So you’ve submitted your application in to the b-school of your choice. What now? Well, it’s all in the admissions committee’s hands. They’ll conduct a preliminary screening based on your GMAT score, your GPA, and a quick overview of your application. If you meet a predetermined “level of attractiveness,” you’ll be invited to a personal interview so that your suitability for the school can be probed.

This personal interview is a critical step in the process – most high-ranking schools will not accept you without having met you in person first. Why? They want to assess your overall marketability against other potential candidates. It’s also to aggressively recruit those candidates they find truly outstanding and possibly woo them from other competitive schools. And the interview is also an opportunity for the school to market and promote its own programs.

A school’s invitation to interview shows their high level of interest in you and allows them to evaluate how appropriate you are for their program. Applicants receiving these invitations are assured they are past the initial screening – though it does not guarantee admission to the school by any means. The interview allows the school – through the interviewer – to determine if your interpersonal skills are as good as your academic ones.

So is it really important?

Absolutely. Embrace this opportunity to showcase that you are indeed a superior candidate. The applicant pool for these selective MBA programs after all are filled with thousands of candidates who look great on paper. They have the grades and the scores, the necessary work experience and the appearance of being able to build a successful career after graduation.

But they’re seeking only the best candidates, those individuals who are so dynamic and who possess the academic prowess and personal strengths that a successful and effective leader has. They want to see evidence of strong communication skills, intellectual curiosity, social skills, self-confidence, teamwork success, work ethic, independence, and adaptability. The interview is your opportunity to illustrate your potential to be a dynamic and involved leader who reflects the school’s values and will excel beyond the confines of the school.

It isn’t at all surprising that the interview can be over a third of the formula used to ‘rank’ applicants. While many think this is unfair, since a typical interview doesn’t seem to adequately reflect the candidate’s suitability for the business field, it has to be understood that the interview isn’t about academic ability; it’s all about whether you have the temperament, the qualities necessary to be a successful leader. Qualities such as integrity, negotiating skills, sensitivity and good judgment can be seen within the interview – admissions committees know what to look for in regards to their own programs. A longer period of time isn’t usually necessary.

The interview is also an opportunity for the school to question you about the finer points of your application; your autobiographical sketch, your essay answers, transcript issues and/or GMAT scores. However, its primary purpose is to screen out those applicants who don’t fit the profile of the ideal candidate and distinguish those from applicants who are well-suited for top-level management. Your interviewer is interested in learning who you are as a person and how well you communicate your values, and how you handle yourself under pressure. With a lot of thoughtfulness and practice you can remain undaunted as you make a compelling case for your candidacy.

Remember, the admissions committee is committed to admitting students who are able to handle the rigors of the school’s business program on an academic, physical, psychological, and personal level. This interview is your opportunity to set yourself apart and prove that you deserve a seat in their program. And, when the interviewers believe they would love to sit next to you in class, you have successfully clinched the interview and are that much closer to attending the program of your dreams!

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