How to Ace Your MBA Interview (Virtually)
It's that time of year....MBA programs are offering interviews. Dr. Kristen Willmott offers her insider tips on how to crush the virtual interview
By: Dr. Kristen Willmott, Graduate School Admissions Director, Top Tier Admissions
Interview offers are out and we are firmly in the thick of MBA interview season. When schools like UChicago Booth now want a 60-second post-interview video response submitted to them on something “recently that shifted your worldview,” suddenly interviews are a bit more complex.
Here are my top five key things to be mindful of as you work to ACE your virtual MBA interview:
1) Practice your answers to the “W" questions. Even during virtual interviews, you will be asked the important “W” questions in your MBA interviews. Prep your answers, practice them, listen to recordings of them, and then STOP so you don’t over prep. Plan to answer:
WHO are you?
WHAT have you done so far?
WHERE are you coming from?
WHEN is the right time for you to apply and what helped you arrive at that decision?
WHY our program?
HOW have you been impacted (by your work, by diversity, by inequities, by the pandemic)?
2) Be prepared in case they try to throw you. We are already hearing from our clients about interviewers going “off the cuff” this fall and asking questions that are political, equality-related, or Covid-connected, and that is quite new in the land of MBA admissions interviews. Try to be prepared with answers that relay who you are and what you believe, but be professional and aware of all possible interpretations of your responses. These types of “blind date” questions in MBA interviews are not very common, but they seem to be the new normal.
3) Gain field-specific knowledge and tap into your networks: Utilize the input and assistance of your networks in your MBA admissions process. Your manager, your colleagues, current graduate students you know, professional affiliations, faculty you could reach out to, etc.
It’s wise to keep in contact with your undergraduate advisor, past faculty members, impactful scholars and colleagues you know, attend field conferences and academic symposiums – then add your new contacts to your network, and add the conferences to your resume. Drill down on your list of connections, contacts, and networks as these may be relevant in your interview.
4) Research faculty and staff at your targeted programs: Be prepared to get asked a “Why our program?” question. Access faculty webpages and CVs in advance. Many often include links to their curriculum vitae – which are terrific microscopes into what faculty are teaching, researching, which conferences they are part of, the student projects they chair, which committees they sit on at the university, and more.
For example, let’s say you applied to UChicago Booth’s MBA program and you want to study the intersection between human capital and economics. Dr. Rebecca Dizon-Ross would be someone to research.
- You’d find her May 2020 co-authored paper on “Incentivizing Behavioral Change” on the National Bureau of Economic Research’s website.
- And her UChicago Booth Review video on education inequality.
- And information on her work with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab out of MIT in Cambridge.
- And her CV.
- Having a solid understanding of her work, her experience, what she teaches, and how it links to your interest in Booth is an instant way to boost your connection to UChicago, evidence of scholarly passion, and connection to Booth faculty/the campus.
5) Know your field and demonstrate action you have taken. There is a difference between an academic resume and a professional resume.
Are you active in your field? Do you attend conferences? Are you an invited guest speaker with top colleagues? To what extent are you a leader and change agent in your work?
Now that winter and spring 2021 annual field conferences have gone virtual, you don’t need a flight or hotel stay to attend. Which could you add to your 2021 calendar and resume?
- For example, check out MIT Sloan’s annual Sports Analytics Conference (an annual sports analytics, business, and tech conference). Perhaps you’re in media and applying to MIT Sloan to dive into their Entrepreneurship Lab and Competitive Strategy courses.
This April 2021 conference from Sloan might be one to check out and it’s virtual, no travel needed. At the very least, it offers you more context when you watch Moneyball on Netflix as you de-stress post-Sloan MBA interview. MIT Sloan round 1 applicants will hear back December 16th so their interviews are wrapped, but round 2 applications are due January 19th, so there’s another batch of video interviews just around the corner.
The MBA interview exists to connect you to the school and connect the school to you, so the best thing you can do is go into the interviewing process with that in mind – it’s about fit, not just are you a great fit for the university, but is the program right for you, right now, as well. The video interview goes both ways, and that’s a good thing.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor