The interview with your dream Business School might be just 20 minutes long, but you will spend anxious months preparing for it, as will hundreds of other bright, motivated young people across the world. Unless you have access to the very best coaching, you might not be able to prepare in the best possible way; most people will tell you that you need to practice a list of questions, and be polite to the interviewer, and try to talk about your achievements in detail.
But there are some tips that have very high impact, and can help you get to the next level in an MBA interview. Not many people will ever tell you about these, but they could make the difference in your interview.
Use the Internet to find out about various high probability interviewers from the Admissions Board
Forewarned is forearmed – but most people with an Ivy League interview scheduled only take this as far as preparation for probable questions is concerned. We recommend that you take it to its logical conclusion, and find out a little about the people who handle MBA admissions at the schools where you are interviewing. Learning from the experiences of past interviewees: either people you know directly or interview notes that you find on the net, is the best thing to do – many of these will have interviewer names in them.
Using these details, you will know approximately what to expect; you will know if the person you’re meeting is impatient or pleasant; detail oriented or big picture oriented; tolerant of long windedness or a believer in brevity.
This is a very easy way for you to gain an advantage over other interviewees; most will never even think of finding out anything about interviewers. If you do, you can position your answers accordingly and make a good first impression.
Take videos of yourself, so you can work on your interview presence
The MBA interview is all about the big points, your story, and interviewer impact. Many people think this means that they need to focus only on what they will say, and that the rest will take care of itself. They sometimes miss out the important factor of personal presence, and do not understand how deeply that can affect the impression that any interviewer takes away of any candidate.
In our experience with counselling hundreds of successful admits over the years, here are some tips on how make sure that the physical presence and aura you project are in keeping with what will make a favourable impression on the interviewer, rather than getting you off on the wrong foot.
Do not try to second guess how well the interview is going based on the kinds of questions that you are being asked
The most counter productive thing you can possibly do in an interview in your dream Business School is try to evaluate how it’s going while you’re still in it. Quite apart from anything, you will need all your wits about you to answer the questions that you are being asked in the best possible way.
In addition, there is no real correlation between question patterns and candidate performance. Some of our students have been asked about one point on their resume for up to five minutes; this was not necessarily because the interviewer was probing a weak point, but because they wanted to fully understand and appreciate personal impact. Some have been cut off in the middle of multiple answers; this was not done because they were talking in circles or boring the interviewer, but because twenty minutes is a very short period of time, and they were being given a chance to present as much information about themselves as possible.
Do not reach too early
This might seem a little non intuitive – after all, on the day of the most important interview in your life, you might think that you should be there hours before your scheduled time slot, rather than take the risk of being even slightly late, right? But there are disadvantages to reaching too early, too. Here’s a look at what might happen if you reach a few hours before interview time.
If you reach early, you will be in a common waiting room; if it’s a typical interview day, there will be a bunch of other candidates in there with you – some who are waiting for an interview, and some who have just got done with theirs. Since not all of these will have the same prep level as you, it is entirely possible that some of them will not do as well as you will. This negativity can impact your own mindset, and take you from your focus on your story to an unhealthy examination of what could go wrong.
In addition, candidates have a tendency to compare notes about the questions they were just asked, and this could again derail your careful preparation. Questions that were asked to someone else, even if that person went in just half an hour before you will, have no possible bearing on that which will be asked to you; knowing details of others’ interviews on your big day will not help you.
Finally, if you spend the hours before your interview in a controlled atmosphere where you can eat what is best for you, talk to whoever you need to, go through last minute prep, and get ready in your own way, it will work out better for you in the long run – definitely better than spending hours in a waiting room!
Carry all the required physical materials, but do not overstress about those
Another common misconception about interviews is that you need to have every important document that belongs to you conveniently at hand. While you would certainly be well served to carry a copy of your application, and any important supporting documents you think will lend credence to your story, you definitely do not need to land up with a heavy dossier full of everything about yourself.
You create impact in a top flight MBA interview by how you speak, what you say, and how you come across. It is a conversation rather than a presentation or even an interview; spend time on preparing various conversational lines rather than on packing a bag full of exhibits to show an interviewer.