Stock interview

Applying to an MBA program can be a hassle. Just like applying to college out of high school, it can be stressful and nerve-wracking to compile your resume, essay, and letters of recommendation. But perhaps the most dreaded part of the process is the admissions interview.

David Chatfield, director of executive and professional programs in business, and assistant to the dean at Bowling Green State University, and Tracy Patterson, managing director of the Boler Graduate Programs – Boler College of Business at John Carroll University in University Heights, said there are a few ways an applicant can prepare for this step in the process.

What is the purpose of the interview?

Patterson said schools are really trying to ascertain why the candidate wants to be in the MBA program. What are their goals? How do they think an MBA can help them in terms of career or becoming a leader?

“We’re really trying to tease that out of them, more so than maybe people coming because they don’t know what else to do,” Patterson said. “So, they’re trying grad school, or mom or dad are pushing them to do the next thing. We really want to understand why they want to be there.

“We kind of have a nice analogy or a nice question of asking them, ‘Do you want to just get an MBA? Or do you want to actually become an MBA?’ There’s plenty of schools that can offer an MBA, people can get it and just check the box. We’re really interested in understanding if they want to become a leader or if they at least want to develop those leadership skills that can take them through life.”

Chatfield said they also want to know what your undergraduate degree and other academic preparation is like, and how well you’ve succeeded in those endeavors. And particularly in his role, he said, he is interested in career experience.

“For three out of four of our programs, we require a minimum of three years experience,” Chatfield said. “One program, the executive program, is looking for

10 years or more of experience. So we want to talk about those career experiences and career achievements, challenges, successes and failures. And what the goals of the applicant are that they feel the MBA will satisfy for them. What are they hoping to accomplish?”

Because of this experience requirement for most programs, Patterson said applicants should think about their undergrad or work background prior to the interview.

“Think of where they’ve been able to demonstrate leadership, the ability to solve problems, where they come up with some solutions, either for an organization they’ve worked with or a company they’ve worked with or in a class project,” Patterson said. “How did they help solve something, contribute to that or take a leadership role in that?”

Chatfield said talking with someone you know who has also gone though this is always a good idea.

“I find in a very large percentage of individual stories, when a person makes the decision to apply for their MBA, that person often has been mentored by someone,” he said. “Someone they trust, someone who is successful, someone who has an MBA or perhaps does not have one but wishes they did ... I would say speaking with that person, and maybe even role playing a little bit is a good idea. And then I would say don’t obsess too much about it.”

Patterson added it’s important to make yourself present well in a professional appearance.

“You don’t have to dress to the nines, but you certainly want to make a professional appearance,” Patterson said. “You’re talking about business here. It should go without saying, but sometimes it doesn’t. Don’t show up in your sweat suit or running shoes and things like that. Think about making that professional appearance in that interview, even if it’s over Zoom. Think about the way you articulate things and the way you present yourself.”

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