As the Associate Director of Admissions at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, I met and evaluated thousands of applicants. Most were well prepared and professional, but a surprising number of candidates made mistakes that eliminated them from further consideration. Despite perhaps seeming obvious, each of these errors happened more than once. Here are a few of the worst MBA interview mistakes that I have seen.
Showing up late.
You absolutely, positively need to be on time. Even five minutes late is enough to create a bad impression. Leave enough time to park, find the admissions office and get settled, with a cushion. If something truly unanticipated and verifiable happens (like you are trapped in a broken elevator without cell service) it is ok to share this – but definitely do not say that you are late because you ran into one of your fraternity brothers and lost track of time catching up. Better yet, just don’t be late.
Not wearing a suit.
Err on the side of caution. This is a professional setting, and if you wouldn’t wear this to a job interview it’s probably not appropriate for your business school interview. Please wear a tie, and avoid sheer clothing, sparkles, and anything that would work well at a bar.
Talking on your cell phone, texting or checking your email.
Yes, this has actually happened during interviews – more than once. It should really go without saying that your phone should be turned off completely, not just silenced, and hidden from view during the conversation.
Casual body language. It is not a good idea to chew gum, put your feet on the desk, or pace in circles. Also, please leave your shoes on your feet.
Excessive candor. Although applicants are encouraged to be honest, please choose your anecdotes wisely. Stories about devastating breakups, cheating on tests and lying to employers will not enhance your candidacy.
Cursing. During your interview, they are evaluating your judgment, as well as whether or not you will represent the school well in front of recruiters. Cursing is a remarkably bad indicator of both these factors, and will not reflect well.
Stay tuned for my upcoming post about the biggest mistakes that candidates make when interacting with admissions officers.