. Some even do “cold” interviews in which the interviewer hasn’t read your application before meeting you.
So, do your research, and know what you’re getting into before you walk in the door. While certain schools are very open about their interview style, sharing the details with you when you’re invited, others are a little more mysterious. If you’re having trouble figuring out what it will be like, check out application forums like GMAT Clubwhere other prospective students post about their application experience.
2. Know What They’re Looking For
Since at this point you’ve already passed the academic bar for admission for many schools, the interview stage is really more about judging your behavior and fit. Of course, similar to when you wrote your essays, you’ll want to understand what specific qualities each school is looking for. In my experience, however, there were a couple high-level things all of them are interested in evaluating during the interview process:
– Are you who you say you are? Schools use interviews as a vetting process to better understand whether or not you really did all of those awesome things you talked about in your essays. B-schools know that a lot of people work with consultants to write their applications, and the admissions committee just wants to make sure that your application is a true reflection of your accomplishments and potential.
– Do we want you representing our school? You will have the school you attend on your resume for the rest of your life, and the admissions committee wants to find out if you’re the type of person they would like to be affiliated with. Imagine that they will ask themselves questions about you such as, “Will this person be successful in the long term?” and “How well would this person do in a job interview?” Your interview is the time for you to prove to the interviewer that you will be an asset anywhere you go and that it’s in their best interest to have you on board.
– How are your English language skills? This doesn’t apply to everyone, but b-schools often use interviews to screen international students and ensure that everyone speaks English with a high level of fluidity.
3. Know Your Application
That being said, your application is the only information the school has about you, so you’ll definitely be asked about it. And while it might sounds a bit obvious to remind you to know your application (you wrote it, after all!), remembering it through and through can be harder than you think. Given that you’ve likely submitted multiple applications to multiple schools, make sure to spend some time reviewing the essays and resume you submitted to each particular school before going in for the interview.
What sort of questions should you be thinking about as you review your application? As in any interview, your interviewers will probably ask you to clarify stories you describe in your essay or to walk them through your resume. They’ll also likely review anything that jumps out to them as a “red flag” (e.g., a low GPA or gap in work experience), so be prepared with a solid explanation if any of those exist in your experience.
4. Be Able to Answer “Why This School?”
I’m sure (I hope!) that you have a good sense of why you want to go to b-school by the time you get to the interview phase. Sometimes, however, articulating why you want to go is easier said than done. But because interviewers will almost definitely ask you some form of “why do you want to go to our business school?” make sure you’ve thought about a concise way to articulate your answer.
I think that the best way to do this is to be both specific and authentic. For example, if you sat in on a class and loved it, then mention the professor and what he or she did to get you excited about the academic experience. Sharing these types of details makes it easier for the reviewer to remember you, and it helps personalize your decision to go to b-school.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
It’s important to practice for your grad school interviews just like you would for any other job interview: Think through what they might ask you (About.com has a great list of common questions to get you started), make a list of topics, and practice talking through your responses. “Talk” is the operative word here—it’s one thing to write down notes about what you should say, but talking out your answers will really help you iron the kinks out and get comfortable with telling your story.
While you don’t want to sound too rehearsed, you definitely want to come across as poised and prepared during your interview. So, talk through your answers and maybe even have a friend give you a mock interview, but don’t write out and memorize a script.
6. Dry Clean Your Suit!
Yes, I said suit. I know there are some job interviews that you don’t need to wear a suit to, but unless they say otherwise, b-schools are expecting you to get decked out in business formal. A week before your interview, decide which suit you want to wear (or, if you’re like me and don’t have to dress up for work, dig your only suit out of the back of your closet) and make sure it’s not wrinkled or dirty. If it is, definitely take the time to get it taken care of—the last thing you want to be worrying about on interview day is a stain on your jacket.
Finally, in the immortal words of Tom and Donna from Parks & Recreation, make sure to “treat yo’self” to something special for getting this far. That’s a huge accomplishment already!
Now go in there and show them what you’ve got—good luck!
Leslie Moser – Read this great article on TheMuse.com