Interview Tips From A Student who Got Into the Best Entrepreneurship School
From the moment you submit your essay, you wait to receive an interview call from your chosen B-school! The interview is the last step before you receive an admit and you want to do it right! The process can be grilling, the follow-up questions may make you nervous, but what matters is honesty, presence of mind, and preparation! Read on to see how Shrinkhla aced her interview and received an admit from the No.1 College for Entrepreneurship!
Here’s what Shrinkhla says –
After going through the grueling and stressful part of the applications i.e. submitting the SOPs, essays, LORs, test scores, and other documents at B-schools, comes the interview. This part of the application is earned and you have every right to be excited. But some of us get nervous and I want to help you all because I understand each and every one of you.
I recently gave interviews at 6 B-schools. Here is what I learned:
The interviewer can be anyone from the Academic Director, Admission Committee (adcom) member, current MBA candidate, or an alumni. Every B – school looks for the same qualities in a person:
They will usually start with either of the two questions – Tell me about yourself, Tell me about your career progression, or Let’s talk about your resume. There is a high chance that the interviewer has already read your profile, including your essays and CV. Still, these questions are asked to put the candidate at ease.
TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF
Sounds easy to answer but is actually difficult to put in the time frame of 1 – 1.5 minutes. But, you must remember that this is a GREAT OPPORTUNITY to talk about your motivations, what matters to you in life, how you discovered what you like to do, etc. It also allows the interviewer to get to know how you talk about yourself.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CAREER PROGRESSION
For this, you need to start from your first job and then move ahead. You should provide a brief description of your role and your significant achievement, if any. You should be able to narrate it as a captivating story, including your decisions to move to a different role/ company etc.
Usually, the questions about ‘Why MBA’ come next. This includes –
WHAT ARE YOUR SHORT AND LONG-TERM GOALS?
They clearly want to know the logical connection between what you have done up to this point in your life and what do you intend on doing next and how will an MBA degree get you there. So, you need to provide a well-knit answer connecting all of these aspects. They may even ask you more specifically about the companies/function/industry/country you would choose post-MBA. So, it is a good idea to be aware of these aspects because they want to see how well you have thought about your goals.
WHY DO YOU WANT TO DO AN MBA?
The interviewers wish to know what you intend to learn from an MBA, i.e. which skills, qualities, or knowledge you want to gain that will empower you to achieve your goals. For instance, I want to get a comprehensive view of various aspects of business practices before I start my own venture so that my path is smoother. I want to gain hard skills like finance and accounting, and also further develop my soft skills like time-management and attention-to-detail. I want to network and I hope to find my highly passionate team here at the B-school. So, this answer needs to be detailed.
WHY DO YOU WANT TO DO AN MBA IN THIS COUNTRY? (such as Canada, Germany, Australia, etc.).
They want to know what made you look towards this country in particular. Please don’t say booming economy or favorable regulations or low tuition fees. Talk about the multicultural environment, innovative ecosystems, etc. Really think through this question.
WHY OUR COLLEGE?
Now, this is a VERY IMPORTANT QUESTION. You need to explain how well you understand the strengths of the college and your fit for the same. Example – My long-term goal is to be an entrepreneur so the schools I apply to will have a strong background in entrepreneurship such as incubators, student clubs, networking events with founders, etc. So, I can easily justify my choice for the same. All these questions are very basic and must be prepared well. Needless to say, they have to be tailored as per each school. Refer to their brochures and watch their introductory videos as well. Read about the school’s vision and mission statement as well. This will allow your answers to show that you have actually conducted an in-depth research about the school.
The Importance of Being a Team Player
Well, we all know that the B-schools have a very diverse cohort and that is one of the major reasons we even pursue an MBA abroad. In such a scenario, it becomes extremely important for the adcom to know how do you do CONFLICT RESOLUTION and whether or not you are a TEAM-PLAYER. So, nowhere, there are two scenarios possible- here, they might ask you about your past experiences or they may give you a hypothetical situation to understand your reaction. It would be a good idea to think of past scenarios where you had a conflict with your colleague or how you handled conflict between two members. Here, it is strongly advised to use the STAR approach- Situation, Task, Action, Result. First, describe the situation properly, explain your position (where you fit in all this), and what was your responsibility. Next, explain the action you took to resolve the issue, and finally, the result.
You may also be asked about your STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES or your HOBBIES.
It is not at all necessary to mention only those strengths that help you professionally. These questions are asked to test self-awareness. Like I mentioned that I have good listening skills and always help out my friends and colleagues when needed and in this fast-paced and competitive world, this quality is more required now. You should remember that no one is perfect and obviously, the adcom understands that. Don’t try to hide your weakness in the garb of your strengths because that’s an old trick now. But, they should not be deal-breakers either (for instance, being intolerant). I mentioned that I try to do multiple things at once, sometimes I talk loudly without realizing it and in a professional setting it makes others uncomfortable. Always mention that now you have recognized it and are working on it.
In some cases, they may ask you miscellaneous questions such as – What is the definition of a leader? What does success mean to you? I was asked – What is the definition of an entrepreneur for you? and Tell me about the news you heard that you found interesting. It is a good idea to prepare questions along these lines as well.
Now, let’s talk about SOMETHINGS MORE IMPORTANT DURING THE INTERVIEW – YOUR ATTITUDE AND MINDSET
In most places, it is written that ‘you just need to be yourself’. It is true but no one tells you what it really means and how to go about showing your true self in those crucial 20-30 minutes. The key is to enjoy yourself. Getting an interview call is no small feat. And honestly, I found it the most exciting part. You are just dipping your toe in the MBA experience and most likely, the interviewer is from a different part of the world.
This interaction is all about YOU. So, show your happiness and excitement. Be energetic and enthusiastic when you talk about yourself, your career progression, your motivation, and your goals. The adcoms will definitely see your passion and believe in you even more.
Humor them, if possible. Like the interviewer asked me how will I handle a situation where I put in my 100% effort in a project but I get mediocre results. So, I just said that it has happened to me before and he started smiling. Then, I went ahead and answered his question.
Practice your answers enough that they come naturally to you. Yes, there does exist that perfect state. Don’t sound mechanical. Be candid. All this will allow them to see the real you. Don’t force anything into the conversation. I was asked to tell my interviewer a time when I took a risk. So, I described a professional situation and told her the many risks I took and on the side note, mentioned that I also took a risk when I went for sky-diving a few years back. I felt that the interviewer was impressed because I answered her question and quiet cleverly told her about my experience. They don’t want robots. Rather, they want to create an inspiring cohort.
It is definitely a good idea to get in touch with students who have been interviewed before for that particular school through the GMAT Club. It does help to identify the unique questions they might ask. But when you go for your interview, just forget about those pre-conceived notions and go with the flow. Trust your preparation and trust yourself.
Despite all the hours spent on perfecting those answers and mirror-practicing, there will be questions that you did not prepare for and that is completely normal. Do not panic and do not jump the gun and start answering. It is always a good idea to think about your answer and not blurt out the first words you want to say. Now, there are two ways of doing this – Either start repeating the questions while thinking about your answer or ask the adcom for a minute to think about it. I have done both of them and they work. This actually goes on to show that you are careful about what you say. Also, you will be surprised how a few seconds allow your answers to be more logical and better- structured.
Finally, all the interviewers are very friendly and you will feel at ease at once. Time just flies by when you are interviewed, so don’t fret about it. You will start loving the experience. Also, this preparation will help you further down the line when you go for your networking events, internship interviews, and job interviews. One preparation- multiple positive and transformational outputs.
I had given my last interview 5 years back in college. I was also scared. But I planned, practiced and perfected the process. I converted 5 out of the 6 interview calls I received. It has been a truly liberating and empowering exercise. Hope it is the same for all of you people.
All the best!