How to Survive Your MBA Admissions Interview

May 7, 2013
Tags: Admissions Committees, Admissions Process, Admissions Requirements

Linh GillesSubmitted by Linh Gilles, Director of Admissions & Recruiting, Carlson School of Management

Next to the GMAT exam, perhaps even more so, the MBA admissions interview is arguably one of the most nerve wracking aspects of applying to business school. Though you may not like to hear it, an admissions interview can sometimes make or break your chances of getting admitted. I’ve read many application files that were nearly perfect on paper, but failed to remain competitive because of the admissions interview. And, the reverse is possible when marginal applicants rise to the top through a stellar interview. Below are five tips to help you put your best foot forward for your admissions interview.

  1. Do your research. Knowing the school and admissions committee approach or format for the admissions interview can go a long way in helping you anticipate questions and prepare answers. Do your research on the program and your desired career path. You should be able to tell your story about why you’re interested in an MBA and connect how the specific MBA program will be able to help you reach your career goals.
  2. Practice! Most interviews are about 30-45 minutes with some time at the end for questions, so your time is limited. It seems obvious, but the more you practice, the more polished, concise, and organized you will come across in your interview. It is usually clear which candidates haven’t spent much time rehearsing before an interview, as their responses to questions are either long-winded and lack focus or are one to two short sentences that offer little substance or information. Be sure you practice so that your answer to the first “tell me about yourself” question does not take up half of the time you have for the whole interview, but make sure that it gives a good brief overview for the listener. For example, “I’m Joe, I want an MBA” is not a good introduction, but a 20 minute soliloquy about your childhood is not either.
  3. Dress to impress. This also seems obvious, but sometimes candidates arrive for their interview dressed too casually. First impressions matter, so treat the admissions interview as you would a job interview. Whether you’re interviewing with an admissions committee member, a current student, or an alumnus, be sure your attire is business professional.
  4. Keep it real. Focus on your authentic and honest story. If you don’t know exactly what you want to do, don’t force it. If you say you are going to be an astronaut or the president of the United States, we might not believe you. However, it is important to know what your strengths and gaps are, the type of career you’re seeking, and how you think an MBA will help get you there.
  5. Be thoughtful. Interviews almost always end with time for questions. Don’t ask questions that aren’t useful to you or the interviewer. Use this time to showcase your genuine interest in and knowledge of the program by asking specific questions about program experiences and culture. Don’t ask questions that can be easily found online, such as the cost of tuition or credit requirements. Ask questions that will truly help you determine if the program is a good fit for you. Be thoughtful of time. If you have many questions, keep in mind that these can be addressed in a follow-up email. And always follow up with a thank you email within the next day or two.