15 Interviewing Tips for MBA Students

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Use InverviewStream

InterviewStream is a great online service that lets you to practice your interview answers virtually.  All you need is a laptop with a webcam and microphone.  After you create an account, you can ask InterviewStream to queue up a mock interview.  A video with an interviewer asking questions will start and after each question is asked, your answers are recorded by the webcam.

Obviously InterviewStream is a great way to practice interview answers.  But the best part about the service is that it provides you the cringe worthy experience of watching video recordings of yourself.  While it’s tough having to watch yourself on camera, this is really the only way to fully grasp how job recruiters are perceiving you during an interview.  During my self-review, I noticed that I needed to make more eye contact and had a tendency to play with my hands.  If you can weed out all the weird quirks about your interview style, you’ll be a much stronger candidate for your actual interview.

Don’t Let Bad Interview Results Affect Future Interviews

The one thing about interviewing that MBAs usually aren’t prepared for is the amount of rejection they have to deal with.  Dealing with failure is hard enough in the real world.  But in business school, after you’ve already invested $100 thousand dollars in your education and taken two years from your professional career, setbacks can really affect your confidence.

When I began recruiting, the process started off really well as I got interviews for the majority of positions I applied to.  But as I started sitting for interviews, I began to realize how difficult it was to move past the first round.  I was only asked back to interview for a small percentage of companies I interviewed with.  Now I definitely had a few bad interview performances.  But what really bugged me were the interviews where I did actually perform well but wasn’t asked back for a second round.

What I learned from my experience was that the interview process can be extremely fickle.  Even if you have amazing grades and test scores, network your butt off, spend several hours doing research, and deliver a polished interview performance, your dream company could still write you off after five minutes in the interview room.  The interview process is also really competitive; you may have nailed your interview, but if a few other people do an even better job, you may not be asked back.  There’s a level of randomness that you just need to be willing to accept.

Don’t let bad interview performances, even the one for your dream job, bleed into any other interviews you have lined up.  The worst thing that could happen is letting an undesirable result in the past ruin your performance for a job that you’re perfectly qualified for.  It’s difficult to do, but you need to keep a short term memory about your entire recruiting season.  Resolve to deliver your best possible performance for every interview you sit in.  And when a failure does occur, put the past in the past and focus on the next task at hand.

Do Case Prep Regardless of Your Interest in Consulting

During the recruiting process, we’re generally told that case questions are a specialty of consulting firms.  While this turned out to be true, what surprised me in the interview process was how many non-consulting firms are also incorporating case questions into their interviews.  It’s important to note that most of the cases they presented were mini-cases, which are nowhere near as intense as those given by consulting firms.  Regardless, case questioning is clearly a process that more and more firms want to evaluate you with.

For those of you recruiting outside of consulting, the case component of the interview is a great opportunity to stand out.  Most non-consulting candidates will choose not do a significant amount of preparation for case interviews.  Therefore, if you prepare cases to the level that a consultant candidate does, you’ll blow away your competition in that section.  It’s clearly a significant time investment, but will definitely be worth it when you’re trying to secure your dream job.

Use the Pencil in Mouth Trick

Because of how quickly recruiters make judgments about you, first impressions are crucial in an interview process.  If you mess up any words or statements, your chances of succeeding could easily be gone in the first few minutes of the interview.  Sometimes, the reason you flub the first few words of an answer is simply because your mouth hasn’t gotten enough use that day.  This is especially true for morning interviews, where your conversation with the interviewer will probably be your first conversation of the day.

To prevent flubbing answers from mouth fatigue, simply use the pencil in mouth trick:  put a pencil in your mouth and practice out one or two of your prepared answers.  The extra work you need to do will stretch out our facial muscles and get them ready to answer questions.

Always Write Thank You Notes

People rarely get hired just for writing a thank you note.  But you never know when if it will make a difference.  For example, after the first round of interviews, you could be sitting right on the border between being dinged and moving on to the next round.  A thank you note in this situation could easily shift the balance.

Additionally, given how competitive MBA recruiting has become, writing a thank you note is slowly becoming a bare minimum for the interview process.  If everyone else who interviewed wrote a thank you letter, and you’re the one person who didn’t, the company may start to question you interest in the company regardless of how well you performed in the interview.

Don’t Accept Water or Mints from the Interviewer

There’s nothing wrong with the act of accepting things from the interviewer.  It’s what you might do with those things that can cause you problems.  Having “props” during an interview will give you an avenue to channel your nerves, which in front of an interviewer is a very bad thing.

After getting a prop, you might go through an interview playing with a wrapper from a mint or taking several sips of water between questions.  This is no different than having a pen in your hand and waving it around while giving a presentation.  You’ll distract your interviewer and hurt your chances of getting through.  Therefore, if an interviewer offers you a drink or a mint, just politely decline and focus on the actual interview.

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