How should you talk about your experiences in an MBA interview? How should you frame your accomplishments? In a recent MBA interview preparation class, the participants and I were talking about this subject, and in this blog post, I would like to share with you some information that can help you to succeed in your MBA interviews.
One of the common frameworks that you can use to talk about your accomplishments is the STAR or CAR framework. The participants in the MBA interview preparation class were already familiar with this framework, and I expect that you know it, too, because it is widely used in essay writing as well as in interview responses. As a quick reminder, the parts of the STAR are Situation, Task, Action, and Result. The CAR stands for Challenge, Action, and Result. When the listeners hear your “challenge,” you want them to respond with “Wow!” When the listeners hear your “action,” you want them to say, “Amazing!” Finally, when the listeners hear the absolutely incredible “result” that you achieved, you want them to cry out, “Incredible!” You also want them to applaud loudly (at least in their minds).
POWERS OF PERSUASION
In the words of the famous business guru, Tom Peters, how do you get your listeners to the point of “Wow”? One of the things that we talked about in the MBA interview preparation class was Aristotle’s powers of persuasion: ethos, logos, pathos. I used to teach these powers of persuasion to the students in my communication courses at Sony. These powers are used often in advertising and promotional campaigns. Since you are promoting yourself in your MBA interviews, these powers can help you as well.
ETHOS (or CREDIBILITY)
Ethos refers to credibility. In other words, you may be asked about your future goals in an interview. What do you plan to do after you get an MBA? Do you have evidence that you can do what you say you will do? For example, are you being sponsored by your company to achieve your future goals? Do you have a specific schedule in mind? Are all of the steps in your plan feasible? As I listened to the participants tell their stories in the MBA interview preparation class, I asked myself how believable these stories were. If I listened to your stories, do you think that I would believe you?
PATHOS (or EMOTION)
Pathos refers to emotion. When I worked in the financial services industry, I was taught that clients make decisions for emotional reasons, and I was taught to ask clients, “What is important about money to you?” So let me ask you the following question: “What is important about getting an MBA to you?” Do you feel excited about getting an MBA? Why? Do you feel excited about the school? Why? Are you excited about interacting with your classmates? Why? What makes you excited about your future? What are your dreams, and how does the MBA experience fit into those dreams? I hope that you feel excited because you need to project that passion in your interview. Are you able to make me share your excitement about attending the MBA program and achieving your goals?
LOGOS (or LOGIC)
Logos refers to logic. Why do you need an MBA? Why do you need it now? Do you have evidence for what you say? A good example of using “logic” appears in a crowdfunding campaign in which a company was seeking 50 thousand dollars to make the world’s first 9 dollar computer. The company needed the money to buy components in large quantities to make a computer for a low cost. (That is logical.) The company raised over 2 million dollars by using the three powers of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. The company’s financial supporters believed that the company could build the 9 dollar computer because they saw a working model (i.e., ethos). They were excited about what the company was attempting to do and shared the dream of building an inexpensive computer (pathos), and they were given a good reason for providing financial support (logos).
Think about how the powers of persuasion apply to you. In addition, keep in mind that the interviewer may be thinking about whether you have the communication skills to succeed in the MBA program for which you are applying. What kind of communication skills am I talking about? In the MBA program, you will be expected to work in learning teams with other students to prepare for class discussions about business cases. Will you be able to read and analyze the case materials and interact smoothly and confidently with your professors and peers inside and outside of the classroom? In addition, will you be able to socialize effectively? By socializing, I do not mean for business networking purposes only. You need to make friends because your friends can be your allies in many different situations at school. In the interview, you need to show that you have the necessary communication skills to do all of these things.
Good luck with your MBA interview preparation, and be sure to use the three powers of persuasion. Are you ready to improve your performance? Attend a class, and make appointments with consultants. I look forward to meeting with you soon!