When you are invited to interview for a place in an MBA program, there are a number of things to consider as you prepare for your interview. Being admitted into an MBA program is not only about what the program can offer you…it is also about what you can offer the program. Consideration will be given to how well the Admissions Committee (Adcom) believes you will represent the program upon graduation, whether that be through your relations with the Career Management Center, alumni, or the university at large. During your interview, the Adcom will also attempt to determine how easily you will be able to form relationships with your MBA peers and how professionally you will interact with faculty and staff. Knowing that you must make a great first impression during your interview, it can be helpful to take a perspective other than your own and consider how best to present yourself during this important event.
The Career Management Center
Business schools and MBA programs offer students and alumni ongoing support through what is most often referred to as a Career Management Center. This center is dedicated to helping business students identify and achieve the best career options available to them. When a candidate's MBA application is accepted by the Adcom, they are essentially making a bet on how easily that student will be able to obtain a job upon graduation, so it makes sense the Adcom would want to admit people with the highest chances of being recruited by the most prestigious businesses upon program completion. If the Adcom admits candidates who ultimately struggle to obtain employment offers, you can be certain the Career Management Center will let the Adcom know about this.
In order to demonstrate that you will be an easy candidate for the Career Management Center to assist in obtaining post-graduate employment, you need to present yourself professionally during your interview. You also need to be able to speak about how your career goals align with the resources offered by the Career Management Center and how your past work and attending this particular MBA program will only strengthen your desirability as a potential employee upon graduation. Taking some time to research the MBA program's Career Management Center will show your interviewers how excited you are to learn more about the school at large, as well as your ability to conduct research, while also allowing you to provide specific information on how you will best use the resources available to you both in preparation of graduating from the program and after you have obtained your MBA.
When you are interviewing with the Adcom of an MBA program, know that the interviewers will be assessing and considering how well they believe you will be able to interact with your program classmates. A great deal of the learning in an MBA program happens within your specific peer group. All students in the class must have something valuable to share with their classmates, whether it be their Excel wizardry skills, their knowledge of Middle Eastern business negotiations, or their ability to create persuasive and engaging presentations.
Prior to your Adcom interview, it might be helpful to make a list of your unique skills and special abilities, as well as your areas of expertise gained through academic learning or hands-on experience. Be prepared to provide your interviewer with real-life examples of your ability to form and maintain relationships, as well as examples of when your contribution to a group project improved the outcome of the project. Be careful to focus on the aspect of teamwork here, as you do not want to come across as if you are bragging about yourself; rather, focus on how you were able to leverage your knowledge or skills in completing a task or project, thus ensuring a win for everyone on the team or in the group.
Faculty and Staff
When you are invited to interview for an MBA program, that is a sign the Adcom believes you are potentially a good fit for learning within the confines of the program's particular environment. The interview offers a chance for you to demonstrate how you handle yourself in a professional setting. Will you be the type of student who constantly seeks to monopolize the classroom discussion, or will you be open to hearing from others, even if you do not necessarily agree with them? Will you do your part in a group project, or will others be forced to do more than their fair share of work in order to make up for your lack of effort?
Faculty and staff want to work with students who are eager to learn and passionate about the subject matter they are pursuing. They want to engage with students who are not afraid to think critically, who respect and meet deadlines, who are not put off by the need to do additional research for a specific project, and who are genuinely enthusiastic about being a part of the MBA program. The interview is a time to demonstrate your ability to listen, show how well you can think on the spot by formulating thoughtful responses, and offering the interviewers a chance to see what it would be like interacting with you in a classroom or group setting. It is important to be respectful and professional, as no faculty or staff members want to work with anyone who thinks too highly of themselves or believes they already know everything. Use your interview as a chance to demonstrate your ability to listen and learn, as well as your skills in integrating information and communicating clearly.
The brand of a school lives on through the quality of its graduates, and during your interview, the Adcom will be considering how well you will represent the school upon the completion of your MBA program. Alumni interact frequently with students, and they are important sources of information on upcoming job openings at different businesses and firms. They can also offer personal recommendations, sending emails or making calls on your behalf, and because of this, they are especially invested in the choices the Adcom ultimately makes about who attends the MBA program. If graduates do not represent the MBA program or the school well, the alumni will undoubtedly let the Adcom know.
Before your interview, it might be helpful to think about and list out ways you can see yourself giving back to the school following graduation. While financial contributions and donations are always appreciated, alumni can offer many other important things, as well, such as participating in mock job interviews with soon-to-be-graduating students, giving presentations on specific business-related topics in which they possess expertise, and offering to discuss career options with students, to name but a few ways alumni can give back. Showing the Adcom that you have thought about how you will remain active in the MBA program after graduation shows them how seriously you take being a part of the program while also demonstrating a commitment to future students.
The University at Large
Colleges and universities thrive because their schools produce engaged and successful alumni who enjoy giving back. During your interview, the Adcom will attempt to determine whether you will be a “net giver” or a “net taker.” MBA programs look for students who have made positive contributions to their undergraduate institutions, companies, and/or communities.
Before you arrive for your interview, take some time to identify ways you have been involved with something larger than yourself and how you were able to contribute in helpful and specific ways. Perhaps you were skilled at fundraising for a particular organization as part of an undergraduate extracurricular activity, or you established a day for giving back to the community at a company you worked for where all employees went on a given day and worked to clean up trash in city parks. Identify instances in which you took the initiative to start a new program or refashioned an existing one, ultimately leading to improved team relations, achieving specific outcomes, or making a positive difference in the lives of people. Be prepared to talk about how you plan to support the university after graduation beyond simply making financial donations or attending reunions, and give the Adcom every reason to want you to be a part of their incoming class.