The interview  


Have a story and state it with conviction

Even if you're not quite sure what you want to do with a business school degree, at least act as if you do. You don't have to have your whole post-MBA life mapped out, but some sense of why you want an MBA and what you hope to get out of business school would be a good start. And while honesty is good, saying that the economy stinks and you're hoping that by the time you're done in two years things will have improved is simply not a compelling reason to admit you. It sounds too much as if you'll just be biding your time until you graduate, without clear direction or focus. Be as specific and goal-oriented as possible. Have a plan. This is what you want to do after graduation, this is how an MBA will help you get there, outline the specific steps you have in mind, down to the types of classes you're planning on taking. If there are gaps in your skill set that you hope to address, mention that as well. And any knowledge you have of a specific school's curriculum and programs will go over well, as you'll show that you're interested enough in the school to find out what it's known for and what it has to offer that specifically relates to your interests.

Avoid buzzwords and clichés at all costs

Oh, to never again hear about the "core competencies" of someone who is interested in "global business development"! Talking in these terms is a surefire way to get your interviewer's eyes to glaze over in a hurry. Not only will it sound overly rehearsed, you'll also sound as if you have nothing interesting to say beyond some generic words and phrases. While you should sound confident and coherent, you don't need to be overly polished and glib. Your interviewer is a real person who will respond to your excitement and enthusiasm for the new direction you want your life to take. Talk about what really interests you about the business school opportunity and what your goals and dreams are, no matter how far-fetched they might sound. As interviewers, we'd prefer to talk to one person with a vision for their future that they're going to try to make happen, rather than someone who tells us what they think we want to hear.

Those functions that schools have for prospective students? Go!

Yes, we all know how busy you are...after all, you have nine applications to fill out! Not to mention your work with underprivileged orphans, your on-the-side skydiving shop, the covert Navy SEAL training, the company turnaround worthy of Jack Welch, etc. Trust us, make time to fit in one of these evening functions. You might get lucky and meet the person who will conduct your interview, if you choose to have an interview in your hometown and not on campus. (And for the record, there is absolutely no difference between one or the other.) The more genuinely interested you are in their school, the happier these alumni are to talk to you. Chances are, if they're taking the time to show up at these functions, it's not for the crudités. It's because they liked their school, are happy to spread the word, and enjoy being an ambassador for the b-school they feel everyone should want to go to. Yes, ask pointed questions; no one likes someone who is obviously trying to suck up. You'll get honest answers, as no one is foolish enough to suggest that the entire business school experience is a bed of roses and Thursday nights at the pub. Get business cards and feel free to follow up with people. If the alumni didn't want to help you out, they wouldn't be going to such events in the first place. They know what it's like to be in your shoes. Then use the information you get from them in your applications and your interview. Alumni can be a tight-knit bunch, and it's a good chance that whoever you do interview with will recognize the names of the people you spoke to. Anything that can make you stand out in the interviewer's mind can only help you.



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