As you start looking for your first job after earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, you’re likely looking for competitive, senior-level business management roles. After all, you’ve already acquired years of experience before you enrolled in your graduate degree program, and now you have the master’s-level education to accompany it. While your combination of education and experience is impressive, don’t assume that a job interview will be a breeze. You need to learn as much as you can about the company you are interviewing with, practice both your verbal responses and your nonverbal communications and make sure your answers prove that you have extensive soft skills and technical skills.
Do Extensive Research on Your Prospective Employer
You may have thought your days of doing homework were over, but preparing for a job interview is one time when you will need to do plenty of research. The most successful MBA graduates extensively investigate the company with which they are interviewing, and especially the letters, reports and other communications published by the company or CEO, according to Forbes. As you prepare for your job interview, you can glean valuable information about the company from all kinds of sources, including social media posts, news articles, press releases and company leadership profiles.
How important is it for candidates to research a company before an interview? In one survey of employers, nearly one-quarter of respondents cited failure to research the company as the top reason they rejected a job candidate.
Practice What to Say and How to Say It
No matter what position you are interviewing for, whether entry-level or senior-level, it is always a good idea for job candidates to practice their answers to the most common interview questions. When it comes to MBA students and recent graduates, in particular, it is also important to practice your posture, tone and manner of speaking.
Acing a job interview is not as simple as giving the right response to questions. There is a lot for candidates to remember, especially under pressure. You want to make sure your answers showcase the skills and experience that your prospective employer would find valuable – and emphasizes those qualifications enough to convince the interviewer that you are the right person for the job. However, you also must make sure that your answers are concise and interesting without rambling. You want to give answers that are specific, but you don’t want to waste the interviewer’s time going into too much detail.
One way job applicants can improve their interview performance is by practicing the answers to common questions in advance of the meeting. Rehearsing your answers to the questions your interviewer is likely to ask allows you to think through the answers you want to give and find the phrasing that seems most natural and effective to you. As you continue practicing these ideal answers that are specific and detailed yet succinct you are training yourself to give responses that fit these parameters. Even when you are asked questions that you didn’t practice for, you will have an easier time responding the way you want to, because you already have gotten yourself into the positive habit of giving interview-worthy answers.
MBA graduates have a reputation for struggling somewhat to show humility, authenticity, approachability and self-awareness in job interview settings. Perhaps this occurs because they are trying so hard to appear confident and capable or because they have focused on practicing what they want to say without stopping to consider how they say it. Regardless of why many MBA graduates give off this impression, the result is that they may be unintentionally dissuading interviewers from hiring them through their body language, tone of voice and overuse of industry jargon. As you practice, be aware of how you sit, stand and move. Focus on finding postures that are natural, open and approachable.
If you find yourself using a lot of jargon in your responses to interview questions, you may give the impression that you don’t really know what you are talking about and can’t explain yourself any other way.
Demonstrate Both Soft Skills and Specialized Skills in Your Interview
Today’s employers expect more from MBA graduates than they once did. In the current job market, students of MBA programs need a blend of soft skills that will help them seamlessly fit into company culture as well as the specialized skills that make them marketable candidates capable of handling more complex, focused job roles.
The most important soft skills for MBA students to cultivate include leadership, communication, critical-thinking and teamwork. Successful MBA graduates also develop personality traits, like integrity, flexibility, creativity, resilience and self-awareness, that make them come across as approachable and authentic. Companies that conduct global operations also look for candidates who display an attribute called cross-cultural competency, or an awareness of cultural differences and an ability to be understanding and respectful of how those difference affect individuals’ perspectives.
In most MBA programs, students choose a specialization or concentration. However, to really stand out from the competition, you need more than just a specialization listed on your degree. Ideally, through your education, work experience and internship experience, you will have developed a few real, practical and tangible job skills that you can put to work on behalf of your employer to create measurable results in a specialized role. This strategy of building out specialized skills, rather than general knowledge across a breadth of business topics, has been referred to as “spikiness.”
The growing preference for specialized skills has also led to the increasing popularity of specialized, non-MBA master’s degree programs in business subjects such as finance and accounting, according to U.S. News & World Report.