Thank you to everyone who provided their advice on my interviewer strategy. Seriously. I got a lot of perspectives and good suggestions- I was quite surprised by how many helpful comments and shows of support there were. You guys are so good to me! Anyway, you'll be happy to know that I decided to email 3 additional interviewers. The crazy thing is that I didn't even know much (if anything) about them. I chose them because I didn't like the people who I was able to find info on. In this case, not knowing anything made me think they seemed alright so I emailed them all. I figured their responses might provide me clues (i.e. their signature). Anyway, one person replied only 8 minutes after I sent my email yesterday. She works only 4 blocks from me and said that she could interview me thursday. I waited until thursday morning to confirm with her as I wanted to give my 1st choice interviewer a chance to respond. When I didn't get a response, I confirmed with the super-speedy interviewer (let's call her Sarah).
I confirmed the interview for 3 pm the same day (I had anticipated this and bought hairspray and a leather portfolio to the office hehe). I even got a haircut on wednesday. I logged into the CBS website to confirm out interview time and to upload my resume. Literally 1 minute afterward, my 1st choice emails me back to suggest coffee this weekend! Arrrgh. Oh well, I didn't want to live in regret so I just forgot about it. I spent the next 4 hours of thursday by practicing my answers to common questions and doing 3 mock interviews with co-workers. Their help was invaluable, not only for the repetitions and ideas, but also the confidence it instilled.
Some background on my interviewer: All I knew was that Sarah worked at a Big 4 accounting firm. I figured she was a management consultant given that I am in Washington DC. That's all I knew. I was very business-like in my emails and worried that I wasn't setting a casual enough of a tone for us. But I figurd it was safer to veer on the side of professional than overly casual. N
Now for the debrief.
I arrived at my interviewer's office building 15 minutes early and relaxed myself by calling a friend and getting my tongue and comfort level flowing. Two minutes before 3pm, I went up the elevator to her floor and waited for her by the front receptionist's desk. I made small talk with the receptionist which I will recommend as a great idea. This calmed me down (rather than waiting silently) and got me in a good, jovial mood. The other plus is that when Sarah showed up to interview me, she saw how friendly and casual I was already. This ensured that Sarah and I would take on a more casual tone than business professional tone (though it might have turned out that way anyway judging from the other debriefs I've read). The other potential plus is that Sarah might've gotten the impression that I'm a genuinely nice guy who treats even the support staff with respect. Good stuff all around hehe.
Sarah took me, not to her office and not to a coffeeshop, but to a tiny interview, empty interview room. I didn't like this but as soon as we sat down, it was obvious that it'd be a friendly interview. It wasn't super casual but it was friendly. I tried to sit up straight and watch my posture (one of my flaws) the entire time which made me feel very business-like. But it went GREAT! It turns out that she went to my undergraduate alma mater as well and even walked onto the women's varsity basketball team! This is great because I am a basketball junkie. She asked for suggestions on where to play pickup games and I told her I still play at our alma mater's gym, and she said she has a friend who plays there. It turns out that her friend is actually on my intramural team!! That friend is also on another team that I played for over the summer where we won the championship. Small world huh? I felt great after that.
The interview went very smoothly. There were no questions that gave me a hard time. Everything was expected from the other debriefs that I've read on Accepted.com or the Clear Admit wiki. We basically went through my resume and I told her my goals and career story thus far. We talked about why Columbia and why MBA. She asked me about my thoughts on leadership and the infamous "ethical dilemma" example. I had answers ready for all of these. There were no questions about technical matters or even current events. She asked me about my current job and what I liked about it and what I actually did day-to-day. She asked me about my extra-curriculars and what I want to be involved with while at Columbia. She asked me what I would bring to Columbia that other applicants wouldn't. All easy stuff! If you read the other debriefs online, you'll be ready for the only mildly difficult questions which were "what will you do if you don't get accepted to Columbia?" and "what other schools are you applying to?" ... nothing should catch you off-guard. That was about it- pretty obvious, straight-forward questions. We were done in only 40 minutes which was fine by me. Obviously the longer the better but she revealed that she was going to be in a meeting from 6-9 pm so I knew she was busy (she revealed that when I asked what she was doing the rest of the day). We got through everything I wanted to say (for the most part) and I left the interview feeling great and energized.
She gave me her business card at the beginning and I made sure to send her an email thanking her when I got home from work. Oh, by the way, at the end she asked me if I had any questions for her. I asked her if she had any feedback for me and what she thought about me. I think this caught her slightly off-guard and she didn't really answer the question. She did say, though, that CBS is obsesssed with identifying applicants who are "extremely enthusiastic about the school." This is a well-known fact due to their ED policy and obsession on yield. She reiterated this a couple times in her answer and I took that as a good sign since she knows that I am super enthusaistic (I was great at conveying this) and she even knows that I submitted my application 3 days before the review period cycle. She told me she was surprised to start interviewing so early this year since she's been an alumni interviewer for a while now. I also asked her what the "next steps in the process" were. She replied that she would submit feedback and that I would then receive a decision in probably a week to a month. That's a bummer. I was hoping she would say that she'd submit her feedback that very day or something but oh well. Still a great interview. Definitely won't hurt me and should actually help me a little. But from the sounds of it, I think most people enjoy their CBS alumni interviews so it won't give me much of an edge.
The great thing is that CBS does not view the interview as a final hurdle in the app process. CBS actually uses the interview as just another factor in the applicant's profile- it just so happens that it comes at the end of the process. So it could very well be the case that the adcom thinks the applicant is stellar and plan on admitting him/her unless he/she completely bombs the interview. That is to say, the interview wouldn't matter much for this kind of applicant. But for those applicants who barely made the threshold of receiving an invite, then adding a positive factor to their applicant could definitely help.
So a great interview overall. I couldn't have asked for better though maybe I didn't need to ask the "do you have any feedback for me?" question. I am very happy though. Too bad she is very busy currently and may not submit feedback for a while. I'll call the admissions office and ask them how long is too long once it hits the 1 week mark. I'm sure the adcom will say something like 2 weeks but it doesn't hurt to ask (anonymously that is!) I guess now I play the waiting game. I actually feel pretty comfortable with my chances of admission and I'm going to hold off on my Wharton app for now.
P.S. new poll is up!