[NOTE: This post is the second in a series; if you are interested in starting with the first post, please see the overview of different MBA interview types.] Some MBA adcoms choose to interview candidates individually, themselves, and do not delegate this task to alumni or students. Why adcoms use method: It’s a resource-intensive process, but adcoms get as much as they invest. Moreover, they narrow down the field first, so only those under serious consideration are invited.
• Especially for competitive schools, each seat is precious, and nothing substitutes for the adcom member’s own ears and eyes in ascertaining who should have it.
• Admissions professionals are trained experts in evaluating candidates, and in this interview method they can exercise that expertise in an optimal setting.
• They can see firsthand not just the “real you” but the “whole you”: your interpersonal finesse + the content of your answers + your physical presence. They evaluate what you say, and also your social skills, speaking (and English-speaking) ability, and demeanor as you interact with them directly.
For these reasons, this type of interview has real weight in the admissions decision.
Process: In this interview approach, you meet with an adcom member, either on campus or in a city where the adcom is visiting. The interview is a one-on-one conversation with the adcom member, during which he will ask you questions, often a mix of application-specific questions and other questions he’s prepared. Expect any area of ambiguity to be questioned. This is a probing, in-depth interview. If you are socially adept, you will not just answer questions but may also facilitate conversation.
Blind or not blind: Usually adcom interviews are not blind, i.e., the interviewer will have read your application before the interview and will likely have some questions about it.
Benefits and pitfalls for applicants:
• Benefit: can showcase your strong interpersonal and communication skills to a high-value decision-maker.
• Benefit: the fact that some discussion will be based on your application opens the door for more of a dialogue, less of an “interrogation” feel.
• Benefit OR pitfall: the adcom is already invested in you to an ex
tent, which can make you more motivated, inspired, and focused – or more nervous, depending on your temperament.
• Pitfall: to ace the interview you must find a way to connect with the interviewer even if the natural chemistry isn’t great.
• Pitfall: a bad interview with an adcom member could seriously impair your chances.
How to make this type of interview work for you (this is in addition to all the common sense advice for good MBA interviews):
• Review your application closely for areas of potential weakness or things that could raise questions, and be prepared to discuss.
• Discuss/use examples and stories that are not in your application.
• Arm yourself with detailed info about the program and new points about how it will benefit you and how you will contribute.
• Put your ego aside and do whatever is needed to connect with the interviewer.
• Be yourself – this type of trained, professional interviewer has a radar for inauthenticity.
By Cindy Tokumitsu, co-author of The Finance Professional’s Guide to MBA Admissions Success, and author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her last fifteen years with Accepted.com.