In MBA interview season, it is gratifying to see how many R1 applicants have receive interview invitations. As an MBA admissions coach, I would like to share a few observations, hopefully non-obvious ones, on managing MBA interviews. I have written a whole additional chapter in my book (2e, 2010) on MBA interviewing MBA . The first thing is to be ready, willing, and able to go “to the next level.”
In some of the top-tier programs you can choose to be interviewed but in most, it works the other way around. They tell you if they want to talk to you. They are saying, “So far, so good. Let’s go to the next level.” You, the applicant, have to meet them there.
Sometimes (depending on the school’s policy) the interview is “blind,” that is, the interviewer has seen nothing but your resume. This means you have to deal a bit more in background-catch-up information. Sometimes they have seen your essays, and sometimes your whole file. The point is, whatever the interviewer knows about you going in, your job is to go beyond it. If she comes out of the interview thinking, “this person just told me what was in his essays or just repeated what was on her resume,” then you have failed.
Think of the interview as a third date. (In the analogy, your application was the second date; first date was when you visited the campus or met school promo people at a tour venue.) So now, there you are on date three. You are wooing them successfully so far and they are clearly interested in you. Would you, on date three, just say again what you said the last time?
So how do you take it to the next level? First, establish what your interviewer knows. It is fine to ask if she has seen your essays/file – it is a perfectly professional question. As far as possible, don’t repeat that stuff but more importantly, it is time to go beyond the facts of your bio, career, achievements and get to deepening their understanding of you. Tell stories that shed even more light on you as a person, your motivations, your choices, why your goals matter to you; enhance their understanding of the value you bring to the program; give a motivated sense of how great your future is, which they could be part of… third date stuff.