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As interview invites continue to roll out, and candidates prepare for their interviews, we wanted to continue our theme of providing interview etiquette and advice and share a few very basic pointers on MBA interview etiquette. Though the content of your application materials and comments during the interview are of paramount importance, it’s also crucial to put one’s best foot forward and make a positive initial impression.
Here are a few guidelines for interviewing applicants to keep in mind:
Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of your interview. This will help remove the stress you will experience if you think you might arrive a little late. It will also help the interviewer, who may have back-to-back interviews, and cannot afford any delays in her schedule.
Dress The Part
Unless meeting with an alum who explicitly specifies a more casual dress code, assume that business attire is appropriate. We recommend that applicants dress conservatively, opting for a dark suit (pants or skirts are both fine for women) and a blue or white shirt. Steer clear of flashy brand gear and loud ties, and go easy on makeup and fragrances; you want to be remembered for what you say and who you are, not what you wore.
For those who do not work in an environment where professional dress is worn on a regular basis, you might want to get comfortable wearing your interview attire prior to your interviews.
This likely goes without saying, but we wanted to state for the record that in addition to fostering a friendly discussion with your interviewer, it’s also important to be polite to administrative staff and anyone else you might encounter while on campus or in your alumni interviewer’s office. Flippant comments to the administrative assistant at the front desk often find their way up the chain of command.
Be Aware Of Body Language
In addition to your comments about your experiences, interests and reasons for seeking an MBA, your interviewer will also be taking note of the way you present yourself. You’ll also want to avoid taking notes or reading from your résumé; it can be fine to have the latter in front of you as a reference, but remember that you should be familiar enough with its content to focus on maintaining eye contact and establishing a rapport.
Bring Your Résumé
It is always best to have an extra copy of your résumé with you, in case your interviewer needs it. The only exception to this case is when you interview with the University of Virginia’s Darden School, which is the only school that conducts interviews in a truly blind fashion. But even in that case, you may prefer to have a copy for yourself as you interview – though we caution against using the résumé as a crutch or a prop to the point of distraction, as successful candidates typically can speak to their résumé without needing to refer to it much.
Make sure that you get your interviewer’s card and take his or her contact information in order to send a “thank you” email within 24 hours of the interview. This is not only common courtesy but could also serve as the first step in forging a lasting correspondence.
We hope these six suggestions on etiquette help you prepare for your interviews. Meanwhile, applicants who are curious about what to expect might want to check out the Clear Admit MBA Interview Archive, which features firsthand accounts of interviews at all of the top programs, and the Clear Admit Interview Guides, which offer in-depth, school-specific interview guidance for nearly every leading MBA program.
Good luck to everyone hoping for an MBA interview invite!
The goalposts for group MBA interviews are constantly shifting. For years, we at MetroMBA and Clear Admit, as well as other provincial publications, have been dishing out valuable advice for how to prepare for it. And for those familiar, one of the key points to remember is constantly being familiar with the changes.
Interviews, interviews, interviews … it’s all anyone seems to be talking about these days, and with good reason. Harvard Business School, Michigan Ross and Chicago Booth have already sent out their Round 1 interview invitations. Stanford GSB starts rolling out invites this week and UPenn/Wharton is also scheduled to release all its invites this week.
Instead of driving yourself crazy with worry, why not buckle down and perfect your answers to the questions you are most likely to be asked? To help you prepare, we’ve scoured the Clear Admit Interview Guides and Interview Archive to compile our very own Top Five MBA Interview Questions list of the questions that most often make their way into MBA admissions interviews at leading schools.
While these refer primarily to questions asked as part of blind interviews, they can certainly also come up as part of non-blind interviews. In those cases, you’ll want to be prepared to go deeper into some of the specific experiences you shared in your application (check out Clear Admit’s quick refresher on the difference between blind and non-blind interviews).
For detailed insights into each school’s interview process, the questions they ask, and how to tackle those questions, access Clear Admit’s Interview Guides.
Top Five MBA Interview Questions
Walk me through your résumé.
The real trick with answering this open-ended question is to gauge how much detail is too much. Imposing a structure can help. “It’s best to err on the side of brevity,” says Alex Brown, who asked this very question of many hopeful Wharton applicants during his time working in admissions at the Philadelphia school. “Think of this résumé walk-through as simply laying the groundwork for deeper discussion of your background and accomplishments.” A good idea is to develop a two- to three-minute run-through, beginning with where you grew up and went to college, what you studied and perhaps something you enjoy outside of work. Then move into a concise overview of your work experience, beginning with your first job and continuing to present day, making sure to explain why you made the choices you did and what you learned in each major role. “This kind of high-level overview gives your interviewer the perfect opportunity to ask for more detail about specific points if she wants it,” Brown says. If you have a gap of three or more months due to unemployment or some other cause, you should be prepared to address it, Brown warns, although in a short résumé question as part of the interview, it may not come up.
What are your career goals?
With any luck, you will already have a well-honed response to this question, developed and refined as part of the process of writing your application essays. “If you are looking to shift industry or function, this is your chance to explain your reasoning and that you have carefully thought through what may be involved in successfully making the transition,” Brown says. Keep in mind why the adcom is asking this question, Brown suggests. “They want to know how focused you are on the MBA and whether you are in a position to take advantage of the resources business school offers or at risk of getting overwhelmed,” he says. Present a very clear post-MBA goal, Brown recommends. “Schools prefer to admit students who can explain exactly what kind of job they want to pursue beyond graduation and articulate how it will set them up to obtain their long-term career objectives,” he says. Schools are also looking, with this question, to see if your goals make sense and are feasible in light of your past experiences; are you able to articulate a clear path and plan?
Why X school?
Here, schools want to see if you have really done your research on their program and whether you are a good fit with their culture. So, do your research. “I recommend a three-pronged approach to make a truly compelling case for your interest in a given school,” Brown says. Start with academics, he says, naming specific courses and professors that you are interested in. “Remember, your interviewer wants to see that you have really researched the school.” Second, mention specific clubs, conferences and other special programs that will help position you for your career goals. “Even better, show how you would contribute to the school community, such as by organizing an event to share specific knowledge you bring with your future classmates,” Brown suggests. Third, show that you have a good understanding of the school’s community, culture, class size and location and have thought about how these fit with your personality, goals and background. “If you have visited campus or talked with current students or alumni—definitely say so, lead with this.” Brown stresses. “Beyond showing that you’ve invested time in getting to know the school, this also helps your interviewer have a mental picture of you on campus.” he says.
Give us an example of a time you took a leadership role.
The way interviewers ask this question can vary—sometimes you’ll be asked directly about your most notable leadership experience and other times you’ll be invited to describe your general leadership style. “It’s important to keep a few basic principles about leadership in mind,” Brown says. “A leader is someone who has a strong vision or point of view and is able to see things others are not,” he continues. A leader must also have excellent communication skills. Choose an example that demonstrates these points. An ideal leadership example will describe a time when you negotiated with and persuaded key stakeholders, such as clients or a supervisor, to buy into your vision and then delegated the work and managed colleagues or juniors. “If you encountered obstacles along the way, share how you dealt with them,” Brown says. “If possible, you should also show success through quantified results,” he adds. As important as a successful outcome is demonstrating how you drew on the help of others where necessary. “No one is successful on their own,” Brown says. Show that you understand that strong leadership means teamwork and playing well with others, he says.
Tell us about a time you failed.
As tempting as it may be to say that you’ve never failed at anything…that is not what that adcom is looking for here. “In fact, this is a favorite question for those who appear to be ‘rock stars’ on paper,” Brown says. But rock stars make mistakes, and having an example in your back pocket of a time things did not go according to plan can show humility as well as your capacity to learn and grow. “The best answer to this type of question ends with a more recent experience where you took the lesson you learned from the failure and put it into play, affecting a better outcome.” he says.
These five questions certainly don’t cover everything your interviewer is likely to ask you, but they do touch upon some of the things you’re most likely to be called upon to share as part of your MBA admissions interview. You can take some of the anxiety out of the interview process by giving each one some thought, drawing on some relevant experiences from your past, and practicing the responses you would give. Don’t practice too much so that you appear overly rehearsed—since it’s important to seem both authentic and genuine—but prepare enough so that you’ll be ready to truly put your best self forward.
It used to be the ideal result of an MBA was a job in a major corporation. In fact, between 2000-12, 91 percent of U.S. MBA alumni stated they worked for an employer, and only 5 percent were self-employed or a small-business owner. But that trend is changing. In 2015, more than 10 percent of MBA alumni were self-employed, and that percentage is only expected to grow.
That’s why schools like UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management are focused on developing entrepreneurs. Not only does their MBA curriculum include startup-based courses such as Lab to Market, but outside of the classroom, they offer accelerators, mentorship, and even potential funding to budding entrepreneurs.
At the Rady School, they understand that becoming a successful entrepreneur is a process that starts from the ground up; it’s not just about taking a single class or attending one workshop. Instead, to truly gain the skills, knowledge, and insight necessary to start a business you need an all-encompassing experience—inside and outside the classroom—and that’s exactly what the Rady School provides.
San Diego and the Rady School
The Rady School entrepreneurial experience begins with the city of San Diego. The school is centrally located in San Diego’s innovation hub: Torrey Pines Mesa. “This location provides students direct exposure and access to a multitude of technology and scientific discoveries, as well as access to serial entrepreneurs who are searching and evaluating their next opportunity or venture,” explains Delbert Foit, a Lecturer at UC San Diego Rady.
It’s a vibrant and valuable entrepreneurship ecosystem that includes more than 15 accelerators/incubators spread out between downtown San Diego, Torrey Pines Mesa, Carlsbad, and North County. All of these unique characteristics have enabled the entrepreneurship scene in San Diego to make significant advancements, and the Rady School has been able to take advantage of it all. “Our curriculum is an immersion in innovation, emphasizing innovation–driven industry sectors propelled by discoveries in technology and science and the serial entrepreneur’s experience,” says Foit.
So, what exactly is it like to learn entrepreneurship at the Rady School?
Entrepreneurship and Rady
First and foremost, if you’re an entrepreneur at Rady, you’re not alone. To date, Rady students and alums have started over 115 companies—many in biotech and technology. And, based on a recent survey, those same Rady startups have raised on average around $2,237,533 in funding. So, if you’re an entrepreneur at Rady, you’re in very good company.
And the good news is that finding your fellow entrepreneurs at Rady is easy. As an MBA, you’ll meet many of them within your classes.
“Our unique curriculum has been designed to provide analytical and theoretical frameworks for rigorous business decision making, as well as the applied and practical knowledge needed for success as an entrepreneur,” describes Foit. “The unique blend of core and electives prepares students to make adept decisions in the current and future dynamic business environment, and at the same time, allows them to focus on personal and professional goals. The curriculum encourages collaboration, classroom discussion, and interaction—with classmates as well as experienced entrepreneurs.”
Lab to Market
In particular, Rady’s signature Lab to Market (L2M) three-course sequence is an immersive entrepreneurial experience. Its goal is to provide MBAs with the analytical framework and tools necessary to take an idea and to transform it into a market opportunity. L2M is more than just a single course or simulated exercise; it’s an entire experience that demonstrates the true challenge of creating a business: determining which innovative ideas can be translated into viable and valuable market opportunities.
“Lab to Market is an action-based, learning experience that begins in the classroom and moves into the real-world,” says Foit. “First, students identify emerging opportunities in an industry sector. Then, from there, they generate and validate new ideas, distinguish viable opportunities from interesting ideas, and evaluate business models that can translate opportunities into ventures. Throughout the remainder of the L2M journey, students perform real-world market research and validation, conduct feasibility studies using prototypes, develop a business case, design a business plan, and ultimately create a go-to market strategy for their innovation.”
And if the student’s go-to market strategy is something that they wish to pursue further, then they can take their idea outside of the classroom and into one of Rady’s two incubators/accelerators: mystartupXX and StartR Accelerator.
Both mystartupXX and StartR Accelerator are designed to give Rady students and alumni the tools they need to start and grow their businesses. It’s the natural progression after the L2M sequence. Within these incubators/accelerators, entrepreneurs attend workshops, receive mentoring and advice, and gain access to the necessary resources they need to develop an early-stage company.
Both these accelerators have been instrumental to the Rady entrepreneurial community. In fact, 27 of Rady’s 115 startup companies graduated from StartR Accelerator.
“The overall culture at the Rady School of Management is one of innovation and entrepreneurship. The StartR Accelerator enables MBA candidates and graduates to immerse themselves in this culture, and to progress from a burgeoning idea to a full-fledged company during the 6-month program. For Braykion, co-founded by two MBA Flex candidates, StartR was the perfect launchpad.”—Jon Wilensky (MBA), Co-Founder, Braykion
“mystartupXX is great because it’s really the only platform that I know of that encourages women entrepreneurs specifically in innovation-driven and technology-driven companies.” —Ashley Van Zeeland (MBA), Co-Founder, Cypher Genomics
Meet a Successful Rady Entrepreneur
There have been many successful Rady startups including Lab Fellows, Tab32, Clarify Medical (formerly Skylit Medical), Sterling Mobile, ecoATM, Go Green Agriculture, Owaves, The Nicholas Conner Institute, and Interra Energy. But one company that stands out in the crowd is Aira, a visual interpreter for the blind.
Suman Kanuganti first developed Aira during the Lab to Market sequence in his MBA program. He was a part-time student who was passionate about startups and wanted to do something different, but wasn’t sure what that was. Then, during Lab to Market, he began having deep conversations with his fellow students and a blind friend. It was through these conversations and the course work that he came up with a unique idea: what if you could be a blind person’s sight using Google Glass? The rest was history.
Aira started with prototypes built at the University, all the while Suman was working full-time at his day job. Then, in his last semester, Aira went from a prototype to a marketable business when he spent two credit hours to create a functional marketing plan.
“Aira transformed from a simple idea into a great business because of the opportunities I had at the Rady School,” Suman explains. “The framework that Lab to Market gave me indirectly and directly helped me to think about my idea diligently, and not just jump in. L2M taught me to think like an entrepreneur and forced me to learn the entrepreneurial way of doing things.”
But it wasn’t just L2M that made Aira possible; it was also the StartR Accelerator program. After applying and being accepted into StartR, Suman developed a team of other exceptional individuals including two UC San Diego engineers and an engineer from Cisco.
“StartR gave us an environment where we were surrounded by other startups and could connect with each other,” Suman says. “It was a community that taught me discipline and showed that I wasn’t alone. During the program, my team met from 6:00 – 8:00 pm six days a week to build Aira. During these meetings, we planned out everything we needed to achieve to make Aira a reality. It even got us funding.”
It was a huge learning experience for Suman. He learned what it truly meant to start a company. “It’s not going to happen magically. It takes work to get things done,” describes Suman. “Confidence is good but too much confidence can blind you to reality. Pulling together a concept and a vision takes a lot of time, but that’s where the Rady School can help.”
To discover how UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management can help transform your business idea into reality, visit the school website and see what it takes to be #RadyMade.
With a slew of schools releasing their R1 notifications just before the holidays, we know that many of our readers will be asking about the background checks conducted by leading programs. Here are some quick facts to help explain the process: