At this point, an admissions officer or committee has reviewed your application for admittance, including your transcripts, personal essay, letters of recommendation, standardised test scores, and any other required information. The university or B-school has determined that you are a worthy candidate for the last step: the MBA interview.
As with every point in the application process, the MBA interview can and will be tailored to the school’s unique expectations, so it is important to dig for greater detail than is included in your interview invitation letter or email. The following paragraphs give you a good idea of what elements to consider when preparing for your MBA interview.
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Type of MBA interview
You will be contacted via letter or email if you are chosen to move forward in the application process to the all-important MBA interview. Inside this communication will be vital details that you need to ensure that you cover every requirement.
A typical MBA interview is in person and roughly 20 minutes to an hour in length, but always allow extra time in case the interview is postponed or runs a bit longer than usual.
As far as who will be interviewing you, this varies. If you live close to the university or B-school, you may be visited by an admissions representative or simply told to be at the school at a prearranged day and time. International students will likely have a different process. For example, the London Business School (UK) has designated Regional Admissions Officers, one of whom will conduct the interview. In other cases, a programme alumnus may interview you. Other possibilities include faculty members, current students, or the programme director.
As mentioned, the process is school-specific. INSEAD (France) has a two-stage interview process. The first stage – asked of every applicant – consists of a series of four questions for you to answer via video. Once those are reviewed, you can then expect to receive a decision on whether you have been selected for the face-to-face interview with an alumnus.
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How to prepare for your MBA interview
In your MBA interview preparation, look first to the invitation letter you receive and make sure you follow the instructions carefully, including date, time, location, materials to bring, and any other details the school needs you to know. Check the school’s website for additional tips on what to expect from the interview and what questions might be asked. Go online and search for blog posts from past interview participants to find out what the process was like for other candidates.
Additionally, if you know any alumni from the school you are considering, be sure to spend a little time with them to understand how to prepare for that school’s unique MBA interview experience. After all, an alumnus went through the same experience you are about to go through, and came away with an acceptance letter, so this advice might be most crucial of all.
Harvard Business School (US) is particularly interested in the decisions you have made in your life and the rationale behind them. They look at the entire package that you as an individual represent, including your past experiences, present attributes, and future goals.
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What to expect during the MBA interview
As with the personal essay you likely submitted as part of your application, sincerity and authenticity are key. Admissions officers want to see a different side of you than that which is portrayed on paper.
The types of questions should be ones you have already asked and answered on your own as you considered pursuing an MBA. Why are you interested in post-graduate school in general? Why are you interested in this school or programme in particular? What skills are you hoping to acquire during the programme? What unique personal qualifications or experiences will make a welcome addition to the MBA class?
While most universities and B-schools have traditional face-to-face or online video interviews (recorded or live), the International Institute for Management Development (Switzerland) offers a much different experience. IMD calls their interview process an “Assessment Day,” and plans an entire day dedicated not only to learning more about you, but in helping you learn more about IMD. On Assessment Day, candidates can expect to be asked to complete more than one assignment or presentation – either individually or in a group, a tour of the campus, the chance to network with current students and faculty, and an opportunity to sit in on an actual class lecture.
The questions will vary from school to school, of course, but the overall content will be roughly the same. As long as you have prepared sufficiently, you are honest and forthcoming in the interview, and you demonstrate a well thought-out decision-making process, you have covered the basics.
After the MBA interview
After your MBA interview is completed, the last phase of the process begins: waiting. You will likely be given a rough estimate of how long you will need to wait before being notified of a decision and exactly how you will be notified. If not, feel free to ask this information at the close of the interview. Your eagerness to know their decision further demonstrates your excitement at the idea of being accepted to the MBA programme.
The London Business School (UK) website gives very specific information on what will happen before and after the interview. After your application is considered according to pre-established deadlines and you have been chosen to move forward in the process, LBS will contact a designated Regional Admissions Manager to interview you. Following this, you will be notified of the final decision in one of three ways: 1) your application will be rejected (you are welcome to apply the following year), 2) your application will be waitlisted (no current offer of admittance, but you have not been completely ruled out for that academic year), or 3) you will receive an offer of admission.
Despite the self-analysis and preparation you put into the MBA interview process, the ultimate decision is up to the school. If you are accepted, a new adventure awaits you. If you are rejected, do not lose heart. There are other schools and other academic sessions to which you can apply. If you are as committed to the MBA programme as you should be, you will find a way.