By Arial Starks
When applying to an MBA program, there are many opportunities for a candidate to sell themselves on paper, whether it be through the application, standardized test scores, or required essays. There is often only one opportunity for a candidate to sell themselves face to face, and that is through the interview process. We sat down with Bailey McChesney, Director, MBA Admissions at Vanderbilt Business, who shares what candidates can expect and what questions you should ask during an MBA interview.
What is the structure of an MBA interview?
Most MBA interviews last roughly 30 minutes. In the weeks leading up to the interview, the candidate should work on crafting their story and deciding which parts are most important to tell. Bailey McChesney says candidates should focus on figuring out why they want an MBA, what skills and experiences have led them up to this point, and what their goals are beyond the program. At Vanderbilt Business, MBA interviews are conducted by MBA recruiting and admissions fellows, who are second-year MBA students. The interview is purposely structured this way to give candidates a feel for what the program is like through the perspective of a current student. The interviewer only sees the interviewee’s resume, so the conversational evaluation gives the candidate a chance to really shine a light on their strengths and explain how they plan to address their weaknesses.
“First and foremost, I would encourage candidates to be authentic in the interview. The interview is really the place in the admissions process where you have the opportunity to interact one on one with someone and tell your story verbally. There are other opportunities within the application to tell your story on paper through your resume or essays, but this is the opportunity to connect with someone, so being honest and authentic is essential,” says McChesney.
How can I prepare?
At the moment, most MBA interviews are being conducted virtually. There are simple things candidates should do to illustrate professionalism and preparedness throughout the process: make sure your background is appropriate and free from distractions, your internet is reliable and secure, and your video and audio connections are functioning. Aside from technical preparation, candidates should also reflect on the hard and soft skills they possess and figure out how to communicate those during the interview.
“The candidate will want to treat the interview just like a job interview, so think about projects that you have led, responsibilities that you have had, and skills that have helped you get up to this point. Do a little bit of self reflection about the strengths of your candidacy,” McChesney said.
What questions should I ask in an MBA Interview?
While the interview is an opportunity for a candidate to tell their story and answer questions about themselves and their experiences, it is also a great time for them to gather information about the school they are applying for and learn things about the MBA program that may not be readily available. A candidate is encouraged to ask questions during the interview; for instance, inquiring about how to prepare for the program, or asking for tips to make the most out of the MBA experience. McChesney encourages candidates to steer clear of asking questions about their application status or chances of admission and focus on asking about leadership and learning opportunities of interest. She also advises students to take a good look at their desired program’s website, to ensure they do not waste time asking questions that they can find the answers to themselves.
“In a COVID environment, where you don’t have the opportunity to visit campus or see campus like you once did, during the interview, candidates should try to get a full picture of what life is like as a student within an MBA program and hear more about concentrations or experiential learning opportunities or life in the city where they will be attending school. That would be a huge opportunity for the candidate to learn those things before they even essentially get their admissions decision,” McChesney said.
To learn more about the Vanderbilt MBA, click here.