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!!!!
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 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.
This post is kind of in the category of “informative but potentially useless” (hmm, how many of our posts are in that category??? we, of course, write them to be useful, but do you actually use them? The ‘Snark ponders). Knowing that there are downsides to going through an alumni interview for your MBA application,…
Yeah we know. The network. The network. The network. If you’re saying in your MBA essays or the interview that a reason you’re choosing this school is because of “the network” then we’re going to push back on you. What exactly does that even mean? “The network” is one of those MBA buzzwords that everyone…
Based on the title of this post, you may think that EssaySnark is just being friendly. Oh no, ma cherie. We are talking about interviewing!!! There are so many basic questions that can so thoroughly trip up an unsuspecting (aka unprepared) BSer. Your interview, as you know, is your time to shine. As we’ve been…
Here’s a quick-hit rando assortment of advice, warnings, and some rebuttals to that advice that will give you
fodder for procrastination on ideas for reflection when prepping for your interview. We’ve collected these links over a period of time and rather than trying to distill them into a snarkolicious post of our own, we figured we’d just give you a direct line to the source. These are almost all written for job interviews so adapt where needed.
Hope this is helpful!
- Interviewing? Slow down – and practice becoming more aware of your use of filler words (um, ah, like)
- And a rebuttal to some of that advice about words like “like” (based on gender/generation)
- Great interview tips from HEC alum
- Excellent advice for when you mess up during an interview
- Play-act your interview prep as a rehearsal for your big moment
- Some behavioral questions to practice with – preparing for these types of questions in your interview lets you share more substance
- Language matters in your interview
- Did you REALLY ace the interview?
- A little basic but still worth remembering: Interview etiquette
This post has little to do with Harvard, even though many if not most of you applicants will be Harvard-focused today. This post has everything to do with how you talk about your future post-MBA goals. The reason it has little to do with Harvard is that career goals may or may not come up…
Interview invitations are coming hot and heavy right now – congrats to all of you who’ve landed one so far! Exciting times!
So what do you need to do to get ready?
First of all — the most important advice we can offer — you need to PRACTICE. Please do not underestimate the importance of prep at this stage!
That’s not all you need though.
But no worries, you’re likely to find this one exciting! Because you’ve already gotten the interview and that should give you some spring in your step and some renewed vigor and motivation, and this essay (which hopefully is your last!) likely won’t be quite as grueling an experience.
Or…. maybe not. 🙂
The questions that Booth and MIT ask aren’t that easy, and you need to get those essays done pretty fast. The Harvard one has to get done even faster, with only 24 hours after the interview to submit your Post-Interview Reflection. We touch on the Harvard assignment very briefly in our Harvard MBA Application Guide; it’s only a few pages so we’re not saying you should buy it just for this part since it’s admittedly a bit limited, though in its entirety, it could possibly be helpful as an overall resource for identifying your content for the interview. Same deal with Chicago Booth: We have a section in the Booth MBA Application Guide but it’s more of an overview. If you already have the Booth guide then definitely study it now that you’re in this position of interviewing! But we’re not really recommending that someone pick it up only for insights into how to write the essay itself (still likely valuable overall, we just don’t want to misrepresent how much content there is on this specific piece).
For MIT however, we do go into some depth on the “mission” essay in our MIT Sloan MBA Application Guide so that one can be particularly useful in taking advantage of this important interview-essay opportunity.
(If you had previously purchased one of these guides this season and your subscription expired, you can get it reactivated for cheap – please reach out and Team EssaySnark will help you out.)
And now brand-new to help many of you:
We’ve just launched the Interview Express Essay Review to specifically support those of you writing essays in conjunction with the interview experience at Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan, or Chicago Booth.
The Interview Express Essay Decimator gives you super fast feedback and most important, we read through your full application, and consider your topic in the context of everything else you’ve already presented to your school. You don’t get any feedback on the app itself but we do incorporate the whole pitch into our recommendations about your essay.
We also have the Custom Interview Questions service for any interviews conducted by the admissions committee, where your interviewer has read your entire application before they meet you. This is specifically for HBS but also ideal and optimized for MIT or NYU, and can be useful for other schools like LBS or INSEAD or many others as well (even for blind interviews!). It lets you practice questions specific to you and your own situation. We hear it’s invaluable!
And of course for everyone and anyone going for the interview at any school in the world, the most obvious resource of all: This blahg and all of our posts on interviewing, and our MBA Interviewing Guide which is super cheap and you practically can’t afford NOT to get it!
We wish you great good luck at this stage! You’ve come so far — now just one more big opportunity to impress the adcoms!!! Let us know if we can help and we can’t wait to hear it turns out for you!