Archive | Interviews

After Round 2 — And Some Interview Tips Too

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.

BONUS

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.

Incredibly useful interviewing tips from an MBA admissions officer

cornell johnson logoWe are proud to present here a special guest post by Interim Admissions Director Ann Richards of Cornell’s Johnson School

One of the key components to getting in to Business school is doing well on the in person interview. Johnson Interim Admissions Director Ann Richards has been working in the business for over 20 years and has interviewed hundreds of students from all over the world. She recently shared with us her top five tips for candidates on how to ace the interview.

Details matter.

Always be on time, no matter what.  So plan ahead when it comes to allotting time to leave for traffic and logistics. Make sure that you know the location of the interview, where to park and always leave extra time in case there are delays. If you are running behind, let your interviewer know as soon as possible.   If interviewing on campus, previous candidates recommend that you arrive in Sage Hall early to soak up some of the energy in the Atrium prior to your interview.

Look the part.

Dress professionally. You’ve heard it before but first impressions are key. Your dress for MBA interviews is business professional which means suit and ties for men and suits, for women, a pantsuit, a skirt and jacket combination or a structured (and modest) dress.  You may be wearing a great outfit, but remember to take the time to groom your hair and accessorize appropriately as well.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Be Prepared. Take time to review possible questions that you may be asked and review your resume to jog your memory. Students can often find sample questions online. I always recommend doing an internet search for “Johnson interview questions”  or “MBA interview questions” and you will find sample questions  to help you prepare.  Practice interviewing with another MBA candidate or a colleague who has earned an MBA – they can give you valuable feedback that can help you strengthen your interview skills.

Know your goals.

Reread your goals essay so that you can articulate well about major points you would like to make.  Make sure you can explain why you want to earn an MBA and why the school you have applied to can help you achieve your goals.  If you want to transition into a new career, have some examples of transferable skills that make the career transition possible.  Remember to stick with specifics and stay on point.

Give leadership examples.

Pick three examples of  your achievements or leadership to highlight during the interview.  The examples should not be a rehash of your essay. Remember that giving specific examples and anecdotes will be an advantage and help tell the story of who you are.  Try to pull recent examples of leadership or accomplishments, if your example is more than three years old, it’s not relevant.

Does this just whet your appetite for interview advice? You can find more tips from Master Admissions here.

Storytelling to Demonstrate the Real You in B-school Essays

As you sit down to draft your first essay, you might want to think about telling the story of you.  That’s the most effective way to stand out from the rest of the pack and show just how interesting you are.


Tell Stories

Whether you are writing essays, crafting presentations, or getting ready for an interview. Why do stories work? Because they demonstrate behaviors, and show in a few words a whole lot about a person’s character. Michael Lewis, author of Liar’s Poker and Moneyball, and possibly the best business writer on the planet, has been called “a genius at showing how small anecdotes revealed larger truths.”
In business school applications and interviews, telling stories brings those bullet points on your resume to life. But as an applicant, you not only have word limits, but you don’t have a lot of time to get and keep a reader’s attention.

A Story Without a Challenge is Not a Story
I have some good news! All you have to do is follow a few storytelling rules. The most important is that you’ve got to include some kind of challenge.

Most stories in the world are based on myths, and the hero who goes out to slay the monster is one of the oldest. Screenwriters love this tale; many of your favorite TV shows, movies, and video games are based on this theme, which was articulated by Joseph Campbell, a comparative mythologist. In his many writings, he talked about the archetypical hero, an everyman who is challenged and changed by his adventure. Just look at Luke Skywalker, or Katniss Everdeen. But if you look deeper at the model, you can notice the way challenges force heroes to grow and change; you can even find it in characters ranging from Piper Chapman in Orange is the New Black to Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones.

Set It Up and Explain the HOW
Even the littlest success (or failure) in your career history can turn into a story.  Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Take a bullet point from your resume, for example
Revamped a sales memorandum within three days for major client on sale of its stake in a European software firm; attracted 28 bidders.”
A. Identify challenge: Overhaul an important document for a very important client in a short period of time.
B. Demonstrate tangible results : Made company attractive to bidders, client happy, your boss happy.

Step 2: Explore HOW you arrived at results. This is where it gets interesting:
A. Took the time to figure out a plan (skills: ability to strategize, think through a problem)
B. Pulled in a SWAT team to help – for example, other analysts to run numbers or set up charts and visuals. You may have cajoled, offered pizza, or traded tasks. (skills: teamwork, influence, follow-through)
C. Was able to understand what senior partners needed in the sales memo (skills: managing up, anticipating requirements)

The Twist
In line with most challenges, you probably had a twist which made the story even more interesting. For example, in the middle of the process the stock market crashed/a tsunami hit/a subcontractor blew up. You and your team stayed focused and arrived at the result needed.

Meanwhile, as you go through the exercise, remember to keep yourself likeable – keep in mind that your reader is looking for self-awareness, where you acknowledge your own doubts and foibles. Keep it real, keep it humble, and you will absolutely win the hearts and minds of your readers.

What You Wish You Had Known Before Applying to Business School

Wharton banner 2

A student I worked with, let’s call her Jennifer, was recently admitted to Wharton (really) and waitlisted at her first-choice school, UC Berkeley. She was also a reapplicant, and has learned While waiting, she agreed to offer advice from the trenches, of one who succeeded in the process. She discusses four issues: staying committed to the goal, receiving feedback, waiting (lists), and financial matters. This is very useful stuff!

 

STAYING COMMITTED
I am so glad that I reapplied. I was rejected from the four top business school programs I applied to three years ago (all without an interview). While it stung to get so little traction in the business school process, I did not take it as a sign that I wasn’t “meant” for business school. Instead I tried to understand the weaknesses in my application and knew that I would try again and do it better. I have learned so much in the application process and am very happy I have even more experience that I can bring to business school when I attend.

RECEIVING FEEDBACK
Get feedback! Make sure the people you are asking have something valuable to add to the process and take the time to listen — better to find two people who will give you great feedback than send your materials to 10 people and listen to no one.

Also, be strategic in your decisions about who you want to use for help in the application process, and seek out those people early on. Make sure you really WANT someone’s feedback before asking for it; I have been on both sides of the equation. Recently, a friend asked for feedback on his essays. I spent a lot of time on his essays and when I returned them it seemed that he hardly looked at my suggestions. He was giving me the essays because he thought that was what you were supposed to do, but had little interest in following up on the suggestions or incorporating feedback.

WAITING FOR DECISIONS AND THE WAITLIST
In terms of my advice for people who have been waitlisted or general feedback for students after they have applied: the most valuable thing I’ve done in my application process is turn every moment I have been frustrated into an opportunity to do something. When I found myself going crazy waiting for one program to get back to me while another waited on my decision, I brainstormed a list of all the things I had accomplished since I applied and wrote a letter to the school where I was waitlisted explaining those accomplishments. I created a campaign fueled by waiting and (sometimes) panic and created something productive. I am so glad I did this, because the time you spend sitting anxiously waiting and checking MBA chat forums is, in the end, not useful (though I did that too).

FINANCIAL ISSUES
Given the calculus course I am taking and other requirements, I have completely neglected to begin financial planning and thinking about the costs and consequences of my decision. I wish I had done this in a systematic way earlier, not only so that I would be better prepared and informed about my choices and responsibilities, but also because finances are an important part of my final decision (for instance, I am trying to make a decision about two programs that cost vastly different amounts of money). Now I am finding myself overwhelmed at the process of tackling everything right now. If I had to do it again, I would start planning and filling out financial aid information earlier and getting the advice of students, faculty, family and others about their tips on going through the process.

This story has been updated since Jennifer graduated – from UC Berkeley Haas, her first-choice school. She turned down Wharton to go to Haas, and has had notable success with the start-up she launched during business school.

This story has been updated since Jennifer graduated – from UC Berkeley Haas, her first-choice school. She turned down Wharton to go to Haas, and has had notable success with the start-up she launched during business school.
Read more at http://www.85broads.com/blogs/betsy-massar/articles/mba-admissions-what-you-wish-you-had-known-before-you-applied-to-business-school#fY1KkXjopQ8d4EK3.99
A student I worked with, let’s call her Jennifer, was admitted to Wharton and waitlisted at her first-choice school, UC Berkeley. While waiting, she agreed to offer advice from the trenches, of one who succeeded in the process. She discusses four issues: staying committed to the goal, receiving feedback, waiting (lists), and financial matters. This is very useful stuff!
Read more at http://www.85broads.com/blogs/betsy-massar/articles/mba-admissions-what-you-wish-you-had-known-before-you-applied-to-business-school#fY1KkXjopQ8d4EK3.99
A student I worked with, let’s call her Jennifer, was admitted to Wharton and waitlisted at her first-choice school, UC Berkeley. While waiting, she agreed to offer advice from the trenches, of one who succeeded in the process. She discusses four issues: staying committed to the goal, receiving feedback, waiting (lists), and financial matters. This is very useful stuff!
Read more at http://www.85broads.com/blogs/betsy-massar/articles/mba-admissions-what-you-wish-you-had-known-before-you-applied-to-business-school#fY1KkXjopQ8d4EK3.99

Applying to B-School Like a (Successful) Job Hunt

I always find that the people who work in business schools offer a lot more real advice about the application process than I can, and people at the Tuck school stand out as being the most helpful. This article by Jonathan Masland, director of the career development office at Dartmouth’s
business school, is definitely worth reading.

Applying to B-School is Like Landing a Job

And the best part is that he echoes what I have been saying – in this blog! – for years.  My favorite of his recommendations are

1. School Fit is Critical.
2. Meet the People and Visit the Campus
3. Be Memorable and Tell Good Stories
4. Have Fun

Everyone does wonder what “fit” means, and one of the best ways to find that fit is to visit campus.  Here’s what Masland says

To be successful on the “fit,” applicants need to sync three components:

  • They need to understand themselves and their own priorities
  • They need to get to know the unique characteristics of the different MBA programs
  • They need to be able to articulate …[how] they are a fit for the program in question

I’ve also written about the “right fit” in a business school.  It’s not obvious from reading rankings, that’s for sure.  You really need to figure out who you are and what the school offers and where you and the school connect.  It’s how you strengthen the school’s culture and the school’s culture strengthens you.

mark-twainStorytelling

I’ve also encouraged people to tell stories.  I love stories, who doesn’t? Masland writes, “The vehicle for sharing interesting things about you and your background is through storytelling—being able to share events or accomplishments that are interesting, make a point, and are memorable.” That’s great advice whether looking for a job or aiming for business school.

Let the process be fun  

Applying to business school CAN be fun, but that’s only if you don’t take yourself too seriously. Take the process seriously. Indeed, be prepared and have an open mind about what you will learn.  But don’t take yourself too seriously – the worry doesn’t make you a better candidate. I know THAT one from experience.