In the world of MBA admissions interviews, applicants naturally focus on one key aspect: proving their competence. After all, academic prowess, professional achievements, and leadership skills are central elements that admissions committees scrutinize. However, there exists a hidden gem, an often-overlooked facet of the interview process that will make you memorable and invariably influence your admissions outcome: your ability to demonstrate warmth.
According to the Stereotype Content Model developed by Susan Fisk and her colleagues, human perception is multifaceted, often assessed through these two distinct lenses: (1) warmth and (2) competence. While showcasing competence remains paramount in securing a spot in your dream MBA program, the art of conveying warmth will set you apart as an applicant, leaving an indelible and positive impression.
10 Tips to Demonstrate Warmth on Interview Day
- Express Gratitude: At the beginning and end of your interview, express heartfelt appreciation. Thank the interviewer for their time and the opportunity to interview. A simple "thank you" can go a long way in conveying warmth and politeness.
- Be Enthusiastic: Express genuine enthusiasm for the MBA program and your future career goals. Admissions committees are more likely to admit candidates who are excited about their school and the opportunities it offers.
- Mirror the Interviewer: Pay close attention to the interviewer's communication style and tone. Try to match their style to establish rapport. If the conversation is formal and structured, maintain professionalism in your responses. If it's more casual and relaxed, adapt accordingly.
- Tell Personal Stories: Throughout the interview, find opportunities to share personal anecdotes or experiences that reveal your character, values, and reasons for pursuing an MBA. Personal stories will make you relatable and memorable as a candidate.
- Show Humility: While confidence is essential, avoid coming across as arrogant. If you encounter a question or topic that you're not entirely sure about, admit it, ask follow-up questions, and express genuine interest. Demonstrating humility will make you more relatable to the interviewer.
- Demonstrate Vulnerability: Brené Brown teaches that "vulnerability is not winning or losing; it's having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome." Many applicants are hesitant to share moments of vulnerability or challenges from their career or personal life. In fact, demonstrating vulnerability in your interview will humanize you and showcase your self-awareness.
- Show Empathy: When discussing experiences related to teamwork, leadership, or conflict resolution, emphasize your ability to empathize and understand others' perspectives. Highlight instances where you've worked collaboratively and considerately.
- Ask Thoughtful Questions: Prepare insightful questions in advance that delve deeper than basic information. Never ask a question that can be answered with a simple Google search. Thoughtful questions demonstrate your genuine interest.
- Practice Active Listening: During the interview, focus on actively listening to what the interviewer is saying. Show that you're engaged in the conversation by referencing points they've made when responding. This demonstrates your attentiveness and interest.
Bonus Tips for Before and After the Interview
Before Your Interview
Do your homework about the school. The best way to do this is to reach out to alumni or current students. Connecting with individuals who have firsthand experience with the school can provide valuable insights and anecdotes that can be useful during the interview. When discussing your interest in the program, mention these connections to demonstrate your proactive approach and genuine curiosity.
After Your Interview
Don't overlook the significance of a well-crafted follow-up. Send a thoughtful thank-you email to the interviewer, reiterating your interest in the program, and expressing your appreciation for the interview opportunity. This is another chance to leave a positive and warm impression that reinforces your commitment to the school.
Demonstrating warmth in your MBA interview is a valuable aspect of making a lasting impression on the admissions committee. While showcasing your competence is essential, conveying warmth can help you connect with the interviewers on a more personal level. By following these tips, you can increase your chances of leaving a favorable and memorable mark on your interviewers and ultimately enhance your MBA admissions prospects.
Tim F. is a Chicago Booth MBA and former Admissions Fellow. He is also an expert coach with a passion for getting YOU into your dream MBA program! Book a FREE intro call with Tim F. today!
Read his other articles next:
February 3, 2023
How I Nailed My MBA Interview and Gained Admission to Top 10 Business Schools–An MBA Interview Checklist for Success
A list of things to do before your MBA interview to help you prepare answers to the most common questions and gain admission to a top program, written by an expert Leland coach and Kellogg MBA.
October 12, 2023
Six Coaches’ Best Advice for the MBA Interview
The top tips from six MBA application experts on the interview process to help you as you prepare.
September 22, 2023
How to Answer the “Why Booth?” Interview Question
Tim F., an expert coach and Chicago Booth alumnus, provides actionable tips on how to tailor your interview responses to showcase a genuine connection between your aspirations and Booth's offerings.
October 20, 2023
What Do You Actually Learn in Business School?
A current MBA candidate at Harvard Business School provides an inside look at what you actually learn in business school.
May 4, 2023
Why ChatGPT Can’t Write Your Personal Statement
While ChatGPT is multifaceted, there is a compelling argument against using AI for your personal statements. Here is one expert's take on the revolutionary technology and application essays.
March 17, 2023
How to Nail Your Virtual MBA Interview
Interviewing at HBS? GSB? Wharton? Nail that virtual interview with these helpful tips and tricks—only on Leland.
May 5, 2023
What GPA Do You Need to Get Into Graduate School?
How much does your college GPA actually matter to graduate programs? How high of a GPA is "good enough"? A former Director of Stanford Graduate Admissions addresses the importance of GPAs to higher ed. degrees.
February 27, 2023
Craft a Powerful Essay for Stanford GSB: What Matters Most & Why?
Ben L., a GSB MBA, expert coach, and pro writer, outlines his top advice for nailing the challenging and broad Stanford essay prompt, to help you get into one of the most prestigious MBA programs in the world.
July 29, 2023
Moving Beyond Frameworks: The Secret to Excelling in Product Management Interviews
In the world of product management interviews, one commonly held belief is that mastering certain predefined frameworks is the key to success. Here's why an overreliance on these frameworks can actually be detrimental, and what to do instead.
September 6, 2023
The 5 Best Classes at Stanford's Graduate School of Business
An overview of the top 5 classes at GSB, from an expert coach and Stanford MBA.
March 17, 2023
How to Answer the "Why an MBA?" Essay Question
A common essay and interview question of top business schools, admissions committees want to know why you're choosing to get an MBA. Here is one expert coach's insight into crafting a compelling response.