Cambridge MBA Admissions Director, Conrad Chua, shares his perspective on the rationale behind Cambridge’s unique interview days.
The Cambridge MBA interview day — why we do what we do
We have just completed the last interview day for the MBA class of 2013. In the last two years, more than 300 people have attended one of the six interview days that we host every year. It is a big commitment from us and I thought it was timely to reflect on why we host interview days.
Firstly, the term interview day is a misnomer because the programme actually starts the evening before with a dinner at one of the colleges. All interview day candidates and any partners are invited to attend. Current MBA students and my team will be there as well. This is an informal setting and it is to give candidates a taste of what college life is like. Personally, it took me several months before I truly appreciated the value of the college experience. Every MBA student, and this is the case for all Cambridge students, are members of a college. The college is the social and intellectual glue that binds the University — in practical terms, it is the place where our MBAs can meet students and faculty from across the university. The strength of one’s network depends on how wide it is, so being able to meet bright people who have nothing to do with the business school is invaluable.
We want our interview day to reflect the values that we treasure. One of these values is collaboration. People collaborate when there is obviously a reason for collaboration, but also they need a foundation of trust in each other’s competencies and social trust in each other. This is why we make the interview day dinners a social, informal affair.
On the day of the interview itself, there are presentations about the school and career services. These sessions have become more Q&A rather than presentations as we see that candidates know most of the information about the programme through our website, this blog and other online fora.
Unique among business schools, all our interviews are conducted by members of faculty. As you can imagine, that’s a huge commitment on the part of the school, but we feel that it is vital to have faculty involved in the admissions process. Faculty spend a lot of time with our students and it is only right that students who are admitted demonstrate to faculty that they will be a joy to teach in our class, and be worthy alum ambassadors.
Most recently, we have introduced a new segment to the interview day and that is a small group session with two of our external career advisors. Unlike some other schools, we do not have careers input into the admissions process — this is so that our admissions decisions are not swayed by employability factors (which are temporary in one’s life) but are based on factors such as academic abilities, intellect, personal impact, and impact in the work environment. However, we do recognise the importance of post-MBA careers to our candidates when they make the decision to embark on their MBA journey. So starting in Rounds 4 and 5 this year, we have organised small group sessions with our external careers advisors. This is not part of the admissions process but our external careers advisors give valuable input to our candidates about what they should do to maximise their MBA experience from a careers standpoint. This is also part of our overall careers strategy of working with our students even in the summer months before they start their MBA on aspects such as CV writing, prospects in certain sectors etc, so that more of our students achieve their career goals. So far, the statistics have been very encouraging. 97% and 91% of the last two MBA. classes were employed within 3 months of graduation.
After lunch at the University Centre with current students, interview day candidates are taken on a walking tour of central Cambridge. Our Director of the MBA programme makes it a point to encourage students to take the time to look up, and imbibe the rich history of Cambridge. We are very fortunate that there is a group of dedicated tour guides who are passionate about Cambridge and their walking tours are now almost legendary among interview candidates. The walking tours are also a great way to emphasise the University that the business school is part of.
The day then ends with afternoon tea where candidates can again meet current students.
In summary, the main purpose of the interview day is of course to make an admissions decision on candidates. And in this regard, there is no difference in the chances of gaining admission if you attend an interview day vs being interviewed over the phone. However, the interview day is also a platform for us to showcase our values and allow prospective students to make a decision on whether they are a good cultural fit with the school.
Each Wednesday at 12:30 -1:00 p.m. (ET), Darden hosts a weekly online chat for prospective students. Here is the transcript from today’s chat:
Question: Is there any update at this time on domestic Round 2 interview invitations?
Answer: Invitations to interview go out in batches. Some invitations have gone out now. We will continue to extended invitations and interview right up until the decision deadline.
Question: Can you please share information on when interview invitations for candidates in India will be sent?
Answer: I believe invitations will go out shortly to Indian candidates. We do some of those interviews via Skype with Student Admissions Committee or Adcom members and others with alumni in India based on their availability.
Question: If I don’t get an interview invitation, will the online application page mention something like “not selected for interview”?
Answer: In that case, your status would not change until the decision deadline. And, then you would see that you’d been denied. But, heads up, be positive. Hopefully, you’ll receive a “good news” message!
Question: I have scheduled my interview and class visit for next week. Can I attend some of the events offered the day before my interview? Do I have to register for those events?
Answer: Typically there is an opportunity for lunch and a tour from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Candidates generally sign up when they arrive in the Admissions Office.
If I understand your situation, you are wanting to participate the day before you interview. I suggest you e-mail email@example.com to confirm that we will have lunch and tour that day. If we do, you can just come in and sign up that morning. No need to preschedule — there’s no limit on the number of individuals who can attend.
Wharton invites began going out on January 29th and will continue up until February 22nd.
From MBA Admissions Blog:
Winter weather officially arrived in Philadelphia, surprising us with the first few inches of snow in the new year just last week. For the Admissions Team, this weather could not have come at a better time as we are hunkered down inside reading the Round 2 applications. We are thoroughly enjoying getting to know each and every one of you through your personal written story.
In the upcoming weeks, we look forward to the opportunity to meet many of you for interviews. Interview invitations will begin to go out on Tuesday, January 29 and continue through Friday, February 22. As a reminder, interview invitations are not released in any particular order as we do not read applications in a particular order. The timing of your invitation to interview does not indicate anything about your candidacy. I know waiting to hear from us is always nerve wracking and appreciate your patience with the process.
After the remarkably positive feedback that we received during Round 1, we cannot wait to see what Round 2 has in store. The interview process is not only a wonderful way for the Admissions team to get to know our candidates “off the page,” this new format has also proven to be a wonderful way for our candidates to get to know each other as well. Should you be invited to interview, we look forward to meeting you in one of the following locations: on campus in Philadelphia, Dubai, London, Mexico City, New Delhi, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, and Singapore. All Round 2 applicants received an email with more details on the interview process last week; we’ll be in touch with further details as well. You can also read more about the interview process in a blog posting from the summer here.
Thank you all for your patience during this time. We look forward to being in touch over the next few weeks regarding interview invitations and next steps.
Hope the new year has been off to a great start!
All HBS interview invites have been now given out so if you have not been invited you have been released (their terminology).
From HBS Interview Blog:
Greetings from snowy Boston. Here’s what is going to happen tomorrow.
At (hopefully) noon, Boston time, we will send out the first wave of invitations to interview in Round 2.
You’ll get an email from HBS MBA Admissions, which will give detailed instructions on the sign-up process.
As stated before, we’ll be interviewing on campus and in the following hub locations: London, Paris, Shanghai, Dubai, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Palo Alto and NYC.
Heads up to 2+2 candidates: All interview invitations to this group will be sent in the second wave on February 6 (Note: I posted earlier that this would be February 7 – we’ve moved it up to February 6).
Another heads up to those on the waitlist from Round 1 who have not interviewed yet: You will be included in one of the two waves if being invited to interview this round – if you are not invited to interview, you will be released on February 6.
Remember, this is just the first of two invitation waves. In Round 1, we sent about 800 invitations in Wave 1 and about 100 in Wave 2.
PLEASE don’t send any additional material or letters of support to the Admissions Board – or me or the Dean’s Office or anyone else. We will only consider material sent at the time of application submission and that means 3 recommendations for everyone (or 2 if you are a 2+2 applicant), not more. We do everything we can to keep this process fair and equitable – we hope and expect that you will support this effort.
From HBS MBA Program Blog:
Round 2 Interview Invitations – A Little More Information
Well, I dealt with the aftermath of the transparency about interview invitation numbers in Round 1 today. Someone called and asked directly why we couldn’t send out all the invitations on one day. Good question. Here’s the answer:
We could..but it would be February 13, not January 31. Maybe that would be better…a later date, but just one date. The way we’ve structured it now – 3 waves – is to accommodate the reality of a (human) Admissions Board trying to give thoughtful attention to a lot of applications. And each application needs to be reviewed twice. So we have to have a little bit of flex in terms of the notification dates. The senior team in Dillon does (a lot of) other things besides reading applications. Board member X may be pulled into an IT crisis. Board member Y needs to pull together the budget for the next fiscal year. I went to NYC last week to do an admit event for Round 1 admits. All these things can throw off an application-reading timetable, so we build in those extra two weeks (two waves) to make sure we’ve got bandwidth to make careful decisions. We’re not doing this by machine. It’s just us.
As always, hope this helps.
From MBA Admissions Blog:
Notes from the Director: Round 2 Interview Update
Ankur Kumar, Admissions Director
Round 2 interviews are well underway and we look forward to meeting many of you, stateside and overseas. I am constantly inspired to see the unique talent and sheer motivation in our applicant pool. As our staff’s interview travel continues, the Admissions Committee and I look forward to engaging with you and hearing more of your stories.
We released more invitations to interview on Thursday, 16 February and we will continue to release up until Tuesday, 28 February. Again, if you have not received an invitation at this point, please do not be discouraged. Applications are not read in any particular order; interview invitations are extended as we complete each applications evaluation process. We have plenty of interview slots available on campus and we will continue to offer phone interviews for those with extenuating circumstances.
Our office will be open on Monday, 20 February for President’s Day and all campus visits and interviews will take place as scheduled. Please continue to follow our blog, as we will post further updates on office closings, interviews, Round 3 applications and our upcoming global events.
From MBA Admissions Blog:
Notes from the Director: Round 2 On-Campus Interviews
Greetings Round 2 Candidates,
Hello from the new MBA Admissions Office in Vance Hall! We have just begun our interview program, when we have the opportunity to meet many of you, in person, after reading your impressive applications. As my colleagues on the admissions committee will be speaking with some of you in various cities around the world, I will have the opportunity to interview candidates in Philadelphia– and I couldn’t be more excited.
For those of you interviewing here in Philadelphia, this is a great opportunity for you to take part in our campus visit program while you’re here. Indeed, it’s a great time to see Wharton’s campus, as this is a busy time, all-around: current Wharton students are back into full swing after winter break; Round 1 admitted candidates have just wrapped up Winter Welcome Weekend; Round 2 candidates are in town for interviews; and prospective students are visiting to learn more about the School.
The visit program gives you the opportunity to sit in on a class, to speak with current students, to tour the campus and to gain further insight into the opportunities that the Wharton MBA offers through our information session. This is an excellent way to interact with the Wharton community and to get a feel for life on campus.
Whether you are in Philadelphia or overseas, I wish you the best of luck as we move through this phase in the process. Should you have any questions regarding your interview, please just contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of our Admissions team will work with you directly.
From Booth Insider:
Round 2 Update
Interview invitations for Round Two started to go out this week, and as such, we wanted to provide an update on the process. Interview decisions will be announced on a rolling basis through the mid-decision date, February 15th. We start releasing interview invitations earlier than the mid-decision date to ensure that we have enough time to interview applicants, and so that applicants have time to plan accordingly. All applicants will be notified via email, and interview invitations will be released throughout each day. Please know that we are currently in the midst of reading applications and will continue to read applications until the mid-decision date. This means that if you haven’t heard from us, we have not yet completed the full evaluation of your application. Applications are assigned randomly and in constant streams throughout the read cycle.
I hope this is helpful.
Interview updates and happenings around the school
As promised, Wave 1 interview invitations went out yesterday. The next two waves of interview invitations will go out by end of day on Friday, February 3 and Friday, February 10. The first wave of Consortium interview invites will go out by end of day tomorrow, and the next set will go out with the second wave on February 3.
In case you missed one of my earlier posts explaining the wave process, here’s the deal: the wave in which you are invited to interview has no correlation to: (a) when you submitted your application; (b) the strength of your application; or, (c) the likelihood of your admission. We do it in waves so that we can smooth the interview load over a longer period of time. If we released them all on one date, we wouldn’t be able to do it until much later in the process, and the window of time for interviews to be conducted would be extremely limited. The wave process enables us to do more thorough and thoughtful reviews with a limited staff.
Regarding the interview day that’s being planned in collaboration with the Michigan Business Women student club – yes, it’s open to all interview invitees. The thing to note is that the agenda will be focused on the Michigan Ross experience from our women students’ perspectives, and the panelists will be members of the Michigan Business Women student club.
To give you a glimpse of what’s happening around the school, on Monday (Martin Luther King, Jr. day in the U.S.), the school hosted a lunch and lecture with former Washington, D.C. Mayor, Adrian Fenty, who led significant reforms in the DC public school system. He gave a frank talk about the challenges he faced in implementing changes that led to rising graduation rates and enrollment there. Also this week, the Dean held town halls with MBA1s. (She held sessions with MBA2s before the holidays). She was joined by associate deans and senior administrators to update students on some of the school’s current priorities: globalization, entrepreneurship, defining what the next generation of action-based learning will look like, and expanding our already-broad array of inter-disciplinary (i.e., cross-campus) initiatives. The Dean is planning to release a strategic plan for the school by late summer. You can read more about these and other initiatives on the Dean’s blog.
Tomorrow evening, I will be joining our MBA students for the second annualRevitalization and Business Conference in downtown Detroit. The conference will feature prominent industry and city leaders and entrepreneurial change agents who will share their perspectives on how business issues contribute to Detroit’s progress and transformation. Last spring, I met with the students who organized the inaugural conference and was struck by their commitment to not just make an impact “out there” or in emerging countries, but also in making an impact in and around our community, and they weren’t even Michigan-born and bred. Another way in which our students impact our community is by serving on the boards of local nonprofit organizations. During a conversation with one of our newly admitted students from New York last March, he commented that many schools had social impact initiatives, but few were as focused on the local community as Michigan Ross is. He told me that this was one of the deciding factors for him to join our community this fall.
From The MBA Insider’s Blog:
Mid-January admissions update
Our office is on the home stretch finalizing Round 1 decisions, and we are also polishing up our iPad screens to gear up for some intense Round 2 file reading. The next several months are going to be extremely busy for us, especially given that applications for the full-time MBA program are up again this round! Not only are the numbers looking good, but the quality of the pool continues to impress us, and we’re definitely looking forward to meeting more outstanding candidates as we craft the Class of 2014 .
On that note, here’s an update on what our applicants can expect over the next few months:
- Round 1 decisions: The rest of our R1 decisions will be released on the morning of Wednesday, January 25th (Pacific Time). You can log into your online application for a status update then. Admitted students will also receive a phone call from the admissions office (or an email if we are unable to reach you).
- Round 2 applications: The vast majority of R2 files will be released to the admissions committee after round 1 decisions are out. Although the application deadline was a week ago, we want to make sure each R1 application gets adequate evaluation time by the admissions committee before focusing on R2. Which takes us to our next item…
- Round 2 interviews: Interview invitations will be sent via email starting next month. We anticipate most will take place throughout February and March, depending on how quickly the admissions committee can evaluate applications. Please note that R2 is our heaviest round by volume, so even though we will devote our time and resources into file reading, it will still take time to go through each one. We thank you in advance for your patience through this process!
- Cool happenings: We have some amazing executives coming up on campus this year, such as Vice-Chairman & CEO of McDonald’s Corporation Jim Skinner and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki. Off-campus, faculty member Jim Stengel will be a featured speaker at this year’s TED Conference in Long Beach. Stay tuned on Twitter andFacebook for updates on these and other upcoming events.