Prepare for These Three Questions Before Your MBA Interview
With Round 2 application deadlines behind us and interview invitations being released in the coming weeks, many MBA hopefuls will soon be shifting their focus to interview prep if they haven’t already.
It’s smart to get a head start, especially this year. We’re finding that the turnaround time between an interview invitation and the big day is much tighter since interviews are being conducted virtually (i.e., there aren’t travel constraints and it’s easier to pair applicants with alumni because they don’t have to be located in the same city). A current client of mine submitted his Kellogg application on the deadline and completed his interview just over two weeks later!
In this recent article, we provided some general tips on how to approach the interview portion of the MBA application process. Today I’m going to get more tactical and share some of the questions you’re likely to be asked as well as how to approach the answers.
Note that the advice that follows mainly applies to schools that conduct the common conversational, ‘blind’ interviews, not the more in-depth, probing type that schools like HBS, Stanford, and, to a certain extent, Sloan are known for. In addition, if you are interviewing at Wharton, here is an article on how to prep for their Team Based Discussion.
Those caveats aside, here are three main types of questions you are likely to be asked in your MBA interview:
1. Walk Me Through Your Resume / Tell Me About Yourself
This question is more than just an ice breaker! It is your opportunity to take ownership of the conversation and really sell yourself to the interviewer. It is also one that there is a very high likelihood you’ll be asked so you should absolutely practice your answer (multiple times).
From a timing standpoint, 2-3 minutes in length is ideal and budget that time wisely. You don’t want to spend two minutes on college and then speed through everything you’ve done since you graduated! Try to spend more time discussing recent things like your current role and less time the further back something occurred.
From a content standpoint, the critical thing to cover is the ‘why’ behind each of your choices, from where you went to undergrad / what you studied to why you took each job you’ve had since that time. The interviewer has seen your resume, so they know ‘what’ you’ve done; this is your chance to demonstrate that you are planful, reflective, and consistently seek growth.
2. Behavioral Questions
When they leave the conversation, your interviewer will be scoring you on a number of criteria including your ability to work in diverse teams, leadership potential, and history of achievement. In addition to your resume, the best way they can assess your skills in these areas is by asking you for concrete examples of how you’ve performed in the past. This is where the behavioral questions (i.e., ‘tell me about a time when…’) come into play.
While it’s tempting to build an exhaustive list of questions people have been asked in the past and then script your answers, this is not the approach I’d recommend. Instead, brainstorm your 4-5 best ‘stories’ – the capstone achievements that best showcase the skills adcoms seek while remaining consistent with your personal brand. Then, run through interview reports to see the types of behavioral prompts you may get and assess which of your stories fit. The key is to share your most impressive achievements within the confines of the questions you are asked – the interview is short and you may not have a chance to talk about them later!
For each story you tell, use the SAR (Situation / Action / Result) framework with which you’re likely familiar and aim to spend roughly two minutes on your answer. After setting up the situation in language that is jargon free and understandable to a broad audience, spend the bulk of your time on the actions you took to ensure a successful outcome. Make the interviewer feel like they were there – share what you said during an important conversation, how the other party responded, etc. Lastly, don’t forget to share the final result and, critically, why it was important to your company or organization.
3. Why MBA / Why School X
This group of questions is arguably the most critical of those you’ll be asked in your interview. At the root of it, schools use the interview to assess: 1) if this person is admitted, are they likely to attend and robustly contribute to our program and 2) once this person graduates, are they likely to become a leader in their chosen field and be an asset to our alumni network. Show them that the answer to both of these questions is ‘yes’ by communicating a convincing narrative around why you need the degree and why that particular program is the ideal fit for you.
The great thing is that you’ve likely already given significant thought to these topics while writing your essays. The task now is to verbalize them in a concise yet thorough manner, being sure to connect the dots between your past experiences / passions, what you hope to achieve in the future, and how the specific attributes of the program at hand will enable those goals.
Once you have your answers to these three categories of questions down pat, rest assured that you will have strong answers for the majority of questions you will be asked. The hardest thing about interviews, of course, is that there will inevitably be curveballs that you simply can’t prepare for – try not to stress! The interviewer isn’t expecting perfection, so taking some time to collect yourself before answering or stumbling through a response or two won’t ruin your chances of admission (seriously!).
Reach out if some live practice and/or coaching would help! Click here for a free consultation.