So, you applied to business school and finally landed that coveted interview! Excited, you rush to prepare—researching the most likely questions you will be asked, memorizing your answers, and rehearsing them in front of a mirror, right?
MBA interviews are not about memorizing answers but rather about having a thoughtful conversation regarding who you are. Here are the five most common mistakes applicants make when approaching their business school interview:
Walking into an MBA interview with all your answers scripted and planned prevents your interviewer from truly getting to know you and creates distance between you and them. Rather than having a thoughtful conversation with them and truly listening to them, you are busy sifting through your mental file to figure out which preplanned answer to give. Overpreparing also puts you at risk of getting thrown off if the interviewer asks a question that you have not prepared for. Instead, know your story, and give some thought to the types of questions you could be asked and—in general—how you would answer them, but when the day comes, go into your interview prepared to listen and engage.
Not “reading the room”
Being aware of your surroundings is important, as is building rapport with your MBA interviewer. For example, if you are meeting your interviewer in their office at an investment bank in the middle of the week, do not show up in jeans and a blazer. Similarly, if you are meeting at a Starbucks on a weekend and the interviewer has told you to dress casually, do not show up in your best suit. In addition, pay attention to your interviewer’s reactions during your answers—if they start to look disinterested or attempt to interrupt you, try to quickly wrap up your answer. Just as you would in any conversation, be aware of the give-and-take, and do not ramble on.
Being unfamiliar with the school
Whether interviewers are alumni or work in the admissions office, they have a personal connection to the school and are proud of it. You do not have to know every single professor’s name or actual course numbers, but you do need to be able to articulate in detail how the school will help you achieve your career goals. Also, take time before your interview to scan recent press releases from the school so you are up-to-date and aware of any major news about the program. A great resource to help you get to know your target schools in more depth is the mbaMission Insider’s Guides series, which covers 17 top-ranked MBA programs. You can download these free guides to brush up on the schools’ defining characteristics, notable courses, clubs, experiential opportunities, and popular social/community events.
Asking inappropriate questions
Most interviewers will conclude the interview by asking, “Do you have any questions for me?” Please, we urge you—do not ask basic questions about the application process or about what the interviewer thought of you. Likewise, do not ask any questions for which the answers can be easily found on the school’s website. Further, if the program is dealing with any negative press, do not ask about it. And definitely do not ask questions that might be perceived as attempts to trick the interviewer, such as those about obscure courses. Instead, pose thoughtful questions about topics you are genuinely interested in, ones that show you have an awareness of the school’s culture and offerings. If the interviewer is a graduate of the program, you could ask questions about their personal experience or what advice they have for you, for example, or if they are an admissions office interviewer, you could ask about their observations of the school.
Giving the interview too much weight
We often hear clients say, “I aced the interview, so I’ll definitely get in” or “I didn’t get in, so I must have blown the interview.” Likely, neither of these interpretations is true. The interview is merely one factor in the MBA admissions decision—just one! You could have a terrific interview and not get in or a weak one and be accepted, just as you could get in despite a subpar GMAT score or not be accepted with an amazing score. Giving the business school interview too much weight can cause you to be so nervous that you are unable to engage in an authentic conversation.
mbaMission has created a robust library of free resources designed to help you prepare for your MBA interview, such as the following:
- The mbaMission Interview Guide describes the different kinds of interviews business schools offer and the types of questions typically asked. It also includes valuable tips on what to do before, during, and even after your interview.
- mbaMission’s school-specific Interview Guides provide insight into what each program is evaluating during the admissions interview and hoping to gain from it, along with an explanation of the school’s specific interview approach. In addition, the guides offer lists of each school’s most common interview questions and themes, as well as advice on how to respond to them, plus our tips on managing the entire interview process, from scheduling to writing thank you notes.
If you are looking for one-on-one help preparing for your MBA interview, consider these mbaMission services:
- Mock Interview Sessions: Meet with an experienced mbaMission admissions consultant who will ask you actual questions your target school’s interviewers have posed to previous applicants.
- HBS Mock Interview and Post-Interview Reflection Support: Speak with an experienced mbaMission consultant who will have read your entire Harvard Business School (HBS) application and prepared customized questions based on your candidacy. Plus, get feedback on your post-interview essay.
- HBS Intensive Interview Simulation: Practice for your upcoming interview at HBS with mbaMission’s Devi Vallabhaneni, a veteran interviewer who has years of experience interviewing literally hundreds of HBS candidates.
- Wharton Team-Based Discussion Simulation: Via this simulation, applicants participate anonymously with three to five other MBA candidates in an online conversation, which is moderated by two of mbaMission’s experienced Senior Consultants familiar with Wharton’s format and approach. All participants then receive feedback on their performance, with special focus on their interpersonal skills and communication abilities.
To learn other strategies for improving your interview performance, sign up for a complimentary 30-minute consultation with an mbaMission Career Coach.