Time to Interview – a few tips

As we discussed last week, interview season is upon us for second round applicants. Many of the top schools such as HBS, Stanford, Wharton, and Chicago hold “invitation only” interviews. These schools seek to interview all accepted applicants, which means that you must receive and complete an interview in order to be accepted. Other schools such as Haas at UC Berkeley and Columbia may accept you without an interview.

Again, while Wharton had a deadline for releasing invitations to interview (Feb 15), HBS and Stanford do not have formal end date for interview invites. Often waiting for the invitation is the hardest part as Cyndi’s Journey mentions. Moreover, anxious applicants continue to question whether the timing of their interview invitation holds any significance. It does not. HBS unequivocally states this on their website. As you can see from AGirlsMBA and Stanford Life, you may be interviewing with an alum, an admissions officer, or even a current student depending on the school.

Regardless of when you receive your invitation or who is going to interview you, it is important to prepare for those tough interview questions. While you do not want to memorize answers so that you sound like you are making a prepared speech, you need to be the expert on all of your content. To that end, for the next few weeks we will feature suggestions for tackling common interview questions.  This week we are addressing a few of the common open ended questions that concern applicants.

Many interviews will begin with some version of “Tell me about yourself” or “Walk me through your resume”. It is hard to know where to begin with this.  One approach is to simply ask, “Where would you like me to begin?”  As an applicant, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for further clarification; this also makes the interview more of a conversation. Remember that the interview is a dialog, often with someone who could soon be your peer. Don’t feel like you need to read their mind and immediately “know” what they are looking for. In general, you will begin this question with college, and provide a brief chronology regarding decisions from there. Some applicants have reported being asked “Tell me about yourself – not the resume stuff”.  This is a different type of question, where you might start with where you grew up and provide more personal anecdotes about family and personal interests.

Another common question is, “Tell me about a typical day at work”. Here you can state that there is no truly typical day, but explain what you did yesterday, which is representative of the types of things you do at work.  Then you can provide a breakdown of some of the activities that you engaged in.  This is one to keep brief as you are not sharing your most unique selling points, but be sure to convey some nice diversity in your day.  An interviewer wants to understand more about your role at work and to know that you are not hiding in your cubicle all day.

Best of luck with waiting for the invitations and the interview themselves.  Check back next week for more tips on specific questions.

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