Before walking into a job interview, a candidate should prepare.
The same can be said when interviewing for an MBA program, according to Tom Daniels, assistant director, graduate and executive programs in business at the Allen W. and Carol M. Schmidthorst College of Business at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, and Walter Simmons, professor of economics and associate dean, graduate and international business programs at the Boler College of Business at John Carroll University in University Heights.
“Come prepared to ask questions, not just about the curriculum but about the overall expected experience like the networking, corporate and community engagements, financial resources and career opportunities,” Simmons said. “We encourage students to network with past and present students, and check out our website, brochures and social media links, like LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.”
Taking a step back, Daniels said prospects should also know why they want to enroll in an MBA program.
“Why is this the right choice for you?” he asked. “That is important to us. So, if you start that way, it’s good because now I am interested and want to listen. So, that is a great place to start. It’ll let me know why you’re in my office or why we’re talking remotely and that you’ve thought about it before showing up.”
When arriving at their meeting, whether it is in person or remotely, Daniels said prospects should be prepared to speak on several talking points, especially when it comes to their undergraduate experience and why they’ve decided an MBA is the next best step.
“If it wasn’t great, tell me why and when you tell me why, take ownership,” he said. “If your GPA was low, take ownership of any shortcomings that show up on your transcripts. Taking ownership of that is a huge element. The second piece is if you had challenges in undergrad – and what you plan to adjust to make sure you succeed in an MBA program.”
It’s important to know what to say and what to expect from the conversation. But, Simmons said students shouldn’t over-prepare, either.
“A combination of the two methods is best,” he explained. “We like it when potential students indicate that they know something about our programs and our university in general. Rehearsing indicates and suggests signs of preparation and attention to detail. The natural approach indicates an intention to be more spontaneous and a willingness to adapt and adjust.”
At the Boler College of Business, Simmons said the interview process is very informal.
“We usually begin by asking students to tell us about themselves, without any leading questions and often build our initial discussions on their response,” he said. “We then proceed to ask more specific questions about their preparation and expectations and our expectations. Then, we transition into the rudiments of the curriculum.”
For Daniels, interviews for the MBA program at Schmidthorst College of Business are important, but aren’t a make or break interaction.
“The interview is only another tool to help us in the decision-making process,” he noted. “Know if you ‘fail’ the interview, that doesn’t mean you won’t get in the program. Likewise, your transcript doesn’t always hold you back either. Go in with the mindset that it’s another tool. Like a job interview, you’re looking for the right fit. Make sure that this experience is something you really want to pursue.”
No matter the level of preparation, there are a few things Daniels and Simmons said their office is looking for in these interviews.
“Beyond the GPA, transcript and test scores, we look for motivation, work and life experience, desire and commitment,” Simmons said. “Those somewhat subjective characteristics become very important for candidates with less impressive grades and test scores.”
Daniels said, “What I’m trying to find out is if this is a match – is the program right for you and are you right for the program. If you’re looking for something different than what we offer, it might not be the right place for you. It’s about finding that sweet spot and making it work for both parties.”