You’ve filled out the application and polished your resume. You’ve written an essay that would make Hemingway proud. Your recommendations are all in — and they are stellar. Now it’s time to sit back and wait for the acceptance letter to land in your hands.
Or is it? If you’ve applied to a business school that requires an interview, you still have one hurdle to jump over — a hurdle that’s more nerve-wracking than all of the other pieces of the school application put together. Depending on the school, the interview may be a mere formality and a chance for you to ask questions and get more information. At other schools, the interview is a vital part of the admissions process; the committee wants to know more about you so they can find a reason to admit you over another candidate, or perhaps you’re a borderline candidate and the interview could tip the balance in either direction.
No matter what the purpose of the interview, it’s vital that you treat it with the same level of importance as any other interview and put in some time preparing for it. That time you spend could make the difference between landing a spot at the school of your dreams or facing disappointing news at the mailbox.
Do Your Homework
While business school interviewers want to know more about you as a candidate and will certainly ask questions related to your experience, in many cases they are more concerned about your commitment to earning an advanced degree. More specifically, they are interested to know about your commitment to their program. Business schools want students who want to be there, and who can clearly articulate why they have chosen a specific program. Before your interview, review all of the materials you have about the program, and make a list of the reasons that you were attracted to it. Don’t just say “I want to work with professors at your school.” Be prepared to provide names of specific instructors you want to work with and why, or specific courses you’re most interested in (look at this online international business degree program for the types of courses you can expect) and what you hope to gain from them.
You should also articulate the reasons you fit the profile of the school’s ideal student. Most business schools provide clues as to the types of students they are looking for in their admissions materials —beyond the specific requirements related to GPAs, test scores, etc. — and you should look for those clues and think of examples that demonstrate how you fit that mold.
Identify Your Own Weaknesses and Play to Your Strengths
One of the major purposes of a business school interview is for admissions committees to get answers to questions they may have about a particular candidate, particularly those questions having to do with weaknesses in the application. Before your interview, look over the materials you submitted and identify anything that the admissions committee could perceive as a weakness. Then develop an explanation for those deficiencies. Perhaps your work experience doesn’t show as much of a progression of responsibility as you would like, or maybe your test scores are lower than they could be. Be prepared to answer questions about your weaknesses and to share what you’re doing to turn the weaknesses into strengths.
At the same time, determine a few points you want the interviewer to remember about you and how you will articulate them. Bringing your answers back to these key strengths will showcase why you’re the candidate that the school is looking for.
Practice, Practice, Practice
While you don’t want to sound like a robot regurgitating clearly memorized responses, it’s always a good idea to prepare your answers ahead of time. Practice with a friend or relative and perfect your answers to common questions. Ask your practice partner to identify anything that dilutes the power of your words, such as rambling, adding unnecessary filler words, too many hand movements and lack of eye contact. Be aware of those habits and practice speaking without them.
Preparing for your business school interview is much like preparing for a job interview. You want to make the best impression possible so take the time to prepare and show the interviewers exactly what you have to offer.