There’s lots of opinions on how to ace the MBA interview, but here’s ten things to avoid if you really don’t want to blow it.
Interviewing for a seat in a top MBA program can be nerve wracking. Especially if the school where you’re interviewing is your top choice, it’s hard to imagine a more intimidating situation. I mean, your whole future is riding on it, right? Not exactly, but that’s how it can feel.
There are several subtle ways you can end up blowing an MBA interview without even realizing it. Most of these will seem fairly obvious, but you’d be surprised how many happen anyway. Try to avoid doing the following:
1) Being late. Schools will take notice if you’re not on time. Punctuality is next to godliness, so if the interview is in a town where you’re unfamiliar with the territory or parking situation, build in extra time to get there without stressing yourself out. You’ll thank yourself.
2) Dressing inappropriately. Clearly you don’t want to be underdressed, but this can also work in the other direction---that is, being overdressed. If the school says to come business casual, don’t wear a suit-and-tie lest you be perceived as either trying too hard or unable to follow directions, both of which are detrimental to your admission chances.
3) Not answering the question. Yes you want to make sure you get your message across to the interviewer, but don’t take so much liberty with your answers that you end up missing the original questions altogether.
4) Forgetting to brush your teeth. Bad breath is gross and nervousness can cause bad breath. Bring some mints or gum to chew before you go in.
5) Passively answering questions. B-schools expect to see businesslike behavior and leadership qualities, so think of yourself as playing an equal role in guiding your interview process. If the questions they ask are not allowing you to put your best story forward, make your answers more brief and then add on information you feel is more germane to your case for admission.
6) Asking poor questions. Everyone gets a chance in an interview to ask questions at the end to your interviewer. Come prepared with thoughtful questions that you can’t have found the answer to from the school’s website. Think in advance of several questions—more than you feel you will have time to ask. You might surprise yourself.
7) Forgetting a paper and pen. Always come to an interview with a notepad and pen. This is business meeting 101. A good leader always has a way to take notes, and you want to be perceived as a good leader of course.
8) Failing to be nice to your fellow applicants. Business schools are all about teamwork, so if you’re aloof or rude to any fellow applicants you encounter during your visit, it will be a sure way to blow your chances.
9) Forgetting to ask for a business card. Following up on the interview is important, but you can’t do that without contact information. Business cards are great because they also have the person’s preferred name (spelled correctly) and their address for handwritten notes. Sometimes this information is hard to find on the website.
10) Not being yourself. This is the number one unforgivable sin. If you try to game the interview and tell them what you think they want to hear instead of genuinely being yourself, you’re taking a big risk. Schools use the interview to get to know you, but if you’re hiding behind canned answers or false pretenses, this critical step in the process never happens.