Tag Archives: mba interview

‘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

 

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.

How to Make your MBA Application Stand Out

One of the problems I have as an MBA admissions adviser–friend, coach, confidant, drill sergeant–to applicants trying to crack top-tier schools is explaining that while “good is nice and great is nicer” neither will get you into a top-tier MBA program. Only “good + special” will get you in.

Everyone knows that there are far fewer places than excellent candidates, but not everyone understands the implication of this, which is that the standard “good” profile application is more likely to fail than succeed. I do ding analyses: often there is something clear to point to, but often there is not. I’m left saying “there was no juice,” and I don’t mean this as a cop-out.

What I mean is–putting it another way–the applicant has provided reasons for Adcom not to reject them, covering all bases, saying the right things, but has not given Adcom a compelling reason to say yes.

Easier said than done. What if there is no specialness (distinctiveness) there? “I haven’t done anything that special,” they will say. “I have not won Olympic medals; never hot-air ballooned over the Atlantic; not pulled anyone from a burning car …”

I won’t kid you, it’s great if you’ve done something memorable like this. But there are two types of specialness. Specialness of what you have achieved AND specialness of who you are. Not everyone has the first type in their bag, but everyone can have the second.

Here are examples of the second type:

1. Distinctiveness of insight, self-reflection, and self-understanding. Unfortunately (but fortunately for you, dear reader) it appears these days that it takes a special person to be willing to reflect on their life path, their roles, their identity, their motivations. But this is exactly what Adcom wants of you. That’s why they ask complex, motivational questions. The quality of genuine self-reflection is so unique among 20-something-year-olds (and so highly correlated with real leadership ability) that if you can do it right, you’ll be special just for this.

Note: doing it right means being open and honest, but also circumspect, professional, to-the-point, and focused on the essay question, using practical examples and stories. It does not mean wallowing self-indulgently as if for your local Agony Aunt magazine column.

2. Distinctiveness of communication. Writing and (in the interview) speaking is the basis of your interaction with Adcom. Words are your tools. You do not need to be a fancy creative-writing major to write a wonderful MBA admissions essay, but there are basic tools of storytelling and essay building that make a piece of text stand out. Be aware how much turgid, repetitive prose your Adcom reader has to wade through. Getting your point across in a bright, clear, and organized way will make you stand out. (Much more about the how of this is in my MBA Admissions Strategy book.)

3. Distinctiveness of direction and goals. You can’t change your past. You should present it in the best light, but for better or worse, it is set. Your future is ahead of you. It can be anything–you can make any claim, within reason. It is a “free hit ” in the sense that you are pretty much invited to distinguish yourself from the crowd through the extent of your ambition, and the relevance, interest, and worthiness of your career path.