This time of year, many business school candidates are invited to interview with their target MBA programs. Some of these applicants inevitably fret and ask themselves, “What if I don’t know the answers to my interviewer’s questions?” The good news is that, as the title of this blog post states, a business school interview bears no resemblance to a TV quiz show. The admissions officer, alumnus/alumna, or student interviewing you will not ask you about esoteric topics and will not expect you to answer questions pertaining to business management. The majority of the questions you will encounter in your interview will pertain to your life and experiences. In other words, the interviewer will be asking you about you—so you will already have all the answers in hand from the beginning.
As a first step in preparing for your interviews, take time to reacquaint yourself with your own story, especially as you have presented it to the school in your application. Go back and reread your essays, contemplate pivotal moments in your life, and consider your major accomplishments and failures. By doing so, you will be sure to have the basic knowledge necessary to perform at your very best during your interview.
We recommend that after your interview, you write a thank you letter to your hosts, as many candidates tend to do. But what makes a good thank you note?
Personalization: When writing to your host/interviewer, show sincerity by personalizing your letter. By handwriting your letter and mentioning specifics about your conversation and experiences, you will continue to foster your connection with that individual and show that your interaction truly made an impression.
Brevity: Your letter should be no more than a few sentences long. If you write several paragraphs, you run the risk of creating the negative impression that you are trying too hard or do not respect limits (possibly even suggesting that you might carry on too long in class). By being brief and sincere, you will instead make a powerful impression that will yield results.
Speed: Ideally, send your letter within 24 hours of your visit and within 48 hours at the most. Most interviewers must submit their reports very soon after the interview, and your thank you note will have a better chance of positively influencing this report if it is received before the report is submitted. Also, after too long, your interest may logically fall into question, or your host may simply forget some of the details of your conversation that you are trying to reinforce. By writing your letter immediately, you will give the impression that you have been energized by the experience and are eager to maintain your connection.
Thank you notes are generally not a “make or break” aspect of your candidacy, but they can establish continuity and demonstrate your continued interest to your target school’s representatives. We encourage candidates to follow up with such notes because they are a low-cost way of reinforcing a positive impression and relationship.
mbaMission offers even more interview advice in our free Interview Primers, which are available for the 17 top-ranked business schools.