In days gone by, completing an admissions interview was something just about any MBA applicant could do. Many business schools required or highly recommended interviews for their entire applicant pool. That has largely changed.
In today's MBA admissions world, it is more likely that admission interviews are conducted by invitation only. Many business schools select their admitted students from among those they have asked for an interview. So, if one is invited to do this, it obviously means that interest in the applicant is high.
There are many definite no-nos for any interview. But for those fortunate enough to secure an MBA admissions interview, the stakes are too high to make certain mistakes that will damage your chances of being admitted. Here are five of the most important ones to avoid.
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1. Being late: This is a kiss of death. Make every effort to be at the interview location well ahead of your appointment. This allows you to relax, make sure you look your best, and not feel rushed or distracted.
Understandably emergencies arise, and if you're traveling to an interview via highway or air, much is out of your control. Therefore, make sure you have the contact information for the interview set in your mobile phone and can access it quickly the moment something comes up.
If you have a valid reason for being delayed and have called ahead, no problem. If you were delayed—even five minutes—and did not call ahead to let them know, you might want to consider a different business school.
2. Not maintaining good eye contact: As an MBA admissions dean at University of Chicago Booth School of Business, I interviewed hundreds of candidates. When a candidate could not maintain eye contact, it was interpreted as an indication of lack of confidence or that there was something a candidate was trying to hide.
Eye contact shows that you are engaged in the conversation—that you care as much about the questions as your answers. MBA programs look to develop future business leaders, and business leaders need to communicate, demonstrate confidence, and build trust among a team. Simple eye contact during an interview can go a long way in showing that you have the necessary leadership fundamentals.
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3. Not answering the questions: Do not yield to the temptation to veer off track or avoid answering a question. This leaves a very negative impression and makes it look like you are not listening, have something to hide, or are taking control of the interview.
Once you have answered a question and if you feel there is a short, related point you would like to make, ask your interviewer if it is all right to add an additional point.
Not being prepared with your own questions: Sometimes you will not have time to ask any questions of your own. But 99 percent of the time you will. Whatever you do, don't sit there and say you don't have any questions or ask questions you could have answered for yourself.
Have at least five, solid well-constructed questions prepared. Make sure the questions reflect your extensive research of the business school and the areas about which you have the greatest interest—including curriculum, internships, and student and faculty interaction.
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4. Reacting negatively to an alumni or student interview: It is a good thing to have an alumni or student interview. Their comments are often considered just as important as those of the admissions staff. If you have an opportunity to interview with a current student or an alumnus, be grateful.
But keep in mind that they are not trained admissions professionals and often have strong and very loyal opinions. This is a chance for you to interact with someone who could be part of your professional network and is in a very influential position with the admissions committee. Be sure to afford them the same courtesies and respect you would show the admissions staff.