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The MBA interview: tips from the other side of the desk

This past weekend, the Carlson MBA Admissions and Recruiting team hosted a memorable event for our Fall 2012 admitted students - Carlson Up Close. It was the first time I had seen many of them since their initial interviews, and I had a great time getting to know each of them better. They are an impressive group! Most all were much more relaxed, open and engaging that I had remembered. I only wished they would have felt comfortable showing this side of themselves earlier (what an impression that would have left!), and it prompted me to want to share some interview tips for any future Full-Time MBA applicants.

1. Dress the part.
It sounds a little elementary, but surprisingly, this doesn't always happen. You certainly don't have to look like you just stepped out of a catalog, but first impressions do count. So dust off your suit, and show us that you are serious about your interview.

2. Relax.

Take a deep breath. While nerves are normal, too many nerves can be distracting and create an impression of a lack of confidence. All I really want to do is get to know you well - which is much easier to do if you are at ease. You can create a much stronger impression if the interview starts to feel like more of a conversation - less practiced, less rigid and more genuine. Have a sense of humor, smile and try to enjoy the conversation.

3. Be prepared.
In other words, don't relax too much! Some of my worst interviews are with candidates that clearly (and sometimes admittedly) haven't done any research about the Carlson MBA programs, or invested much time to researching their desired career path. Be prepared to explain why you applied to Carlson - and share specific aspects about the program that you value. When asked, please don't rattle off all the highlights from our website back to me. Pick a few key points and genuinely explain why this program is a natural fit for you.

4. Be self-aware.
And own it. We've already invited you to interview, so we already think you're pretty great. Spend less time preparing answers that you think we want to hear, and spend a little more time constructing your true story and experiences. My favorite interviews are with candidates that know themselves well and can express a passion that they have in life. Show me that you have given your life a lot of thought, and are working hard to do something meaningful with it. You get to define what meaningful is - not me.

5. Follow up.
Ask questions. If you are truly interested in the program, questions should come naturally. And, if you enjoyed your interview, send an email afterwards. Trust me - it leaves an impression.

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