15 Interviewing Tips for MBA Students

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Use an Interview Preparation Checklist

During winter quarter at Anderson, when the bulk of on campus interviews occur, students are allowed to take one course less than the normal course load.  Even with this additional perk, your schedule will still get really stressful because of interviews.  You’ll likely have to make tough trade-offs, such as preparing for a midterm versus preparing for an interview or deciding between two interviews that occur at the same time.  For my recruiting period, I had 17 first round interviews and they all were held within a matter of a few weeks.

During this stressful time period, it’s easy to forget key preparation items for your interviews.  For example, you could forget to bring breath mints, shine your shoes, or even neglect to research the company background.  Before you walk into an interview, you should make sure to go through a detailed checklist beforehand.  That way, you won’t waste an opportunity to secure a job just because your schedule is hectic.

Click here to view the interview preparation checklist I used.

Prepare for Oddball Questions

Interviewers often throw in oddball questions, or questions outside of the aforementioned core categories, to see how you react under pressure. This type of question is tough because, if you give an answer without preparing beforehand, it’s difficult to use your answer to add to your candidate profile.  While you can’t predict everything an interviewer can they throw at you, there are a few common oddball questions I like to prepare:

  • Tell me something you learned from the last book you read?
  • Which superhero would you most want to be?
  • Which business icon do you admire the most and why?
  • What’s your favorite quote and why?

Link a story behind each of your answers to highlight the characteristics in your profile you want exhibit.  That way, if an interviewer asks one of these questions, you’ll be able to turn one of their curveball tactics in your own favor.

Know Every Bullet Point in Your Resume

When preparing for your interview, you’ll obviously have a good memory of the most recent job experience you had.  But what about the internship you did during your undergrad?  The bullets for your older job experiences may have been created several years ago and will definitely be more difficult to speak to.

Some interviewers will make it a point to ask about the very last bullet points in your resume to try and throw you off.  Make sure to have something to say about every single bullet point on your resume because if you write it down, it’s fair game for questioning.

Use a Story to Respond to Short Answer Prompts

One of the biggest mistakes that people make during an interview is giving answers that are too short.  If an interviewer has just met you, he or she is going to need more than one sentence answers to get to know you.  Every question that an interviewer asks you is an opportunity to put yourself in a positive light and make yourself memorable.  If you fail to do this on any given question, you’re wasting that opportunity.

The most common question where people make this mistake is “How would you describe yourself in three words?”  Now it would be easy just to list three positive words, such as “analytical, collaborator, results-oriented.”  But what if you could also tell a story that demonstrated how all of these words applied to you?  The latter would clearly be more memorable.  Just keep in mind, the three words by themselves aren’t important.  What matters is how you use them to make an impression on the interviewer after he’s asked the same question to fifteen other people.

Pick a Favorable Interview Time Slot If Possible

In theory, the time of day for an interview slot should have no effect on a candidate’s probability of success.  However, we know that in real life that this isn’t true.  While definitely not the ultimate decider, studies have shown that the time of day an interview occurs can affect the overall result.

The two interview slots you definitely want to avoid are the first and last interviews of the day.  For the first interview, the interviewer is warming up and still has your competition in mind.  He knows that the odds of the first person walking in being the person they hire is low, so he’ll be hesitant to commit to you until they see other candidates.  If the interviewer is giving a case, there’s a possibility that he hasn’t prepared it well.  When the interviewer screws up the case, which has happened to me before, there’s no way it can benefit you.

By the time you get to the last time slot, the interviewer has probably already decided in his head who he wants to move on to the next round.  Additionally, after going through a full day of interviews, the interviewer probably has lost a lot of his energy.  He probably won’t be paying full attention to your answers and is already thinking about his commute home.

Another key time slot to avoid is the one right before the lunch break.  You don’t want the interviewer thinking about his expense-able lunch during your interview.  The time slot right after a lunch break can have either a good or bad effect.  Most are happier after they’ve had a meal, but if your interviewer has a big lunch, he might come back with a food coma and be less attentive.

Obviously it’s impossible for everyone to get a good interview time slot.  And likely, you won’t get a good time for every interview you participate in.  I’d just recommend that, for the jobs that you are heavily recruiting for, make sure you request a favorable time slot, even if it means having to skip a class to be available.

Research Your Interviewer’s Background If Possible

Persuasion studies have shown that the most effective way to get another person to like you is to demonstrate similarities.  This becomes important for MBA recruiting because how much an interviewer likes you will have an extremely high correlation with getting an offer.  You’ll be surprised how many interviews don’t focus on competence, work ethic, or professional skills.  Some companies just really care about fit and personality.

If you can get your interviewer’s name before your interview date, look him or her up on Linked In and search for any details you can speak to.  If you both went to the same school, grew up in the same city, or have the same hobby, it’ll make breaking the ice with your interviewer much easier.

If the firm you’re recruiting for doesn’t release the name of your interviewer, you can still potentially research your interviewer’s background.  Most interviewers will leave their business card once they arrive at the career service center.  Therefore, assuming you’re not the in the very first time slot, you can just show up to the career center a little early, look at the interview schedule, and do your research before your interview starts.

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