Monday, April 09, 2007

The Personal Interview

You've spent hours investigating about prospective schools;
You've practiced hard for around 3 months to get that kick-ass GMAT score;
You've toiled for weeks to write those essays and fill the applications to schools;
All of these to reach this point, the point where you have a chance to present yourself, in person, front of the school, and say "I belong".

An invite for an interview gives two signals:
  • We are interested in you - Good job with the apps!!!
  • We want to evaluate you - Tough work ahead!!!
As much as the invite appreciates the efforts you have put into your essays and applications, the interview is a note to say "Come show us what you've got." So it is essential that you meet the interviewer as a well prepared person, confident in what he is and what he says. Generally there will be enough time (a week or two) between the invite and the interview. Use this time efficiently and you should be able to ace the interview. A bad interview will not necessarily bring forth a ding, but a good interview is a significant step forward in getting an admit.

In my opinion, the amount of time we dedicate towards preparing for an interview makes it a success or failure.

Preparing for the MBA admissions interview is both simple and difficult. It is simple because most of the questions are standard and many people post their experiences online (please refer the Clearadmit Wiki and the interview page), which makes only a part of the interview unknown. It is difficult because the interviewer knows this too and would like to see how much you have worked on these "known" aspects and how you handled the "unknown" aspects as and when he throws them at you.

Considering this, preparation becomes all the more important. It is important to make as much of the interview "known" as it is possible. I created a document where i gathered all possible questions - from the resources mentioned above and numerous blog posts about recent and older interviews. I thought, if i prepare answers for all these questions my preparation will cover most of what the interviewer would ask me. Then i typed out answers for each of them, in bullet points. They were always at the back of my mind and i added points to them as and when i had a brain wave. In time, this grew into an exhaustive collection of points i would present in front of the interviewer. Remember, these are not actual answers which i would later vomit to the interviewer. That is suicide :) These are just a collection of points.

The list could be really long. But once you have decided that the list is good enough, try to read the answers as many times as possible. The points will stick to your mind and will even help u answer some of the surprise questions. I had 8 page documents for both my interviews and more than 2 pages of these documents had points for the question - "why this school". I am sure i only mentioned half the points while i actually answered the question. But if u can give one page full of information in the interview, for a core question like this, it is good enough. So my preparation was just to prepare this document and then keep on reading it. Once i was comfortable with the points in the document, i started to answer the questions aloud - while i was in the bed, while i was riding my bike to work, while i had free time. Now that you don't have a fixed structure, this is difficult initially but you'll find the right answer eventually. Now you can handle all those known questions in the interview. For the unknown, just remember the points and use the mind, be flexible, come out with something on the spot. The preparation helps here. I had to tackle random questions in both my interview and i could handle all of them because i had so many surplus points to discuss about.

There is this huge discussion about the correct dress for an interview. Don't try to be cool. I would say, dress for the venue of the interview. If you are meeting in a coffee shop, I'd suggest formal trousers and shirts. If you are meeting in workplace, wear a suit. If it is a hub interview, definitely wear a suit. Read the fine print of the invitation letter. See if the school specifies the attire. Chicago GSB stresses on formal wear. If you have any doubt, it is not wrong to ask the interviewer. Remember, it is always okay to over dress.

Also - make sure you carry necessary material to the interview. Printouts of your resume and the data sheet in the online application are essential. Also carry some blank sheets, just in case. And please carry them in a file.

Now, to the actual interview itself. Put yourself in the position of the interviewer and try to imagine the kind of person you would recommend to the AdComm. And then, be that person. Show you are prepared, but not rehearsed. Don't recite lines from memory. Speak them as you'd do in a normal conversation. Show your confidence. With enough preparation, you should feel confident. If you don't know something, say you don't know. That's confidence too. Be friendly. Smile when get a chance to. Crack a harmless joke, if you get a chance to do it. Be careful of the type of joke you make. If you aren't sure, forget the joke. Show your interest and involvement in the interview. Listen when the interviewer speaks. Ask follow up questions, only if you have genuine ones. Your question should make him speak more, not less. Show your love for the school, and the love for your passions, in the enthusiasm with which you discuss them. It should seep through your words and gestures, and be there as a constant, for the interviewer to see. Overall, you should come across as a person who will be a valuable addition to the class and a person who is capable of and prepared to do whatever it takes to go and achieve those short and long term goals you mention in your essays. The interviewer should feel confident of you after that one hour. It is difficult, it is important, it is the essence of the interview.

Finish the interview with a "Thank you" and a firm handshake, irrespective of how the interview turned out to be. Convey the message that you appreciate the time he spent with you. They are busy people. Apart from a few rare cases, if the interview dint go well - we have enough responsibility for it not going well. And believe me, you never know how it went for all your life - because we always end up misjudging our performance :) As everyone says, send a "Thank you" note the next day. Then forget the interview and wait for the result day :)

Wait we all did and now wait for my next post, which will discuss about this waiting period :)


Azhar said...

you really are getting good at this. keep going...

PSV said...

Awesome information here dude.

I keep asking all my friends to refer to your blog when they ask me how should they go about the MBA prep.
Have u considered compiling all this in a book and publishing it?

AR said...

dude, some where in your blog, i saw that you had mentioned your grade as 3.7 or 81%
can you pls tel me how did you reach that conversion value?
mine is 82.4% from india

Azhar said...

About the GPA, did you calculate based on the highest scorer in your class, or was it some other way. Let us know, will be helpful.

JohnyCage said...

all the way BOB
Rock on
great articles :gm:
I think I said this one 8 months ago too :p