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Travel Ban & the MBA Interview: 7 Strategies to Shine on Skype

As business schools scramble to interview MBA applicants via video, here are 7 strategies to shine on Skype.

With growing fears about the spread of the coronavirus, business schools are anxiously assessing their global travel plans to meet applicants. Against a backdrop of quarantines, the cancellation of Asian recruitment activities, and the closure of GMAT test centers in China for at least two months, many international events and info sessions are likely to be disrupted.

One immediate impact is on the busy month of interviews with Round 2 applicants. MBA admissions offices are scrambling to choose a restricted number of regional locations that candidates can reach, or offer video interviews as an alternative to face-to face meetings.

If you are already daunted by the prospect of traveling halfway across Asia for an HBS interview in Tokyo, imagine how you will perform via Skype or WeChat in Wharton’s dynamic Team Based Discussion (TBD). This year more than ever, my Fortuna Admissions colleague Judith Silverman Hodara, former head of Wharton admissions, is fielding calls from anxious candidates – particularly in Asia – who are preparing to conduct their MBA interview on video.

With so much at stake, what can you do to ensure the best possible conditions for a great video interview? And how can ace your Wharton TBD and participate fully in the unfolding group dynamic from a screen?


In running clients through the paces for the Wharton TBD, Judith has developed seven top tips for acing your MBA video interview:

1. Make sure the space behind your camera is clear and uncluttered.
Film yourself against a plain wall if possible, and any larger shot of your room in the background should be clean and organized. (No passing people, animals or distracting piles of laundry in view.) Video is just as much about what you see as about what you hear.

2. Make sure your face is well-lit.
Set up a test beforehand to ensure your lighting is strong – not too bright or too dark. You may want to try moving your screen to different venues in your home to secure the best light.

3. Ensure excellent sound quality.
Seek a quiet space and use headphones if needed (this can cut unexpected background noise). Make sure your microphone is working properly and computer settings are updated for audio. Speak at your normal volume and pitch – your voice should be clear and easy to hear. Your voice should be the only one that’s heard in the interview.

4. Test your Internet connection beforehand.
And by all means, make sure the link works before you attempt to open it at the time of call.

5. Don’t be tempted to read from hidden notes.
It’s fine to jot down thoughts to share, but do not read full sentences off a pre-prepared script. The interviewer can tell if you are reciting, which will undermine your authenticity.

6. Maintain eye contact.
Eye contact is very important – while it is tempting to look at yourself on your screen, be mindful to engage the interviewer by looking at the camera instead. Have good posture. Smile – but not too much. Imagine that the face of a friend is on the other end of the camera.

7. Seek opportunities to fuel the conversation.
If you are participating in a group interview and cannot read the body language as well of the others in the room, make sure to use the names of the other participants when you refer to them, e.g. “Great point Joanne!” This can really help to make a connection with the others in the room.

It may seem that interviewing on video is a disadvantage, but it has its upsides (beyond saving time and money on travel). Remember, you are Skyping in from your own space, allowing you to create the conditions to feel more relaxed. (No one will be the wiser if you’re enveloped in soothing essential oils or the aroma of fresh baked cookies.) Know that, this year in particular, many students are experiencing the same thing – so by no means will the schools penalize your application for participating in the interview remotely.

That said, do conduct the standard pre-interview rituals – identify your key selling points to deliver clear and concise answers, practice responding on camera to be as natural and confident as possible, and stay grounded to let your personality shine through. And do wear business dress or business casual – at least from the waist up.

For more strategies and advice on how to prepare, view my related article in Forbes, 10 Tips for Acing the MBA Interview.

Interested in a candid assessment of your chances of admission to a top business school? Sign up for a free consultation.


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