What is the Difference Between an Admission Committee Interview and an Alumnus/Alumna Interview?
Big difference. Plus, there’s substantial variation within those categories as well. Let’s go through them from top to bottom. First, there’s AdCom (Harvard, Wharton, Sloan, etc.), Alum (Stanford, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, etc.), Professor (Oxford), or Current student (UCLA, Yale if you do Skype). I won’t list every school here. But they tend to be consistent.
For Harvard, not only is it an admissions officer, but you’re going to be at a hub. So add jet lag to the mix. It’s also one of the few non-blind interviews you will go through (they will probably have your essays in front of them, meaning they will have specific questions prepared just for you). These admissions officers are at the top of their field, but they are also relatively equal.
Conversely, the MIT Sloan interviewer for Thailand is not only one of the best interviewers in the world, but he’s also the Dean of Admissions, so it is fair to say he carries more weight than any other MBA interviewer in the world. He varies between CV probing (he does his homework), questions about your video, behavioral questions, and technical questions. That’s a make-or-break 30 minutes.
For Wharton, most of the interview will be a group exercise, so your interaction with the ad com will be very limited (and relatively stress-free).
Ad coms are decision-makers. They can’t exactly snap their fingers after an interview and accept or reject you, but your time with them impacts your admission decision substantially more than an interview with an alum, professor, or current student.
Tons of variation here as well.
The Stanford interviewers for Thailand are technically alumni, but the most famous of them is an American who has been here for decades, is a world-class interviewer, and heavily affects your admission decision. He is especially skilled at finding out how legitimate your stories are (all interviewers can do this, but he’s among the best).
Easy solution: be genuine.
For Kellogg, you have the most variation, simply because every applicant gets to interview. So you might get a highly skilled interviewer who has been doing this for years (many of them may be reading this), or you might get a fresh grad who is just reading questions off of a piece of paper and scribbling answers as quickly as possible. I wouldn’t say that Kellogg necessarily gives substantially more weight to experienced interviewers (although some, for sure); the biggest difference is how well the interviewers probe your stories and write their evaluations.
Dissimilarly, Booth and Haas don’t interview that many candidates, so the interviewers are consistently experienced and skilled. Expect probing questions. Expect technical questions. Expect to be pushed.
Same for LBS, who also has a case study that can vary from ethical dilemma to actual business strategy.
INSEAD has two interviews, and they can be very different. As you can see, not all alumni interviews are equal. What alumni do have in common is that all of them are deciding not only if they think you’re a good candidate, but also if they would like to have you as a fellow alum. Act accordingly.
Oxford does this. It is a very different interview than you would get for American schools. In fact, it’s so different that I will cover it in a separate post. Just expect a lot more questions and a ton of probing.
UCLA, Yale, and Tuck jump to mind. What to expect? It can be anything. They can take this honor very seriously and give you the full 30 minutes allotted. Or they can be running late for class and disinterested. It’s up to you to be great regardless.
Impact and style. An ad com interview matters more. That’s not debatable. But style varies more by person, not role. Behavioral, technical, friendly, combative, short, long. Your interview can be any of those things. So you obviously have to be prepared for all of them. Fortunately, you have a few more months before they happen for Round 2. Put in the work to prepare. We do at least 30-40 hours of interview coaching for our clients (group and private). And we expect them to practice on their own. It’s that difficult and that important. So again, be sure to put in the time. And good luck.