Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. What to Expect During an InterviewPart 3. Purpose of Asking Questions During the InterviewPart 4. Questions the MBA Interviewer May Ask YouPart 5. Best Type of Questions to Ask an MBA Interviewer Part 6. Worst Questions to Ask an MBA InterviewerPart 7. FAQsPart 8. Conclusion
Any student entering the MBA application process has probably, in some sense, realized that going the extra mile can make a massive difference to your application's chance of success. You may never know which one practice, insight, or sentence might be enough to tip the scales in your favor.
With that in mind, is the MBA interview a setting with even more potential to make-or-break it? There is really no way to say that definitively. However, the interview is certainly a time where you want to focus on standing out, and one way to do that is with the questions you ask.
Many prospective MBAs spend so much time fixating on the questions they’ll be asked, but should also spend time preparing questions they should ask the MBA interviewer. Knowing which questions to ask will help you stand out from the crowd and help you demonstrate intuition and preparation beyond what the interviewer expects.
By asking your interviewer good questions, you will not only better understand the program for which you’re applying, but you’ll illustrate that you’re someone who takes the educational opportunity as seriously as possible.
What to Expect During an Interview
The key to preparing for your MBA interview lies in understanding what purpose the interview serves. Know your goals: present yourself well during the interview and demonstrate values and insights that reflect an exemplary MBA.
Know your interviewer’s goals: to assess your communication skills and demeanor to faithfully inform the admissions committee as to your fit for the intended MBA program. Conducting research into the interview process and finding common questions that are asked will help you feel more confident going into your interview.
This research should go beyond reading the guidelines set forth on your prospective MBA program’s admissions page. Seek out MBA blogs and articles that can give you a comprehensive idea of how MBA interviews play out so that you are not surprised or confused by the pace or format of your interview. If you have enrolled in some form of MBA application consulting, ask your consultant’s perspective on how to go about this research and what they think you should expect.
The interviewer’s questions will focus on your formative experiences and professional background, so practice talking about these topics. After all, it can be easy to feel awkward talking about your talents and accomplishments, but these details are exactly what the interviewer wants to hear.
MBA interviews do not usually take more than 30-45 minutes, but there is no monolithic structure to an MBA interview, so be aware of how your institution likes to conduct interviews. Be adaptable because the interviewer can decide to abandon a line of inquiry or spring a new question on you whenever they feel it necessary.
That said, most of the interview will consist of you telling the interviewer about your life and your motivations. Additionally, there will be time, even if it’s at the very end of your interview, where you can ask the interviewer any questions about the college or the program.
Take advantage of this. Not asking questions might be interpreted as aloof or under-prepared. This article will go into more detail about the best questions to ask your MBA interviewer to help you present yourself as invested and curious. It’s imperative you ask good questions because they might just end up being the best way for you to bookend the perfect MBA interview.
Purpose of Asking Questions During the Interview
Along with the statements you include in your MBA interview, there is a lot of value in asking questions during your interview, as they serve as tools for the admissions committee to further distinguish applicants from one another. Without the interview, applying for an MBA would be much less personal, and business schools would miss out on good candidates because they appeared differently on paper.
The simple gesture of asking your interviewer questions might be enough to boost your chances of acceptance. As said previously, by asking questions, you exhibit that you identify the interview and your MBA application as the opportunities they are, chances to prove that you fit the bill of a motivated professional.
Which questions you ask do matter, though. Don’t ask the interviewer anything that a search on the college’s webpage could answer just as quickly. Doing this could, if anything, hurt the quality of your interview if the interviewer interprets it as you misidentifying their role in your acceptance.
Instead, ask the interviewer for their insights or opinions. After all, the interview will be the only chance you get to have questions answered by an admissions team member. You will benefit from asking more personal, general questions because they will convey to the interviewer that you appreciate their expertise and perspective.
Additionally, asking questions closely related to the MBA program’s history and/or strengths shows that you are genuinely invested in trying to get into the program and that you take the MBA selection process seriously.
Questions the MBA Interviewer May Ask You
Being prepared for the sorts of questions you’re likely to receive in your MBA interview will pay off. Your answers will flow better, and you’ll struggle less to find substantial thoughts for your responses. If you pay attention to the questions your interviewer asks you, you may also be able to glean which educational aspects or values embedded into the MBA program are most important to the interviewer.
For example, suppose your interviewer asks you to talk about two different work experiences after your undergraduate degree. In this case, you know that this interviewer considers work experience an essential qualification for the MBA program.
Keeping this in mind, you might benefit even more from a post-interview question if it’s something along the lines of “does [MBA college of choice] offer internship opportunities for the summers, and how do you think these might help MBA students in the workforce after graduation?”
So, what kinds of questions should you expect for your MBA interview, and how can you build off of them with the questions you ask? Well, the questions will focus on you. However, the interview won’t ask you trivia questions about yourself (i.e., where you worked which summer, or in which clubs in college did you fulfill leadership roles). You’ll field questions that require some critical thinking based on your educational and work backgrounds.
As an example, you are probably not going to be asked, “why did you leave [Job A] before starting your junior year?” Instead, a related question would be phrased: “what were some of [Business A]’s failings while you worked there, and how would you remedy them now?” As opposed to the first questions, this one does not rely on you memorizing information but instead forces you to think critically about your own experiences and how they affected you.
These sorts of questions are more likely to come up during your interview(s), so take your interviewer’s lead and phrase your questions similarly. Leave them more open-ended, and if you ask a yes/no question, supplement it with a follow-up on the same topic.
Again, your interviewer is a much greater store of information regarding the MBA program and the student experiences it encompasses than any webpage.
Best Type of Questions to Ask an MBA Interviewer
The key to any question you ask during your MBA interview is to show that you’re trying to learn more about the MBA program structure and the values of the institution.
One source for a helpful post-interview question would lie in any literature that you have read about the goal MBA. Asking a question based on something you’ve read demonstrates that you have done research before your interview with an intent to learn as much as possible about the program.
As suggested by US News, another type of question to ask your MBA interviewer revolves around their own experiences with the school. Ask them something about why they decided to work on the admissions committee or ask them what aspects of the school’s mission statement speak to them the most. This type of question exhibits a respectful interest in your interviewer’s story. Their answer will also show you what values are of particular importance to the admissions committee and why.
The last best impetus behind a good question for your interviewer is to learn more about the MBA program, both in structure and operationally. Ask a question about what features of the MBA program the interviewer considers to be most beneficial to someone in your area of interest.
You could also ask about the college’s student support system. Wharton’s MBA Admissions suggests a question regarding tutoring and writing centers. This question may feel counterintuitive like you’re already admitting that the classes will be difficult for you. Really, though, this question communicates to the interviewer that you plan to succeed in your MBA courses however you need to and that you’re smart enough to utilize the resources provided to you.
As you can see, there are plenty of questions you can pick from that will help your interview better represent you. The critical aspect of these questions is not what specific facet of your MBA education you ask about, but that your question seeks more in-depth information than what is already available to you.
You’ll appear more invested in getting into the program, and you’ll also seem more confident, as the interviewer will see that you are already planning for your life at their institution.
Worst Questions to Ask an MBA Interviewer
Now, to put your mind at ease, there is probably no question you would find yourself asking your MBA interviewer that could be bad enough to blow away the rest of the interview. That said, a poorly phrased or poorly timed question could be enough for an eyebrow raise or awkward moment. Naturally, this occurrence is not ideal.
The first kind of question to avoid would be anything that the interviewer would consider to be immediately obvious or one that should be obvious to you. A good example of this question is: “can I pick a major or emphasis for my MBA?” Not only is that question easily accessible through Google, but the interviewer would expect you to know that already at the interview stage of the application process.
Going further, you should also avoid questions that are outside the scope of your interviewer’s knowledge. These sorts of questions can lead to the previously mentioned awkward silences that can stop an excellent interview in its tracks. If you ask, for example, “how do professors here grade presentations?” the interviewer will most likely tell you that grading isn’t within their scope of work. Again, this dialogue will feel uncomfortable and might hurt your chances of appearing intuitive or forward-thinking.
Lastly, avoid questions that innately lack any clear answer. Imagine asking: “How successful could I be, with this MBA degree in my pocket, if I go into the finance sector?” What is the interviewer supposed to say to a question like this?
The question poses a hypothetical and is concerned with events after obtaining the degree, not before, which is the interviewer’s area of expertise. The question requires a better understanding of your assets and drive than the interviewer will have after talking to you for less than an hour.
In summary, there is no way that the interviewer could give a satisfactory answer to questions like these and might feel perplexed t at the request. All of this said it may be difficult for you to gauge just how useful the questions you come up with are. If this is the case, invest some time in a mock interview and, during it, ask the questions of which you’re unsure. The feedback you’ll receive will inform you whether or not to include them during your actual interview.
1. Should I write questions down ahead of time and keep them on my person during the interview?
If this would help you, then go for it. Writing the questions down will help you remember their phrasings and what you hope to learn from the answers. Keeping the questions on you will give you a chance to refresh yourself on them before the interview or during a break.
Honestly, you could even pull the questions out during the interview to refer to them. Doing this may feel like you’re scatter-brained or forgetful, but there is nothing unprofessional about reading your questions instead of having them memorized, and the interviewer is more likely to consider you well prepared.
2. What should I do if the interviewer seems confused or put off by my question?
You can always try to rephrase the question respectfully; just make sure not to do so condescendingly. If the second attempt does not land either, forfeit the question. Better to do so than to stammer out more explanations or rewordings and make it more awkward.
If the failed question is bothering you, you could try to explain what you were trying to learn from the question. It still might not make sense to your interviewer, but they’ll probably appreciate your transparency and be understanding of the miscommunication.
3. What should I do if one of my questions doesn’t feel right in the moment?
Trust your gut. Trust your gut for the whole interview, not just during the questions. Read your interviewer and gauge their interest level in certain subjects. If you feel hesitant about a question you had prepared, there is likely a reason. Better to leave it unsaid than risk being right about your hesitation.
4. How many questions should I ask?
Generally speaking, it is probably best to ask only one or two, maybe three, if there’s time for it. You don’t want to inundate your interviewer with questions and overwhelm them. There are many reasons this would be a bad idea, but the foremost reason would be that you risk causing your interviewer to forget the intelligent things you said earlier or the good impression you made.
There is also a “trust your gut” aspect to how many questions you should ask. If your interviewer answers your first one or two questions in a way that seems more drawn-back, don’t push for a third. They may not feel like your timing is appropriate, or they may not feel qualified to answer your questions. Remember: you’re trying to make a statement about yourself just by asking intelligent questions. Don’t undercut this goal by getting caught up with the number of questions you ask.
5. Should I ask questions throughout the interview, or only at the end?
Luckily, you won’t have to figure this out on your own. Take the interviewer’s lead when they take a longer pause if you have a follow-up question. More than likely, they will themselves bring up the topic of questions you may want to ask and give you a chance to ask them.
If nothing else, you can bring your questions up at the end of the interview. Tell the interviewer you have some questions prepared, and ask if they have time to answer them. The worst thing they’ll say is no.
6. Should I write down the interviewer’s answers?
If the interviewer answers a question based on something hypothetical or conceptual, only write down their answer if it’s complex or if there’s wording that you specifically want to remember. Otherwise, focus on listening.
If the response includes the name of an office or advisor with whom they’re suggesting you inquire, you should write down the person/office’s name and any contact information that the interviewer has. These reasons standing, avoid writing their answers down in most other cases. Don’t write the interviewer’s answers down so you can quote them; this could be interpreted as flattery or even somewhat sarcastic.
The interview stage of your MBA application is bound to cause you to stress out; it is a fairly high-pressured interaction, after all. Even so, there is no reason to feel overwhelmed while preparing for it. The questions you’ll be asked will concern your own experiences, so it’s in no way as nerve-racking as, say, an oral exam.
The interviewer is also certainly not out to get you; they would much rather accept you than not, as long as you're qualified and motivated. With this in mind, you should not lose sleep over contemplating what questions to ask during an MBA interview.
The very fact that you’re reading an article about the best questions to ask your MBA interviewer shows that you’re taking your preparation and research seriously. As long as the questions you ask are not redundant or aimless, they are almost assured to help you come across as an even more focused and professional applicant. Keep the questions on topic, related to your interviewer’s point of view, and open-ended, and they will make an excellent addition to an already aced interview.