Many applicants spend months on creating B-School applications, writing essays, letter of recommendations, resume , generating stories, working on the entire candidature, before moving out for the interviews with various business schools – admission committee members, alumni and existing students, and surprisingly, majority of them face rejection in the interviews. For some schools such as Harvard Business School, interviews are even more important as compared with a school such as Stanford that lays a lot of emphasis on the application question.
While it may seem like it is primarily because something is missing in the profile, it is not necessary. For most of the applicants, it is because of their inability to express the context of the stories.
In this note, I want to address the most important reasons that will help an applicant position himself strongly in the interviews.
1. THE STORYLINE: I feel that creating a very convincing storyline for the applicants if their biggest challenge. When I say storyline, I mean the entire set of connecting questions “WHY MBA?”, “WHY NOW?”, “WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?” etc. These questions connect your past with an MBA and lead you into the future, and the schools want to know why have you placed an MBA in the sequence of events.
Story line becomes complete once you understand the transferrable skill sets from your past, your handicaps- the skills you want from the Business school- and a Very specific understanding of the Future goals- NOT DREAMS- BUT SPECIFIC GOALS. Most of the applicants fail to understand their prime reasons for an MBA, and this failure to understand “WHY MBA?” translates to a failure to express.
Within the story line, the schools also ask you “WHY HAVE YOU CHOSEN THIS PARTICULAR MBA Program?” Your lack of understanding of the resources that the schools offer to help you. – and Failure to understand this leads to a very pedestrian story- and a reject.
2. AMBIGUITY: There are too many situational questions that get asked in the interviews and Meanings of various terms such as Leadership, Team work, Ethical Dilemma, Most Significant Accomplishment, Short term long term goals, Constructive Feedback are misinterpreted by the applicants. No one ever asked these in the undergraduate interviews or even in the job interviews, but a B-school will give a lot of importance to the behavioral questions. For example: When they want the applicants to talk about their Most Significant Accomplishment, they are not interested in the accomplishment as much as they are in the context. They want to understand “Why is this so meaningful to you?” It is their way of assessing the heavy weight character that will be a part of their community. In questions such as these, the applicants explain them a random project they were part of without knowing “Why is this MOST SIGNIFICANT for me?” and if the school would value the transferrable skill set? Just as this, there are too many questions that applicants fail to describe comprehensively
3. CONTEXT FOR A LAYMAN: When they describe their professional lives or respond to professional questions, they at times fail to understand that this is not a job interview and the listener can be from a very different background and may not easily understand the LINGO or may not be able to assess the size of the accomplishments. If you implemented a new technology in the firm, the interviewer needs to understand why is that a big deal in your organization or in your industry. You need to address the challenges you faced from the leadership in your company, and address how did you overcome those. While narrating these, just remember that the listener is not from your company and will not be able to relate to your responses unless you set the background for him.
Some people from operations and supply chain get very enthusiastic about the new inventory management system they installed in manufacturing firms. It is important to know that if your interviewer is an academician, he will wait for you to describe “ Why should this accomplishment be rewarded?” and “How does this set you apart from the rest?”
Let me give you another example: Imagine that you worked on rolling out a new project and created 5 crores of revenue in the first quarter. Now, how will the interview assess the size of the monetary gain? Is it too big in your company or industry? Is it hard for someone in your peer group to generate this? It is not the money that can be used to dominate the conversation in an interview unless the interviewer knows how important is the accomplishment you created. Everyone working in a public sector bank will have “Million” figures on the resume, and an applicant from a large bank will not be necessarily compared from someone working for a start up.
Do a lot of research before you apply to any of the top tier MBA programs. It is okay if we are not used to it as the undergraduate programs were not so demanding. However, given the competitive landscape of the jobs after MBA, the barriers to entry are relatively high.
By Jatin Bhandari- Founder- Interview Ninjas and PythaGurus