The GSB persists in being the most selective business school in the world, with an acceptance rate for the full-time MBA program below 6%. The school maintains the highest ratio of applicants to available seats of any business school in the U.S. for the last decade. So, if you are among the fortunate applicants to receive an invitation to interview, you’ll have beaten formidable odds and taken a significant step towards securing your place in Palo Alto – but don’t leave anything to chance. That means acquainting yourself with the school’s behavioral-style MBA interview and preparing accordingly.
As a Stanford GSB alum & former MBA admissions interviewer, I can affirm that the GSB interview operates from the conviction that past performance is the best predictor for future performance. In mining for meaningful evidence, Stanford GSB deploys a series of behavioral questions focusing on past actions and outcomes. Responding effectively means being able to speak beyond what you’ve done or accomplished to convey the attitudes, behaviors, and skills that guided your actions and decision-making.
Before diving into your prep strategy, I’ll cover what to expect from your GSB interview in terms of format, tone, and style, then lift up what GSB is looking for, with sample behavioral questions collected from recent Stanford MBA interview candidates by my Fortuna Admissions colleagues.
What To Expect From The Stanford GSB Interview
First, in stark contrast to the HBS interview, which is administered by admissions staff who have read your entire application and clocks in at 30 minutes, Stanford GSB interviews are conducted blind, with only your resume, by a Stanford GSB alum. The typical flow is a brief intro, 30-40 minutes of behavioral questions, 15 minutes about the Stanford experience, and a closing. Most candidates are asked to give a short self-introduction, so be sure to craft your MBA elevator statement. The interview will be a conversation—you can expect the interviewer to be pleasant, and you’ll have the invaluable opportunity to ask those nitty-gritty questions at the end that only someone who has gone through the program can respond to.
But don’t be fooled by the collegial and conversational vibe – GSB’s line of questioning requires your thorough and thoughtful preparation. The key to success is not just thinking about answers to standard questions (why the MBA, why this school, etc.), but coming up with specific – and substantive – situational examples.
What Stanford GSB Is Looking For
Sound analytical skills, creative instincts, and strong performance – these qualities are a baseline must, so it’s important to show up focused and solid on every one of these fronts. In identifying stories that convey both specificity and substance, you’ll want to keep in mind what Stanford GSB cares about most. Not only is Stanford looking for demonstrated leadership potential, but it’s also seeking evidence of your intellectual vitality, personal qualities, and community contributions.
To get started, reacquaint yourself with the Stanford Recommender Leadership Grid (which was included in your recommender guidelines), and get a sense of the five levels within each competency. You can expect to be asked for specific behavioral examples related to the four dimensions (results orientation, strategic thinking, team leadership, and influence and collaboration).
Don’t miss this invaluable 14-minute video strategy session with my Fortuna colleague and Stanford GSB expert Heidi Hillis with Fortuna’s Malvina Miller Complainville.
Example Stanford GSB Interview Questions
With behavioral-type questions, your interviewer will be delving for very specific examples of what you did – along with why, what was going through your mind at the time, the impact on others, and the outcome. A lead-in question such as, “tell me about a time you made an impact,” might be followed up with probes like, “what led to the situation? Who was involved? How did they respond? What happened next?” To ensure your stories are memorable, it’s essential to make them clear and concise.
View our full blog on Fortuna Admissions for a roster of Stanford GSB Interview questions by theme reported by recent GSB candidates, culled by my Fortuna Admissions colleagues.
Tatiana Nemo is an Expert Coach at admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions, as well as a Stanford GSB alum & former MBA admissions interviewer. For her team’s candid assessment of your chances of admissions success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.