To crack the MBA admission interview code, you first need to understand the admissions committee will be “grading” you in a number of areas. They’ll be watching your personal presentation, looking at things like your maturity, your energy and motivation, your self-confidence, and your communication skills. They’ll be looking to see if your goals are clear and if they fit well with the school to show your true interest in the school. The delivery is as important as the content. A positive first impression (smile, normal grip handshake, nice business suit) are obviously the way to start off.
This “fit” with the school also means they’ll be looking for evidence of your leadership and teamwork abilities, so you’ll want to show those through examples. They’ll also be watching for interesting things in your story, things that really set you apart from others – just don’t give them any negative things that set you apart!
Prior to your interview, you should come up with 4 to 6 situations from your past that could be used to answer several different types of questions. For example, a teamwork story could also be used to illustrate leadership, working under pressure, or influencing others. In answering the question, you should obviously focus on what is asked, but you can also subtly reference these other things in telling the story. Being able to answer what is asked and even what is not asked shows sophisticated interviewing skills. If you have several examples that you are comfortable discussing, you will have something to reference in you mind regardless of the question. It is fine to pause for a few seconds to compose your thoughts before answering a question.
Don’t ramble, but don’t be too brief, either. Giving a 2-3 sentence answer sounds terse and does not provide enough information. 2-3 minutes is more appropriate. Speak clearly, and pay attention to the interviewer’s eyes and body language.
And one last point – the skill of the interviewer can really vary! Some interviewers may be very experienced and may ask questions that are almost conversational – the interviewer may be able to read you well enough just through a directed conversation. On the other hand, some students and alumni, and even new admissions people, may follow a provided format because they are less comfortable with interviewers. You should read your interviewer and react to the tone that is set!
Here are some common questions you should be prepared for, but by no means is an exhaustive list. The main idea here is to help you be prepared for any type of question so that you are comfortable in your reply.
- Discuss yourself.
- Why the MBA? Why now? / Why are you applying to business school? / Why are you interested in a general MBA program?
- Why does this school appeal to you?
- Name three words or phrases to describe yourself. / How would co-workers describe you?
- Have you worked in a team environment? What were your contributions to the effort?
- Describe an ethical dilemma faced at work?
- What is an activity you are involved in? Why is it important to you?
- What would you do if not accepted?
- Describe a typical work day.
- How did you choose your job after college?
- What do you do to relieve stress?
- Describe a situation where you brought an idea forward, and it failed.
- What differentiates you from other applicants? What makes you unique?
Additionally, do you see any weaknesses in your application? If you are asked a question like this, then most likely there is a weakness from the admissions committee’s perspective – not always, but most likely. Address it! You should know what it is already – GMAT/GRE, GPA, unusual work history … whatever. Even if you already mentioned it in your application, answer it again.
Questions for the interviewer
You should also have a few questions ready to ask the interviewer, ones that deal with your particular situation and your particular needs. Avoid generic questions that can be easily answered by the school’s brochure and website.
Your questions should be appropriate to the interviewers – an admissions person, student, or alum can certainly address the same topics, but all have different perspectives, so keep this in mind as you ask your questions.