Insider Tips: Admissions Committee Members Share Some Dos and Don’ts for Interviews

If you are thinking about applying to Wharton’s executive MBA program, you should schedule an interview soon. Don’t wait until you’ve finished — or even started — your application.

The interview is an important part of the application process, but members of the Admissions Committee say that it is also a good way to research the program to see if it’s a fit for you. Interviews are scheduled on days when EMBA classes are in session so you can sit in on a class and meet current students.

Admissions Committee member and Wharton West Director John Lyon says that a typical interview lasts 45 minutes and is a two-way conversation, similar to a job interview because it focuses mostly on your career. He wants to cover things like: how your career has evolved, examples of leadership within or outside of work, and why getting an MBA is important to you. He is trying to figure out what you will bring to the table if you get a spot in the program.

Diane Sharp, another member of the Admissions Committee, says that interviewees often ask for a pre-assessment of their chances for admission. The “pat” answer is that you have a 1 in 4 shot, which is the overall statistical chance. However, if during the interview she gets a sense that you have a particular competitive weakness, she’ll certainly let you know.  For example, if your GMAT is too low, she’ll suggest that you retake it.  Or, if you are just a few years out of college, she might suggest that you need more experience in order to have more to contribute to your potential classmates. “We don’t want anyone going on a wild goose chase.” says Sharp.

As for tips, Sharp shared a few no-nos. Don’t come in with a prepared PowerPoint presentation. Members of the Admissions Committee are looking to have a conversation with you.
Dress should be business casual — the committee members want you to be comfortable, especially if you are going to be sitting in on classes all day.

A definite “do” is to bring an updated resume. And feel free to blow your own horn. An admissions interview isn’t a time to be modest.

Even if you aren’t quite ready for an interview now, make sure to schedule one soon. With the West Coast application deadline of Jan. 19 and East Coast deadline of Feb. 1, interview slots are filling up quickly. To schedule a time, contact either the Philadelphia or San Francisco EMBA office.  NOTE: 2011 Deadline is Feb. 1, 2011 for both Philadelphia and San Francisco.