MIT Sloan and the Pre-Interview Essay
MIT Sloan School of Management—perhaps riffing off of HBS’s post-interview reflection—added its own new twist last year. In Sloan’s case, though, it is another essay and it comes before the interview. Clear Admit spoke with Dawna Levenson when the school first announced this newest element. She shared the details she knew then, which were that applicants invited to interview would be asked to provide a written answer to a second essay question in 250 words or less. The question: “The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice. Please share with us something about your past that aligns with this mission.”
For last year, as part of the congratulatory email letting candidates know they have been invited to interview, Sloan provided a link to a section of its website where it restates the question and asks candidate to upload an answer at least 24 hours before their scheduled interview. “We try to invite people to interview at least one week in advance, so that should give them more than enough time to complete it,” Levenson noted in a conversation with Clear Admit last year. The essay can serve as an ice-breaker for the interview, it is often the last thing that is read, by the interviewer, before the interview takes place.
London Business School’s Presentation Component
Across the pond at London Business School (LBS), applicants get their own special challenge in the form of an impromptu five-minute presentation assigned as part of the interview. It’s all part of LBS’s attempt to get a sense of your communication skills. LBS provides its alumni interviewers with a list of topics. According to interview reports, the interviewer usually either chooses one and assigns it or offers the applicant a choice among several.
Though applicants sometimes refer to the presentation portion of the LBS interview as a case, do not confuse it with the “case interview” for a strategy consulting firm, which often involve being given a quite complex problem to solve. The questions that LBS asks are almost never difficult. Example questions from the past have included “Should employers dismiss an employee for writing damaging criticism on a social networking website?” and “What three items would you put in a time capsule about humanity?”
Really, LBS is just trying to get a sense of how you think and how well you can explain your ideas—as well as your ability to think on your feet. Of course, this makes the presentation a little harder to prepare for than a normal interview question, since you won’t know what topic you will have to address ahead of time. Just keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers. What counts is laying out a compelling argument supported by evidence.
You’re usually given about five minutes to prepare. “Make sure you use this time wisely,” encourages Clear Admit’s Brown. “Don’t just jump into your reply and risk missing points or jumbling ideas. Start out by identifying and assessing the situation, and then explain how you would approach the issue and why the approach you advocate is the best one.”
It’s also probably wise to avoid taking a particularly controversial stance, since you have no way of knowing who your interviewer is or what might cause him or her to take offence, Brown cautions. “A conservative approach makes the most sense here.”
Brown also adds, “This twist to the LBS interview is that it is hard to prepare ahead of time, which is clearly one of its goals. LBS also tries to match candidates with alumni interviewers whose backgrounds align with the candidate’s career goals. This positions the interviewer to assess how realistic those goals are while also allowing for deeper engagement as part of the interview process.”