You may think that some of the suggestions we’ve been making recently for your MBA interview are trivial — like, wear good shoes. You’re likely of two camps: You either don’t need to be told that (because you already know!) or you think such advice is ridiculous (because, what do your SHOES matter??). However, our school of thought is that the MBA interview is a critical part of your MBA application, and the MBA application is an effort to seriously improve your life and life circumstance, and that when something is this important, you do everything in your power to make sure you’re in a position to succeed.
So, paying attention to what you wear is not trivial.
There are many other parts of the interview experience that can trip you up besides your shoes (ha ha see what we did there?).
If you traveled to campus: Where will you store your luggage? Usually you need to fly in the day before, spend the night, then head to school in the morning. But that means schlepping your bag with you. And then what?
Pro Tip: Find a hotel super close to campus. In the morning, check out but leave your bags with the bell desk. Or even better: Pack so light that you don’t need any luggage.
Another source of potentially m-a-s-s-i-v-e stress: Figure out where you’re going.
University campuses are notoriously confusing and hard to navigate when you first arrive. Most are sprawling, whether across many city blocks if you’re talking a place like NYU or MIT, or across rolling lawns and hills like Berkeley or Dartmouth. And, parking is always super restricted.
Pro Tip: Identify exactly where you will park, how much it will cost, how it needs to be paid (quarters only is possible in some places!) — and a backup location. Visitor parking is often available closer to the building but it’s also often in high demand, and there may not be many spots available. This is yet another reason to leave way more time than you ever think will be needed. You’d much rather be sitting nervous in your car, whiling away an extra 30 minutes before the appointment, than being stuck behind a delivery truck on a one-way street in some neighborhood where there are confusing no-parking and permit-only signs everywhere and the minutes are ticking and you have no idea where you’re supposed to go. Print out maps to both your first choice and your second one. Don’t rely on your phone. You can’t tell if you’ll have service when you need it — or when an unexpected iPhone OS update gets forced on you and bricks your phone. You never know!
Also, plan for some sweat. Some bschools are located in very humid locations, and whether you’re interviewing in the middle of Fall, like now, or the middle of winter, like February, you’re likely to be a) nervous, b) stressed because you don’t know where you’re going and you missed a turn and now you’re worried you’re running late, and/or c) racing to get somewhere on foot when you weren’t planning to be, because the Uber driver dropped you off at the wrong building. If you’ve got those nice shoes and they’re brand new, they’re gonna be killing your feet in no time if you’re wearing them in your dash across campus. Stash those in your shoulder bag and wear also-nice but comfortable and walkable shoes until you’re at the building where your interview will be held. Then, take a moment in the lobby and switch shoes. You want these getting-there shoes to still be decent in case, unexpectedly, you end up actually doing the interview in them. Be sure to bring a plastic bag (ziplock preferable) to store your comfy shoes in; if you’ve really been sweating then you don’t want them to be wafting out of your bag as you’re shaking hands with your interviewer!
Also bring deodorant (and please, everyone wear deodorant!! at all times in a group setting). Duck into the restroom and re-apply when you get there. You can take a moment to do some power poses while you’re in there.
All this means, do your planning. There are so many variables and unknowns in getting to someplace you’ve never been before. Leave nothing to chance! And don’t assume anything. You need to be fully self-sufficient. It would really not be good to have to call the admissions office telling them “I’m running late, please tell my interviewer I’ll be there in 10 minutes” or “I think I’m lost. Can you give me directions to your office?” Why should you avoid calling admissions? Because part of the assessment is things like EQ, and professionalism, and readiness. The previous admissions director of the Stanford MBA program liked to talk about the importance of being able to get on a plane (no really!) and that one reason why they required some work experience for candidates was to make sure that students knew how to navigate the world. Most of you have been doing that for years, starting early in college, but there’s still a thing called helicopter parents and also when you’re stressed out, you tend not to be on your best behavior or thinking clearly, and can do or say things you wouldn’t normally do or say. Every single interaction with your admissions office and the school overall is part of your MBA application. If you’re really stuck, then yeah, contact them and let them know what’s going on. But just be really careful regarding what you call about, what you say about what you’re calling about, and your tone of voice in how you say it.
But of course — Pro Tip #1,236: Have the admissions office phone number already stored in your phone book. That is not something you want to be scrambling to look up on the internet when you’re already in a panic!
Many of these are common sense items except that common sense only comes by learning, which only comes by being in a bad situation where you did not think of such things in advance and paid the price. There is no dry run for an MBA interview (except an interview at another school, which is also not a dry run). Sweat the details, plan out the logistics, think through every scenario — and then your interview will be no sweat!!
And good luck to you, Brave Supplicant!!