How to survive the inevitable bad part of an mba admissions interview


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How to survive the inevitable "bad part" of an mba admissions interview

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How to survive the inevitable bad part of an mba admissions interview

  1. 1. to Survive the Inevitable "Bad Part"of an MBA Admissions Interview
  2. 2. By the Amerasia Consulting Group,Boutique MBA Admissions ConsultingHow to Survive the Inevitable "Bad Part"of an MBA Admissions InterviewMBA Admissions Consultant |
  3. 3. This article is about a harsh reality of the MBA interviewprocess, which is that every interview is going to take adip, or hit a rough patch, at some point ... through no faultof anyone involved.Why is this?And how can you address it?Lets dive into it.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  4. 4. What do we mean by the "bad part" of an interview?The "bad part" of an interview in the way were referring to it isthe part where things start to slide away from the interviewee.Its that moment where you feel like you start to "lose" youraudience; where you go from being compelling and charmingand totally on point ... to something else that feels distant andfoggy and remote.Its a very unpleasant feeling that tends to evoke panic movesand counterproductive responses. Its kind of like getting caughtin a rip tide or skidding out in your car - what you want to do is gowith the current or lean into the skid, but of course people do theopposite and try to jerk against it and wind up with a crisis.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  5. 5. What we are going to teach you today is how to go with thecurrent, and how to turn into the skid.Please understand that we are not talking about total meltdownshere, which are rare. In all our years of doing this, weve only hadone or two clients completely botch their interviews. One startedcrying and another refused to stand behind his own career goals.Other than those (and even both of those were more the fault ofthe interviewer, it seemed), weve never had people experiencetrue horror stories.Were talking about something more subtle, but no lessfrustrating, far more common, and something that tends to deraileven the best interview subjects.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  6. 6. When does this moment happen in a standard interview?The moment you start to "lose" the interviewer is almost exactlythe same, regardless of interviewee, interviewer (alumni, student,admissions officer, whatever), or school - it happens when theinterview shifts from what we call the "nuts and bolts" section (thefirst 10 minutes after small talk, where you talk about your goals,your interest in the school, your job, etc.) and into the"behavioral" section of the interview.Nearly every school features a chunk of the interview where theyask behavioral questions.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  7. 7. This is almost always after the buts and bolts section and its theplace where things tend to lose steam.So you are looking at arriving at the rough patch about 15minutes into things, right after youve been crushing it, and rightwhen they start asking you questions like "tell me about a timeyou led a team," or "can you share a time when you stepped inand resolved a conflict within a team," or "when did you have topersuade a group of people," or any other question designed tounpack key b-school traits (or "behaviors") such as leadership,teamwork, persuasive communication, and so forth.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  8. 8. WHY does it happen during the behavioral section?This is pretty easy to understand if youve ever sat in theinterviewers chair for more than about 10 of these. Collectively,our team has hosted thousands of interviews.Personally, I did probably 500 of them in my past life as anassociate director of admissions. Paul did dozens upon dozensas an alumni interviewer. One of our interview gurus did what feltlike a million of these on the GSB campus for BCG.We KNOW what it feels like to be that person conducting theinterview. And heres the dirty secret: its almost impossible to beriveted by one of these behavioral stories.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  9. 9. During the nuts and bolts section, everything is zipping andmoving - youre talking schools, goals, career paths, motivations,and all the fun stuff that is universal, elemental to theproceedings, and, therefore, interesting.Further, you are also discussing the school in question ("so tellme, why School X?") which is of course the best discussion pointof all, because both parties have a mutual interest (one personwants to go there and the other loves it enough to either beworking there, going there, or volunteering as an alum fromthere).However, when you transition to "tell me about a time you led ateam," its just impossible to really care. Schools (at a high level)feel they must ask and tease out these qualities, which is fine intheory, but in practice, it doesnt translate to interesting content.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  10. 10. If I am interviewing you and you start telling me about Deal X andPerson Y and Conflict Z, I just do not have a personal stake orinterest in any of it.So what happens is that the interviewer - who does a bunch ofthese, remember - starts to drift out during this section. Theystart thinking about what they will have for lunch or how muchlonger this will be or maybe even the great stuff you were justtalking about. Regardless of what they fixate on, its probably notyour answer to the question at that moment.Therefore, it creates a feeling that the interviewer is disinterested(they are), which creates the feeling that the energy level anddynamic is dipping (it is) ... and that the interviewee is at fault (heor she is not) and that there is something that can be done aboutit (there is not!). And thats where things start to go sideways.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  11. 11. How does it go sideways?An interview goes sideways when the interviewee recognize thisshift and tries to respond in an ill-fated attempt to get the magicback. Understand this: you are not going to get the magic back.Not yet, at least.However, many people - especially Type A personalities - believeeverything is within their power, including dazzling an interviewer.So what they do is start to talk more. And more. And more. Andwhat they talk more about is details.Facts, setup information, tangents. They just start piling oninformation and they turn a 60-second story about a leadershipexperience into five minutes of rambling.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  12. 12. More facts and details do not make it more interesting. If youhave read this post up to this point, you now know that it makes itLESS interesting! You are doing the equivalent of taking out yourconversational shovel and just digging a deeper and deeper hole.And this is when an interview goes from "totally normal andgood" to "rough.“MBA Admissions Consultant |
  13. 13. Okay ... so what should I do?Obviously, if we are saying that this happens in virtuallyevery interview and that there is a wrong approach, itimplies that there is a right one.To find out that right approach, please contact us for ourinterview prep services.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  14. 14. Kidding, kidding. Were going to tell you what to do, inthree steps:1.Go in with prepared behavioral stories. Have 3-5 storiesabout teamwork, leadership, conflict, and the like. Youcan use almost any story for almost any prompt, sonarrow down what you are trying to keep track of in yourhead.Telling the right story in an interview is like playing theright song at a party - its easier if you have a looseplaylist ready in advance.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  15. 15. Then, you can tweak and adjust based on the exactmood/question, rather than scrambling in a mad panicto find the right song/story from a sea of thousands ofchoices flying through your mind.Further, you should structure those stories using thesame SCAR model we use for our impact essays,which is Situation (15 seconds setting up thescenario), Complication (this is the thing that raisesthe stakes and makes it interesting and is the specificresponse to the question they ask - "the reason Ineeded to step up into the leadership void was X"),MBA Admissions Consultant |
  16. 16. Actions (15-30 seconds of what you did), and Results(how it finished up and what you learned aboutyourself from the experience).If you have that balance, it should take 60-90 secondsto tell your story and it will be clean, easy tounderstand, and - most of all - something you canstick to.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  17. 17. 2. Ride out the rough patch. We talked earlier aboutgoing with the current or steering into the skid. Well,same thing here.What you simply have to do during this part of theinterview is *accept that this is how it is*.Its absolutely unbelievable what we see when we dothis job, which is a universe of people who believe thatthey can bend the world to their whims.Look, we get it - many of you are candidates at eliteMBA programs because you have a certain amount oftenacity.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  18. 18. However, some things just are what they are. If youtry to fight this universal ebb in the interviewexperience, you will be the person digging away withthat shovel and just burying your chances.You become the unlikeable person who patronizes theinterviewer with way too much info, or the scatteredperson who just starts rambling, or any number ofunflattering archetypes. And its all because you cantresist just going with the flow and accepting that whichyou are powerless to change. Besides, we still havestep 3 here. (Between the "powerless to change" stuffand all the steps, it is starting to feel like a recoveryprogram.)MBA Admissions Consultant |
  19. 19. 3. Seize your chance to win it all back ... when it arrives.Think of it this way: rather than fighting the current tolook like a hero in the face of an insurmountable riptide, why not allow yourself to wash up on shore andthen, full of energy, do a few backflips to impresspeople?Thats how the interview works. With a few exceptions(HBS, to name one, which we approach with a slightlydifferent lens with our clients), every single interviewexperience features a third part after nuts and boltsand then behavioral and it is this: "what questions doyou have for me?"MBA Admissions Consultant |
  20. 20. This is your chance to completely bring the energyback. Have questions ready to go.Make them good and smart questions (that willinterest the interviewer). Show enthusiasm for theanswers that they give to you (dont think about howyou just did during the "real" interview, stay in themoment).Lean forward, be expressive, be charming. If youengage the interviewer in this last frame, that personwill love you.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  21. 21. Again, having done this job, its so rare for people toend on a high note ... yet its so easy to do! It amazesme how hard people will fight to be dazzling during theimpossible stretch, yet they completely fold up theirtent during the easy part.Just stay engaged and be a generousconversationalist, listener, and audience (yes,audience - everyone, including interviewers, likes tohear themselves talk and everyone likes to havepeople laugh at their jokes, humble brags, and self-deprecating comments).MBA Admissions Consultant |
  22. 22. Its all there for you at the end and since its the lastpart, its the part they will remember. You will walk outof the room and they will write down "Loved him/her!"on their report.The five-minute lull where the two of you dutifully androbotically cranked out the behavioral section will belong forgotten.MBA Admissions Consultant |
  23. 23. We hope this post helps many, many people be their true selves in their MBAadmissions interviews, rather than letting that nervous, eager-to-please side eruptto the detriment of their chances. Steer into the skid, everybody.For an overview of Amerasia MBA Admissions Consulting services, please visit you are interested in the MBA Admissions Consulting services offered byAmerasia, please email to inquire about setting upa free consultation.