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Perfect Your MBA Skype/Zoom Interview

Nathan Wilgeroth / Abound: MBA »

A common part of the MBA application process is to conduct an interview with an admissions representative from your prospective school. Because the curriculum of a master of business administration is rigorous and demanding, the interview allows both you and the admissions representatives to determine whether you would be a good fit for the school (and vice-versa). While typically done in person in the past, many schools have implemented online interviews through Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts to spare the costs of travel. And now that COVID-19 is around, online interviews are pretty much the only option. 

You may have done a college interview while applying for undergrad. And while the same standards of professionalism and decorum apply, there are a few key things to keep in mind for a virtual MBA interview.

1. Dress for Success

Even though you are likely doing your interview from home, it is important to dress as if you were meeting your interviewer in person. Wear clean, ironed business-casual attire, and do whatever hair and makeup routine makes you look presentable and professional. 

Now, sure, you’re likely only going to be showing your body from your shoulders up, so you might think you can get away with leaving on your pajama pants and Minion slippers. We advise you, however, to put on nice pants and shoes, just in case you need to stand up or walk away to get something. We’ve all seen the COVID-era commercials that poke fun of the people who accidentally show the undressed bottom half of their body during professional meetings. Practice caution and dress nicely from head to toe.

2. Choose an Appropriate Location

Set up your webcam in a place at home with a neutral or well-organized background. Consider sitting right up against a blank wall or in front of a bookshelf. Be very prudent as you review every single thing visible in the background; pick up any dirty laundry, kid’s toys, or other loose clutter to avoid distracting your interviewer and, ultimately, appearing unprofessional. And if a ceiling fan is visible from your webcam, make sure it’s turned off. A rapidly spinning fan can be incredibly distracting!

If you can’t find a place in your home that can act as your clean background, then you might resort to one of the background filters offered through your app. Only use this option as a last resort! These filters aren’t perfect, so they could end up glitching out and interfering with a crisp visual image.

3. Find Good Lighting

The amount and position of your main source of light is crucial for video calls. Lighting that is directly overhead can be unflattering, while lighting coming from behind you can completely black out your entire body. Try to find lighting that can shine straight onto your face without casting any shadows. Direct sunlight is often the clearest, best-looking source of light, so you might want to look for a place at home in which you can sit in front of a window (and continue to have a clean background). Otherwise, a bright light source would be best set up straight in front of your face. If possible, you can even invest in a ring light, which many remote professionals and influencers use to remain well lit in pictures and videos.

4. Troubleshoot Early

Don’t let your interview be the very first time that you use your video chat app. Practice using Zoom, Skype, etc. to ensure that you have an up-to-date version that runs smoothly on your computer. Check for your sound and microphone quality to know that you can hear and be heard, and secure your wifi connection so that your call doesn’t drop. Your interviewers will be understanding if any technical difficulties arise, but such interruptions are nevertheless awkward and inconvenient. Go through some practice runs with a friend or family member so that you can address whatever issues come up before the day of your interview.

5. Keep Notes Around

One sneaky benefit that video calls can afford you is the ability to keep hidden notes lying around and out of your interviewers’ sight. Jot down some talking points and answers to questions that you might be expecting. It’s important to remember, though, that you shouldn’t spend your entire interview reading words off of a sheet of paper. Your notes are not scripts, but rather keywords to help you remember what you want to say. 

6. Check Your Posture

Out of habit, we all have the tendency to slouch at our computers. It is all that many of us have been doing for ten months straight, after all! Be mindful of your posture in front of your computer. Make a point to keep your back flat against the back of your chair, or maybe find a small cushion to slide underneath your tailbone. The tiny bolster under your sacrum will keep you from caving in at your pelvis, which only invites your neck and shoulders to slouch as well. Practice your posture with discipline a few days before your interview so that you aren’t too uncomfortable the day of.

7. Maintain Eye Contact

Sounds silly, right? While it seems counterintuitive, active eye contact with those on screen is an important detail to the way you conduct your interview. Look straight at the camera when answering questions, and keep your gaze focused while your interviewers are talking. Smile and nod, and stay “on” even when you’re not talking; again, it can be easy to melt into our old habits, lose our posture, and resort to the blank, zombie-like stare that we tend to have when looking at a computer screen. Instead, listen actively in the way that you would during an in-person interview.

8. Be Prepared to Ask Program- and School-Specific Questions

Do some research of your prospective school beforehand so that you have a clearer idea of what is offered as well as an idea of the questions you want to ask. If there is a specific concentration, program, or hands-on learning experience that you want to learn more about, make a point to ask! It shows your interviewers how interested you are in their program, and it helps you learn more about whether you would like to attend in the first place.

9. Answer Questions in a Personable yet Personal Way

As nervous as you might be, try hard to appear friendly, conversational, and confident. Use your notes to help you remember talking points, but don’t read things rigidly and robotically—you’ll lose their interest fast. Let your passion, experiences, and knowledge shine through as you encourage a healthy rapport with your interviewer! Speak with confidence, and laugh off any mistakes you might make. No school interview is a life-or-death affair, so any time that you jumble your works or get stuck on an idea is just one blip out of what could be a great overall interview. Let mistakes happen, and then put an effort into recovering quickly and continuing with your friendly conversation.

10. Listen + Pause + Response

When people get nervous, they can have the tendency to barrel through topics without taking the time to think. Consider the “Listen + Pause + Response” active listening technique, which is exactly what it sounds like. First, carefully listen to the question being asked, then pause. Let that question settle, and take the time to think about your answer and how you can tie it into the overall conversation. Once you’ve taken that breath and considered your answer, only then should you respond. You’re in no rush, so let yourself think critically about what’s being asked of you. That brief moment between question and answer is your opportunity to organize your thoughts and create an answer that is structured, sensible, and impressive to the interviewers. 

11. Finally, practice

Just as you should practice using the video conferencing apps that you’ll be using, you should definitely work on the actual process of interviewing. Reach out to a trusted confidante (or, better yet, a career counselor at your undergraduate alma mater’s career development office!) to help you go through the common questions that are likely to come up during your interview. Take their feedback to heart, and use the opportunity to brainstorm possible interview scenarios. With the help of your peer or advisor, you’ll be ready for any question an interviewer has for you. 

If you’re ready to start your application and interview process, Abound: MBA is here to help you every step of the way. Dig around to learn about what to look for in a school, how to choose a program for your career goals, and the schools we trust to provide you a high-quality education. Once you start applying, you’ll know you’re more than prepared to stand out as an excellent potential student. Good luck!

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