MBA Admission Criteria - Interviews

The interview can be a critical part of the admissions decision and should not always rank dead last in order of importance. But its importance varies dramatically from school to school. At some schools, your interview can make the difference between being accepted and spending another year riding your desk 60 hours a week. At others, though, it's meaningless and deserves to be listed last.

You may know that some schools are very aggressive about interviewing candidates. Kellogg, for instance, is terrific about it. The school has long set the standard for interviewing. And not only does UNC - Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler) require an interview of U.S. applicants, but it requires that the interview be conducted on campus. So the interview can be important at some schools and, at those schools, I certainly would not list it last.

Stanford, on the other hand, would just as soon give you the finger as interview you. So interviewing can be meaningless at some school or it can be significant. It all depends on the school and your personal situation.

Who Should and Who Shouldn't Interview?

If you think you're a bad interviewer, stay home. Let your application do the talking for you. I've had a lot of people who I thought were bad interviewers in my GMAT classes. They come in with good work experience and great undergraduate GPAs. I can see from their practice tests that they will end up with a strong GMAT score, but I'm afraid they will do more harm than good if they meet with their schools. I've never found a subtle way to break that news to them: "Al, you're a bright guy, but you're also a dork. Don't interview."

So it's up to you. If you feel you're not a good interviewer, stay home. But if you feel comfortable meeting new people, then go for it. A lot of applicants have to meet new people daily as part of their jobs, so they get very good at interacting with strangers. Those people should always interview.

Should I Interview with an Admissions Officer or an Alumnus?

It's best to interview with someone on the admissions committee, but that isn't always possible. You shouldn't wory too much, though, if you end up having to interview with an alumnus or even a current student.

A Few Pointers on the Interview:

  1. Whenever possible, interview with someone of the opposite gender.
  2. Dress formally unless your interview is with an alumnus and the situation calls for casual clothes.
  3. Relax! Don't come off as stiff and overly formal. You want your interviewer to like you, so treat him or her like a friend.
  4. Prepare your answers ahead of time.

Typical Interview Questions

The questions asked by admissions people at different schools are often surprisingly similar. My students interview all over the country, but they all come back with the same basic list of questions. Virtually all of the interviewers cover the same topics.s

There is a little variation, but the basic interview process goes as follows.

Phase 1 - Your Upbringing and Undergraduate Experience.

Be sure to prepare a brief outline of your upbringing before going to your interview. It's easy to get lost and ramble into a long pointless diatribe when talking about your upbringing, so make your replies short and to the point.

They will generally ask a number of questions about your undergraduate experience.

  • What was your major?
  • Did you like it?
  • Do you think your grades are an accurate reflection of your ability?
  • Did you work as an undergrad?

Phase 2 - Work Experience Since Leaving College

You need to know your whole work history before walking into the interview. Look up the approximate dates of promotions or job transfers. The questions go something like the following:

  • What was your first job out of undergrad?
  • Have you been promoted?
  • Have you ever supervised employees?
  • Have you switched firms? If so, why?

Phase 3 - Career Goals & MBA Plans

This is the part of your story that has to hold together. If they ask about career goals and you tell them something that is completely inconsistent with your experience, you're going to be in trouble.

  • Be sure to mention a career goal that actually requires (or benefits from) an MBA.
  • Be able to answer the question, "Why do you need an MBA?"
  • Be able to answer the question, "Why do you need an MBA from this school?"

Phase 4 - Your Turn to Ask Questions

Be sure to study the school before interviewing so you can ask informed questions about it. Knowing specific details about the program should convince the interviewer that you are serious about attending his school.

A Final Note of Encouragement on The Interviews

I know it's tough going through all the interviews. After two or three you begin to feel like a piece of meat. Just remember that everyone has to go through the same process.