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Preparation, preparation, preparation
Every business school will have a different admissions process in place, and all quality MBA programmes will have an interview as part of that process. Our University of St.Gallen MBA does indeed have one too, and it does play a key part in the decision to admit or not to admit a candidate. So, if you are in that place, thinking just how to “ace” your interview, some tips upfront might help incentivise you to not just “go for it," but to thoroughly prepare.
Relationships, relationships, relationships
To start, try to see such an interview as a negotiation. Think about who is sitting opposite you, and how do they want to interact with you? Maybe you are going into this for the first time, but they have done this, literally, hundreds of times. In short, in that 1-hour slot, just how do you want to position yourself visa vis the person sitting in front of you. Do you want to come across as a positive, energetic person, someone who is authentic, open to reflection, or maybe you want to position yourself as ambitious, highly organised, determined, and disciplined. Bottom line is they are looking for outstanding, or otherwise “memorable” candidates, people they would want to get to know better. So when it comes to you, just what will they remember?
Experience, experience, experience
In any negotiation, the key trick is to know who is in the driver’s seat, or who is more experienced? From the start, go with the game, don’t try to play it back against them. The interviewer is likely to be quite experienced. They are likely to have had some training, and they will more than likely work you out faster than you think. If you are somewhat of an analytical person, who likes to work with numbers or is very structured, they will push you to open yourself up, to get you to “spill the beans”. If you are very emotional, expressive type of person who likes to think through ideas or personal values, they will get you to try to talk less, think more, and will literally force you to make sense of what you are saying. Just go with the flow, don’t try to over-analyse what they are doing. The minute you stop being yourself, is the minute they lose faith in you.
Wins, wins, wins
Now, an experienced negotiator will have a clear list of what they want to get, or “win” out of the negotiation, way before they go into the process. They will also know where and how much they are willing to compromise. To help you prepare, here is a list of three things that they will most likely want to get out of you: 1. personality fit, 2. career trajectory, and, 3. problem solving skills. Put simply, first, they want to see how you would fit in the class, how your character will add to the overall class dynamic. Second, they want to see that you have already had an impressive career trajectory, and make sure that the MBA will indeed be a good leaver for your further career path. Third, they want to know that you can think, that you can solve problems in a structured, step-by-step way, thinking both in breadth and depth around a simple business problem served up to you in form of a “business case”. Rest assured, you do not need to be a business expert, all you need to do is to show that you can think both creatively (connecting the dots) and analytically (using data) to come up with one or more plausible solutions to a problem that anyone should be able to handle.
Stay calm and give it your best
Nobody is perfect. Everybody, who is invited for an interview, is given the chance. Do the prep-work, and do your best. You can only do what you can do, and if you do the best that you can do, you will leave the interview room feeling satisfied with yourself.