We were helping someone with their interview prep for a top school recently and after going through their performance in the mock interview, they came back with some comments: Hi ES, Where would I be without you? Thank you so much for this detailed feedback. I’m happy I took your help, though I wish I…
We already cautioned you on 10 Things Not to Do in Your MBA Interview and today’s advice is perhaps more universal. It’s about the things that people do in high-stress situations, including basically any type of presentation or even just when having the floor in a meeting with colleagues and seniors.
Some of these things you may not even know that you do. Some are like those verbal tics that you might observe when someone is speaking. They tend to be more pronounced when you’re nervous, or unprepared.
Not everyone will notice if you do them — but some people are hypersensitive when they are exposed to these habits. For the hypersensitive type, if you do these things in your interview, your interviewer might be unreasonably annoyed. Not your fault if they are, but anything you can do to make your interview come across as professional and polished will end up in your favor.
Here’s one habit we see lots of times, predominantly in younger people though not exlusively. It’s called up-speak, where every sentence ends with a question mark. This is a brief overview of the issue which offers advice on how to change it.
Verbal tics are those filler words (um, ah, like) that we use when we don’t really know what to say. One way to help with this is starting now — today — slow down your speech when you’re talking to people. Listen for the words that you use, and the way that you use them.
Here’s more tips to build awareness of speech patterns which is really the key to all of this.
This video has an interesting perspective that captures a lot of these points:
Want to read more? Here’s a bunch of other resources to help you build this self-awareness and feel more confident when you’re communicating verbally.
The best antidote to protect yourself from these issues is to be prepared when you go into the interview, to practice through enough mock interviews that you are confident on your content, to get enough sleep the night before, and leave enough time to get to the venue where your interview is being held so you’re not rushed or hyperventilating because you’re so late, and to remember to breathe. Your interviewer is more likely than not going to be friendly and they typically are genuinely interested in meeting you and learning more about who you are and why you’re interested in an MBA from their school. We’re not going to try and tell you to relax, since that’s a fairly ridiculous thing to advise. But if you’ve done the groundwork and you know why you’re there, and what you have to offer as a candidate, the interview itself should not be overly traumatic of an experience.
We wish you all the luck in the world, BSer! Can’t wait to hear how it goes!!!!
Reblahgging because based on some profiles and BSers we’ve seen, this may be useful again!! We got an essay submitted for a freebie review last November and we spent a day reviewing it for everyone right before Round 2 (Stanford “What matters most and why?”) (tl;dr: getting rejected from Stanford is no indication of…
What happens if you get laid off while you’re applying to business school? Or if you just can’t stand your job anymore and you quit? (After all, with those awesome apps you’ve submitted, you’re going to be leaving in a few months anyway, right? Why not just tell your boss to shove it now? A…
EssaySnark got a little triggered. Back in April, we wrote this whole post ripping HBS a new one, because we stumbled into this — from the overview of the HBS financial report published in October 2018 by Havard Business School’s CFO:
MBA tuition is budgeted to increase a modest 2 percent in fiscal 2019—the smallest amount in many decades—reflecting the School’s focus on slowing the pace of growth in the cost of MBA education. Revenue from MBA tuition and fees is projected to rise 1 percent, year over year, reflecting normal fluctuations in actual class size. Financial aid spending—MBA, Doctoral, and Executive Education student fellowships—is expected to increase 6 percent.
Gosh, they seem awfully proud of themselves! “A modest 2 percent”!!! WOW! Pat your smart self on the back, buddy!
You do realize that inflation has been historically low in the U.S. for ages now. Over the past two-ish years, it’s gone between like 1.5% and near 3% — so a 2% inflation is just sort of normal for what’s going on in the economy overall right now.
Of course, saying you’re going to keep MBA tuition at only 2% does sound radical! When it’s been going up more than double that almost Every. Single. Year. for decades.
A generation ago, EssaySnark used to be of the mind that the MBA was worth it, the ROI was there, anyone complaining about the cost of tuition was just a complainer.
Not so much anymore.
Dang, this sh!t’s expensive!!! And like DANG!! It really is!!!!!!
We still see the value of the MBA overall, and the whole “transformational experience” thing — we put that in quotes because it’s kind of hyped by the schools, but in all honesty, you will go through some remarkable changes when you’re in these two years. You’re going to come out a completely different person. It’s not just that you’ll be newly minted with three shiny letters after your name, and a whopping new salary to be grateful for. You’re really going to have some life-altering experiences, perhaps experiences that you can’t easily get anywhere else.
But when we look at it another way, it sort of looks like a cult.
There’s a lot of brainwashing that goes on.
You’re going to find your “tribe.”
You’re going to get inculcated into the culture.
You’re going to be steeped in the values and norms and standards of what this new community advocates — which, hopefully, will be net to the positive. (There’s always risk of the heavy drinking culture, and the FOMO culture, and the hyper-competitiveness culture, and the sleeping-around culture, and the slut-shaming culture for anyone who is suspected of sleeping around, and the “I’m just coasting because grades don’t matter anymore” slacker culture, and the who’s sleeping the least/doing the most/killing it the best culture, to all have an effect and do a number on your perception of real reality.)
Basically, you’re signing up to pay $200k for two years of participation in a socially sanctioned cult. You’ll be joining an elite club. You’ll have experiences proscribed by this institution that you are paying to shape you into some new type of human.
That’s a very expensive way to have new experiences.
And yet for some reason, it’s accepted that there would be no caps on what you can be charged for this. The market forces where there are still steady streams of applicants flocking to the doors of school like Harvard means that the administrators aren’t looking for ways to keep costs in check. They apparently feel justified in jacking up tuition fees again even though they’ve done so literally every single year since time began — and even in an era of stock market riches, where their endowments are (or should be!!) incredibly healthy, where they’re getting flush deposits from alumni who are benefiting from the strength in the economy around the world, where there is an abundance of riches at Harvard Business School — except when it comes to being generous with students.
Why not hold tuition flat? How do they get away with raising tuition every year?
Of course, we’d expect a response from HBS to be along the lines of how all students have their financial situations taken into account, and how generous they can be with the packages they put together for their admits, how they offer need-based (and not solely merit-based) add to their admits . Which, notably, is more unusual among top schools, where need is often not considered when they make an offer of scholarship money.
Still with us? Despite the spittle flying from our face as we ranting about all of that?
Well, it was at about that time in constructing this post that we want to examine the data. Our recollection is that yes, the schools — all of them — raise tuition every single year. But we hadn’t updated our fancy-dancy spreadsheet with the numbers from HBS just lately. So we set about doing that, and, um….
Turns out, HBS actually HASN’T raised one-year tuition for the last three years. They were at $72,000 for the 2017-’18 academic year, and then went up to $73,440 for the 2018-’19 academic year, and then from what we can gather, they’ve actually held steady, at least so far as tuition, at that $73,440 figure for the next two years too. And that’s what is posted at now, for the 2019-’20 academic year that starts this Fall.
So hmm. We had this whole rant about HBS and apparently we got it all wrong!
Not that a tuition of $73,440 is by any means cheap. And it’s not like other mandatory fees that they charge students have been staying constant. On the whole, the total cost of the program, and of course living expenses, has been ticking higher at Harvard, as everywhere else. We heard that Booth, too, is keeping tuition the same in 2019 but things like their health insurance fee and other inescapable costs that students have to cover are still going up. It’s fully infuriating to see that tuition was only $46,150 per year for the HBS Class of 2011. From $46k/year for base tuition, to $73k/year, in under ten years! We believe that our fury is justified at that. That is most certainly more than a 2%/year increase.
But apparently HBS, and Booth, aren’t actively gouging students with tuition hikes this year. Neither is the entire system of the University of Virginia (undergrad and all grad programs, including MBA; the board of governors there reversed a planned 2.9% hike after getting significantly more state funding .) Apparently there may be a ceiling, a limit to the insanity, the ever-rising cost of this so-called education. So we’ll let the blood pressure settle back down again, and we’re posting this diatribe anyway, because surely, in the not-so-distant future, HBS is going to be increasing tuition again, and more likely than not, it’ll be out of sync with the inflation rate in the Real World, and all of us are powerless to stop it.
Unless you decide to opt out of the cult. While may be worth considering.
Most applicants to business school want to change careers. Bschool is an ideal vehicle for that. Most bschools want to hear about your plans to change careers in your essays. Crafting a solid set of goals is one of the most important steps you can take in building a strong application. There are many ways…
Simple question, eh?
It’s crazy how much BSers trip over it.
This is the type of question that often comes up towards the end of the MBA interview, when your interviewer is winding down from the hardcore “Why do you want an MBA and what do you bring to the table?” types of questions.
As with all things, we recommend that you tell the truth when asked this sort of thing. Please don’t go around making up lists of exotic hobbies that you’re going to trot out to impress your interviewer with.
Also don’t feel bad if you haven’t done much “for fun” in the past, oh, six months. Anyone applying for bschool tends to have a fairly limited amount of free time in the ramp-up to apps. You more likely than not have been consumed with GMAT prep, and the drinking, and then lots and lots of procrastination, and then a whirlwind of essay-writing up to the deadlines (and then more drinking once the deadlines were passed). And maybe somewhere along the way you may have done a road trip to visit some schools. In all of that hullaballoo it’s likely that any so-called “hobbies” and “interests” that you have nurtured over the years fell by the wayside.
However it’s also likely that you made up something-or-other to fill in the blanks in the school’s application when they asked you something similar. So go back to that and see what you wrote.
Whatever you tell your interviewer should not be radically opposed to that answer.
If you neglected to mention your interest in naked skydiving into volcanoes in your application, then we suggest you don’t bring this up in your MBA interview.
So that’s a start. Everything you say in the interview needs to add up to the picture you painted in your app. If there are disconnects – and this goes for more than simply a question about hobbies – then you’re likely going to shoot yourself in the foot.
Another possible stumbling block is simply what you might say about your interests. If you padded out your resume or your app dataset with some references to volunteer work that aren’t really so substantial (or recent) then you could be walking into a self-made trap if you bring that stuff out in the interview.
Expect that every answer you get may prompt a follow-up question from your interviewer.
If you tell the interviewer that you do all this charity work, then be prepared for them to say “OMG really? That’s my favorite organization! I was just there last night. Isn’t Mary the best? I just love working with her.”
And you’re sitting there going, “Mary??” Who’s Mary??” Because you had no idea that this interviewer-person who’s grinning across the desk from you was awarded the Volunteer of the Year from this organization and is responsible for single-handedly making them the charity that they are today.
Or even more basic: You tell your interviewer you’re training for a marathon, and the next question is, “Oh cool, which one?” – you’d better know which marathon you’re training for.
So the basic guidelines of “don’t make stuff up” and just as important, “don’t inflate the truth” apply in spades when you’re having an actual conversation with an actual person. Should be obvious but we’ve seen people get in real trouble on this.
The other advice is, talk about recent stuff. Not only stuff that you literally really in fact honestly do, but stuff that you’ve been doing lately. It’s OK if it took a backseat during your application efforts, but hopefully in the weeks since deadlines have swept through, you’ve reassembled your regular life again and have started to resume normal activities. Those are the things you need to be using in answer to this sort of question.
These types of questions are sincere attempts for the school to learn more about who you are.
If all you do in your spare time is read historical fiction, or watch zombie movies, or if you’ve never missed a home game for your favorite team, then that’s the answer to the question. If you’re training for a marathon, then that’s the answer to the question. If the answer is, you are into homebrewing, or you knit, or you collect comic books, then that’s the answer to the question. Whatever you do for fun is the answer to the question. Don’t think you have to manufacture some image of this ideal MBA applicant person in order to get in. The adcoms want to know about YOU.
Simple answers are totally legit. Don’t overthink this.
Our MBA interviewing guide contains many more tips and tricks on how to prepare for this all-important occasion. You may want to pick that up, and you can also check out a slew of other interviewing resources on this site. We are hearing of many interview invites being extended and we wish all of you great good luck on your interview!
We’re not gonna name names here today but we’re sharing one BSer’s experience on navigating the admit -> deposit process at a few schools last season. The point of this post is to share with you why YOUR OWN understanding of, impressions of, and experiences with a school are all that matter. How do you…
Did you not manage to submit the apps you had planned to for Round 1?
If so, we want you to not feel bad about this.
There’s likely only one of these two reasons why this has happened, and neither one of them is your fault.
You either got stung by:
- Procrastination (which may feel like it’s your fault but it’s kind of not)
- Anxiety (ditto)
How are these things not your fault?
Well, because as a human entity, living in a physical form, and subject to the DNA of this species, one or possibly both of these things are factors in our lives. They are part of the program.
The trick to living a good life is to not let the program win.
EVERYONE DOES IT.
The only ones who don’t do it are the ones who are so anxious that they know they will stress themselves right out of their gourd if they don’t take action on the thing that they’re scared of. Everyone else, to some degree or another, procrastinates and may even get themselves in real trouble around it. Maybe you’ve borderline-gotten-fired by almost missing a deadline, or you flunked out of a class because you dickered around with the term paper that comprised half the grade, and you couldn’t get the cruel professor to cut you any slack when you went begging at the 11th hour.
EVERYONE HAS IT.
Not everyone has it in equal measure, and some people don’t seem overly affected by it (which is something you can learn if you suffer from anxiety!). For other people though, anxiety really does a number on them, and the experience of all those horribly stressful thoughts and awful emotions create a cocktail of nastiness coursing through the bloodstream, and making the brain kind of eat itself from the inside out. If that’s you, then we understand why Round 1 didn’t happen as you had wanted.
For as long as we’ve been doing this, BSers have always procrastinated. It’s actually one of the things we work hard to try and help with, starting in like April or May, with our regular posts about “The end is near! You don’t have any time! Get started now!!!” We also price our services much cheaper early in the season, to try and get folks to sign up early — and, one of the features of our entire service model is a ticking clock! You buy consulting services from us, it has an EXPIRATION DATE. All of this is by design, because we know you’re going to put things off. We even have our version of surge pricing, where we offer super-rush-lickety-split turnaround of essay reviews for an additional fee for those who put it all off till the end. We needed to find a fair way to still offer support to you folks, so that’s all part of the plan. It’s designed with your own best interests in mind: To try and get you off your duff and working against the programs that would otherwise cobble you.
Because here’s the deal:
The human organism is designed to like comfort. It’s built into the program. When things are comfortable, then that’s what the organism will continue to choose.
You-all are too young to remember the days before remote controls on the TV set, but ask your parents or grandparents about it. You used to have to get up from the couch and walk across the room to change the channel. How many millions of hours of horrible TV shows do you think people sat through because they didn’t want to get their behinds up to go do that? (The invention of children was a beautiful thing — “Hey, Johnny, go change it to channel 2.”)
You somehow in the past year managed to get a test prep schedule together for yourself, and you managed to take and possibly retake the GMAT or GRE enough times, so clearly you’re MOTIVATED.
But then along came the summer, and there were just so many good times to be had! So many picnics and parties. And writing essays…. it’s just like walking into the void. The vast yawning abyss of the unknown.
You never liked writing essays in college; dang, perhaps you even hated it. Maybe that’s the class you failed, it was all because of one stupid essay. And now you have to write essays again?
And the stakes are so high…. and it just seems like so much WORK…
And for all of these reasons, August came around, and then boom, it was over, and you were staring down September, and it was staring right back, and there still weren’t any essays written.
You probably got at least a handful of apps in, but you know in your heart they weren’t as good as they could’ve been.
And then oh mercy me if you had this going on IN ADDITION TO ANXIETY… oh boy.
Procrastination of course breeds anxiety, and anxiety procrastination.
If you’ve got a brain that’s wired in a way that you’re particularly sensitive to those worry-hormones — you know, the opposite of the feel-good hormones. The ones like cortisol especially. Add that to the mix and instead of a fight-or-flight response, you end up with a freeze. Where you’re paralyzed by the inability to act, and each successive day slips on past, and it gets worse and worse, and you just can’t dig out.
We’ve always seen BSers suffer from the procrastination thing. But this anxiety thing?
It is increasing.
We are seeing it more and more in our clients. Maybe it’s the state of the world. There are PLENTY of reasons to be anxious.
However, it also seems like the more people talk about mental health, the more anxious people are getting. Almost like it’s contagious. Dunno. Maybe someone should study it??
What we do know is that there are tools available — and not just medication (though that certainly does bring relief to many people). We’re talking about things like exercise, diet, meditation. Getting out in nature. Playing with puppies. Having a hobby like knitting or whatever. All that stuff you know is good for you, but you probably aren’t doing enough of.
These things are not panaceas; they take time to have an effect.
However they do have a cumulative build, if you’re diligent (and not making yourself more anxious!) about doing them.
You know what else often works?
A good therapist can really provide value.
So. Today’s post is to encourage you to take action — not on your apps, though we hope you will do that too, and even consider starting your Round 2 strategy today.
But more important, take action for yourself.
It’s very trendy these days to talk about self-care, but it’s a real thing, and if you have a pattern of self-sabotage, where these thoughts get the most of you or you are plowed under by stress or worryworryworry emotions, or you just don’t feel that you’ll ever deserve this kind of success, or that nobody will ever accept you (and we don’t just mean the MBA adcoms) then we hope this post will give you pause, and you’ll consider talking to somebody.
Therapy is not for wusses. You have to be brave to seek out help. It’s a sign of maturity.
It can be truly powerful medicine. For some of you, we’re betting it could change your life.
Anyone have any experiences with therapy they want to share? The comments are open – you can post anonymously, under a pseudonym (log out of your essaysnark.com account first if you don’t want that username to be used).
DISCLAIMER: We’re not saying that everyone who missed Round 1 should have their head examined — even though it probably seems that we’re saying that!! This post is meant as gentle encouragement to not be quite so hard on yourself. And if there’s a pattern there, that help is available. You don’t have to suffer so much.
We know many BSers are going to be getting interview invitations soon* and so we’re going to offer a quick list of, errm, things not to do. So that you don’t accidentally step on your own chances in this all-important day!
In no particular order…
- Chew gum. You’d think this would be obvious — but then again, you’d think that all of these things would be obvious. Yet we’ve heard admissions directors talk about each and every one of these things happen in real life, in an MBA interview situation.
- Have chicken parmigiano for lunch beforehand. Or shrimp scampi. Or garlic mashed potatoes. Or anything with garlic or onions.
- Be rude to the receptionist.
- Bite your nails.
- Wear jeans.
- Wear perfume or cologne. Or any heavily scented body products.
- Not wear deodorant. Scent should be fine for this category! As long as scent isn’t its main selling feature.
- Leave your phone on. Even on vibrate, it’s going to be a distraction if someone texts or calls or Facebook alerts. Turn it totally off before you go into the interview.
- Ask your interviewer how you did. As tempting as it may be, you’ve got to resist the urge to ask, “How are my chances?” Trust the process. If you’ve prepared appropriately, and you know why you want an MBA, and you’ve applied to this school for a reason — and now here they are, interviewing you — then you’ve done well. There is literally nothing that an interviewer will be able to say in response to a “What are my chances?” question. Either they lie and tell you did great, or they tell the truth and say you did fine (but “fine” doesn’t always make it in), or they grimace and wish you hadn’t asked, because there’s nothing they can give you at that stage. Or, you’re asking someone who’s opinion doesn’t really matter that much. If you’re interviewing with a student or alumnus/a, they’re going to submit their report on your conversation, but they’re not making the decision. So even if you did great, it doesn’t mean you’ll get in, and the opposite is also 100% true. Lots of candidates who feel that they bombed the interview end up with an admit. There’s not that much that can be read from these particular tea leaves. So bite your teeth and prevent yourself from asking the “What are my chances?” question. It does nothing for you except possibly make the interviewer uncomfortable.
- Not read EssaySnark’s guide to preparing for your MBA interview (sorry couldn’t help it – it’s really quite valuable and we’re betting you find a lot of use in it!)
Are you interviewing? Please let us know! You can update your status on the School Targets section of My SnarkCenter. We can’t wait to hear how it goes!
Want more practical tips?
And even more?
*How do we know this? Because we worked with some BSers who put together some smokin’ apps this season.