Category Archives: Admissions Interviews

Michigan’s Ross School of Business to Pilot Group Interviews… in China?

Recently Soojin Kwon, Director of Admissions of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, announced that the school will pilot its first ever group admissions interviews for Round 2 applicants. This is not too surprising in and of itself… For the past year Wharton has been slowly but surely rolling out its own MBA group interview process, and the early feedback has been mostly positive. We figured that other top MBA programs would announce similar new initiatives to “break out of the essay box” and get to know applicants in new ways.

What surprised us was the fact that the school’s first group interviews won’t be in Ann Arbor, or anywhere else in the United States, for that matter. Ross will pilot its first group interviews with some Round 2 applicants in… in Beijing and Shanghai! Why would Ross fly halfway across the globe to conduct such an important experiment that could dramatically impact its MBA admissions process?

This is what Soojin Kwon had to say in her blog post:

The group interview, while not a requirement for admission, is highly recommended. Candidates who are invited to interview in those cities will still be required to conduct a standard, one-on-one interview with an alumni or current student interviewer.

Adding to the intrigue, knowing that this is so new and experimental (not to mention that Ross announced it after Round 2 applications had already been submitted), why would Ross make the new interview process “highly recommended?” Normally, when a business school introduces a pilot such as this, the school will go out of its way to let applicants know that it’s optional, and that participating or not participating will not have a significant impact on their admissions chances.

So what gives? The most likely explanation is that the Ross admissions team is looking for a new, better way to evaluate China-based applicants’ English skills. Some MBA programs rely on local alumni interviewers, and others rely on Skype for overseas applicants. These all work well for the most part, but what better way to evaluate these applicants’ communication skills and English fluency than to go to where they are, sit in a room with them, and hear how well they can participate in a discussion that could go in any number of directions?

The Ross admissions team has not made much of a point about Chinese applicants’ English skills being tested in these group interviews, we can’t help but think that this is a big reason (if not THE reason) why Ross will pilot this process starting in China. It will be interesting to see if this process expands to cover more Ross applicants next year.

For more business school admissions advice, get yourself a copy of our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Advertisements

Applicant and Administrator Feedback on Wharton Team Discussions

Wharton Admissions Director Ankur Kumar recently provided an update on how Wharton’s team-based discussions went during Round 1. It sounds as though the experience has been positive so far, both for Wharton and for applicants. We still have a lot of questions about this as a means if evaluating candidates, but it’s interesting to study the early impressions from applicants and administrators alike.

The feedback we have been hearing from students is that the discussions haven’t turned out to be the shark tanks — with applicants elbowing each other for air time — that some had feared. If anything, applicants have erred on the side of being a little too friendly, with some going out of their way to show how courteous they can be. Many applicants have reported seeing this “unnatural graciousness” in effect.

According to Kumar on the Wharton Admissions Blog:

It was wonderful to observe our candidates connecting with one other – both inside and outside of the team based discussion. We saw you exchange contact information for future business endeavors, continue to discuss the question posed to your team far after the exercise came to a close, and we noticed a few groups that headed out for celebratory dinner or drinks after the interview was complete. The most heartwarming part for us was to see how much you invested in and supported one other; waiting for everyone in your group to be done, high fiving each other, laughing together, this is the true hallmark of Wharton’s culture of collaboration and something we look forward to your bringing to the program.

Wow, sounds like fun! Even the most collaborative MBA classrooms normally don’t have all of the back-patting described here, although we know that the stakes are much higher with these admissions discussions than they are in a typical business school classroom on any given day. Our take is that some candidates are indeed overdoing it, and going out of their way to show that they’re not jerks or sharks. Whether or not this helps them get into Wharton is still to be determined.

At the same time, we have heard that some applicants definitely felt a need to speak up, lest they be drowned out. This is fairly normal — this same pressure exists in the business school classroom, especially at case study-based schools such as Harvard and Darden — but this is the sort of thing that we’re sure Wharton wants to downplay as much as possible.

While we may still sound skeptical, we definitely laud Wharton for taking such a big risk in the admissions process. They, along with other schools that have significantly cut down their essays in some cases, are advancing the state of the art in the MBA admissions process. We’re reserving judgment, however, until we can better measure how performance in these discussions correlates with admissions success.

For more business school admissions advice, take a look at our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

How to Approach Different Kinds of MBA Admissions Interviews

Who conducts your MBA admissions interview depends on a few things. Where you’re applying obviously matters a lot: Some schools only have admissions personnel conduct interviews, while others rely on a mix of admissions officers, students, and alumni. Where you live also affects how you’re interviewed — if you’re applying to a school on another continent, that school will normally be more willing do your interview by phone or (increasingly) by Skype.

Every business school’s policy is different, and MBA programs’ policies can change over time. For instance, last year Wharton announced that its alumni would no longer conduct interviews, and that all interviews would instead be conducted by admissions representatives or students. So, as you research your target business schools, make sure you’re preparing with the latest information.

With that in mind, here are a few thoughts on what to expect, based on who conducts your MBA admissions interview:

Alumnus
As interviewers, business school alumni have a reputation for being a little more laid back in terms of how they conduct an interview. They will also have some guidelines for conducting the interview, but tend to be more willing to let it evolve into a natural conversation. Remember, though, that they are still evaluating you. Even more importantly, these are the interviews where you most risk not covering everything that you want to talk about. If there are certain messages that you want to convey and the interviewer just wants to talk about the Yankees, know that the onus is still on you to cover those messages. Also, keep in mind that alumni interviews tend to be the least restrictive in terms of time. Many alumni will let an interview stretch on for well over an hour, if you are both enjoying the conversation. Finally, be prepared for a little more variability in your experience. While most applicants report having great interviews with alumni, there are more than a couple of horror stories of applicants being traumatized by weird, rude, or even harassing interviewers. These types of stories are rare, but know that experiences with alumni interviewers will vary more than those with other kinds of interviewers.

Admissions Officer
These interviews often are the most formal, and the most specific in terms of what the interviewer is looking for. Admissions personnel will usually have a form from which they work, and will make an effort to cover each area before the interview is over. Beware, though, that if the admissions officer doesn’t cover everything in the allotted time and some questions go unanswered, it will be considered your fault. Your main line of defense against this problem is making sure that you don’t ramble. Later on, we will discuss how you can make sure to cover the most important parts of your story.

Student
Some schools, such as Wharton and Kellogg, train their students to conduct interviews. These students will typically work off of the same forms that admissions officers use. While you may hit it off with some students and end up having an informal conversation, many students tend to conduct interviews “by the book” even more so than admissions officers. Schools tend to use the interview feedback they get from students in the same way as the feedback they get from admissions officers. So, you should treat an interview with a student the same as an interview with an admissions officer.

Faculty Member
While having a faculty member interview you is extremely uncommon, there are some schools (INSEAD is one example) that might have you interview with a professor. These interviews generally feel like a discussion with an admission officer, but tend to be more academic in nature. Therefore, you should go into the discussion having a good understanding of the academic choices you’ve made in addition to being able to articulate what you want to get out of the curriculum.

So, knowing all of this, how should you prepare for your admissions interview? Although the meat of your preparation will be the same no matter who interviews you, be aware that there will be some subtle differences in your experience depending on who conducts the interview. Again, your preparation will barely be affected, but it helps to know what to expect going in. If you go into a formal interview expecting just that, then you will likely be well prepared and not be rattled by the formality.

For more business school admissions advice, take a look at our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Who Conducts Your MBA Admissions Interview Matters!

Who conducts your business school admissions interview depends on a few things. Where you’re applying obviously matters a lot: Some schools only have admissions personnel conduct interviews, while others rely on a mix of admissions officers, students, and alumni. Where you live also impacts how you’re interviewed — if you’re applying to a school on another continent, that school will normally be more willing do your interview by phone or by Skype.

Every business school’s policy is different, and MBA programs’ policies can change over time. For instance, earlier this year Wharton announced that its alumni will no longer conduct interviews, and that all interviews will instead be conducted by admissions representatives or students (“Admissions Fellows,” in Wharton parlance). So, as you research your target business schools, make sure you’re preparing with the latest information.

With that in mind, here are a few thoughts on what to expect, based on who conducts your MBA admissions interview:

Admissions Officer
These interviews often are the most formal, and the most specific in terms of what the interviewer is looking for. Admissions personnel will usually have a form from which they work, and will make an effort to cover each area before the interview is over. Beware, though, that if the admissions officer doesn’t cover everything in the allotted time and some questions go unanswered, it will be considered your fault. Your main line of defense against this problem is making sure that you don’t ramble. Later on, we will discuss how you can make sure to cover the most important parts of your story.

Student
Some schools, such as Wharton and Kellogg, train their students to conduct interviews. These students will typically work off of the same forms that admissions officers use. While you may hit it off with some students and end up having an informal conversation, many students tend to conduct interviews “by the book” even more so than admissions officers. Schools tend to use the interview feedback they get from students in the same way as the feedback they get from admissions officers. So, you should treat an interview with a student the same as an interview with an admissions officer.

Alumnus
As interviewers, business school alumni have a reputation for being a little more laid back in terms of how they conduct an interview. They will also have some guidelines for conducting the interview, but tend to be more willing to let it evolve into a natural conversation. Remember, though, that they are still evaluating you. Even more importantly, these are the interviews where you most risk not covering everything that you want to talk about. If there are certain messages that you want to convey and the interviewer just wants to talk about the Yankees, know that the onus is still on you to cover those messages. Also, keep in mind that alumni interviews tend to be the least restrictive in terms of time. Many alumni will let an interview stretch on for well over an hour, if you are both enjoying the conversation. Finally, be prepared for a little more variability in your experience. While most applicants report having great interviews with alumni, there are more than a couple of horror stories of applicants being traumatized by weird, rude, or even harassing interviewers. These types of stories are rare, but know that experiences with alumni interviewers will vary more than those with other kinds of interviewers.

Faculty Member
While having a faculty member interview you is extremely uncommon, there are some schools (particularly those in Europe) that might have you interview with a professor. These interviews generally feel like a discussion with an admission officer, but tend to be more academic in nature. Therefore, you should go into the discussion having a good understanding of the academic choices you’ve made in addition to being able to articulate what you want to get out of the curriculum.

So, knowing all of this, how should you prepare for your admissions interview? Although the meat of your preparation will be the same no matter who interviews you, be aware that there will be some subtle differences in your experience depending on who conducts the interview. Again, your preparation will barely be affected, but it helps to know what to expect going in. Go into a Harvard interview with an admissions officer expecting a fairly formal and efficient experience, for example, and you won’t be unnerved when that’s what you encounter.

Today’s advice was taken from our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition! And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

How to Have a Successful MBA Admissions Interview

Most applicants consider themselves lucky to even get to the interview part of the MBA admissions process. Still, interviews are much more than a formality — they’re the only chance that admissions officers have to evaluate you face-to-face, so you need to make sure that your interviews go as well as possible.

No pressure! If you can focus on these five things, your MBA admissions interview will likely go well:

  • Be confident without being arrogant. Many interview experts stress that you need to project confidence, while others tell their clients they absolutely cannot come off as arrogant. They’re both right, and you need to strike a balance between the two. You don’t want the interviewer to feel sorry for you as you sweat through every question and answer, but as little humility is always appealing.
  • Keep your answers succinct. Perhaps the surest sign that an interview is going badly is when you find yourself rambling through answers. This means that you weren’t prepared for the question, or you have an answer but can’t present it in a brief, coherent way. Your answers should be conversational, but should always have a clear beginning, middle, and end, and should take no more than a minute or two each.
  • Make sure you get all of your application themes on the table. If you go into the interview knowing that you need to really drive home your leadership ability and your analytical skills, for example, then you absolutely must do that by the end of the interview! Interviews often start off with “Walk me through your resume,” or “Tell me about yourself” — this is a great way for you to hit on your key themes right away.
  • Keep it a two-way conversation. Interviewers will vary greatly in their style, but you ideally won’t do all of the talking during your interview. Comments such as “That’s interesting, tell me more,” and “That’s pretty impressive,” are good signs that you’re getting through to your interviewer.
  • … but remember it’s still an interview. Ideally, you will be able to strike a smart balance between having an enjoyable conversation but still maintaining the structure of the interview, making sure that your themes are covered and that your interviewer covers everything he needs to cover.. After all, when your interviewer is done he needs to answer some questions about you, and he can’t do that if you’ve just spent 45 minutes talking about politics and football. Make it enjoyable, but remember that it’s still an interview!

If you’re now preparing for your admissions interview and want some expert help, Your MBA Game Plan contains dozens of sample MBA interview questions to help you get ready. Good luck!

50 More Interview Invitations Coming from HBS

Late last week Harvard Business School’s Director of Admissions, Dee Leopold, posted a brief update on the HBS admissions blog regarding the admissions office’s plans for Round 1 interview invitations. The main takeaway is that Harvard is not yet done sending out invitations, but there aren’t too many left:

I know I promised an update about interviews. They are in full swing on campus and elsewhere. We are still sending out interview invitations — maybe 50 or so more may go out before December 15 — plus waitlist invitations to some of those who have not received an interview invitation. In terms of “where” these interviews might be held, we anticipate they would likely take place on campus in Boston during December or via telephone.

We also want to share with you the list we just compiled of the undergraduate schools represented in the last three classes at HBS.

Note that if you don’t receive an invitation by December 15, you still have some hope. On October 22 Leopold posted that around 100 Round 1 applicants may go straight to the waitlist without an interview. That’s not an ideal outcome, but it means that you may still have a shot!

For more help in planning your Harvard Business School application, take a look at Veritas Prep’s HBS Annual Report for free. And, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter!

HBS Round 3 Interview Invitations Out

On Friday Dee Leopold posted a brief update on the HBS blog:

I’ll make this short and sweet – today we sent out about 100 interview invitations to Round 3 candidates. There will be some more, but I don’t know when, to whom, or exactly how many.

Her comment about there being more invitations coming is consistent with what she has previously posted on the blog. If Rounds 1 and 2 are any guide, then maybe another 5-15 invitations will come out over the next several weeks.

For more up-to-the-minute updates about HBS and other top MBA programs, be sure to follow MBA Game Plan on Twitter.