Explore how you can improve your MBA application with top tips from Assistant Business Development and Recruitment Manager, Laura Anderson, and Assistant Business Development Manager Rian Thomas.
When applying for an MBA at WBS, you will be invited to interview as part of your application process. Belinda Marklew, Director of Bee Consulting Group Limited and WBS MBA Interviewer, shares her top tips for a successful application.
Many of the same rules are relevant when applying for an MBA as when applying for a new job. I therefore don’t intend to cover those here. However, there are a few additional points that I would like to offer you to help you stand out from the crowd, especially during the interview process.
Talking About Your Experience
One of the things you may be asked to do is to talk the interviewer through your career history. Think about the most effective way to describe this succinctly, whilst bringing out key achievements and important milestones. For further thoughts about how to do this see my previous article on LinkedIn.
As well as providing this general overview, you are likely to be asked to expand on specific events within your career. The reason for this is to explore your capability in business skills such as problem analysis, influencing skills, decision making, leading people, delivering and measuring results. Prepare for these questions by thinking through your career and identifying pivotal experiences. These may be success stories but also consider the very challenging times you have been through, how you overcame these difficulties and what you learnt from the experience. Once you have identified these, plan how you will present them. The acronym STARE may help -
S - Situation. Explain the context for your example.
T – Task. What did you need to achieve?
A – Action. What did you do?
R – Result. What was the outcome?
E – Evaluation. What would you do differently?
Make sure you differentiate between your contribution and the contribution of others, even if the example involved a team. Use ‘I’ not ‘we’. The interviewer needs to know what you did and achieved.
Give sufficient thought to the results. The interviewer wants to know that you are aware of and can deliver measurable business impact, so try to choose complete examples where the outcomes of a task or project are known. It is always good to be able to talk numbers, but if you are not able to give financial measures, provide other evidence such as customer testimonials.
Describing Your Career Objectives
As well as describing your past, interviewers will want to know about your plans for the future. If you are clear about the direction in which you wish to take your career, ensure you describe the what, the how and the why – what you want to do, how you plan to get there but also why this is your ambition. What is it that drives you? What impact do you hope to make?
Do not worry if your plans are not completely clear, instead focus on your drivers. What kind of culture do you want to work in or create? In what general fields are you interested? What motivates you? What difference do you want to make?
Know Your Audience
MBAs are not all the same. The business schools target different candidates because of their varying beliefs, values and philosophies, as well as the focus of the faculty’s research. Each programme therefore has unique elements, reflecting these different approaches. Make sure you understand these differences by attending open events, sample lectures and talking to current students and alumni.
The interviewer will want to know that you have done your homework. Demonstrate your familiarity with the programme, using the correct names for specific modules and describing how you will apply the learning from those modules to your own work. It is not only the programme itself that is important. Also consider the elements surrounding the programme – business clubs and societies, networking events and alumni activities. How will you get involved?
Also show that you are aligned to the philosophy and values of the school. Be prepared to describe why you have chosen the school, referring to these cultural features. Talk about the contribution you hope to make both during the programme and afterwards as an alum. How can you help the school achieve its ambitions?
A Note on Language
During the interview, the interviewer will want to be convinced that you will be able to make yourself understood and also understand those you are working with. This is different from having a good grasp of written language or an extensive vocabulary. Sometimes it can come down to pronunciation. Given that your fellow students are likely to come from across the world, your speech and understanding need to be very good. Do not take on an MBA to improve your language skills! Those skills already need to be in place to gain maximum benefit from the programme. In preparation, listen and speak as much of the language as possible to native speakers. Listen to videos, make use of contacts you have in the target country to practice. However, once in the interview, try not to worry about the grammar and technicalities of the language. The interviewer simply wants to be convinced that you can converse freely.
Know Your Interviewer
If you are told the name of your interviewer beforehand, check them out. What are their interests and career history? You may not need to make direct reference to this research during your interview. On the other hand, you may have some interests in common that will help you build rapport
Go for it! Many of the people I interview tell me that they have been planning to do so for years and regret not taking the opportunity earlier. Even if you are not successful on your first attempt, you will learn from the application process and be in a better position to be successful in the future.