So you’ve got an interview coming up. Maybe you’ve been selected for an invitation-only sit-down, or maybe you’ve scheduled on your own at a program that conducts applicant-initiated interviews. Either way, we want to share a few very basic pointers on MBA interview etiquette.
Though the content of your application materials and comments during the interview are of paramount importance, it’s also crucial to put your best foot forward and make a positive initial impression.
Here are a few guidelines for interviewing applicants to keep in mind:
Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of your interview. This will help remove the stress you will experience if you think you might arrive a little late. It will also help the interviewer, who may have back-to-back interviews, and cannot afford any delays in her schedule.
Dress the part.
Unless meeting with an alum who explicitly specifies a more casual dress code, assume that business attire is appropriate. We recommend that applicants dress conservatively, opting for a dark suit (pants or skirts are both fine for women) and a blue or white shirt. Steer clear of flashy brand gear and loud ties, and go easy on makeup and fragrances; you want to be remembered for what you say and who you are, not what you wore.
For those who do not work in an environment where professional dress is worn on a regular basis, you might want to get comfortable wearing your interview attire prior to your interviews.
This likely goes without saying, but we wanted to state for the record that in addition to fostering a friendly discussion with your interviewer, it’s also important to be polite to administrative staff and anyone else you might encounter while on campus or in your alum interviewer’s office. Flippant comments to the administrative assistant at the front desk often find their way up the chain of command.
Be aware of body language.
In addition to your comments about your experiences, interests and reasons for seeking an MBA, your interviewer will also be taking note of the way you present yourself. You’ll also want to avoid taking notes or reading from your résumé; it can be fine to have the latter in front of you as a reference, but remember that you should be familiar enough with its content to focus on maintaining eye contact and establishing a rapport.
Bring your résumé.
It is always best to have an extra copy of your résumé with you, in case your interviewer needs it. The only exception to this case is when you interview with the University of Virginia’s Darden School, which is the only school that conducts interviews in a truly blind fashion. But even in that case, you may prefer to have a copy for yourself as you interview – though we caution against using the résumé as a crutch or a prop to the point of distraction, as successful candidates typically can speak to their résumé without needing to refer to it much.
Make sure that you get your interviewer’s card and take his or her contact information in order to send a “thank you” email within 24 hours of the interview. This is not only common courtesy but could also serve as the first step in forging a lasting correspondence.
We hope these six suggestions on etiquette help you prepare for your interviews. Meanwhile, applicants who are curious about what to expect might want to check out the Clear Admit MBA Interview Archive, which features firsthand accounts of interviews at all of the top programs, and the Clear Admit Interview Guides, which offer in-depth, school-specific interview guidance for nearly every leading MBA program.
Good luck to everyone hoping for an MBA interview invite!