Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Interview

After you submitted all the material needed for your application, you might get an interview invitation. The schools publish in advance the deadlines for invitations. Some schools will send invites exactly on the deadline, and some will send them in a period of time before the deadline (you might want to get updates from other candidates in Business Week Forums).

If you got the invitation - CONGRATULATIONS - you are half way there. It means that your application indeed stood out in the pile of applications, and you are a serious candidate. Good job.
Well, hold on a bit. You still have to get yourself interviewed. In English...

How to Prepare
Here is a shocker: You can prepare for the interview. Imagine this : You get an email with an invitation to interview with an alumni. You don't prepare (because you don't want to waste your time - this should be similar to a job interview, right?). You have never been interviewed in English (a full conversation in English was something you have done maybe once in your lifetime). The interview starts, and you are asked: "Please tell me about your greatest accomplishments". After the initial shock, you mumble a few words, and think to yourself that you are really in trouble. After a few moments you wake up in sweat...

Ok, my point is that with a few hours of preparation you can work miracles in the interview. You have to be prepared for several questions. Some of them will be asked in some variations in 90% of the interviews. Some of them might not be asked, but if they do and you are not prepared, it will be very difficult to think of a good answer on the spot.

Here are the general questions for interviews:

  • Tell me about yourself... Walk me through your resume...

  • What is your career motivation?

  • What are your short term and long term career goals and why?

  • Why do you want an MBA?

  • Why now?

  • Why did you choose our school?

  • What is the greatest Adcom concern? What is the weakest part of your application?

  • What are your strengthes?

  • What are your weaknesses?

  • What are your leadership qualities?

  • What characteristics would your friends use to describe you?

  • What is your typical role in a group?

  • Have you ever had a case in which ... ? (Several options here)

  • Tell me about an ethical dillema you have faced.
  • Do you have a questions for me?

Do you understand the type of questions? For each question write down what you want to say. Use stories and examples. You can use stories from your application and use other stories as well. After you wrote down the answers say them out loud. Make sure that the English level is respectable. Writing and speaking are two different things. Adjust your answers so they will sound fluent and not ackward.

After you are satisfied with the results - practice. You don't need to memorize them, just know them really well. The interview will NEVER go out as you have planned. The questions you will be asked will not be in a specific order, some of the questions will not even be asked. By knowing everything well, you will be able to improvise by using the examples and stories that you have prepared.

Create a list of several guiding points and key messages that you want to deliver in your interview. Those guiding points will be a great way for you to focus. Sometimes it can be nice to shift the interview toward things that you are more comfortable talking about, and that makes you look good.

When you are done, I suggest you do a simulation test with someone. You might get valuable comments.

You can learn about your interviewer by Googling him up. Simply write his name in Google, and you might be surprised with what you can come up with - his background, companies that he worked for, people's opinions about him, projects he participated in, and so on. You might even find a picture of him.

The "Walk me through your resume" Question
One of the most important questions, because you will have to talk about yourself in the interview. The interviewer usually starts with this question because it is a good ice breaker. You have to be able to talk about yourself for 5-10 minutes uninterrupted. So create a 1-2 pages essay "Walk me through your resume", and then try to say it out loud. Cover everything in your resume, from high school through your undergraduate studies, military service, jobs, extra-curricular activities, and so on. Start with a killer opening. End with a good sales paragraph - remember that you have to market yourself throughout the interview.

In reality, I have not been asked this question even once. I was never able to talk uninterrupted for 5 minutes. Either the interviewer picked several chapters from my past in the order that was important to him (in this case I covered the rest in different parts of the interview), or he quickly shifted the interview to other questions (he had read my resume, so this was boring to him). It depends on the dynamics of the interview. But, by having this question memorized I was able to tell my interviewer about any chapter of my past in several very well phrased sentences in any time during the interview. This made me appear confident, ready, and fluent in English.

One last comment: In my first interview (Yale) I knew my "walk me through your resume" by heart. Imagine my surprise when the interviewer asked me in Hebrew: "So you work at Elbit, huh?". There goes my saling speech. I really had to improvise and focus in order to both change the order of the speech and to translate it all to Hebrew. A sentence that was phrased nicely in English, can be sound very ackward in Hebrew. So you might have to prepare yourself to speak in your native toungue as well.

Why MBA? Why Now? Why Our School?
Those three questions are always asked. You should be able to talk about them for at least 5 minutes. Those questions are good to show that you have researched the school, that you know what you want from your life, that you have thought deeply about your futue, and that you resume connects to your future as an MBA graduate.

Make sure that you know how to answer those questions and that it is convincing. The interviewer should recommend you as a serious candidate that fits the school. Remember that throughout your interview, and especially in those three questions.

Do you have questions for me?
This question is always asked in the end of the interview. It is important, and you have to come prepared with specific questions about the school. The more focused the question the better. If you can come up with a question that will show you have researched the school, and that the interviewer will spend 5-10 minutes answering the better. Most people love to talk about themselves and to brag about their school, so by using this question correctly you can spend couple of minutes to listen to your interviewer instead of answering his difficult question, while making yourself look good. If youare really lucky, you can start a conversation of 30 minutes about the school and actually become friendly with your interviewer.

Dress Code
If you are interviewed by an alumni in your home country, the dress code is the one that is customary in your home country. For example in Israel, people don't come to work in a suit usually. So in 3 of my 5 interviews I did not come in a business suit. However, when I was interviewed by the head of admissions of MIT (Mr. Rod Garcia) in a hotel lobby in Tel-Aviv I came up dressed in a business suit (first time I ever wore a tie). For phone interviews you can dress up as you please.

If you are interviewed in campus, or by a school represantative, come in an official business dress code (unless stated otherwise).

My Interviews
My Yale SOM Interview
My London Business School Interview
My INSEAD Interviews
My MIT Sloan Interview
My Oxford Phone Interview
My NYU Stern Interview (That didn't take place)


Vasanth said...

Hi Yariv..I have been going through your blog quite many times since a week.I finally thought,I post my comments and take your advice.Actually,I seem to have the same set of schools in mind u applied for..By the way my Introduction..My name is Vasanth an I am from India..I have just over 2 years of work experience in IT..much less than what u have.Do you think,with a decent GMAT score..some 700+ and 2-3 yrs of work makes sense aiming for schools like INSEAD,Oxford(said)..?I need ur advice..regards,

Yariv Hammer said...

Hi vasanth,
I wish you luck in your process to get an MBA. There is no one way to be accepted, so I can advise to find the appropriate one for you.

Thanks for reading my blog. I hope you find it useful.

I can tell from my two weeks at INSEAD that there are so many profiles of students here, and I can't describe a typical one. In INSEAD 15 percent of the class are Indians, and I know several persons from the class who are from IT. When I first started the process I had 2 years of experience, but I was also in the army for 3 years so that also counts.

It all depends on the way that you present yourself, how you can demonstrate leadership, and how an MBA is helpful to your career.

I always advise to get above 700 in the GMAT although it is not mandatory.

Vasanth said...

So,Are there a substanial number of them people with a work-ex(IT)
around 3 years?..thanks

Vasanth said...

Yariv,My GMAT exam is in a month.Shall I get in touch with you after a month over mail.I mean,can I mail to you after a month to the id u mentioned below..thanks a lot for having responded to my queries..regards..

Karishma R Sinha said...

Hi Yariv:

I found your blog very interesting and detailed..I am a bit curious about the way in which people make decisions. To tell you the truth, i have been accepted by a business school (good top 15 school) in the US and have also applied to Insead and heard from them. My question remains what would be the clear merits of the Insead MBA program for a candidate who might want to work in the US for some time later in her life...

Let me know of your ways of analyzing and deciding. If i get an offer from Insead i will surely come back to you to resolve my dilemma.

Meanwhile how did you decide about Insead over MIT.

Yariv Hammer said...

Hi Karisma
I described my personal decision process here:
I hope it will be helpful.
Today I have a slightly different point of view regarding things which I am going to post soon if the job search and electives won't kill me

vinay said...

Hi Ariv

Its been enlightening to read thru your blog...I am sure many a student has gained from your valuble insights. I just want to ask two questions.

Is it that if I dont get any intimation on interview due date (12 Nov 08 for R1 for MBA2011), or that if I dont get any interview call, I have to assume that I have been rejected. Will LBS ever intimate the applicants of rejection.



Yariv Hammer said...

Hi Vinai,
The business school will probably notify you shortly. You have to be patient. You cannot assume anything before you hear from the school.
However, the fact that you did not get the response from the school on time is not good news either.
My recommendation - be patient, and if they don't give you a response in two weeks send them a short email.

conservatories said...

Time of interview is simply unforgettable. Thoughts running speedily inside mind, body shivering a little and thinking about results.

Yariv Hammer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yariv Hammer said...

Hi conservatories,
Exactly for those reasons, it is better to come prepared for the interview. In order to get past the nervousness, being prepared with the answers really help.