This is the in-between season for MBA applicants, characterized by anxiety for everyone, including me. Reason: those who have already met their first-round deadlines have nothing to do but wait, and are suddenly overwhelmed with free time and unused gym memberships. Those who are applying in round 2 realize that they have to go through the crazy deadlines and last-minute rush they saw their friends go through.
But here’s the good news: For round 1 folks, you will know what is going on by Christmas. Either way. In the meantime, you’ve got interviews to go through, which are actually fun. I mean, what better way to talk about yourself for half-hour? It’s not that hard, even at HBS, where the interview really does make or break the application. So, for those of you who are getting ready to make their case in person, here are three handy tips:
1. Be over-prepared. About your story (why MBA, why you) about your leadership examples, and about why this school. You want to be confident, and with most type-A people (the kind of people applying to business school), the best way to be confident is to practice, practice, practice.
2. Look at the interview as a fraternity/sorority rush experience. The most important thing an interview is going to tell the admissions committee is whether they think classmates will benefit from having you around. Remember, your sectionmate/team member is paying $150,000 for the privilege of learning from you. Your interviewer is looking not only at what value you add, but how likeable you are. Face it, there’s an element of popularity here.
Having said that, you are not the interviewer’s best friend, so don’t get too cozy or flip. This is business.
3. Be prepared to talk about a fun fact. If you don’t have a fun fact on your resume (glassblowing, member of the national darts team, lived in Suriname for a year), be prepared to talk about something a little unusual. Or at a minimum, be prepared to talk about what you are reading. Interviewers want to know something about you that’s just a little different from the others. Knowing every word from “The Big Lebowski” doesn’t count.
4. Know your industry’s headlines. This is a new one, something I picked up from an interview guide published by HBS students. If you are in social media, there’s a good chance that the interviewer may ask you to opine on Twitter’s newest change (as of this writing it’s the ability to be able to direct tweet anyone). If you work for JPMorgan, you should probably be aware of what the media is saying about Jamie Dimon, even if it bears little influence on your division. You just don’t want to get caught off guard if an interview says, “Oh, you work in consumer tech, what do you think of Apple’s new head of retail sales?”
So remember, practice, stay interesting, and enjoy the process.