Kellogg Interview: Format, Criteria + Sample Questions

by Stacy Blackman Consulting, Mar 15, 2021

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Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management has created arguably the most collaborative culture of all the MBA programs. The single most important question your Kellogg interview must answer is whether you will fit in with the school’s team-oriented, “give more than you take” culture.

The full-time MBA program also stands out from other elite business schools in that it seeks to interview every applicant. It achieves this impressive feat by tapping into its global network of more than 65,000 alumni. Kellogg extends this unique opportunity to learn more about each candidate beyond what they see on paper.

If you’re preparing for your Kellogg interview, read on for SBC’s expert insider advice, culled from three former Kellogg admissions officers who are now on our SBC team: Caryn, Beth, and Colette. Each of these experts conducted Kellogg interviews and made candidate admit decisions across thousands of applicant cases.

Contact us today to request availability for interview prep with one of our Kellogg admissions experts.

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Kellogg Interview Format

Kellogg interviewers are a mix of AdCom (Admissions Officers), students, and alumni. The interviewer does not read your application file and will see only your resume before the interview.

Interviews are a mix of resume review, career goals, and “why an MBA?” components, along with a behavioral question or two. Career focus is key. Do the career goals make sense? Are they realistic and well-thought-out? Is the need for an MBA clear? These days, they often include a question that will touch on diversity.

For part of the interview, Kellogg uses the behavioral interview style - especially focusing on bringing out examples of teamwork and leadership.

“I would always ask a couple behaviorals around leadership, teamwork, dealing with difficult teammates, etc. Knowing and utilizing STAR is definitely the way to go,” shares Colette.

Fellow Kellogg expert Caryn agrees, saying that “the STAR method is still the gold standard for answering behavioral type questions.”

Several of our recent clients mentioned feeling like the vibe of Kellogg's interviewers was more "business-like'' than other schools. However, they did warm up and become more casual during the Q&A toward the end of the interview.

Interviews are consistently around 30+ minutes. It's rare to spend an hour interviewing via Zoom. One of our former Kellogg admissions officers says, “For an admission officer interview, about 30 minutes is the norm, sometimes inching up to 40. I once did one in 20 minutes (the interviewee wasn’t talkative at all), but I always try to commit to 30 plus minutes... even if I was asking what color the sky was to keep up the conversation!”

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Kellogg Interview Evaluation Criteria

We asked Beth, who left her position as Director of Full Time admissions for Kellogg several years ago, about evaluation criteria from the interview. Beth shared with us that interviewers provide detailed notes on a variety of stories and examples the applicant shares in the discussion. To conclude, the interviewer is asked to summarize their evaluation of the candidate on a scale with levels such as - Strongly Recommend, Slightly Favorable, Slightly Unfavorable, etc.

The Kellogg interview evaluation criteria encompasses the following categories.

Career Path and Career Plans

Tips: Merely demonstrating the ability to perform the tasks associated with your position successfully won’t suffice to get you into Kellogg. Instead, you will need to reveal to your interviewer that you have taken the initiative to solve problems at work, pursued leadership opportunities, advanced at a rapid rate, and so on.

You can also use career-related questions to discuss the steps you’ve taken to reach your larger career goals. When your interviewer asks questions about your career-to-date, share your story. Don’t just reiterate what’s already on the page.

Instead, craft a narrative highlighting which of your roles and responsibilities have prepared you for your larger career goals. Use this opportunity to explain how a Kellogg MBA will help you address specific gaps in your professional experience

Academic/Intellect

Tips: An impressive undergraduate GPA and high GMAT or GRE scores gives the admissions committee an idea of your intellectual capacity. But they don’t tell the whole story.

Therefore, your interviewer will ask questions designed to examine your love of learning and your creativity. Do you follow your passions, even if they may not help you get ahead in your career? Do you find a way to integrate what you learn from those passions into your professional and personal life?

Your interviewer will also ask questions designed to get the “inside story” on what has driven some of your big life decisions so far – another method of uncovering your passions and witnessing your intellect in action.

Communication and interpersonal skills

Tips: In any discussion of Kellogg’s MBA program, one of the first words you will hear is “teamwork.” So, it should come as no surprise that your interviewer will assess your interpersonal skills.

“People who work best in solo settings, owning just their own work, will not be comfortable in Kellogg’s highly collaborative atmosphere,” says SBC consultant Caryn.

Also, you’ll want to come prepared with stories of how you’ve managed conflict in group situations. Try to convey that you feel comfortable playing many roles in team settings: leader, collaborator, mediator.

Remember, whether you’re interviewing with a current student member of the admissions committee or with an alum, they will be thinking, “Would I want to work in a group with this person?”

Extracurricular involvement and leadership

Tips: Each of us forms a part of several communities—both inside and outside of work. Those who have a habit of leadership ask themselves, “How can I make this community stronger?”

In other words, they engage with the community and enlist others’ help, taking a leadership role to make a lasting impact. Think about examples from your experiences, possibly draw on the leadership you’ve demonstrated in your extracurricular activities or through volunteering. This can help reveal more of your passions and personality to your interviewer.

Kellogg knowledge

Tips: Your interviewer will want to understand which of your unique attributes will allow you to make a lasting impact on the Kellogg community. Let your enthusiasm for Kellogg shine through.

If you could substitute the name of any other top business school with your answer, then it won’t convince your interviewer that you can impact Kellogg specifically. SBC consultant Caryn echoes this advice.

“Do your research! As Kellogg has two interview components (video and live), you have a tremendous opportunity to display your in-depth knowledge before the Kellogg admissions committee."

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Sample Interview Questions

Preparation is key to a successful Kellogg interview. Expect that the interviewer will ask you a high volume of very specific questions in an attempt to determine your fit with Kellogg. Make sure to have a number of detailed examples in mind.

So far this season, our clients have answered a sampling or combination of questions, such as:

  1. Why do you want to get an MBA?
  2. Why Kellogg?
  3. What are your short and long-term goals? How does Kellogg get you there?
  4. What do you foresee to be your biggest challenge in an MBA program?
  5. Walk me through your resume.
  6. Tell me about yourself.
  7. What is your favorite part of your current job?
  8. What was your biggest accomplishment in your current role?
  9. Walk me through a typical week in your role.
  10. Talk about a team situation where differences existed between team members.
  11. Tell me about a time you had to pick yourself back up.
  12. Tell me about a time you worked in a team with a group of people from diverse backgrounds. What challenges did you face?
  13. Share some of the rewarding aspects of the experience.
  14. What clubs/activities would you get involved in?
  15. In your last performance review, what were three positive pieces of feedback your manager gave you? And, what are two areas they want you to improve on?
  16. What is one weakness the AdCom might see in your application? What strengths would you most want to highlight?
  17. Is there anything we didn’t cover that you would want the AdCom to know about?
  18. Any questions for me?

Get prepared!

Our SBC clients usually take 1 to 2 hours to get prepared for their Kellogg interview. Contact us today to request availability for interview prep with one of our former Kellogg Admissions Officers. Availability varies depending on the stage of the season.