Ten Tips for Nailing Your Interview

I am one of those people who enjoy job and academic interviews. I’m weird that way, I guess. I’ve always viewed them as an opportunity to talk about the things I’m passionate about with someone who’s genuinely interested in hearing about my life and perspective. This mindset is, I think, the best bit of advice I can give anyone who is about to sit for an interview. Don’t view it as an oral exam or a minefield filled with traps. View at an opportunity to tell your story, be yourself (instead of sell yourself), and let your accomplishments speak for themselves.

But as I moved up in life, from being the one who was being asked questions to the one doing the asking, I’ve come to appreciate just how ill-prepared most interviewees are for job or academic interviews. Most of the “tips and tricks” for interviews are basic, but nonetheless absolutely vital to get right. And yes, some fall into the “things you should’ve learned in kindergarten” category, but having interviewed quite a few MBA and graduate school applicants, I can tell you that people get a lot of these things wrong! In that spirit, here are 10 tips for doing well in your MBA interview.

  1. Do your homework about the program you are applying to. Make sure you comprehend the company’s core principles and objectives, as well as the particular course requirements and unique positioning of that MBA program.

  1. Most of the initial questions you’ll be asked are pretty standard, so prepare for those. In an MBA interview, you will likely be asked the following typical questions: Why do you want to get an MBA? What draws you to this specific program? What long-term professional ambitions do you have? How would an MBA assist you in achieving them? Don’t memorize answers for these questions (unless you’re a trained actor, it will come across as canned and stiff), but do know and practice the main ideas you hope to cover in response to these questions.

  1. Care about your presentation and ALL aspects of your communication. Speaking clearly and simply, making eye contact, and acting professionally are all examples of how to do this. Moreover, if you interview in person, be polite and respectful to the secretary or assistant who greets you. You CANNOT underestimate the important role that staff play in an admissions office, and if you blow them off or are rude to them because you don’t think they’re the ones making the decision… well, you have no idea how offices work. A bad word from a secretary or assistant can sink your application. So don’t be a jerk.

  1. Don the proper attire. For MBA interviews, professional dress is required. Wear a tidy, well-kept professional clothing whenever possible. As more and more interviews are taking place virtually, take 10 minutes to clean the space behind you, select some items that you think will show some of your best traits and display them strategically but naturally behind you, and recognize that the part of your home or office that you display is an extension of you.

  1. Show up on time. Give yourself plenty of time to account for any unexpected delays, such as traffic or problems with public transit. I wish I didn’t have to explain this… but I do. Being late is disrespectful, and conveys to your interviewer that you think your time is more important than theirs.

  1. Have a strategically built résumé and bring copies. What does this mean? At Gurufi, we have a CV / résumé specialists who helps you build a compelling CV. The trick for CVs when it comes to interviews, though, is that they are intended to be scanned, and not read meticulously. Most CVs get about 30-45 seconds of attention, max. So, make sure that it’s formatted in a way that’s clear, easily scannable, and highlights your key accomplishments. I like to think of a CV as a way to prompt the interviewer to ask you the questions you want them to ask you about. Conversely, do NOT include anything on your CV that you aren’t ready and excited to talk about. For this reason, I also like to include personal tidbits (“I have gone to 5 World Cups” is my go-to) because your interviewer will ask about it, and it helps to personalize me. At Gurufi, we can help you with this!

  1. Prepare some questions for the interviewer. You know a great way to end your interview with a dud? When they ask you if you have any questions, and you reply, “nope” it makes you come across as incurious and unprepared. ALWAYS have 2-3 questions ready for the end of the interview when they inevitably ask you this.

  1. Be passionate and happy. If interviews are miserable for you, this may be hard. BUT, remember: people like happy people, and they respond positively to passionate people. Display interest and love for the field you have chosen. The interviewer is looking for signs that you are enthusiastic about the chance to pursue an MBA and that you have a distinct professional goal fueled by a sense of excitement for what you do and hope to achieve.

  1. Be specific, tell stories, and give examples. The worst interviews are often when candidates talk in vague platitudes or obliquely reference their skills and accomplishments. Put meat on those bones! Give specific instances to support your qualifications and experiences. This will make your CV come to life and demonstrate to the interviewer how you have used your knowledge and abilities in practical settings.

  1. Be yourself. Yeah, I know… you’ve heard this a thousand times. BUT, if you show up at the interview trying to be anything other than what you are, or to sell a version of your future that diverges from what you actually intend to do because you think that’s what the interviewer wants to hear, it will come across as insincere and stilted. Also, I know that during the application process it’s hard to think this way, but you should view this as a two-way interview. You’re also trying to assess whether the school is a good fit for you. The only way that you can do that is to present your authentic self; if they’re not buying what you’re selling, the school likely wouldn’t have been a good fit for you.

These tips will help you get your MBA application over the goal line. Remember, don’t over-prepare, attempt to memorize answers, or show up with anything other than a sense of optimistic confidence.

For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Gurufi.com. Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top MBA and EMBA programs. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at service@gurufi.com. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How to Write a Strong Diversity Statement

I want to spend a few posts talking about Diversity Statements. Most schools require some version of this, and for many applicants it can be quite confusing in terms of what the prompt is asking for or what you should write in response. I’m going to break this up into three parts: (1) Today, we’re going to talk about the basics of how you should approach it, and then (2) tomorrow I’m going to go into some extra depth about how to approach it if you’re an underrepresented minority, and (3) on Friday I’ll go over my thoughts on what can be the most complicated question: how do you respond to a diversity statement if you’re not a part of a group that’s underrepresented in business school?

So, first the basics. Diversity Statements grew out of a desire to change the ethnic, national, cultural, religious, and gender makeups of their classes. Some of this was a response to legal rulings that limited schools’ capacities to explicitly use race or ethnicity in individual admissions, but that did allow schools to use diversity as a factor in admissions out of the belief that more diverse classes improved the dynamism, breadth, and learning experience of educational cohorts.

Sometimes these essays are optional, with the (often false) assumption that only members of underrepresented minority groups would respond to them. (more on this on Friday!) Sometimes, though, they are a mandatory part of an application. If you write a diversity statement -either because it’s required or you elect to- here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. To begin, think about your distinct experiences and how they have shaped your viewpoint. Consider any difficulties or obstacles you have encountered because of your identity, as well as how these encounters have affected your outlook on the world and your method of problem-solving.
  2. Pay attention to your accomplishments and strengths. Be sure to address any difficulties you have encountered as well as your triumphs and qualities. Academic success, leadership positions, and other experiences that show you have what it takes to thrive in business school can be included in this.
  3. Give concrete instances to support your arguments. Use particular instances to support your claims rather than generalizing from your experiences. This will help the reader better comprehend your point of view and make your essay more interesting and personal.
  4. Be true to yourself. Diversity essays, even more than personal statements, suffer from writers who seek to tell the AdCom what they want to hear. Be yourself in your essay since admissions committees are seeking for applicants who are real and authentic. Do not attempt to conform or display oneself in an untrue manner.
  5. Carefully proofread your essay. If it’s going into your application, take it seriously. Give it the same level of fussiness and care that you used for your personal statement! Make sure to properly reread and modify your essay before submitting it to make sure it is well-written and error-free. Strong diversity statements ought to be well-written, unambiguous, and short.

If you’re looking for additional insights on Diversity Statements, I like these three breakdowns published by Cal, Michigan, and Wisconsin:

For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Gurufi.com. Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top MBA programs. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at service@gurufi.com. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Five Tips for Writing a Great Letter of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are hugely important parts of your application. Having a third party assess your skill, talent, experience, accomplishments, potential, and maturity provides admissions committees with valuable data. Unfortunately, because this is an “outsources” part of the application, many applicants aren’t sufficiently thoughtful about the process, thus hurting their chances of admission. Here are the five most common mistakes that I’ve seen clients make. For additional thoughts, check out this extended YouTube video we made.

  1. Requesting a letter of recommendation too late. It is critical to allow enough time for the individual writing the letter of recommendation to finish the assignment. A decent rule of thumb is to request a letter at least one month ahead of time. If you wait until the last minute, your letter may not be as effective as it may be. Remember, you’re asking someone for a favor, so do what you can to make it easy for them as possible.

2. Asking the incorrect person. It is critical to ask someone who is familiar with you and can speak to your skills and successes. This might be a lecturer, supervisor, or mentor who has worked with you closely and can offer concrete instances of your abilities and successes. Too often, applicants will seek letters from big names who might not actually know them well. In these instances, you’re going to get a pretty vanilla recommendation that just doesn’t move the needle.

3. Failure to provide adequate information. It is critical to provide the person composing the letter with all relevant information about the opportunity for which you are seeking, including the requirements and deadlines. The writer will be able to personalize the letter to the individual opportunity, making it more effective. If you have it, provide a copy of your Personal Statement and CV. Offer to sit with them for a chat about it as well.

4. Failure to follow up. After asking someone to write a letter of recommendation, it is critical to follow up to verify that the letter is finished and delivered on time. This is especially true if a deadline is approaching.

5. Failure to thank the writer. This is basic human kindness, but it’s also a smart life strategy. People like to feel appreciated, so if someone does you a favor, let them know. They’ll be more likely to go the extra mile for you in the future. It is essential to express gratitude for the time and effort that the person composing the letter has put into the assignment. A simple thank-you message or email might go a long way toward improving your relationship with the writer.

For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Gurufi.com. Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at service@gurufi.com. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

More free resources:

  1. “How to Request a Letter of Recommendation” (n.d.). The Graduate School. Retrieved from https://www.grad.illinois.edu/career-services/how-request-letter-recommendation
  2. “How to Request a Letter of Recommendation” (n.d.). The University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved from https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/students/graduate/request.php
  3. “How to Request a Letter of Recommendation” (n.d.). The University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved from https://career.berkeley.edu/Grad/LOR
  4. “Letters of Recommendation” (n.d.). Stanford University. Retrieved from https://www.stanford.edu/dept/spec_coll/uarch/exhibits/letters/letters.html
  5. “Letters of Recommendation” (n.d.). The University of Michigan. Retrieved fromhttps://careercenter.umich.edu/article/letters-recommendation

Be Enthusiastic in Your Personal Statement!

People like happy people. People respond passionately to passionate people. That’s why you need to make sure that your Personal Statement has some fire in its belly! It can be helpful to show passion in your MBA personal statement, as it can demonstrate to the admissions committee that you are highly motivated and engaged with the subject matter. This can be especially important if you are applying to a competitive program, as it can help you stand out from other applicants. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the personal statement is just one part of the application process and should be viewed in the context of the rest of your application materials, such as your resume, transcripts, and recommendations. It’s also important to be genuine and authentic in your personal statement and to focus on showcasing your strengths and experiences rather than trying to impress the admissions committee with empty flattery or exaggerated enthusiasm. Ultimately, the most important thing is to carefully consider what you want to achieve through an MBA program and to clearly articulate your goals and motivations in your personal statement. If you can do this in a way that is genuine and authentic, and that demonstrates your passion for the subject matter, it can be a valuable asset in the admissions process.

For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Gurufi.com. Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at service@gurufi.com. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Ten Mistakes to Avoid in Your Personal Statement

Personal Statements are an unusual form of writing. We’re so rarely called on to write about ourselves, much less boast about our accomplishments. This is doubly difficult for people without a lot of essay-writing experience. As such, it’s natural that people make some pretty basic -and deadly-mistakes. In my decade of helping people with their personal statements, I’ve come to recognize some common errors that people make. Here are my top ten.

1. Not proofreading: It is critical to check your personal statement for grammatical, spelling, and punctuation issues. An error-ridden personal statement reflects negatively on your attention to detail and ability to speak effectively.

2. Being too generic or vague: Your personal statement should be detailed and highlight your unique experiences and accomplishments. Avoid utilizing broad or ambiguous terminology that adds no value to your application. A good way to bring specificity to your essay is to make sure your essay is built around stories.

3. Lack of focus: A personal statement should be focused and directed. Include irrelevant material and avoid going off on tangents. You have to be tough-minded when it comes to editing out stuff that doesn’t advance your core positioning as a candidate. All the time, I see candidates who just really want to tell about some award, experience, or accomplishment, so they’ll shoehorn it into their personal statement, disrupting the flow and undermining the essay’s theme. Don’t do this. Either find another part of your application where you can highlight this tangential material or leave it out.

4. Being overly wordy or long: Personal statements should be brief and to the point. Include no extraneous material or go into excessive detail about a single incident.

5. Failure to adjust the personal statement to the program: Make certain that your personal statement is tailored to the specific MBA program to which you are applying. This involves addressing how your history and experiences match with the program’s aims and objectives, as well as mentioning the program’s goals and objectives.

6. Failing to establish your program fit: In addition to adapting your personal statement to the specific program, it is critical to illustrate how you are a good match for the program. This involves talking about your professional aspirations and how the MBA program will help you get there.

7. Being overly self-promotional: While it is vital to showcase your achievements and experiences, avoid becoming overly self-promotional. Consider how your previous experiences prepared you for the MBA program and your future job ambitions. The difference between advocating for yourself (which is good) and bragging (which is bad) is subtle, but there’s an easy test you can use to distinguish. If you use a positive descriptor about yourself (I’m smart, I have good work ethic, I believe in inclusivity, etc.) without providing an example, you’re probably veering more toward boasting than advocating. Again, this is why it’s so important to build around stories.

8. Being dishonest: Be truthful in your personal statement. Puffery and dishonesty are easier to detect than many applicants think, so resist the temptation to juice your application with tall tales.

9. Failing to portray your individuality: Your personal statement is an opportunity to demonstrate your personality and distinctive qualities. Do not exaggerate or inflate your experiences or accomplishments. Allow your individuality to show through instead of being overly official or rigid in your writing.

10. Failing to seek input: Before submitting your personal statement, obtain feedback from others, such as a career counselor, mentor, or trustworthy friend or family member. This will assist you in identifying any areas for growth and ensuring that your personal statement is as good as possible. If you’re looking for professional assistance, be sure to check us out here at Gurufi.com!

For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Gurufi.com. Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top MBA programs. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at service@gurufi.com. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How to Think About Diversity Statements

Diversity statements are among the most stressful and uncertain parts of your application package, so we’re going to spend a few posts talking about them. In a recent YouTube post, I talked some about my thoughts on the topic.

Start by understanding the purpose of a diversity statement. It is a chance for you to showcase your distinct experiences, identities, and opinions, as well as how they have influenced your academic and personal development. This might assist admissions committees in understanding the value you will contribute to their graduate program and the larger academic community.
In your writing, be sincere and genuine. Admissions committees will be able to discern if you are simply attempting to check a box for diversity or if you are actually committed to diversity and inclusion. Include clear instances of how your experiences and identities have influenced your life and ambitions.
Consider your personal prejudices and how they may have shaped your viewpoint. A diversity statement allows you to demonstrate that you are self-aware and open to learning from those with diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Keep it brief and to the point. A diversity statement should be 500 words or fewer, so concentrate on the most relevant and significant experiences and identities.
Give this essay the same care and attention that you would with all other written parts of your application, like your CV and Personal Statement. Edit and proofread your statement thoroughly. It is critical that you show yourself in the best possible light, so double-check for spelling and punctuation mistakes and have someone else evaluate your statement for input.

For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Gurufi.com. Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at service@gurufi.com. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How to Talk About Leadership In Your Personal Statement

During a recent episode of my GMATClub / Gurufi MBA Podcast, I spoke with Russ Morgan, at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. When the conversation turned to personal statements, he offered an insight into what they look for in potential leaders that was quite fascinating. In this brief clip, I offer some thoughts on that and how you can use this information to inform your MBA personal statement.

For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Gurufi.com. Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at service@gurufi.com. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

How to Beat Writer’s Block and Write a Powerful Personal Statement

You’ve picked your dream school, taken your GRE, and gotten your letters of recommendation. You sit down to write, and the blinking cursor on the blank page taunts you. You’re frozen. What to write? Who am I? What makes me special? How do I sum up my entire life, my future, and my intellectual and professional mission in 1000 words?!?!? ARGHHHHH!!!! Oh no, you have writer’s block!

In most cases, people get writer’s block because the skip an important phase of the writing process. Instead of beginngin by just letting ideas flow in a non-self-critical way, they obsess over every word, and start to tear down their own ideas before they even get fully formed.

The trick to beating writer’s block is to make the first stage of writing private, low stakes, and focused on just generating content. But it has to be great content, right? Nope. Making it great comes later. What you need to work out first are your ideas in all of their sloppy, half-baked, meandering, wonderful messiness.

You see, one of the unusual things about people is that we have beliefs and ideas that we don’t even know we have. Our motivations are unclear, even to ourselves. That’s where this writing exercise comes in. The exercise I explain in this video will only take 15-20 minutes from start to finish, but it could provide you the tools you need to make a fantastic personal statement. I’ve taught this technique in seminars and in my classrooms for over a decade, and every time, two things are true. (1) Many (sometimes most) students think, “why are we doing this? This is touchy-feely hippy garbage!” And then they do it. Then, (2) they say, “woah, that was SO helpful!”

Watch the video and do the exercise. The most you will lose is 25 minutes that doesn’t help you. But the upside is that, like so many of my former clients and students, this simple technique gives you the bricks to build something awesome.

How to Write a Powerful Conclusion to Your Personal Statement

We often work with clients who spend a lot of energy making sure that their introductions are unique and compelling, but then don’t invest enough attention in their conclusions. This is a mistake and a missed opportunity. After all, your conclusion is the last impression the reader has of you, so you should view it more like a closing argument than just a way to recap the main beats from your essay.

In this video, Brian from Gurufi.com lays out three quick tips for writing a more effective conclusion.

For more help, check us out at Gurufi.com. Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at service@gurufi.com. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Be Yourself! (But How?)

Authenticity is a vital part of any personal statement. Brian, Gurufi’s CEO, recently wrote a post for PrepAdvisor in which he detailed how and why it’s important to be yourself. More importantly, he details what that means on a practical level. Check it out!

For more help with your personal statements, check us out at Gurufi.com. Our editors have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at service@gurufi.com. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.