For many M.B.A. candidates, the first response to finding out they've been selected for an M.B.A. admissions interview is pure joy. After all, most top programs do not admit anyone without interviewing them first, so the opportunity to sit down with an admissions officer or program alumnus means you're one step closer to being admitted. However, after the elation wears off, panic can set in: What if this is my one chance to get in and I blow it?
Here are a few things you can do to ensure that doesn't happen:
Familiarize yourself with the program's interview methods.
M.B.A. interviews are not one-style-fits-all affairs, so it's important to familiarize yourself with the type of questions you can expect and the style your interviewer will likely employ. For example, a Harvard Business School interviewer will ask a number of questions about your future goals, and her brusque manner will test your grace under pressure; a Stanford interviewer, on the other hand, will focus his queries on your past actions in specific situations and do his best to put you at ease.
[Get more advice from M.B.A. admissions officials.]
Visit the school's admissions website and admissions blogs and glean as much information about the interview process as you can. You'll find that some schools are very transparent about what to expect, and others shroud the process in a bit of mystery. Either way, there are plenty of resources online and elsewhere that can give you the lowdown on each school's interview approach.
Construct your narrative, emphasizing fit.
Once you've zeroed in on the program's interview techniques, your next step is to think about what to say during your interview. Your job is to leave no doubt in your interviewer that you fit in the program. If the school emphasizes entrepreneurship, then think about examples that highlight your initiative and willingness to take smart risks.
The majority of programs ask questions that invite you to share concrete examples (e.g., "Tell me about a time you worked with a difficult co-worker."), so brainstorm a variety of applicable stories. Don't simply rely on what you wrote about in your application essays. In some cases, your interviewer will already be familiar with them, and your essay stories may not apply to the questions you're asked.
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Practice, practice, practice.
Before your interview, spend time practicing your stories out loud. You can do this by yourself in front of a mirror, or by enlisting your spouse or a trusted friend to conduct mock interviews. The more comfortable you become telling your stories, the more relaxed you'll be at your interview. Also, keep in mind that most interviews last 30 minutes to one hour. If a story takes 10 minutes to tell properly, it likely isn't interview material.
Finally, think of this as a professional interview: dress nicely, bring extra copies of your résumé, and so on. Also prepare questions to ask your interviewer, who will likely give you the opportunity to do so. This is a great opportunity to get an insider's view of the program, especially if you're interviewing with an alumnus. Remember, you're not only trying to prove your merit, but also making sure the program is the best fit for you.