Interview Prep

When the fall season creeps in, MBA hopefuls everywhere pray for the elusive interview invitation.  But you don’t have to wait for the invite to start getting ready.  Here’s how.

MBA interviews are not job interviews.  This one truism will serve you better than a bevy of advice from MBA veterans.  The key difference between an MBA interview and a job interview is that business schools are not trying to figure out what you can do or what skills you have (they will help you improve both), rather they are trying to figure out who you are.  Most jobs don’t really care much about who you are. Sure, they might ask you what you do for fun, but it’s mostly a courtesy question. 

Who Are You?

The best thing to do when waiting for the invitation to interview is to put some thoughtful analysis into this question: who are you?  I always find a helpful exercise to this end is to write a personal statement.  Perhaps you already did this as an exercise when creating your application, but if not, it can’t hurt to walk through your story on paper.  Remember to focus on why you have done the things you have done, not just what you have done.  The interviewer can get all the what that they need from your resume.

Another helpful exercise when preparing for interviews is to work on your brevity. 

One of the biggest faux pas in the interview process is rambling.  Particularly when “walking through your resume” or “telling someone about yourself,” the tendency of human nature (particularly when nervous), is to go on too long.  I find a helpful tool to prevent this is to simply touch on a few highlights and then ask the interviewer the following question: “Is that what you were looking for?  Where would you like me to dive in deeper?”  Asking the interviewer questions will make the time with them more like a conversation.

You might want to practice some questions you can lob out during the interview.

Don’t just wait until the end when you will inevitably be prompted for questions “that you might have for us?”  Leverage the interrogatory approach to get your interviewer into a dialogue, which will help you remain lodged in their brain a bit longer perhaps than another of their dozen interviews that week.

One key thing to do when preparing for your interview is not to over-prepare. 

Bringing in rehearsed, or canned answers will definitely have poor results.  While it would be risky to be entirely off the cuff, you must learn to find the sweet spot between pulling stuff out of thin air and reading a pre-meditated response from a notebook.  A good practice is to run through some typical interview questions casually, either on your own, or with someone else, speaking from the heart, and not taking notes.  If you can find someone to chat with about your MBA hopes and dreams, vs. conducting an actual mock interview, you might find the approach helpful when you sit down for real. 

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