Following their screening of the applications, most leading business schools invite a portion of the candidates for the “second stage” in the admissions process – the admissions interview. Usually, about 30%-50% of the candidates are invited to an interview. Some schools, however, such as the Chicago Graduate School of Business, conduct a personal interview as an integral part of the application process, and therefore interview all candidates prior to the application submission deadline.
In most cases, the candidate may select whether to conduct the interview on or off campus. If the interview is conducted on campus, the interviewer may be a staff member of the admissions committee (at Cornell, for example) or a current student (at Wharton, for example). If the interview is conducted off-campus, in most cases a school alumnus will carry it out.
For on-campus interviews and for interviews conducted by staff members of the admission committee, business attire is recommended (and often required). Business attire includes a suit, a tie (for men), and thin-sole dress shoes.
A “business casual” dress code is often most appropriate for alumni interviews that are conducted in Israel. Business casual includes khaki pants, botton-down shirt and possibly (but not necessarily) a tie and a jacket (for men). Most Israeli alumni interviewers do not require, and in fact would rather skip, the tie and jacket component (after all, this is the steamy, informal Middle East, isn’t it?).
Strong interview preparation is key to success in the admissions interview. Use discussion forums, students, alumni, books and professional advisors to learn as much as you can about the school’s interview method and approach.
Admission committees allow the interviewers substantial discretion regarding the interview method and questions. Therefore, learn about your interviewer as much as possible: What is his/her style? What questions did he/she ask in the past? What is her background? Students, alumni, forums and professional advisors may be able to provide you with such information.
We strongly recommend that you intensively prepare for your interview. The more you prepare, the more you shine in your interview. Your preparation should focus on determining your key messages and conducting mock interviews. Conduct as many mock interviews as possible: with past alumni interviewers, with your friends and family, with advisors, and with fellow applicants. The mock interviews will not only bring you excellent feedback and ideas for improvement, but will also help you smooth your English and get comfortable in an interview setting.
The Interview – Eight Pieces of Advice
- Obvious but important – do not be late for your interview. If you are late, apologize.
- Turn off your cell phone prior to the interview.
- The most common mistake of interviewees: providing long, tedious answers. Therefore: be short and concise.
- Be positive. Try to avoid using the words no, don’t, not, etc. Almost any message can be presented in a positive way.
- The truth wins. The more truthful you are, the stronger the impression you will make – not only in what you say but also in the confidence and calm that you present while saying it.
- Support your answers with specific, real-life examples.
- Be ready to answer the three most repetitive interview questions: Why MBA? Why us? Why now?
- In most cases, it is recommended to conduct the interview on campus. However, this rule has numerous exceptions – depending on who you are and what school you applied to. Therefore, carefully consider the on/off campus question in your specific case.
Send your interviewer a short thank-you note for taking the time to conduct your interview.
Your admissions interview is, most likely, the beginning of a long series of screening interviews that you will go through during your business school years. Whether you succeeded in your interview or not, ask your interviewer for feedback after you have received the school’s decision. Use this feedback to improve your performance in future interviews.