B-SCHOOL INTERVIEWS – THE INSIDE STORY
So you finally get an interview call from your dream school. You are ecstatic, and you should be! Chances are that the Admissions Committee already likes your profile and application and therefore wants to interview you. But what should you do next? What is the interview about and how can you prepare yourself to excel? Read on to discover the inside story about B-School interviews.
Interviews are held for two primary reasons: 1) Depending on the school that you are applying to - to either substantiate your application, or to add a new dimension to your application package; and 2) To determine first-hand your English language proficiency. Let me explain the first point further. Different B-Schools across the US handle the interviewing process differently. In some schools, it is mandatory that the Interviewer be familiar with your essays, recommendations and transcripts before he interviews you. In this case, the purpose of the interview is usually to substantiate your application or get further clarifications. At other schools however, the Interviewer only has access to your resume before the interview. That way, he can provide an unbiased, independent assessment of your capabilities, which will add a fresh perspective to your package.
While almost all schools give you an opportunity to interview on campus, they also realize that this may be difficult for international students. Most interviews are therefore conducted either on the telephone by an Admissions staff member, or face to face by an alumnus or by a member of the Admissions committee who may be visiting your country.
As you prepare for your interview, the two most important things you should keep in mind are:
Know your application package inside out and be prepared to tackle common interview questions such as: Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? 10 years from now? Why do you want to apply to ABC school? What has been your most significant accomplishment till date? What do you do in your free time?
More difficult questions could include:
Describe a situation where you have had differences of opinion with your team. How did you resolve it?
What is your greatest weakness?
Describe an ethical dilemma you faced. How did you resolve it?
Research the B-School well. Sometimes it is hard to determine differences among schools by simply browsing their websites. That is where current students and alumni come in. They will be able to give you an insider’s perspective of the school, which will help you to better understand the strengths of the program. For example, while Harvard is known world over for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, Kellogg is known for Teamwork and Marketing, Wharton and NYU for Finance and MIT for Technology and Innovation.
Now let’s get down to the actual interview.
Your Interviewer has only 30-60 minutes to determine if you are a good fit for their program, and so will be judging you as much on presentation as on the content of your answers. Keeping this in mind, remember to dress formally and start with a firm handshake. (As simple as it sounds, at certain Ivy League schools, they actually make you practice a firm handshake with your classmates.)
Listen to the interview questions carefully, and be direct and concise with your answers. Be friendly and enthusiastic and don’t be shy about marketing yourself. As you answer your questions, your interviewer will probably be taking notes, as he has to go back and fill out an interview report. Help him by talking slowly (which also comes across as being more confident) and give him lots of examples about your skill sets that he can feed into his report.
A question that I am frequently asked is: Are the interviews stress interviews? And the answer is NO! Especially for US B-Schools, they make a concerted effort to make you feel comfortable even before they start the interview.
Most Interviewers give you the last few minutes to ask them your questions. Pick your questions intelligently. Remember that the Interviewer is on a timer, and so resist the temptation of asking more than one or two questions.
After the interview, remember to get your Interviewer’s email id or business card and send him a Thank-you note the next day.
Keep in mind that the interview is an excellent platform for you to bring out all the important details about yourself that you could not accommodate in your application package. Good luck in using it to your best advantage!