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The MBA Admissions Interview: How to Totally Crush It

From Julia Campbell, Senior MBA Admissions Officer, Full-Time Texas MBA Program:

You submit your application. You wait and wait and then, TA DA! An interview invitation appears in your inbox.  Your immediate reaction is probably several mental exclamation points (!!!), but I think it’s fair to say that all MBA applicants feel pretty dichotomous when it comes to the interview experience. Something like:

Yay I got invited to interview! But oh my goodness, now I’m totally freaked out and have a million questions; What are they going to ask? Should I be myself or should I open with a joke I read online? Should I bring my resume in strawberry-scented triplicate? What do I wear? Should I interview on-campus, via Skype, or off-campus? Is it better to interview with a current student, admissions officer or alumni? Should I send a follow-up thank you via email, hand-written card, or none at all?  How do I set up the interview in the first place?! Eeek!

Breathe. Like anything else, your MBA interview invitation is an opportunity. While some applicants may look forward to it, others may not exactly enjoy the anxiety. If you are a member of the latter group, look at it this way: This interview can be just the thing the Admissions Committee needs to stitch together the rest of your application elements with a genuine, prepared, and poised interview performance.

The interview affords one of the only formal opportunities for official face-to-face interaction during the application process. Seize it.

You are most likely applying and subsequently interviewing with multiple MBA programs. This means managing several different interview processes, a complicated project given the variability among schools. It’s important to be familiar with how the Texas MBA program runs its interview operations.

Instructions are plastered all over the email invitation to interview and the online systems you use to book the interview, so be sure to read all instructions very carefully before scheduling anything.  Generally speaking, our interview structure is this:

Interviews are by invitation only and can come at any time during the application Round. There are three different interview types: On-campus with a current student or admissions officer, off-campus in your local city or hub city location with an alumni interviewer or admissions officer, or via Skype with a current student or admissions officer. For each type (excluding alumni interviews) there is an online calendar from which you can select an interview slot that works with your schedule over a period of a few months. We will inform you of the last date your interview needs to be completed. The only exception to this is that booking your alumni interview off-campus in your local city follows a slightly different process, but we provide the step-by-step instructions if you decide to go that route.

You are not able to choose your individual interviewer, but rest assured all of our current student interviewers, alumni volunteer interviewers and admissions officers are fully trained and capable of conducting an interview that is professional, fair, impartial and helpful. Interviews typically last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. All interviews are blind, which means the interviewer does not have access to anything about you or your application, except for your resume. Even so, it’s always a good idea to bring a copy for the interviewer to reference during the conversation.

Most interviews follow the general framework of introductions, questions from the interviewer for you to answer, then some time is left at the end for you to ask your questions about the program and/or application process. Once the interview is completed, you are finished! There is nothing further you need to do and your application is considered complete. All that’s left is to wait patiently for our final decision in the weeks that follow.

TIPS & PITFALLS TO AVOID:

Choose Wisely: Decisions, decisions. Interview type selection is like deciding on your coffee order at Starbucks – copious options, but there’s something for everyone. Each type of interview affords individual benefits. If you’re located proximate to Austin, try to come to campus for an interview. If you have never been to campus or met us in person before, we highly recommend interviewing on campus to get a feel for the facility and community culture. You might even be able to book a class visit, information session, or tour and interview all in the same weekend. If you can’t make the trip due to work conflicts or you are internationally-based, you might consider taking advantage of our alumni interviewers in local cities. Interview hub markets like New York, Seoul, China, India, Chicago, San Francisco, DC, and others are among the options. Or maybe none of that works for you and Skype is the only way to get it done. No problem, we’ve got options so you can choose what works best for you.  We see your interview type selection as entirely logistical and do not hold it against you if you don’t interview with us on campus.

Don’t Be On Time – Be Early: Arriving early is “Interviewing 101”, yet it still manages to falter even the most prepared of candidates.  Arriving early is even more critical if you’ve never been to campus or navigated UT parking before. As for Skype, your instructions ask that you are prepared to begin the Skype video call at the allotted interview start time, but it’s always a good idea to arrive 5-10 minutes prior to work out any inevitable technological hiccups that crop up.

“And that’s why I’m scared of heights and allergic to strawberries…Wait, what was the question again?”:  You’d be surprised how many times at the end of an applicant’s long-winded tangential answer we are asked to repeat the original question. Most often this happens to people who try to cram too much into the first answer for fear of not being given an opportunity later on to address that well-rehearsed example. Don’t worry, we’ll get to it! Plus, sometimes there is an opportunity at the end of an interview to mention anything we didn’t address in the formal line of questioning.

Loosen Up: Given our program’s famously friendly culture, our interviews are relatively informal. If you still find yourself nervous, practice your answers in front of a mirror, a friend or a willing stranger and ask them how you did. Did you answer the question? Did you rush through it? Take a moment to outline your answer in your mind first, and then address it calmly and confidently. Don’t get too comfortable, though. While we’re an easy-going bunch, maintaining an appropriate level of professionalism is always a good idea. This includes professional language and attire as if you were interviewing for a job (that means you too, Skypers! I’m sure your pajamas are lovely, but we’d much rather see a blazer.).

Know What We’re Looking For: We listen for confidence, clear and concise communication of career goals, concrete examples of teamwork and leadership, in-depth knowledge of our MBA program, and overall genuine enthusiasm. Also, the interview can be a place to showcase secondary skills that are difficult for us to determine solely based on your application: Interview skills, self-awareness, communication style, and “hire-ability.” Keep these in mind so we can get a feel for the application intangibles.

Know Your Audience: Remember the Admissions Committee doesn’t have a preference for which interview type you elect or who you interview with, just as long as you prepare for your audience. Since you can’t always tell who is going to interview you (interviewers can change since we conduct hundreds of interviews in a given round), you can do a little recon based on the name of the interviewer. You can check out our current student and alumni interviewer profiles on our website, or read about our admissions officers in the Admissions Committee section. That way you know what you’re in for.

Come with questions: A good list of questions for your interviewer can illustrate a few key things about you as a candidate: You’ve done your research, you care about our program, you have envisioned yourself as an MBA, and you can formulate coherent thoughts under pressure. We usually leave anywhere from 10-15 minutes for questions, so limit your list to 2-3 good ones and have a few backups.

While our interviewing style is admittedly less intense than corporate recruiters, don’t let our laid-back Austin attitude fool you. The Admissions Committee uses the interview as a way to add character, depth and spirit to your written application, so keep these tips in mind to ensure a positive outcome.  Good luck!

The Road to McCombs and Texas

Each fall our dean, admissions team, and career management representatives join alumni in several cities for McCombs Road Shows, sharing the many opportunities that come with the Texas MBA and answering any questions you may have about the application process or life at McCombs.

Below, we’ve highlighted students from the four Road Show stops we have in the United States – Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York City. Check out what they have to say about Austin, McCombs, and the advice they’d like to share with applicants.

Texas MBA Student Matteo Pacifici

Name: Matteo
City of Origin: Chicago
Undergrad:
Emory University
Previous Job:
Investment Banking/ Wells Fargo
Securities
MBA Concentration:
Real Estate and Private Equity
Finance

Why did you choose the Texas MBA program? I attended Texas for the vibrant Austin community, the booming economy of the state of Texas and the global reach of the McCombs brand.

How has the McCombs community helped you to adjust to your new home? Offering clubs and organizations geared to every interest, McCombs gave me an unprecedented number of ways to interact with like-minded MBAs from the get go.

Any advice for other Chicagoans thinking about attending McCombs? Do it! Chicago isn’t going anywhere. Don’t underestimate the power of challenging yourself in a new environment like Austin. You can spend the rest of your life in big cities, but take the opportunity to enjoy two years in a young, vibrant and entrepreneurial city.

Any advice for folks that are going through the application process? Don’t underestimate the power of introspection. Take the time to reflect on yourself and your priorities and your application will be much more genuine.

What is your favorite Austin or Texas tradition/food/etc. you’ve discovered since attending McCombs? Breakfast Tacos… All-Day, Everyday

Texas MBA Student Poonam PrasadName: Poonam
City of Origin: San Francisco Bay Area
Undergrad: UT Austin
Previous Job: Operations/ Google Inc.
MBA Concentration: High Tech Marketing, Brand and
Product Management


Why did you choose the Texas MBA program?
Some aspects of the Texas MBA program that solidified my decision to attend were the diverse student body, highly collaborative environment, nationally ranked marketing program, and incredibly multifaceted city!

Any advice for other San Franciscans thinking about attending McCombs? Many of the qualities that make the Bay Area so wonderful can be found in Austin as well: the blossoming tech scene, the dynamic and self-driven oasis of students and professionals, the abundance of live music and music festivals, and the plethora of foodie-approved restaurants and institutions. Aside from the heat and humidity, adjusting from a life in the Bay Area to one in Austin with McCombs is virtually seamless.

How has the McCombs community helped you to adjust to your new home? Everyone in the program is very approachable and helpful when it comes to choosing apartments, picking classes, and getting acquainted with the ins and outs of becoming a longhorn. The second years are more than happy to lend insight and advice on professors and extracurricular activities, and your fellow first years will become your foundation and family as you embark on all sorts of adventures together – from group projects to interviews to social outings.

Any advice on things to do prior to starting school (after they are admitted)? Take full advantage of all the peripheral programs McCombs offers before session officially starts. You’ll forge long-lasting bonds with your classmates and faculty, as well as reinforce your sense of quantitative intuition, by attending events like the Bay Area coffees and luncheons, summer expeditions abroad, and academic boot camp. There are so many ways to feel like a part of the Texas MBA experience before even attending your first class. Every single day I find myself blown away by the level of thought and resources put into the construction of the program at McCombs, and there’s simply no place else I’d rather be. Hook ‘em!

Texas MBA Student Daniel GoldbergName: Daniel
City of Origin: Washington, D.C.
Undergrad: George Washington University
Previous Job: Strategy Consulting/ Booz Allen
Hamilton
MBA Concentration: High Tech Marketing &
Product Management

Why did you choose the Texas MBA program? I came from a consulting background, and wanted to pivot into the High Tech field. Austin’s entrepreneurial spirit combined with McCombs elite reputation and the robust Longhorn network made the decision a no-brainer.

Favorite memory of DC: My wife and I loved attending the presidential inaugurations and watching airplanes take off at Gravelly Point park. The restaurants on U-Street and 14th was also a favorite weekend destination.

Any advice for other Washingtonians thinking about attending McCombs? You’ll be well prepared for the heat since it’s not much worse than DC. Also the cultural shift of having most people be a bit more relaxed and approachable was a pleasant surprise.

Any advice on things to do prior to starting school (after they are admitted) Get your significant other to join SAS so she/he can get plugged into that community, scout out neighborhoods near school before signing the lease, and try and get settled into your place before school starts. When it does there is very little time with your core classes for any other obligations.

Favorite “Austin” or “Texas” tradition/food/etc. you’ve discovered since attending McCombs? I thought DC had food trucks figured out, boy was I wrong. The food truck scene in Austin is incredible, with some being located on the property of restaurants and bars. I’ve been eating breakfast tacos three times a day!

Texas MBA Student Tiffany GdowikName: Tiffany
City of Origin: Washington, D.C.
Undergrad: The University of Virginia
Previous Job: Dispute Consulting/ Duff & Phelps
MBA Concentration: Corporate Finance

Why did you choose the Texas MBA program? Why you decided to attend the Texas MBA? The experience of an MBA program – from the culture of the program to the learning environment – was one of my top factors in making my decision. The Texas MBA stood out among the others, almost immediately when I visited. The strong alumni base was also very appealing.

Any advice for other Washingtonians thinking about attending McCombs? I lived in the DC area for seven years after college and was ready for a change. While I really enjoyed DC, it has been so refreshing to break out of the bubble, spend time in Austin meeting new people, and take action on my career goals. Be bold and step out of your comfort zone, that is a valuable part of the MBA experience.

Any advice for folks that are going through the application process? Hang in there and don’t be afraid to be yourself. It’s so easy to think of the process as one-sided (programs selecting you) but you want to be admitted into the program that’s the right fit for you too. Think of this as an opportunity to dig deep, figure out who you are and tell your story. When it comes time to making a decision, stay true to yourself and your goals.

Anything else that you would like to share? Kudos to you for taking this important step in applying for B-school, you won’t regret it!

Texas MBA Student Sherri Bohman

Name: Sherri
City of Origin: New York City
Undergrad: Lehigh University
Previous Job: Marketing Manager/ AllianceBerstein
MBA Concentration: Marketing and Entrepreneurship

Why did you choose the Texas MBA program? I chose to attend McCombs because of the exceptional Entrepreneurship Program, the diversity among students, and to expand my network beyond the Northeast.

Any advice for other New Yorkers thinking about attending McCombs? As someone who is hoping to get back to the Northeast post-graduation, I felt that two years in Austin would be a nice break from the big city to concentrate on my studies among new people and in a new environment. Think about your post-MBA plans and what you hope to gain out of your MBA experience when applying to schools!

Any advice for folks that are going through the application process? My advice for those going through the application process is to reach out to alumni and current students. This will give you an idea of the types of people you may be surrounded by if you choose to attend that school.

Favorite “Austin” or “Texas” tradition/food/etc. you’ve discovered since attending McCombs? One of my favorite things about Austin is all of the outdoor festivals and concerts. I also love the food truck scene!

To register for a Road Show or see all our upcoming events, please visit the Texas MBA events webpage. Hook ’em!

How We “Slack” in The Texas Executive MBA Program

slack user growth

Slack is a new online collaboration tool (and is super addictive!) [.gif source]

If you read the title of this post and thought it would be about Executive MBAs slacking off, you’re about to be slightly disappointed. Slack is a new, hyper-addictive online messaging tool that the Texas Executive MBA Class of 2016 started using last August, before our first seminar, to communicate with one another. One of our classmates, Josh Treviño, uses Slack at his office and suggested we set up a team account. Slowly but surely, students began trickling in, tentatively posting questions about pre-readings or class schedules.

The early days of our Slack environment were like being in a library: a place to request or look for information, quietly and without bothering anyone.

Fast-forward to nearly a year later, and our Slack team is more like a bustling conference at a convention center, with hallways and rooms to duck in and out of, people laughing in one corner and others sharing useful tips and tricks in another. Not only has Slack helped us find the program information we need, but many credit the tool with our class’s ability to form strong bonds with one another. Inspired by Bill Morein’s How We Slack at FiftyThree, which discusses business uses for Slack, we wanted to share how Slack has helped busy students like us, as Slack’s tagline promises, “be less busy.”

slack for education and universities

General Channel

We have one channel, #general, that anyone can join – and pretty much everyone has. This is where the chit-chat takes place, and can run the gamut from people asking questions about which elective to take, to updates received by individual students about the program, to people testing out their Slackbot-programming skills.

Class Channels

Channels named after our classes each semester help keep things organized. Think #financial-management, #managerial-economics or #strategic-management. If you’ve got a class-related question, need to track down a file, or are just looking for some motivation to work on a paper or study for a big test, this is the place to do business. These channels are archived by the moderators a few weeks after classes wrap up so they don’t use up valuable storage space.

Funny Quotes Channel

Being in one of the Top 20 MBA programs in the country means you’re always surrounded by smart, quick-witted people, whether they are your classmates or professors. A few weeks into our first semester, there were so many funny verbal exchanges happening in and out of class that often times were also some of the best learning moments. #funnyquotes is where the greatest ones get memorialized. A gem from the #funnyquotes feed recently: “Shake hands, kiss babies, and never confuse the two.” That’s Dr. John Daly, professor of our Advocacy elective.

Jobs Channel

Whether you’re looking for a new job or know someone who is, our #jobs channel has helped several people swing to the next vine. It also serves as a place to ping classmates for connections within companies (usually someone has an “in!”), solicit resume advice, compare notes on the executive coaches in the UT Career Services program offers, and offer referrals of candidates who may not be in our program.

Hobby Channels

We’re a diverse group and that extends to our hobbies. Among our hobby channels, we’ve got #field-and-stream for the outdoors-men/women in the program who like to hunt and fish, #wine-club for the group that shares a mutual love of wine after class on the weekends, #chinese for those who want to learn more about the Chinese culture prior to our class trip to China next May, and #hangout which serves as a catch-all for people who want to coordinate grabbing lunch or a drink with a classmate in the area.

Private Groups

There is the option in Slack to send private messages, as well as create private group messages. In my study group’s case, we have a private group titled “Goose” (named after our team name, “Two O’s in Goose”) set up to share notes about group work, gatherings, and inside jokes (most of which, unsurprisingly, involve references to Top Gun).

Questions about Slack or its uses for student communication? Feel free to leave them in the comments below, or tweet at me at @racheltruair.

Life as an EMBA: Explore the Texas Executive MBA Program

The Texas Executive MBA program offers experienced business leaders the opportunity to unlock their full potential, expand their network, and earn one of the most prestigious MBA degrees in the world. All while continuing to work full-time.

A current Texas Executive MBA, Rachel Truair, has shared some key takeaways from her first year in the program:

MBA-1st-Year-3-29wjla3

This summer or fall, learn more about the program by attending a Texas MBA event.

Read more on our Texas MBA Student blog or reach out to us at TexasEMBA@mccombs.utexas.edu with any questions you may have. We hope to meet you soon!

 

Texas MBA 2015-2016 Essay Questions: Admissions Guide to Introspection

From Julia Campbell, Associate Director of MBA Admissions, Full-Time Texas MBA Program:

As you think about how to approach the essays in your MBA application, consider appropriate mental theme music. Unfortunately for most, a fitting score might be the one from “Jaws”; ominous, foreboding and downright intimidating. But maybe for you it’s less scary, a bit more uplifting, full of hope, something like “Chariots of Fire” perhaps? Let’s hope. In any case, your best shot at writing strong essays is to approach them armed with insider tips from the Admissions Committee.

We read hundreds of essays. Thousands. The purpose of these essay questions is to understand why you want to attend McCombs, who you are both professionally and personally, and what goals you want to achieve while in our program and beyond. We only have two short essay questions and while it may be tempting, avoid the snooze-fest/shock-factor extremes, do us (and yourself) a favor and think hard about these answers.  Heed our advice below and tackle it while “Don’t Stop Believing” plays in the background:

ESSAY 1

  1. At The University of Texas at Austin, what starts here changes the world.  You are at the Texas MBA Orientation for the Class of 2018, meeting your cohort for the first time. Please introduce yourself to your new classmates, including relevant information about your personal and professional life.

Select only one communication method that you would like to use for your response.

    1. Write an essay (250 words)
    2. Share a video introduction (one minute)
    3. Share your about.me profile

AO Advice:

You are going to need to role play a little bit. Close your eyes. Imagine you are standing in front of your new Texas MBA Class of 2018 classmates introducing yourself. You will be placed into one of four cohorts, a group of 65-70 classmates that will be your family during the core curriculum. What would you say if you only have 250 words or one-minute? First impressions are important in person and are equally important in an admissions application.

A few key things to make sure you include are a greeting or introduction, your current profession or professional identity, goals for the future, how McCombs fits in and some personal anecdotes. We want the full picture, but in a nutshell.

Also, what makes you interesting and unique are both your personal and professional interests and attributes.  Therefore, an intro that only discusses work experience, or only discusses previous life experience, is incomplete.  Give us a rounded mix, so that we better understand who you are in a more complete sense, and not only in one facet of your life.

Finally, the choice is yours: written essay, about.me page, or video.  We have seen significant success in each platform.  Therefore, play to your strengths.  If your skill is in writing, focus on the essay.  If you have a knack for creative flare, color, design and photos, then have fun with an about.me profile.  If you want to create a video and rely on your voice and video editing skills, then we are excited to see it.  In any submission, have fun with it and do not take this essay for granted—it can go a long way to setting the stage for your application as your introduction.

ESSAY 2

The McCombs School of Business is where leadership is earned.  We have an inclusive environment where our dynamic and driven students take an active role in the Texas MBA community.  Please discuss why the Texas MBA is the ideal program for you, what you hope to achieve, and how you will contribute to your classmates’ experience. (500 words)

AO Advice:

Love McCombs? Prove it. This is your chance to convey your passion, excitement, personality, and experience, while also addressing how that experience relates to your MBA and career goals.  By the time we read your essays, we have already seen your resume, scores and basic elements of your application.  In this answer, we need you to expand upon the bare facts, and convey to us why you are the perfect student for McCombs.

This is a dense question, lots of content. The key will be to make sure you address each section of the question individually and within the tight limit of 500 words. Below is a dissection of each part of the question to help you craft a complete answer:

  • “… why the Texas MBA is the ideal program for you…”: Focus here on the words Texas MBA and you.  A vague essay is a poor essay, so give us specifics. Meditate on “how do I love McCombs, let me count the ways”, because if you’ve read our website or spoken to an admissions team member, frankly there is a LOT to love; classes, concentrations, organizations, students/alumni, professors, unique academic and career-oriented opportunities, the list goes on. So before you write your essay, I recommend you write a list of your top reasons why McCombs is total MBA perfection.  Then, make sure these specifics are mentioned to illustrate your dedication to our program. What’s the consequence of saying vague things like McCombs is “amazing” and “a great program”? First, we may question your familiarity with our school, or worse we may assume you just reused the same generic essay you used for another MBA program – yikes.
  • “… what you hope to achieve…”:  The primary difference between this portion of the prompt and the previous section is that we are asking you to clearly connect how McCombs will help you achieve your career objectives and personal goals.  Create a 5 and 10 year plan for yourself, then see what classes, organizations, and experiential opportunities that we offer specifically relate to this career plan.   Then connect the dots for us.  Essentially, we want to know what you want and how McCombs will help you get it.
  • “… how you will contribute to your classmates’ experience …”: Lastly, as you are mapping out your reasons for attending our program, also remember that we pride ourselves first and foremost on our collaborative, diverse and extremely tight-knit community.  We work very hard to find individuals excited about being a part of this community in particular, so in what ways will you contribute?  How will you give back while you are here? How can you leverage our program offerings and combine it with your skill set to propel the entire program forward. Convince us that you are indispensable to our community, and that we simply cannot live without you.

Last bit of advice. Return to classic writing techniques, a strong essay structure, grammar, punctuation, spelling and cadence.  A few common essay writing pitfalls to avoid include convoluted sentences, going off-topic, name-dropping, vague or confusing goals, citing inaccurate classes, professors, or student organizations, or calling us by any other name besides McCombs or the Texas MBA (a common mistake for people who reuse essays.)  Also, DON’T REUSE ESSAYS FROM OTHER SCHOOLS!  We can totally tell.

As always, please email us at TexasMBA@mccombs.utexas.edu if you have any other questions.  Get started early and edit, edit, edit!  Your essays can really send a strong application into orbit, so good luck, and happy applying!

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