|It’s good practice to answer the question that was asked…|
Once you’ve gotten through step 1 and step 2 of the business school application process, you’ll probably be sick of even talking about business schools. That is, of course, unless you get that much anticipated invitation to interview for your dream school. Then, suddenly all fatigue will fade and you’ll find it difficult to talk about anything other than business school and your upcoming time to shine, but don’t be alarmed. These symptoms are completely normal.
Most schools, especially the full-time programs, only interview a subset of the overall applicant pool, so if they’re bringing you in, they must like you quite a bit. It’s important to remember, though, that an interview doesn’t equal automatic admission.
Again, a business school interview should be no different than how you would prepare for a job interview. In fact, admissions officers are looking for many of the same characteristics as any future employer. Here’s 5 of those key characteristics for you to keep front of mind:
The admissions officer wants to feel like you only have eyes for the school he/she represents. This means you want to have high energy in your voice and explicitly state how excited you are for the opportunity to be interviewing for a spot at their school. This will only work, though, if you can do this in a genuine fashion, which brings me to the next point.
While interviewers love to hear how much you love their school, professing your love only helps your case for admission if you are able to communicate your affections in a way that doesn’t come off as rehearsed. There are few things worse than sounding like a robot in an interview. It basically makes you look like you can’t think for yourself and that you’d be lost without your script.
In order to have a successful business school interview, you should have an initial vision of why the interviewing school is the best option for you to execute your MBA goals. If you sound like you’re not sure the school can help you achieve your goals, it’s a turn-off. If you hesitate to say that the interviewing school is a key element to your vision, it’s a huge turn-off. Likewise, if give the impression that you generally aren’t a “visionary person”…turn-off.
Even if you’re not 100% sure your vision will remain the same over the next two years, painting the picture for the interviewer and getting him/her to buy into the latest iteration of your vision goes a long way. The most effective leaders I’ve worked with are able to develop a blueprint or roadmap to reach a certain goal and adjust as necessary as circumstances change. If you can apply that approach here, then you’re already ahead of the game.
This is a tricky one, because your vision needs to be communicated with confidence but not so confident as to leave the interviewer thinking you have an overinflated ego. It’s definitely a challenge to walk the line between confident and cocky but it’s by no means impossible.
5. Communication Skills
Business schools are in the business of churning out leaders – people that will take on top roles in both the public and private spaces. A key quality of every leader I’ve seen to date is that you have to be comfortable talking to people, and that comfort needs to show during the interview. Oh, and don’t forget communication includes both speaking AND listening. You don’t want to be the person that appears to be focused only on producing the perfect answer to each question. Engage your interviewer and have a “normal” conversation and you’ll be just fine.
Anything else others would add to this list?
Note: As I was editing this post, I came across another interesting article about MBA interview mistakes. Check it out.