After getting my GMAT score, I started to think about my research interest. In a way, it was an easy task as all along I sort of knew what I was interested in. However, to articulate and formulate the research interest into something academically interesting wasn't that easy.
Another thing that I did was to identify my weaknesses pertaining to the phd application. Basically, I saw 3 limitations/weaknesses.
#1 Out of school since 2001. I graduate with a Bachelor degree in 2001 and that was it. No Master degree. Although most schools stated that a Master degree was not a requirement, a good proportion of their admitted students had Master degrees. Either MBA or MSc. Some had both. Furthermore, as I had been out of good for some time, I had difficulties identifying Profs who could give me "strong" letters of recommendation (LORs). Most schools needed three LORs.
#2 No research experience. Again, most schools stated that research experience was not a requirement. But once again, a good proportion of their admitted students had some sort of research experience, either thru the post-grad work or as RAs.
#3 Age. Some people say some school preferred younger phd students. Once you hit 30, your chances of getting admitted would diminish. I would be 30 in 2007.
What helped me to arrive at what I want to do (research area), need to do (overcoming weaknesses), and can do (strenghts - not mentioned here) were the three drafts of statement of purpose (SOP) that I had done. They made me articulate my thoughts and allowed me to have a better picture of myself as a phd applicant.