Importance of the MBA Interview
The interview is an important part of the MBA application process. An interview can be the determining factor in a school’s decision to accept or deny a prospective student into their program. Not only is it a clear sign that your school believes in your potential, but it is also a chance for them to get a stronger sense of who you are and how you think.
Schools formulate MBA interview questions to gauge whether a candidate is as capable as they appear to be on paper. The admissions committee uses this as an opportunity to judge your leadership, communication, and even analytic skills. Interviewers also want to learn more about who you are outside of your academics.
This is a great time to show personality, authenticity and elaborate on areas that you were only able to briefly discuss in other parts of your application. Show your interviewer that you can present yourself clearly and effectively.
Just as the MBA interview is a great opportunity for the school to learn more about you, it’s also a chance for you to do the same. Take this time to learn more about your school of choice from someone who is knowledgeable about their MBA program, whether it is an admissions officer, a faculty member, or alumni.
The interview is also a great opportunity to explain any anomalies in your application, to remove any doubt about potential red flags. Some things that can be causes for concern include a lack of meaningful community service, any gaps in your resume, or skews in undergraduate academic performance.
When answering MBA interview questions, you have a short window to make an impression on the interviewer. To make the most of your time, the best thing you can do is prepare.
Common Types of MBA Interview Questions
The majority of MBA interview questions will center around conveying your story and your aspirations for the future. They will typically start broad and then become more specific as the interview goes along. When preparing for the interview, keep in mind that questions can cover a range of topics. Below, we’ll discuss the five most common types of MBA interview questions.
What are your weaknesses?
This type of MBA interview question can be difficult for candidates to answer; no one wants to represent themselves in a way that is less than flattering. Weakness-based questions are important in an interview because they allow you to show that you have self-awareness, humility, and sincerity.
Being honest when answering this type of MBA interview question can add to your credibility. A good way to approach a weakness-based question is to frame your answer in a way that shows your growth, self-reflection, and commitment to improving. Begin your answer by first describing your weakness.
Then, using a specific, concrete example, discuss not only what you have done to overcome or work on that weakness but also what the experience has taught you. Remember, business schools do not expect you to be perfect. The purpose of this question is to determine if you can learn and grow during your time on their campus.
Describe a time where you have experienced failure.
Besides explicitly asking about a particular weakness, your school can also ask you about a time when you have experienced failure. While it can be harrowing, failure is a reality for everyone; and is experienced by both individuals and companies alike. Just like the question about your weaknesses, an MBA interview question on failure is an opportunity to learn and grow.
Your answer shows that you have grit and the perseverance necessary to bounce back and push forward with new awareness. When answering this question, choose your example wisely. It can be from a time in your professional or personal life. Avoid responding to this question by shrouding your question in a success.
You also don’t want to choose a substantial failure that the interviewer may fear can happen again. The important thing to do when answering a question about failure is to acknowledge the role you played in the incident and not blame others. Being accountable and introspective will add to your credibility and help you appear authentic to your interviewer.
These sets of questions aim to determine whether you have done your research and take attending their school seriously. School-specific questions help the interviewer to see you as a part of the school’s community and culture.
Why are you interested in our school or program?
You should go into this question having a good understanding of the values, culture and mission of your prospective school. When answering this question, the best thing that you can do is be specific. Don’t waste too much time discussing the school’s history, prestige, or regurgitating facts from their website.
Instead, speak practically about why the school is a good choice for you personally. Talk about all the things that drew you into the school. This could include the faculty, curriculum, connections to the industry, and even a school’s location. You can also explain how the school aligns with some of your goals and values. No matter what you decide to talk about, make sure that it is something that interests you.
What other schools are you applying to?
Interviewers typically ask this question to avoid admitting candidates who will choose another school when the opportunity presents itself. While business schools understand and expect you to apply to different schools, every school ultimately wants to know that they are your first choice.
Some interviewers will ask this question to better understand how you are selecting the schools that you are applying to; for example, are you applying to schools based on ranking or some other factor.
Keep this in mind when you give your answers and most importantly, be honest. You want to show that the choices that you made are backed by thoughtful consideration and careful research.
In your answer, also state that the school you are interviewing with is an excellent choice among the schools you have applied to and provide a specific element of the program that sets them apart. While Stern could also provide me with a strong finance education, CBS remains my number 1 choice due to its unique value investing program.” No matter what answer you give for this question, remember that your answer will reassure you that you are serious about your prospective school.
Another type of MBA interview question that you can be asked is one focused on getting to know you outside of your academics.
Tell me about yourself.
This is one of the most common MBA interview questions. Though this question may seem like an easy one to answer, many candidates get caught up in its open-ended nature, which can often cause them to give general and long-winded responses.
The best thing that you can do for a question like this is to structure your answer beforehand, to have a short pitch ready to go. We recommend limiting your answer to a two or three-minute response, where you identify key points about yourself that relate to the school or their MBA program.
You should use this question to briefly discuss your professional and academic background, your passions, goals, and accomplishments. Though we encourage you to have a pitch prepared for this question, it is important that your response doesn’t sound overly rehearsed; it should be conversational and authentic.
Why do you want an MBA?
When asking this question, interviewers are often looking for answers that are thoughtful and well researched. Comprehensively explain your motivations for pursuing an MBA and how it will help you further your professional aspirations.
You can also use this type of MBA interview question to mention specific skills that you hope to attain by attending their school and how these skills will apply to your field or industry of interest.
Skill Assessment Questions
In addition to your professional aspirations, schools also want to ensure that you have a series of soft skills that will help them to determine whether or not you are a well-rounded candidate.
Tell me about a time that you demonstrated leadership.
Leadership is a common skill that you will likely be asked about during your interview. Business school interviewers are interested in candidates who have the potential to be strong leaders in the future.
To answer this question, prepare an example or two when you demonstrated leadership qualities, either in a professional setting or a community role. It is important to explore the initiatives that you led, the results you achieved, and the impact that your skills had on the situation.
When talking about the assessment of your skills, also include any lessons that you may have learned that helped you to improve your qualities as a leader. Remember that leadership is much more than taking charge; qualities that make a good leader include listening, responding, and inspiring. It is always worth showing how you have grown while answering these types of MBA interview questions.
Tell me why you consider yourself a team player.
While business schools are looking for candidates who have leadership capabilities, they also look for those who can work within a team. The ability to collaborate effectively with others is an important skill for candidates to have.
When answering this question, refrain from focusing on your success, what you did, and your contributions; the focus should be on the collective. The best way to approach this question is to use an example.
When answering this question, keep in mind some of the qualities that make a valuable team player such as being a good communicator and being willing to compromise to avoid conflict. Your example should illustrate that you have, or have worked, on these qualities.
Tell me about a time where you handled conflict.
Another question that you may be asked is about conflict resolution. Interviewers may ask this question to determine how you solve problems. Being able to handle conflict is also an important skill to demonstrate because it is another indicator that you work well with others.
Avoid saying that you have never experienced conflict or giving a vague answer. It’s best to answer this type of question honestly using a specific example. In your example, demonstrate that you can remain calm and act rationally in the face of a conflict and are able to understand the other person’s perspective.
Future Goals Questions
What are your career aspirations? Where do you see yourself in 10-15 years?
This is arguably one of the most important parts of the interview. MBA interview questions that are based on your aspirations can demonstrate that you have a good idea of how you will apply all that you will learn during your MBA.
Keep in mind that your school wants to be a part of your success story, and you should do all that you can to reference them and the opportunities that they will make available within your answer. Many candidates answer these types of questions by saying that they want to be a CEO, take on a managerial role in a multinational firm or work in a position that helps them to realize their true potential.
Be careful of giving these types of answers. Not only are these answers common, but they also don’t tell the interviewer very much. They are far too up-in-the-air and not nearly specific enough.
It is important to make sure your goals for the future align with your background, that your short-term goal (getting your MBA) and your long-term goals are in sync. The best way to respond to this question is to talk about a particular industry that you want to pursue after receiving your MBA or the role that you intend to take up rather than a designation.
For example, instead of saying you want to become a CEO, you can say that you want to be a leader that solves real problems. While it’s good to show ambition when talking about your future goals, you also want to make sure that they are within reach and that you have a clear path to achieve them.
1. How should I dress for my interview?
What you wear for your MBA interview is an important part of your strategy; professional presence and situational awareness contribute to whether or not you will be successful. What you wear for your interview depends on its context.
A more formal on-campus interview, for example, will require you to wear formal business attire. This means for men, wearing a suit and tie, and women, either a pantsuit, skirt suit, or the tried-and-true dress and jacket combo. However, if you meet an alumnus at a coffee shop, dressing down is probably the way to go.
Men should opt for a dress shirt and pants to dress business casual, while women should wear either a dress or a professional top with either pants or a skirt. Whatever you decide to wear, make sure that you don’t show too much skin and keep your accessories (jewelry and footwear) to a minimum. You don’t want what you’re wearing to make a bigger statement than you do.
2. How should I prepare for an interview?
The best way to prepare for an interview is to have short responses and examples ready for potential questions, like the ones discussed above. Brainstorm key selling points that you want the interviewer to know about your personal and professional goals.
These key points should relate to your strengths, personality, and soft skills, such as your adaptability and problem-solving skills. Once you know what you want to say, practice answering each question aloud. Doing so will help you focus your response, keep track of your pacing, and stay on topic.
It’s also a good idea to consult with a professional who can help you with a mock interview; have them ask you a series of questions and give you feedback on your performance. If your interview is a video interview, make sure to test your video before your interview to make sure that your face is well-lit, you are making appropriate eye contact, and your voice is natural.
It’s also a good idea to make sure your background is not cluttered or doesn’t have anything that can distract the interviewer, like posters on the wall or a hello kitty collection. It’s best to keep your background plain, simple, and professional.
3. How do I handle answering hard questions?
The interviewer may ask hard questions to determine how you handle yourself in stressful situations; they want to see if you can think on your feet and handle an MBA program’s pressure. It’s okay to take time before you answer questions, especially if you find them a bit difficult.
You can always say, “let me think about that,” take a sip of water or coffee to provide a natural pause in the conversation. You can also ask for clarification if you need it. If you aren’t sure about the answer to a question, it’s best to be honest.
Admit that you don’t know the answer and connect it back to your goals in developing business knowledge or why you’re applying for an MBA. What’s most important is that you keep your cool and remain composed and confident.
4. What should I do if I give a bad answer?
If you are unsatisfied with one of your answers, don’t fret. There truly are no right or wrong answers, just stronger or weaker ones. Sometimes, if there’s a similar question, an applicant can add additional information that they may have forgotten in a previous answer.
Calling back to previous questions in this way can show that you have the ability to recognize and correct a mistake made with grace. This will be far more memorable to your interviewer than the actual mistake itself. Remember that in most cases, there are no right or wrong answers.
Your authentic thought process and unique perspective are enough to set you apart from candidates with a similar profile. Don’t spend time worrying about a question that you may have answered incorrectly; this will only distract you and probably cause you to stumble on another question.
5. Is it okay to ask an interviewer for feedback at the end of an interview?
We don’t recommend asking for feedback on how you did or your chances for admissions. Doing so can signify to your interviewer that you lack good judgment or aren’t confident in yourself or your answers.
Try not to use the interviewer’s demeanor (their body language, facial expressions) to indicate how you are doing. Many interviewers have a poker face or maintain an inscrutable demeanor purposefully.
Many candidates think they bombed an interview, but weeks later, they get an acceptance letter into the school of their dreams. Just focus on being yourself and answering the questions with honesty, clarity, and confidence.
6. How long does an interview typically last?
MBA interviews can last anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour.