Article by Tom Locke, Photo by Matt Chan

As the Senior Interview Consultant for Forster Thomas, i have the good fortune of preparing droves of clients each year for those coveted “Invite Interviews.” And, most of the candidates I have the pleasure of prepping share some commonalities: most are excited, and rightly so! Most are wondering how they can be best prepared, and I get that. Yet, most are also absolutely freaking out. You know the type— they need to do their interview prep session 6 weeks before the interview. They send me, in advance, every essay they have written, not just for this application, and not even for all their applications. They send me every essay they have written since 8th grade. They want to know: Will we meet in person even though I am in Oklahoma and you are in New York?  If we skype, what should I wear for our skype session? What are the 20 most common questions that they are going to ask me? How long will the interview last? My friend said…, My boss, who went to HBS, told me…, I read online that…. The list goes on and on….and on. 

I am here to tell you three things:

1)    It’s going to be ok!

2)    I understand your angst

3)    YOU NEED TO STOP! NOW!

Now, let me address some of your specifics: it’s not practical or necessary to travel 1500 miles to do a prep session in person. Technology is wonderful. I don’t care what you wear for our prep session. I care what you wear to your interview. If I give you the 20 most common questions, I can promise you that: Stanford, or Harvard, or Kellogg knows what those questions are and they are going to ask you question numbers 21, 37, and 149. The interview will last as long as it lasts, and DO NOT READ INTO THAT. First of all, I have seen people have ten minute interviews and get in. I have also seen people have 2 hour interviews and get inexplicably dinged. And forget what your friend, your boss, your dad, or your milkman said. They know their experience, from one moment in time, at one school. And that probably will not apply to you!

So, what do you do? The best, most simple advice I can give you is this— TREAT IT LIKE A FIRST DATE. Treat it like a date with someone you met online.

Let’s just think about that for a second. You meet someone on Match or OKCupid or JDate or BDate or XDate or dateme.com and you scour each other’s profiles, determining if you each check enough boxes to go out with the other. Then, you use email, or maybe even texts, to determine if there is a bit of a connection there beyond those boxes. And guess what! There is. So, you both know a bit about each other, you both like what you have discovered, and now you are going to go sit across from each other, try to get to know each other, and determine if you each want to spend some more time together. Like, maybe the next two years.  And you know what? That is EXACTLY the way you should treat your MBA interview. Be focused on helping them get to know you, and be curious about them. And if you can be yourself? You will probably have more dates. If you try to impress them, or overprepare, or worry incessantly about things that don’t matter, you will not come off as AUTHENTIC and you will freak them out and you will not get another date, and you will not get into that school you have been dreaming about!

They will not ask you anything you don’t know the answer to. I repeat, you already have all the answers. You just need to be relaxed enough to let them out! Yes, there are things to think about in terms of approach, but the most important thing you can bring to an interview that nobody else in the world can bring…is YOU! Just like a date. So, if you are good at dating, relax. You’ll be fine! And if you’re not— get yourself out there in the dating game. It just might help your MBA interview.

Got questions for me?  Hit me up -- I'm around.

 

Article by Susan Clark, Photo by Peter Hellberg

GOALS AND THE GRAPE

MBA goals essays are one of the most common prompts for prospective b-school students, and some colleges are starting to ask about them as well. So you’d do well to start thinking about just what your goals are. Of course, knowing your goal is only part of a great essay. The rest … is grape juice.

There was this old TV ad that used to run all the time back when I was a kid, in the Dark Ages. It was a spot for carpet cleaner, featuring a toddler in a high chair in the middle of a pristine white room.  The mother hands the kid a sippy cup with grape juice, which the kid, predictably and immediately, tosses in the air.  Grape juice droplets fly in slow motion. Just before they splatter, everything freezes. “This mother isn’t afraid of grape juice!” the announcer says, “she has X!”  I never bought X, but I sure bought the ad! In one clear image, it created empathy and an understanding of the need for the product.

That’s why now, all my clients create a “Grape Juice Moment” (GJM) at the opening of their goals essay. And you can have one too, if you follow these simple instructions.

SQUEEZING THE GRAPE

The constituent parts of a GJM are empathy, understanding, and need.  You (the applicant) must create a desire in the reader (an admissions officer) to support your future. Start with an evocative image drawn from memory that the reader can relate to (like the baby in the white room). There’s the empathy. Clearly state the problem/opportunity you see (the freeze frame of the grape juice), and you’re on your way to understanding. Then present your dynamite solution, and BAM! That school is going to NEED you in their world.

CASE STUDY 

Situation

My family’s textile company in India was starved for power. Why? Because electric companies have a residence first policy for power distribution. When our power was cut off, orders went out late, threatening our reputation in the global marketplace.

Solution

I noticed that subsidies for creating wind generated power had been eliminated, and many windmills were being sold for less than it cost to build them. Sensing an opportunity, I led the initiative in my company to purchase windmills, solving our power dilemma.

Goal     

This plan, I realized, could be expanded to help other Indian companies in a similar predicament. That’s why, after business school, I want to return to my family business, grow its holdings of renewable energy, and provide the first ever reliable source decentralized power for industrial use across India.  

ANALYSIS

This company failing to meet deadlines is the grape juice moment.  The nice thing about this writer’s solution is that it starts personal and scales national. That means he has the know-how to do what he says he’s going to do, PLUS, if the School supports him, they support all of India. Who wouldn’t want to get on board with that?  

WHERE’S YOUR GRAPE?

You don’t need to save the world. The most important thing in any essay is connecting with your reader. It is much harder to turn down a person you know than a statistically defined stranger. So get to work on finding your grape (or it can be an orange, even a prune … I’m not picky!) juice moment. And if you want to know more about my ideas, hit me up!