Part 2 of this article highlights key dos and don’ts for making the best possible impression at the key touchpoints for personal interaction offered by your top MBA programs.
I had hundreds of memorable interactions with prospective students when I served as Yale SOM’s Deputy Director of Admissions, both positive and cringe-worthy (remember: memorable doesn’t always signal positive!), from campus events and MBA fairs to formal interviews. Running SOM’s recruiting strategy and campus visit program, I had the privilege of designing the kinds of experiences that would cultivate meaningful interaction between the school and prospective candidates.
In my last article, I outlined the four Key Touchpoints For Personal Interaction With Business Schools. Here, I’m delving deeper into the dos and don’ts for making a positive impression:
1. MBA Networking Events
- DO … have your elevator pitch ready. This means being able to convey ‘why business school,’ along with your post-MBA plans, in a brief minute or two. Be yourself and convey your enthusiasm to be taking the next step in your career. You tailor a slightly different version to each school depending on its values and focus (always keep your audience in mind). (Read this article by my Fortuna colleague, Sharon Joyce for more on how to develop your MBA elevator pitch.) It’s also wise to prepare two-to-three thoughtful questions for your top programs to showcase your level of engagement.
- DON’T … sell yourself without knowing the context. There’s a fine line between over-pitching and well-prepared, and your ability to tell the difference speaks to your acumen and judgement. So research well and listen attentively. Representatives are looking to see how well you understand the personality and culture of their institution, and a few hours of listening at the event will make you better prepared to present yourself and to stand out.
2. Campus Visits
- DO … seek to learn from many different stakeholders.Think strategically about how to make the most of your time on campus by reaching out in advance to students for coffee chats, or seeking to connect with a professor whose research you admire. Attend an information session with admissions, sit in on a class and position yourself to learn as much as possible during the day.
- DON’T … forget about the support staff.From passersby to administrative staff, make sure you consistently treat everyone on campus with respect. For the sake of being human, of course, but also because dismissive, rude or negative behavior has a way of circling back to the admissions office. Staying curious about everyone also sets you up to hear unexpected perspectives and insights.
3. Video Questions
- DO … prepare key selling points to highlight.These key selling points should relate to your career goals, strengths, contribution to the program, and personality or soft skills (teamwork skills, leadership potential). Record yourself responding to a few practice questions, and watch yourself later to honestly evaluate your presence on camera. Use techniques like looking into the camera while speaking – it won’t necessarily feel natural, so practice is key.
- DON’T … forget to smile. Trivial as it may sound, a smile makes a big difference, especially if your face is projected on a larger screen. It’s okay to pause as you field questions and to be deliberate – you won’t know them in advance, nor will you get the benefit of the real-time feedback that you’d get in a face-to-face conversation. (My Fortuna colleague Matt Symonds offers more tricks and tips in his article, How to Ace the Video Questions.)
4. Admissions Interview
- DO … pause to take a breath. Pausing for a few seconds at critical times in the interview is a strategic way to collect your thoughts before reflexively launching into the next topic, which projects sincerity and thoughtfulness. So get comfortable with the uncomfortable pause of silence every now and then. Pausing before responding to a question from the interviewer shows that you’re actively listening and thinking through your response.
- DO … practice, practice, practice!You’ll want to train yourself to offer natural, informative and succinct answers, and practice is the best way to build your confidence. Draft an outline of possible questions and answers, practice yourself and with friends, and, if possible, stage mock interviews. Your preparation will help you to stay calm and poised in the event of tricky questions.
- DON’T … try to take control of the interview or push your own agenda. Schools want to know that you’re the person you seemed to be on paper, and most admissions interviews are designed to be conversational. Avoid sounding overly rehearsed by listening attentively to the actual questions being asked and adjusting your prepared answers as appropriate. While you want to articulate your key selling points, most importantly, you want to present yourself as a thoughtful and sincere candidate. (View my Fortuna colleague Malvina Miller Complainville’s recent article for additional MBA interview tips and advice.)
In case you missed it, view part 1 of this article, Key Touchpoints For Personal Interaction With Business Schools.
For more advice on how to maximize your face-to-face interactions with schools, view my brief video strategy session with Fortuna Director Matt Symonds.
Fortuna Admissions Expert Coach Kristen Beyers is former Yale SOM Former Deputy Director of Admissions and Senior Associate Director of Career Development. A version of this article was originally published by Kristen in Poets & Quants.