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Understanding the MBA Admissions Interview – Part I

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“We Do Not Have The Capacity”

At most top schools, though, to even offer a period of open interview opportunities just isn’t possible. “We have not considered applicant-initiated interviews for the simple reason that we do not have the capacity to do that,” says Yale SOM Admissions Director Bruce DelMonico. “We can only accommodate a certain number of interviews each application season and aren’t in the position to take on any more.”

The lucky few schools who do seem to manage applicant-initiated interviews don’t have to contend with fear of missing out (FOMO) on applicants whose written applications fail to adequately convey what an essential part of the incoming class they represent.

“This is wishful thinking, but I would love to be able to meet every candidate,” said David Simpson, admissions director for London Business School’s MBA program, when asked what one thing he would change about the application process if he could. “I know for a fact that every year we are bound to miss out on some great people that we turn down who could have been in the class,” he said. “You miss that when you don’t meet everyone.”


If a School Offers Open Interviews, You’d Do Well to Sign Up

For schools that do offer open interviews, though, you’d do well to take them up on it. Julie Barefoot, associate dean of MBA admissions at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, claims those who do not make use of the open interview period at her school are not at a disadvantage—they will still be invited to interview later in the process if the admissions committee wants to learn more about them. (The same is true at Tuck, Kenan-Flagler and Fuqua.) Ah, but if the admissions committee, based on the written application alone, decides not to bother with an interview, that is a candidate who has missed an opportunity to make her case in person for why she belongs in that MBA program.

Barefoot doesn’t make that point, but she does make another: “There is an advantage to interviewing in the open period because it shows us that they are really interested,” she points out. For this reason, “if they can, candidates should interview in the open period,” she advises.

“There is really no scenario where taking advantage of the open interview policy can hurt a candidate,” says Alex Brown, who worked in admissions at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School for several years. “Obviously the opposite is true,” he continues. “Those who choose to participate in an interview before applying are signaling to the admissions committee that they are fully committed to the process—showing the appropriate initiative and interest in the school.” Schools will evaluate candidates, in part, on fit for the school, so this initiative can dial into that, he adds. (Wharton switched from open interviews to interviews by invitation during the time that Brown worked there, due to resource constraints).