Anxious? Here’s MBA Interview Relief

Ah, relief. You’ve already sent in your applications, with essays carefully crafted and edited to perfection, stellar recommendations, and solid academic credentials. Nothing left for you to do but sit back and relax, albeit anxiously, right?

Well, not quite. Whether applicants ascribe too much or too little importance to their interviews, the fact is that for the uninitiated or unaware, interviewing with an AdComm member or an alumnus is a situation replete with minefields that can easily trip up even the most promising candidate. Most people spend so much time trying to strategize around whether to interview on campus or with alumni in their hometown, figuring out what to wear, practicing answers to the basic, talk-me-through-your resume type of questions, that they overlook the little things that can adversely affect how your interviewer views you. So, you know about the big stuff; here, from the vantage point of someone with a great deal of experience interviewing Wharton applicants, are some of the smaller things you need to think about as well.

  • Keep your correspondence professional to the extreme. E-mail is a wonderful tool, but don’t use it as an excuse to abbreviate words and write in your own version of shorthand. Use complete sentences and proper punctuation….you know, just as you would in any kind of business correspondence, right? U R not text messaging ur friends here. And, if you’re interviewing with an alumnus, remember that they’re doing you a favor. Make your schedule fit theirs, not vice versa. Again, think of it as a job interview.
  • Answer the question. There’s a reason it’s being asked; it’s NOT being asked so that you can seize upon it as an opportunity to talk more about a pet project or about your leadership skills. Really. And actually listen to what’s being asked. Some applicants have practiced certain question so much that when they hear one that’s similar, they launch into their prepared answer….even though it doesn’t exactly fit.
  • If the interviewer asks you what seems like the same question but in different ways……..they’re being nice enough to give you a second (and sometimes a third!) chance to give them the answer they’re looking for. For example, you’re asked about EC activities after college…..you talk about a joint business venture. They ask you what you plan to be involved in at business school, how you’ll be a part of the community…..you talk about business-related clubs and networking with other students with an entrepreneurial bent. Desperate, in a last-ditch effort to see if you’ll contribute anything at all outside of the classroom and apart from your own self-interests, they ask you what you like to do for fun……you look puzzled and again talk about business. They give up. You get dinged.

So how much does the interview actually count? Certainly, it varies from school to school, but in such a competitive environment, it just doesn’t make sense to put so much effort into everything else and then flub the interview for reasons you’re not even aware of. Be aware, because remember, by giving the AdComm a reason to ding you, you’re just making their job all that much easier.