Category Archives: MBA Interviews

‘What Question Should I Ask In My MBA Admissions Interview?’

As your MBA admissions interview starts to wrap up, you will be asked if you have any questions for your interviewer.

Asking if you have any questions has two functions. First, it elegantly signals time is almost up. Second, it elicits your questions for her examination, and they are definitely part of the overall interview test.

What questions you ask says a lot about your personal, social, and organizational judgment. They are tricky to get right.

On the one hand, you want to use your questions to sum up and refocus your interviewer on your strengths, goals, and resonance with the MBA program you are being interviewed for.

On the other hand, your question has to be a real question, and not only that, must target an area the interviewer can reasonably be expected to know about.

Generally, keep questions at a senior level: ask about the school’s approach, emphasis, or opportunities. Don’t seek  perfunctory information about library access or gym facilities.

Definitely don’t ask questions the answers to which are available on the Web or in the student guide, or anything you should know already or could easily find out yourself.

If you are talking to an admissions officer, you can pick an element of the program or extramural opportunities, and seek to know more how this may fit with your expertise or goals.

By way of example, assuming you bring experience in HR you may say something like: “Given my extensive experience in applying the ‘balanced scorecard,’ will there be scope in the management accounting electives for me to continue to broaden my specialization in employee evaluation?”

If you are talking to an alumnus from five years ago, your question could be how the school’s brand holds up in a particular part of the job market, or something  based on where in the world you are sitting.

Don’t ever ask your interviewer to judge the business school or MBA program in the marketplace, or compare it to others, or to “sell” the school to you, as in: “can you give me three reasons I should come here?” Believe it or not, it happens.

Do not, under any circumstances, ask the interviewer to give you an on-the-spot assessment of how you did. Their professionalism demands they do no more than shake your hand, bid you farewell, and not let on whether you aced or flunked.  Show your professionalism by expecting this.

Excerpted and adapted from Avi Gordon: MBA Admissions Strategy – From Profile Building to Essay Writing, 3rd Edition. McGraw Hill Education, Open University Press. Available April 2017

 

You’ve traveled widely. Can you extract its full MBA admissions value?

I’d estimate that three out of five MBA applicants to top-tier schools have traveled widely, for work or for fun. It follows that in their MBA applications they cite travel as an activity they value and put it among the important experiences they have had. They think that journeying across the world speaks for itself as proof of “diversity.” Travel broadens the mind and all that.

This is true. But there is a lot of value to be had in travel that MBA applicants often don’t get to. Here I tip my metaphorical hat to the mother of an MBA Studio client from a while ago who gave her son the following feedback — before he came to me — which absolutely dovetails with how I exhort clients to squeeze admissions value from their travel (and other) experiences, for both the essays and MBA interview. I quote:

“I don’t think you have written something meaningful enough about your travels. You have traveled widely but it looks like it doesn’t seem to have influenced you, affected your outlook about people, society.

“Perhaps write something meaningful about poverty, and yet the ingenuity of people who have very little but are innovative, creative, hard working.

“Can you think of reasons why you chose to travel to these places, culture, philosophy, history, etc.?

“Some insight into the way you and your friend chose to travel, no fuss, not staying fancy places.

“This travel was a test also in being independent, showing initiative, taking calculated risks in foreign places. You don’t give yourself sufficient credit for these things.”

If all mothers had this depth of insight, I’d be out of a job. But, seriously, the task here, and everywhere in MBA admissions, is to extract the full admissions value from any and every activity you have done, experiences you’ve had, or choices you’ve made.

Look at your experiences, look at the skill sets and character traits of middle-to-senior managers, and make the link.

In this case an applicant go beyond claiming “travel experience” to demonstrating a nuanced outlook on foreign cultures; an appreciation of alternative value systems including alternative forms of innovation; a no-fuss, non-materialist sensibility; an ability to ride out adversity; and practice at being in unfamiliar situations and taking calculated risks.

Putting it like this, you turn the empty label of “travel experience” into a platform that demonstrates the kind of experience, and insight into experience, that an MBA admissions committee will warm to.

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.