An interesting aspect of an MBA interview is that it often mimics a Job Interview, because the objective of both are to assess the suitability of a candidate based on their background, education and work experience. In fact, a lot of the interview tips to ace an MBA interview are also applicable as tips to succeeding at a job interview. No matter how experienced someone may be, it is quite common to get nervous at any interview, be it for a job or entry into a Masters degree programme. This is why we’ve outlined 5 Interview tips to help you ace the process.
Interview Tip #1: It’s a conversation, not an interview
The first and most important step is to change your thinking of the entire process, approaching it as a conversation instead of an interview.
An interviewer is attempting to better know who you are; your personality, your unique experiences, your career aspirations etc. So as cliché as it sounds, the best advice is to just be yourself. One trick would be to picture answering the same questions if asked by a close friend during a serious discussion or alternatively, have a close friend do a mock interview with you. Remember to stay calm and keep your answers succinct, honest and thoughtful so that the best, most professional version of yourself comes through to the interviewer.
Interview Tip #2: It’s ok to not know everything
What if you’re asked a question you don’t know the answer to? In instances like this, it’s better to admit your lack of knowledge rather than confidently give a wrong answer. If you do choose to guess, then let the interviewer know that you do not know the answer but you will try to attempt to provide one based on your experience and current level of understanding.
Some interviewers purposefully put in difficult questions outside a candidate’s range of experience and knowledge to test their response. This is also a commonly used tactic by companies when recruiting for management level job roles. An MBA is about helping a working professional deepen their understanding of their chosen role or industry, and learn about business units that contribute to an organisation’s function and growth. It is expected that a candidate would not know everything and their response to a difficult question demonstrates how their preferred approach to problem solving; Is it Lateral Thinking? Is it decision making after collecting more information? Is it delegation to someone more knowledgeable? Given MBAs focus on problem solving and theory application for assignments, difficult questions can be a good barometer of a candidate’s style of coursework. For job interviews, it’s a good indication of a candidate’s reaction to new situations and a prediction of their leadership style.
Interview Tip #3: With work experience it’s about why, not where
The minimum requirement for an MBA candidate is 2 years of work experience, used to ascertain a candidate’s maturity, skills and creativity. For this reason, the emphasis is not about where you worked, but more about why you choose to work there, what you learnt from the role and what key work experiences shaped your personal professional and management style. Essentially, it’s about highlighting the impact you had on the organisation and the organisation on you. This is also a fantastic job interview tip.
At the interview, expand on your responsibilities at different levels, roles and companies, providing examples of analytical thinking, problem solving and even mistakes you made that helped you grow. When discussing movement between companies, industries or roles, give the rationale for the different career choices. If you ventured into entrepreneurship, you still have to show that ‘self-employed’ is not a euphemism for ‘unemployed’; demonstrate how you recognised the need in the market for your product or service, your strategic thinking and overall management of your enterprise.
Interview Tip #4: Showing is worth more than telling
A simple but effective MBA interview tip – which is also useful for improving employment prospects – is to build a portfolio of work showcasing achievements over the course of your career.
In today’s digital world an Online MBA, Distance learning MBA or Part-time MBA has grown enormously in popularity, due to the flexibility they provide a working professional to earn a Masters degree without the need to leave work, or halt their career progress. While a physical portfolio is an excellent tool, it’s important to build a digital portfolio that can be easily sent to an interviewer irrespective of location. One popular way of building a digital portfolio is to have your own website. Given that an MBA improves a candidate’s job prospects on a global scale, it’s always good to be open to apply for international job opportunities, not just local ones.
Interview Tip #5: Be prepared with THE answer
An inevitable question of any interview, be it for an MBA interview or a job interview is “Why choose us?”
Both Universities and corporations place a lot of importance on this answer, with it playing a crucial role in determining acceptance. First, do your own research on the programme or organisation, using it to prepare a strong and convincing answer. This helps to prove that your choice is based on careful consideration, making it carry more weight. You can also use the research to come up with questions to ask the interviewer in turn.
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