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As Round 2 applications get signed, sealed, and delivered, it’s time for MBA hopefuls to start looking towards their next major hurdle: the admissions interview. As applicants, we’ve gotten past the hurdle of the GMAT, written some killer essays, and secured recommendations that are sure to dazzle the admissions committees. But we’re not done. Should our application succeed in impressing, we’ll need to start sharpening out interview skills in order to secure a spot in the class next fall.

For many of us, we’ve been in our jobs for the past few years, and therefore we might be a little rusty when it comes to interviewing. From our experience writing admissions essays, we’ve got a pretty good idea of the story we’re trying to tell, the evidence to back it up, and the characteristics we want to emphasize. However, saying these things out loud, on the fly, to a discerning audience, is a whole new ball game. In order to adequately prepare, I’ve amassed four key things you can do to prepare.

  1. Know your resume inside and out. Most likely, when you walk in the room to sit down with your interviewer, they’re going to have your resume printed and highlighted with notes in the margins. They will have done their homework, so be ready to give them granular explanations like how you achieved that 20% increase in efficiency or what exactly you did as part of your volunteer work. Especially with your school and early work experience, which may have occurred four-five years ago, you’ll want to do your research in order to speak in detail about those experiences and how they shaped you as a candidate.
  2. Prepare responses for common interview questions. This might seem obvious, but it’s one of the best interview preparation measures you can take. Even the best interviewees will admit that it’s hard to think of responses on the fly, so as much as you can, you should try to think through your responses in advance. You can take whatever approach works best for you, but we prefer to type up answers and then read them aloud to an audience for a sanity check. While you’ll never know exactly what your interviewer will ask, it’s very likely for an interviewer to ask you some version of one of the following questions:

    • What’s your story / elevator pitch?
    • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
    • Why do you want an MBA? Why this school/program?
    • Can you give an example of a professional failure?
    • Can you give an example of when you lead a team/initiative?
  3. Be able to speak to your goals / future plans. Getting an MBA is a huge investment in your future, both for yourself and the admissions committee. Therefore, your interviewer wants to know that you have a clear cut idea of where you want to go and how an MBA is going to get you there. In order to prepare for this, you should review your admissions essays, calling out the goals that you’ve already outlined. Be ready to back those up with how you arrived at those goals, what experiences influenced them, and how the MBA at your school of choice will give you the tools you need to attain them. A common worry here is that some applicants don’t have a total clear view of what they want to do; you may be escaping a career you’re not passionate about and wanting to explore other areas, and that’s absolutely fine. However, you should have some general areas that you’d like to explore and you should be able to tie those to what the school offers.
  4. Utilize tried-and-true interview tips and tricks. In every interview, job, school, or otherwise, there are a number of more minor tips that all experts swear by. Some of my favorites are as follows:

    • Always make sure you’re answering the question you’ve been asked. A good way to do this is to write down parts of the questions as they’re asked or to double check at the end of your response to make sure you’ve responded correctly.
    • If you’re a coffee drinker, drink coffee, but not too much. You want to avoid jittery nervousness as much as possible. And don’t forget to eat!
    • Be prepared with thoughtful questions to ask at the end. Interviewers always give you the opportunity to ask questions, which is a great time for you to show you’ve done your research.

In the comments, I’d love to hear your best interview tips and tricks. Are you dreading this final step in the application process or do you attack interviews with no fear?

Laurel McAndrews, accounting consultant and e-business owner, is part of the family of prospective MBA students blogging their experience. Read more about Bethany Perryman and Alanna Stage‘s decisions to pursue higher business education on the blog on every Wednesday.