How to avoid mistakes that can break an MBA interview

An MBA interview starts with the first interaction between the admissions committee of a business school and the applicant. It is not confined to the time spent in front of the interviewers. This means that mistakes can be made way before the interview has started and even after it finished.


Fortuna Admissions expert coach Karen Hamou has dedicated a blog entry on how to handle an MBA interview. Hamou stressed that an interview “begins the moment you arrive on campus, and technically, your assessment can include any communication you’ve had with an admissions committee representative up until that point”. This includes coffee chats with current students, an encounter with a professor and even the exchange with the receptionist.

“When I was head of Wharton admissions, we had a fabulous receptionist. Like other administrative staff, she was on the front lines of interactions with prospective students,” Hamous’ colleague and Fortuna Admissions co-founder, Judith Silverman Hodara told her. “If a candidate wasn’t gracious to her, wasn’t polite – or worse, dismissive or patronizing – she let us know about it. I really appreciated it.”

We have summarized Hamou’s top tips how to succeed and which mistakes to definitely avoid:

  • Don’t just make the connection, build the relationship. Not only with the interviewers but also with former and current students. (They can send a note to admissions!) Don’t get too familiar. Keep a professional, courteous tone even if the interview feels like a conversation with a peer.
  • Have your tailored elevator pitch prepared. Applicants should be able to explain who they are, what things they are passionate about and the key drivers inspiring them for their MBA at that specific school in a few minutes.
  • Generate interest without telling your life story.
  • Practice until it doesn’t sound scripted anymore but articulate, confident and clear.
  • Prepare some thoughtful questions which the website does not already answer.
  • And it isn’t over when you leave the interview – follow up and a thankyou note are a key part of the assessment!