5 Best Practices For An Online MBA Interview

Online MBA interviewing becomes more widespread and more important every year.  I came across this post  providing good advice for Web interviewing from Lindsey Plewa-Schottland, Associate Director at Baruch College’s Graduate Career Management Center.

Tipping my hat to that, I’ve adapted it slightly: here are my five things to remember when doing an Skype or equivalent online MBA interview:

    1. Protocol: Be on time, and be dressed just as if you were meeting in-person for this interview. In other words wear standard professional work clothes. In the U.S. a tie for men is still expected in interview situations. In Europe you have more latitude. 

     2. Check what’s behind you. Skype-type interviews are visually boring– you’re just looking at their talking head, and they are looking at yours. So expect their eye to wander and make sure you have controlled everything in camera view. On the Mac, “Photo Booth” will preview what your camera will show and how you look. No doubt similar exists on for the PC.  

     3. Set yourself at a medium distance. It’s no accident that Nazi (and many other) propaganda films put the camera too close to their target’s face, distorting it. If you sit too close you too will be all nose or all goggle-eyed. Obviously don’t sit too far back either. 

     4. Look at the camera.  This is tricker than it seems. Problem is your interviewer’s face will be on your screen but your camera will be on top of it or above it, which means when you look directly at your interviewer she will perceive you as looking down. Best solution is to minimize the Skype window and put it as close to your camera lens as you can.

     5. Check your Skype pic or gravatar. When dialing up the Skype connection your interviewer will probably see your still photo or icon. You should have a  professional-looking still as your profile picture, and it should be recent enough to be credible when your live video feed appears.

A Behind-The-Scenes Peek Into An MBA Adcom’s Workings

The b-school portal Poets & Quants has changed the game of bringing high-quality information resources to b-school applicants, not least in researching and writing superior MBA admissions articles that go way beyond simple first-principles that you can find anywhere.

A recent piece by John Byrne observes Boston University’s Questrom School of Business seven-member admissions committee in action, led by Assistant Dean of Graduate Admissions Meredith Siegel. It describes how Questrom adcom mulls over the pros and cons of each application, and how it thinks about whether to admit, reject, or waitlist. The full text is well worth a read.

Here are quote highlights for prospective MBA applicants:

“Our goal is not to keep people out,” insists Siegel. “Our goal is to build a class that will be excited by the opportunities here.”

Questrom is looking for a mix [my ital] of the typical admission metrics: a strong undergraduate GPA, solid work experience, a track record of achievement, leadership ability, a good GMAT or GRE score, favorable recommenations, smart answers to both the written and video essay questions, and professional poise and presence in an in-person interview. “There is no formula,” insists Siegel. “The more factors a candidate brings that are above average, the more successful the candidate will be.”

“Unlike in life, we get to pick our family,” says J.P. Matychak, Dean of Student Experience, who sits in on admission committee meetings. “We are looking for non-arrogant, genuine, gritty people, ready and willing to take on the world.” [my ital] Those attributes are integral to the process because the school’s culture emphasizes community and high degrees of collaboration.

The day or two after an application deadline, the admissions team does a quick assessment of undergraduate transcripts, test scores and resumes and immediately says “yes” or “no” to an interview. Roughly half the pool is interviewed in a given year. Then, those who get an interview with an admissions official have their application files assessed by another adcom staffer at the same time. By the time applicant files come to the committee meeting, the candidates have already been interviewed. “It’s so more of us can know the candidate and also keep bias out of the process,” explains Siegel. “So all the candidates have the possibility of having two advocates in the room.”

Most of the decisions in the room are handled quickly, often in less than five minutes. Surprisingly, there is little discussion of GMAT scores, though a few of the applicants have taken the test as many as six times. Instead, all the key elements of an applicant’s file were presented in a way that seemingly gave each metric equal consideration and weight. [my ital]

It’s not uncommon for a committee member to say that he or she “loved” the interaction they had with an applicant or that a candidate is “a good fit with our culture.”

Frequently, there is a nagging question about a profile that fuels an extended conversation. A quant score could below an average, causing concern about the candidate’s ability to handle the core workload. Or their work experience could be light, meaning that there’s either not enough of it or the quality of the work appears less meaningful. And then there are some international candidates whose English language skills could be problematic.

“It’s never easy to turn away someone and say we don’t have a spot for you,” says Siegel. “But it’s not the hardest part of the job. [The hardest part is] making sure that everything we do is reflective of who we are as a community.”

In a typical year, Questrom receives about 1,100 applicants for just under 150 seats. By the end of two full days of meetings in mid-December, the group will admit 93 applicants, deny 22, put 51 more candidates on the waitlist, and defer eight would-be students to get more feedback from Career Management on their employability at graduation.

The entire committee meets 15 times in an admissions cycle, while subsets of the group will gather for other sessions to take a second look at candidates who were initially declined for an interview. All decisions of the committee must be unanimous.

Advice On B-School Application Timeline From Yale SOM

I often get questions about the MBA admissions timeline from applicants, asking “what should I be doing, when? How far in advance? When should I be doing the GMAT, the essays, asking for recommendations?”

There’s no such thing as one correct one answer of course. Much depends you–how fast you work, how much you feel you need to do to feel comfortable, and how many schools you are targeting.

There are general common milestones for the months leading up to application deadline, and I’ve given a distilled sense of timeline best-practices in my book.

Further to all this, I came across a post from Yale SOM EMBA worth sharing. Note that the deadlines are for an executive MBA (later in the year, on average) and generally the terms of advice assume a smaller applicant pool. Nevertheless it is relevant in principle to address common admissions timeline questions.

By the way, if you’re in the EMBA market, Yale SOM is worth your application time. Yale University needs no introduction of course, but the business school has spent a few decades finding itself. It is now undoubtedly racing into the top tier.

With all that said, here’s Hillary Larsen, Assistant Director of Admissions, MBA for Executives talking to applicants ahead of the April 12 final deadline:

February through April

  • We would be delighted to get to know and work with you. I recommend meeting our team, current students, and alumni at events online and all around the United States so that you can make a better-informed decision about applying to Yale SOM. Explore the Yale culture and experience the benefits of our small class size.
  • You are not on your own. If you have any questions along the way, our admissions team is available to help at emba.admissions@yale.edu.

February

  • As a part of the application, you will need to designate the individual who will be signing off on your time away from the office. Now is the time to discuss the EMBA program with your employer. Make sure he or she understands that your EMBA experience will directly benefit the organization. Our students are able to apply what they learn on Fridays and Saturdays directly to their organizations the following Monday, while focusing on developing their own unique leadership attributes throughout the program.
  • Discuss this program and the time commitment it will entail with family and close friends. To perform at your best in the program, you will need the support of those around you.
  • If you haven’t taken the GMAT or GRE in the past five years, start looking at these standardized tests and decide which one you’d like to take. We have no preference. We recommend taking one of the free practice tests available to gauge your strengths and weakness and to develop a plan of study. Many of our students have taken courses to keep their preparation on track. Keep in mind that the standardized test score gives us an understanding of your current ability to process and analyze (primarily) quantitative data in a time-constrained environment. Since our students have a range of work experience from 5 to 25 years, we have different expectations of test scores. This is just one component of the application, which we review holistically.

March

  • Open the application and review the essay questions. The essays are your best opportunity to showcase who you are and what you are passionate about.
  • Consider who you would like to submit a recommendation on your behalf. We suggest asking for a recommendation early and following up with the recommender to ensure that he or she understands the application deadline. We require two recommendations as a part of a complete application.
  • If you do not already have copies of your transcripts from your undergraduate institute and any other institution from which you have earned professional or graduate degrees, request them. If your transcripts are not in English, you will need to provide a notarized English translation. Please note that you do not need official transcripts for the purposes of the application; you can upload unofficial copies.
  • If you have not recently updated your résumé, now is the time to do so. Please keep the résumé to no longer than two pages. This is your opportunity to clearly show your career acceleration and advancement.

April

  • Finalize your application! Be sure to review the entire application. You have until April 12 to take your GMAT or GRE and record your unofficial score. You must submit your application by 11:59 p.m. ET on April 12. You must also submit your application fee at that time in order for the application to be reviewed by the admissions committee.
  • Confirm with your recommenders that they will submit the review form by the final deadline.
  • Once you have submitted the application, the employer approval form will be sent to the individual you have indicated. You can check the application status page to monitor if we have received your official test scores and employer approval form.

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