When to start MBA interview practice? How to prepare?
Jan, 11, 2014
When is the time to start interview preparation? Ideally, at least a month before you are likely to be interviewed. If you apply to Columbia, that means starting pretty much soon after you press the submit button. If know you will be having an open interview for Duke, Kellogg or Tuck, it means start prepping for that a month before the deadline. If you have just applied for second round schools, it means, well, starting pretty much much now.
Of course, chances are good that you will ignore my advice and only have 1-2 weeks to prepare. In some cases, just a couple of days. One to two weeks can be enough time depending on your interviewee skills and how much time you have for preparation. A couple of days, well it can be enough, depending on you and the school.
How to prepare:
1. I have both general and school specific interview posts. My core posts on interviewing can be found in the INTERVIEW ANALYSIS section of http://www.adammarkus.com/key-posts/. I suggest starting with http://www.adammarkus.com/mba-application-interview-strategy-3/ and then reading http://www.adammarkus.com/interview-practice-is-about-speaking/ followed by http://www.adammarkus.com/10-ways-to-blow-an-mba-admissions-interview/. You should then read any school specific posts that apply to you.
2. Make schedule for yourself and begin self-preparation as discussed in the above posts.
3. Determine who you will do interview preparation with. Make the assumption that practicing with someone will be helpful. MBA alumni can be quite helpful. An admissions consultant who provides you with critical feedback and real coaching can also be quite helpful.
I think my interview preparation best practices are useful to consider whether you decide to use my services or not.
I believe in over preparation: I have a simple and effective method for interview preparation: Over-preparation. The best way to do well in any interview is be prepared for an interview that will be harder than the actual interview is likely to be. Since 2001, I have been told that my practice interviews were harder than the real thing and as a result my clients said that they could confidently handle the real interview.
Have an interview strategy: I help my clients develop the talking points for their interviews so that they handle any question they are asked. I believe in coming into an interview with a clear sense of what you want to communicate about yourself both in terms of key selling points and key stories that support those selling points.
Think about presentation: Think not only about the content you want to present, but the way you will present it. Practice your delivery of that content until you feel it is coming across well. If my clients need it, I can help them structure and even model answers.
Confront the questions you really don’t want to have to answer: We all questions that we wish to avoid having to answer, but assume those are the very questions you need to prepare for the most for. I will help my clients brainstorm effective stories to answer questions that they are not yet comfortable with and/or help them enhance their existing stories.
School specific interview practice: I don’t believe in the value of mock interviews that are not school specific. To whatever extent possible, I like to make the practices as realistic as possible. I try to provide a set of questions that represent a hard version (when applicable) of what an interviewer from the specific school you are applying to is likely to ask. If I do multiple mock sessions with a client, they will different sets of mock questions reflecting the range of questions used by a particular school.
Prepare for different types of interviewers: There are many kinds of MBA interviewers, even from the same school. If I do multiple mock sessions with the same client, I will use different interviewer personalities. Here is how I helped a client who was admitted to HBS for the Class of 2016 (The client’s full testimonial can be found here):
“Adam digs deep into your application to understand your vulnerabilities and asks challenging questions to prepare you for the worst. He also exposes you to a number of interviewing styles that you may encounter at HBS – from the amiable interviewer who lets you take the discussion in a direction of your choosing (which can be very dangerous), to the probing style that challenges your statements and changes directions on a dime.”
The friendly interviewer will let you hang yourself, the aggressive interviewer will challenge you, the indifferent interviewer will give you very little feedback so you have to take charge, and the rude interviewer will interrupt you and appear condescending. Whether you are being made to feel good about the interview or not by the interviewer, your mission is still to convince this interviewer that you are right for their school. While you may have some idea of the personality of your interviewer before you interview, chances are you will not. It is therefore particularly important to prepare for a variety of different types of interviewers.
For more about my interview services, see here.