Our MBA Interviewing Guide breaks down the types of interviews (blind vs open) and who is conducting them (students, alumni, adcom) in greater detail, and of course you’re likely stalking the admissions forums and hearing about others’ experiences. So you probably already know the common setup at your target school.
Despite our title today, we’ll start here:
Should your interview prep strategies change if you’re interviewing with an admissions person?
You still want to show up professionally (in many cases this means WEAR A SUIT! Yes even in 2020 when the whole world seems to have gone casual in the workplace).
The main thing you need to manage when interviewing with an admissions person is your nerves. Many BSers — not all — will feel more anxiety when they go in with a person in obvious authority. After all, an admissions person is clearly someone who makes decisions on applications.
The students? They never make decisions on apps. Yes, the input of the interviewer, student or alumni, is highly valued by the admissions committee. But students and alumni don’t have that much sway in the process overall. Can the opinion of a student blackball an applicant? Oh yes, if it’s a takeaway about the applicant that is a make-or-break issue, such as voicing extreme views about immigrants and being anti-diversity. But 99.9% of all interviewees are on their best behavior during an interview so it’s highly unlikely something like that would be said. Beyond such extreme instances, the interviewer’s report is just not going to be the deciding factor on your fate.
That’s actually true with the report from an admissions person’s interview, too. We’ve heard that some schools recuse the interviewer from the admissions committee’s vote on any applicants that they interviewed. They try to make things fair and neutral.
It truly does not matter who you’re interviewing with — admissions, student, alumna/us — your interview will hold equal weight.
That does not mean that the interview experience will be the same. Of course not.
If you’re interviewing with a student, it may be easier for you to connect with him or her, and feel more at ease.
What takes you far with any interviewer is enthuasiasm and also demonstrating that you really know their school and why you have applied there.
If you are interviewing with a student, then connect with them on their experience — but don’t get too familiar. Yes it’s great if you are matched with someone with a similar background or similar goals; sometimes this can really put you at ease. But always remember that you’re interviewing. Be careful about too much self-disclosure, or getting too buddy-buddy with your interviewer. It’s appropriate to allow the power differential between you to remain in place. If you’re a person of color, then we don’t really recommend talking about how you are nervous that there’s not that many other POCs at the school you’re interviewing with, even if your interviewer is also a minority. Save that for later. If the interviewer goes there, then sure, follow their lead — and definitely ask those types of questions at other stages of your admissions journey. But we wouldn’t make sensitive topics like that a feature of this specific interaction.
Once you get accepted, you can totally become your interviewer’s BFF if you both had the same experience of genuine bonding and there really was a connection. For now, during your interview, we suggest that you keep up the boundaries. They are healthy and will allow you to perform better — and should prevent you from saying something you will later regret.
And a note on that: Everyone replays their interview in their head after it’s over and finds fault with themselves. They remember the one thing they said that did not seem to land so well with the interviewer, or how they blurted out something that sounded stupid, or they attempted a joke and it just did not work at all.
These are just a few considerations. We cover even more analysis of the various situations involved with different interviewers at different schools in our MBA Interviewing Guide in case you want to study up and gain further insights on the environment you’re walking into and what you can do to prepare. If you’ve got questions on your exact interview situation, hit us up with a comment on this post and we’re happy to help!