Admissions, Application Tips, Exec Application Tips, Executive MBA, Full-Time MBA

Interview Tips — It’s About More Than Your Resume

By Brett Twitty-
interview-tips

Both Darden’s full-time and executive programs are well into the admissions cycle for the Class of 2023 — which means it’s officially interview season!

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times: Interviews are our favorite part of the application process! It is both a luxury and a pleasure to spend around 30 minutes with applicants, and the interview goes a long way to helping the Admissions Committee understand who you are, your goals and motivations, the “why” of your narrative, as well as a number things about you like communication skills, presence, etc. — that may be harder to glean from the application itself.

In our full-time MBA application process, interviews are conducted by Admissions Committee members as well as second year students on our Student Admissions Committee (SAC). In our Executive MBA application process, interviews are conducted by members of our Admissions Committee.

Here are a few things to know about Darden interviews:

  • Timing is not a reflection of candidacy. We know the interview invitation process can cause some anxiety for applicants (the waiting is certainly the hardest part), but know that we extend interview invitations for each round on a rolling basis (as opposed to all at once). Applicants can be invited to interview up to the decision release date in question, and we appreciate your patience as we work through our review process.
  • Darden’s interviews are anonymous, which we think is the fairest approach to interviewing. At Darden, this means that your interviewer will not have read your application or resume prior to the interview. Your interviewer will know your name and your interview time, and that’s about it! Why is this the fairest approach? Your interviewer will not come to this interaction with a lot of formed expectations about who you are, your strengths or weaknesses or any other thoughts about your candidacy. It’s a level playing field for EVERYONE, and this “uninformed” approach is one of the best things about interviewing at Darden. We are learning about you in real time and, for this reason, no two interviews are quite the same.
  • Our interviews are conversational in nature, and the interview is certainly an opportunity for you to tell your story. While you will likely do most of the talking, you should not prepare to deliver an uninterrupted monologue. The best interviews are a dialogue between the applicant and the interviewer. You know, like a real conversation!
  • Everything matters. Our Admissions process is holistic in nature, and you may be surprised to hear we spend as much (if not more) time thinking about who you will be in and out of the classroom as we do about your academic preparation or career goals. That’s not to say these things do not matter (or are somehow less important). It’s only to reinforce the point that, in the admissions process, everything matters. That’s the great thing, and also the challenging thing, about this enterprise.

One way to think about the application is that it’s an initial introduction, and, ideally, it’s sufficiently intriguing for us to conclude, “This is someone we would like to learn more about.” That’s what the interview comes in, and you will want to think about how these two parts of your application reinforce and complement each other.

For bonus resources, check out Executive Director of Admissions Dawna Clarke’s two videos (filmed pre-Covid) featuring Interview FAQs and more about Understanding the Darden Interview.

The interview is a great opportunity to highlight aspects of your story of particular interest to our Admissions Committee like leadership opportunities, global experiences, initiative, impact and teamwork, as well as hobbies and interests. After all, you will bring your whole, authentic self to Darden.

The interviewer will be considering questions like, What will you contribute to these classroom conversations? What kind of teammate will you be? What kind of classmate will you be? Are you passionate about learning? Are you resilient? Are you curious about the world? Are you open to others’ perspectives? Are you collaborative? Are you self-aware? What will be your impact outside of the classroom?

Of course, we want to know you can manage the work of a rigorous MBA program, but there are so many other things that go into a successful two years at Darden (and beyond). In many ways, the academic question ‘Can you do the required work?‘ is the easiest of these assessments. The other queries take more effort and insight, and this is one of the reasons we offer so many ways for you to engage with members of our team and learn about Darden. Take full advantage of these resources!

Practice, practice, practice! Don’t be fooled by our conversational interview approach. As the above advice makes clear, there is a lot you are going to want to accomplish in a relatively limited amount of time, and a little practice in sharing your narrative can go a long way.

During these socially distant times, “practicing” also means making sure you are comfortable and familiar with the interview technology. We conduct interviews via Zoom, so make sure you have downloaded the required software and identified a nice, quiet place where you have reliable internet and can conduct your interview without interruption. This doesn’t mean you have to go full celebrity bookshelf, but you should give some thought to your surroundings, your lighting and any items that may be in your background.

What happens after your interview? Interview notes will be added to your application record and will be part of the holistic picture that our Admissions Committee considers when making a final decision.

To hear more about Darden’s approach to interviews, tune in to Experience Darden podcast episode #81, featuring Senior Director of Admissions Whitney Kestner and Director of Admissions Catie Yeilding as they share insights and tips for applicants.

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