IntroductionTips to Help You Prepare for the MBA InterviewSchool-specific Tips Most Common MBA Interview Questions Hardest MBA Questions and How to Prepare for ThemFAQConclusion
After acing the GMAT, crafting a compelling essay, and receiving great letters of recommendation, you have created a profile strong enough to get you to the final step of the admission process – the interview. It is an essential step because your performance will help determine the school’s decision to admit or reject your application. The admissions committee wants to know more about the content of your application, and they want to know more about you. If you have made it this far, it’s safe to say that they view you as a strong candidate. The interview is your chance to drive that point home and secure your seat. This article will give you the tips needed to ace the MBA interview. We will also go over some top school-specific tips to further refine your answers depending on which schools are interviewing you. We will also discuss some of the most common questions during the MBA interview and provide guidance on answering some of the most challenging examples.
Tips to Help You Prepare for the MBA Interview
When you submit your application, start preparing right away. Don't wait until you hear back to begin your research and preparations. Research the interview process for each school you have applied to as different schools have different approaches to MBA interviews. Research the most common interview questions and try to find transcripts of interviews shared by business schools. Study these so you know what to expect ahead of time and prepare answers to these questions. When referring to your resume and essays, pick out key points and write down anecdotes that support them. Telling a story that demonstrates your values is more effective than simple statements. Make a note of each school's core values. Harvard Business School (HBS), for example, describes its community values as such:
“The mission of Harvard Business School is to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. Achieving this mission requires an environment of trust and mutual respect, free expression and inquiry, and a commitment to truth, excellence, and lifelong learning.”
These principles are accepted by students, faculty, staff, alumni, and anyone else associated with Harvard Business School. All must abide by the three pillars central to HBS’ core values:
- Respect for the rights, differences, and dignity of others
- Honesty and integrity in dealing with all members of the community
- Accountability for personal behavior
Make sure your answers align with their core values. In this case, you would want to mention respect for others, honesty, integrity, and accountability in your responses.
How to Ace the Harvard Business School (HBS) MBA Interview
This interview is approximately 30 minutes long and will be conducted with one or two people from the admissions office who have read your application and have prepared specific questions for you.
"HBS focuses on all-round personality rather than a single-dimensional focus." Know what the HBS program will do for you and how it aligns with your professional goals. Explain why you wish to pursue an MBA and why now. The HBS interview will be unique to your experiences, so you need to know your industry inside and out. The admissions committee wants to see if you've created a plan of action that is ambitious enough to pique their interest in terms of your goals. Please don't make up an answer you think they want to hear. HBS wants to see authenticity. They want to know who you are and how you make decisions. Try and keep the interview flow conversational, and try to sound natural and be yourself. The admissions committee wants to understand you and how you make decisions, and you can only do that if you engage with their questions naturally. Lastly, you want to sound confident in your responses, so be sure to practice ahead of time. School-specific mock interviews can be valuable in ensuring you're the most prepared that you can be.
How To Ace the Stanford GSB Interview
The Stanford interview is conducted blind by an alum of the school with only your resume. The Stanford GSB interview typically starts with a brief intro, followed by 30 to 40 minutes of behavioral questions, 15 minutes outlining the Stanford experience, and a closing.
Most candidates will be asked to deliver a short self-introduction, so be sure to have an MBA elevator pitch ready. An elevator pitch is a brief introductory statement that expresses who you are and why you want to pursue an MBA.
Your interviewer will be asking precise questions about your accomplishments and how they have impacted others. Make sure your stories are concise and to the point. You will want to convey your skills through your stories while being conscious of the interview’s time limit.
You will also want to prepare solid questions to ask your interviewer at the end. To better tailor your questions to the interviewer, look them up on LinkedIn before your interview if you know their name.
The Stanford GSB interview will ask several behavioral questions to assess your fit with the school. These questions can relate to times you've faced a challenge, how you lead people, and the failures you've dealt with, and how you learned from them. You may also be asked about how you work in a team dynamic, instances that you've gone above and beyond, and other personal questions.
Examples of behavioral questions that you may be asked:
"Tell me about a time you faced a challenge at work and how you influenced the outcome."
"Describe a situation when, while leading a team, you failed. How did you react? What did you learn from this?"
"What is your leadership style?"
"Tell me about a time you stepped outside of your typical role."
"What do you like to do outside of work?'
How to Ace the Wharton MBA Interview
Wharton's approach to the interview is slightly different from the other top business schools on this list. They conduct a team-based discussion (TBD) where the admissions officers will interview you alongside four to five other candidates. Wharton will provide you a prompt and a goal; you will have to work together with the other candidates to come to a solution. The focus is more on how you work with others towards a larger goal than your answer. After the team-based discussion, you will participate in a 10-minute one-on-one discussion with the admissions representative. The topic of the TBD usually highlights something interesting about Wharton and asks how you can improve it.
Remember to be cordial when discussing ideas. Try not to dominate the conversation and listen to your teammates as well. Remember, you are being assessed on your interpersonal skills more than your idea. With that being said, it is also important that you not be completely silent and be sure to interact in the discussion. Present your ideas confidently but be flexible enough to let the conversation flow wherever it may. As long as you are moving the discussion forward, you are doing well. Don't worry if your idea isn't the one that is selected, as that is not what matters. When coming up with an idea, be mindful of logistics, and be ready to demonstrate your adaptability. Ask yourself if your idea is grounded in reality and can be implemented.
How to Ace the MIT Sloan Interview
The MIT Sloan interview is conducted by invitation only. During a recent application cycle, Sloan required candidates to upload responses to two pre-interview questions no later than 24 hours prior to the start of your interview. The first question in the most recent cycle asks, "In 250 words or less, please describe a time when you contributed toward making a work environment or organization more welcoming, inclusive, and diverse." Be mindful that your response or themes related to inclusivity may come up in your actual interview, so prepare accordingly and be ready to discuss your answer.
MIT Sloan is also “interested in learning more about how you use data to make decisions and analyze results." You will have to choose between two questions related to data and must submit your response no later than 24 hours to the start of your interview. You must choose to answer one of the following questions:
- "In 250 words to less, please describe a recent data-driven decision you had to make, and include one slide presenting your analysis. The slide may include a data visualization example and should present data used in a professional context. Your slide must be uploaded as a PDF.
- Please select an existing data visualization and in 250 words or less, explain why it matters to you. The data visualization should be uploaded as a PDF. Examples may come from current events, a business analysis, or personal research."
Keep in mind that the content of your response and the theme of data and data-driven decisions may come up in your interview. You should be prepared to talk about a situation, why you made the choices you did, and explain the outcome. MIT Sloan remains pretty tight-lipped about potential interview questions, but you should expect the standard personal questions and should be prepared to discuss your academic and professional experience.
How to Ace the Kellogg MBA Interview
The Kellogg interview will be conducted blind by Kellogg alumni, meaning the only information the interviewer has about you is what's on your resume. While these interviews are generally conversational, the questions' tone and the content will be determined by the interviewer's personality. The Kellogg interview will typically last approximately an hour but can run even longer than this, so plan accordingly.
Again, make sure your elevator pitch is ready. Your interviewer will likely open with something like "tell me about yourself" or "walk me through your resume." You will want to have a strong summarization that answers who you are and what drives you to pursue an MBA. It needs to be a substantial conversation starter that will create an excellent first impression and steer the conversation in a positive direction.
While it is important to rehearse and prepare your key selling points and your stories, don't sound too scripted, and remember to be yourself. Your interviewer is assessing your authenticity and fit.
Don't miss the opportunity to ask helpful questions to someone who was once on the other side of the interview. It's also a chance to gain a valuable member of your professional network—someone who can answer questions about your MBA experience at the school.
Lastly, don't overestimate the power of the alumni interviewer. They do not get a final say in who is accepted or rejected. The interview is just one part of your more extensive application and will be evaluated as such.
How to Ace the Chicago Booth MBA Interview
Chicago Booth MBA interviews may be conducted by alumni, current students, or admissions staff members. The interview will be conducted blind and typically last between 30 to 45 minutes.
Chicago Booth also operates on the idea that past experiences and behavior are the best predictors of future success. Expect the interviewer to ask about your past work experience and specific questions about past situations: how you acted, how you handled the problem, what impact did it have on others, and what you learned from it.
A typical opening question would be "walk me through your resume," instead of just going through what they already know. Use this opportunity to highlight skills and interests that are not already in your application. The goal should be to establish a connection with the interviewer and show how you are a good fit. Here are some sample questions that you may be asked in the Booth MBA interview:
"Tell me about a time you failed."
“Tell me about a time when you worked at X and you tried to counteract the hierarchical structure there (with 2-3 follow-ups drilling down on specifics).”
“Tell me about a time when you thought that you should have made decision-X but didn’t.”
“Tell me about a time you had an unpopular idea.”
Remember to come prepared with questions for your interviewer to ask at the end. Asking thoughtful questions will demonstrate to your interviewer “your genuine interest in learning more about mutual fit.”
How to Ace the Columbia MBA Interview
Columbia MBA interviews are conducted blind by alumni or a current student, and you can expect the interview to last around 45 minutes to an hour. Interviews are often conducted in-person by alumni close to your geographic location, but you may often participate in a virtual interview over Skype if this is not possible.
You can expect to answer questions about you, your professional and academic experience, and why you want to go to Columbia. Expect to share your short-term and long-term career goals with your interviewer to give them a better sense of how an MBA from Columbia fits with your aspirations. To ace the MBA interview, you may want to prepare answers in advance about you, your work, leadership skills, interests, and general events in the news. Prepare to answer questions related to any of these themes, as they may be possibly asked during your interview.
Most Common MBA Interview Questions
Tell me about yourself.
Use this section to talk about your background, experience, and accomplishments. Try and be concise by keeping it a couple of minutes long. Talk about:
- Your undergrad and why you chose the major that you did
- Your work experience and achievements
- What you hope to accomplish with an MBA
Why do you want to receive an MBA? Why now?
Explain how receiving this degree will help you reach your career goals. Talk about the skills you hope to learn and how they will be applied to your job.
Why are you interested in this school?
Discuss how this program is suited for you. You can take the opportunity to discuss the school’s culture, faculty, or industry connections. If you’re particularly interested in specific clubs or classes, this would be a great time to demonstrate your background knowledge of the school.
Why should we pick you?
Use this question to highlight your accomplishments and your greatest strengths. You can also explain how hardships you’ve experienced and your past failures have shaped you. Explain how your credentials will contribute positively to the school.
Discuss your experience as a leader.
Business schools are very interested in your leadership qualities, as MBA programs offer extensive leadership and management training. This would be a great time to recount times you've managed people and give insight into your leadership style.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Come up with two or three unique strengths and use anecdotes to validate them. With weaknesses, admissions committees want to see your humility and self-awareness. You could mention a trait or skill that you're working on currently or about how you have persevered to improve yourself. Do you have any questions for us?
If you are serious about applying and have done the research, you will likely ask questions. Avoid asking any questions that can quickly be answered by checking the school’s website. Prepare one or two solid questions that show that you’ve been listening and are interested to know more. Possible examples can include:
“What makes your campus culture unique?”
“What has been the program’s most valuable lesson for you? How has this program helped your career?”
“What are your program’s biggest advantages for someone in my position and career goals?”
Hardest MBA Questions and How to Prepare for Them
Tell me about a time you failed.
It's natural to want to focus on only the positive aspects of your professional life. If you haven't prepared for this question, it can be quite a daunting question to address. Some people may feel uncomfortable discussing their failures and want to move on instead of discussing them with an admissions committee.
Be careful when picking the story you want to tell. If you choose a story that is just a success story disguised as a failure (like saying your perfectionism caused you to miss a deadline, but the product was a big success), it can seem like you’re avoiding the question. At the same time, you don’t want to pick a failure that is so substantial or recent that it will make the admissions committee worry and question your competence. When discussing a failure, it’s key to acknowledge your role in it instead of blaming others; discuss what you learned and what you will do differently from now on to prevent a similar situation.
Describe a conflict you had at work.
The admissions committee wants to see how you handle conflict. So, the best way to answer this question is to explain past issues you've had with your co-workers or managers and how you resolved the situation. Explain how you adapted to the changing situation or how you managed to reach common ground to solve the issue ultimately. The admissions committee is trying to judge your emotional intelligence and your ability to see multiple sides of a dispute.
What other schools have you applied to?
This is a tricky question. Some feel that it is an unfair question because it makes one wonder how this question is relevant to anything. Put simply, the purpose of this question is to determine your likelihood of attending the program; the admissions committee wants to see your approach to school selection. The best approach is to be honest, and explain why you chose each school. You want to demonstrate that your options are based on thorough research and how they align with your future aspirations. Wrap up your answer by explaining why the school you are interviewing for is an excellent choice for you.
What concerns do you have about getting an MBA?
It can be intimidating to poke holes in the degree that you are trying to earn. Focus on your long-term goals and demonstrate that you have looked at them from all angles. Of course, like all major life decisions, it comes with risk. MBA programs can be costly, and it is a commitment that will last the duration of your program. You want to let the admissions committee know that you’ve weighed the risks and rewards and that you believe that pursuing an MBA at this time is the optimal decision.
1. What should I wear to my interview?
You should wear formal business attire to your interview. You may want to wear a matching business suit with a dark-colored jacket and dress pants or a dress skirt. A collared shirt or blouse in addition to the matching suit works well.
2. What type of interview can I expect?
There are three different kinds of interviews:
Virtual - The interview will be conducted through an app like Zoom or Skype and will require a working webcam and microphone.
Traditional - These interviews will take place in person, with one person interviewing you.
Group - You will be one among several candidates being interviewed in person. You will likely have to work together on a given task.
3. What if I don’t have an answer to their question?
If you don’t know the answer right away, take ten to fifteen seconds to think it through. If you still can’t come up with anything, ask follow-up questions to clarify anything confusion
4. Should I send a thank you letter after my interview?
Although it is not required, it is considered good etiquette to send a thank you email shortly after the interview.
5. Is a virtual interview easier than an in-person one?
Although you may feel a certain comfort level doing the interview remotely, all other etiquette rules are the same. In terms of the questions asked, they will be no less challenging than those questions that would have been asked in person.
6. Can I bring water to my interview?
You are permitted to bring water to your interview. No one wants to have a dry mouth from being nervous or talking too much. As long as it isn’t somehow a distraction and you aren’t playing with it nervously during the interview, this is fine.
An MBA interview can be an intimidating process. There is pressure to present the best version of yourself so you can ace your MBA interview. Be sure to have a summarized idea of your entire application and prepare additional material. You want to be your true self, but, at the same time, you want certain traits like leadership to be emphasized.
In many ways, knowing how to ace the MBA interview can be a delicate balancing act. You want to be conversational but professional at the same time. Even though most MBA interviews will follow a similar format, different schools look for slightly different things. Hopefully, this article has given you an idea of what these top seven business schools are looking for and how to best prepare for each of them. Don’t let yourself be thrown off by personal questions - anticipate them, and prepare ahead of time. If you can’t come up with an answer right away, it’s okay to take a few seconds to think about it. Now that you know some of the most challenging questions and how to answer them, you can rest assured you are better prepared. If you are your authentic self, have confidence in your skills and accomplishments, and know what the school values, you can certainly ace your MBA interview.