That’s an interview in a nutshell. High stakes. High reward. Even some pressure too…if you’re not prepared.
That’s true for business school applicants too. No rejection, no waitlist – but you’re hardly home free. The invitation means you’re qualified. The interview is where you compete. Chances are, if you lose out, it’ll stem from who you are and not what you’ve done.
MAKING THE RIGHT IMPRESSION
You can fall into plenty of traps in an interview. Say too much – you’re bound to raise questions. Play it safe and generic – you won’t set yourself apart. Successful candidates find balance, that elusive middle where polished isn’t programmed and self-aware never strays into self-indulgence. In the end, accepted applicants share three virtues: authentic, intriguing, and likable. In this context, making the right impression means interviewers can picture candidates organizing food drives as much as leading companies.
That impression comes from confidence. In any interview, you’re always wondering: what are they going to ask me? Obviously, you can expect the tricky trio: Why here, why now, why an MBA. Chances are, the interviewer will toss short-term and long-term goals and biggest strengths and weaknesses into the mix. Of course, there is the ever-lethal, “Tell me about yourself?” You understand the subtext. ‘Your career is going so well,’ the interviewer is thinking. ‘Why take time out now to return to school?’
Of course, there are another set of questions, behavioral ones. Generally, they open with “Tell me about”, “Give me an example”, and “How do you.” Most candidates answer by weaving a story around the STAR model, hoping their response doesn’t raise red flags by violating an institutional no-no. To avoid those, it helps to know the types of questions a school may ask. That doesn’t mean you rattle off what a school wants to hear. After all, business school comes with a six-figure price tag and a two-year commitment. Instead, questions tip you off to culture cues, to the experiences and values that unite a community’s past, present, and future.
QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT NOT EXPECT
Take Northwestern Kellogg, where camaraderie is core to the experience. Not surprisingly, adcoms, alumni, and students center their questions around teamwork. Harvard Business School’s curriculum revolves around the case method. Hence, their questions often involve feedback and persuasion. IIn contrast, Stanford GSB places a premium on creativity, meaning you can expect questions on identifying opportunities and solving problems.
Success, as the saying goes, happens when opportunity means preparation. To help MBAs prepare for all-important interviews, Clear Admit publishes MBA Interview Reports. Here, MBA applicants share their interview experiences at different schools (with each candidate receiving an Amazon gift card as a thank you). The reports also include a list of questions posed to candidates at each school). Want to get a jump on your interviews? Here is a sample of questions asked at the top schools to help you better frame your responses.
Explain Private Equity to me as if I knew nothing about it.
Tell me about your international assignment? How was that experience challenging?
How do you see yourself impacting X industry/segment?
What is your motivation behind your extracurricular activities?
Give us one piece of constructive feedback from your manager and how you’ve addressed it.
What’s a debate you’ve had with your team?
How did your role change over time?
What would you have done differently or changed about your time?
What makes you an effective [current role]?
What is your ideal internship?
How do you want to be remembered at the end of your career?
Tell me about a time when you led a transformational change in an organization?
Tell me about a time when you had a strategic level impact?
Tell me about a time you found a problem and solved it.
Tell me about a time you convinced other people to do something.
How did you change someone because of your mentorship?
Tell me about a time you started something.
What was your favorite project in consulting?
Tell me about a time where you had to convince a team of an unpopular opinion.
Tell me a time that you identified something that no one else had identified.
Tell me about a time where you were blocked from reaching a goal.
How would you react in a team environment where not everyone on the team wanted to give as much effort or cared as much about the outcome?
Tell me about a time when you stepped out of my formal role and took initiative?
What classes do you want to take here?
What resources and extracurriculars are you looking to get involved in at Wharton that relates to X industry?