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MBA Interview Preparation 101

08 Mar
Blog MBA Interview Preparation 101

So you made it through application season and now you’re waiting to see where you got in, but for most MBA programs, there’s one more step: the MBA interview. It might be in-person, or if you’re applying for an online MBA program like the one at Santa Clara University, your interview may be conducted over Zoom or Skype, or if all else fails, it might be over the phone. No matter which format is used, it can be pretty nerve-wracking to sit in front of someone and justify your place in their MBA program. But with these MBA interview preparation tips, you’ll be prepared to blow this obstacle out of the water.

Practice Makes Perfect

The key to a good MBA interview is your ability to communicate a genuine sense of who you are and what you’ll bring to the school’s program. It might be counterintuitive, but the best way to come across as genuine is to practice with a friend, coach, or colleague until you can answer MBA interview questions easily without having to search for words.1 That way, in the actual interview, you’ll be able to relax and speak from the heart.

Of course, you can’t be prepared for every question. Inevitably, you’ll get thrown a curve ball. But if you practice answering questions with grace and poise, you’ll be able to stay the course.

Stay Focused

Listen carefully to the questions you’re being asked, but look for conversational windows that will allow you to highlight your past successes or key strengths. Before the interview, make a list of some points that you want to be sure to communicate.2 Identify your key strengths and practice pitching yourself the way you’d pitch a product or service in a sales meeting. What benefits would you bring to the program? What can you offer that nobody else can? Write all of it out and practice saying it until you can deliver it smoothly.

“Why This School?” and “Why Now?”

MBA interviews may take many forms. You might interview with an alum, a current student, or someone from the admissions board. Some interviewers will have access to your application, and some interview “blind,” with the interviewer only having access to your resume. You might interview online, in person, via videoconferencing app, or over the phone. No matter what form your interview takes, you should be prepared to answer some or all of these typical MBA interview questions: Why this school? And why are you pursuing an MBA at this point in your life? Be sure to have answers ready.3

Acing the Video Interview

Interviewing over webcam can be a little tricky. First, be sure to dress as though this were an in-person interview; think of what you’d wear if you were joining a video conference for an important board meeting. Second, remember that in order to “make eye contact” with your interviewer, you’re actually going to want to look at the camera, NOT at the screen.

Before the interview, pick an area of your home or office with a neutral background where you know you won’t be bothered. Place yourself in the center of the frame so that you’re the focus. And last, even though you’ll be smiling for the camera, allow yourself to check in occasionally with what your interviewer is doing. A quick glance to make sure they’re tracking with you won’t hurt anything!

Keep Calm and Carry On

Being prepared is the best way to keep your nerves under control, but even preparation isn’t a guarantee that you won’t have butterflies in your stomach. Practice breathing deeply—and don’t forget, breathing out is just as important as breathing in!

Before your MBA interview, write a list of your strengths to remind yourself why you’re pursuing an MBA in the first place. And above all, remember that nervousness is a sign that you’re pushing your boundaries. That’s a good thing, so embrace it. If your nerves get the better of you and cause you to stumble in the interview, stop yourself, smile, and start again. Being able to collect yourself will show your resolve and your capacity for self-reflection.

Avoid Assumptions and Stay Tuned In

You want to be prepared, but you also want to avoid sounding robotic. Stay grounded by listening. This is an interview and you’ll have plenty of things you want to say about yourself, from your greatest achievements to your thoughtful remarks on your biggest challenges. But remember that this is also a conversation, and a big part of being a good conversationalist is really listening to your interviewer. Make sure you’re paying attention and responding to what your interviewer is saying, not just reciting your checklist.

Strike the Right Tone

Being yourself doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have to behave like a professional. On the flip side, you want to avoid being too stiff or formal. Treat your interviewer like the owner of a company you’re dying to work with. Express your passion and your drive, but avoid being too casual or familiar. It’s alright to get comfortable, but remember why you’re there.

Ask Smart Questions

At some point during your interview, you’ll be asked if you have any questions. Don’t say no! Before the interview, get familiar with the unique features of your prospective MBA program. The more you learn, the easier it will be to come up with solid MBA interview questions of your own that will help you learn more about your future within the program and will let your interviewer know that you’re interviewing for the right reasons.

What About Phone Interviews?

If you’re interviewing by phone, the good news is that you can keep your notes with you to help keep yourself focused and on track. The bad news is you lose some of the subtlety of communication that can come in a face-to-face MBA interview. To capture some of that, think about dressing up for your interview, even though nobody will be able to see you. It will help put you in the right frame of mind. And one last tip: Smile! They’ll be able to hear it on the other end of the line.

While an MBA interview may seem daunting, it’s best to view it as an opportunity to not only demonstrate your suitability for the program, but to build confidence and comfort with the program before you enroll so you can hit the ground running on day one.

If you’ve mastered these MBA interview tips and strategies, you’re already prepared to ace your application to the Online MBA program at Santa Clara University. For more key application advice, check out our blog posts on securing the best letters of recommendation and writing a compelling personal essay.