The Stanford GSB interview might seem unusual compared to other interview styles that you might have encountered in your career, but Stanford can afford to do things its way as one of the most exclusive business schools in the US. Stanford’s exclusivity pays as the average salary for Stanford GSB graduates is approximately $150,000 annually.
We’ll be discussing all the details of this elite school, its unique approach to interviews, and what you can do to maximize your chances of success in a Stanford interview. If you are considering pursuing an MBA at one of the country’s top business schools, Stanford GSB could be the place for you!
About Stanford Graduate School of Business
Located on California’s sunny west coast, Stanford GSB is regarded as one of the most exclusive business schools in the US, with an acceptance rate of approximately 7%. But its exclusivity is fitting for such a prestigious school — Stanford is a member of the M7 or ‘magic’ 7 group of elite business schools and was recently ranked as the best business school in the US. This ranking suggests the quality of education Stanford can provide you, but to find out a little more about what the school is actually like, let’s look at its mission statement:
“Our mission is to create ideas that deepen and advance our understanding of management and with those ideas to develop innovative, principled, and insightful leaders who change the world.”
Stanford GSB is an institution that educates the world’s next business leaders, as they have educated some of the world’s current business leaders like Phil Knight and Penny Pritzker. Knight even directly credits his college education with giving him his business success, claiming, “I wrote the business plan for the company that ultimately became Nike in a class at Stanford.” An MBA from a prestigious business school like Stanford GSB could be your route to a highly successful career.
Stanford GSB Interview Overview
One of the unusual aspects of the application process for Stanford is its unique approach to interviews. Its process can come across as surprising, which is why the majority of this article will explore its intricacies and help to show you how to excel in your Stanford GSB interview.
Interviews are spread throughout the year between the three rounds of applications, so you should have many opportunities to get your interview. Round 1 starts in mid-October and closes in late November, round 2 lasts from early February to mid-March, and the final round lasts from mid-April to early May. Every Stanford candidate needs to be interviewed before they are offered a place at the school.
This does not mean that applying will guarantee you an interview, as they are only conducted by invitation, nor does it mean that getting an interview guarantees your admittance. On average, the school interviews between two and three candidates for each actual seat it has available for a class. Stanford is already shrinking opportunities for progression to only a fraction of the total applicants by the interview stage, so getting an interview is a great achievement, and we can help maximize your chances of acing that interview!
So how will this exclusive interview take place? The Stanford GSB interview is unusual because it does occur at any campus facility, as Stanford doesn’t even have an on-campus interview program, and it doesn’t even necessarily involve any school application officers. Instead, you might be interviewed by a member of Stanford’s global MBA alumni community.
These people will be certified to interview you but won’t be a formal member of Stanford’s admissions committee. This process might seem unusual but demonstrates the tight-knit alumni community that this exclusive school has and the willingness of its graduates to give back to the school that helped them so much in their careers.
It will be between you and your interviewer to decide a time and place suitable for both of you to conduct your interview — this could mean a digital interview or meeting in person if you are assigned an interviewer close enough to you. Most interviews will take between 45 and 60 minutes to complete, though they do sometimes run over this timeframe.
The Stanford GSB interview will aim to assess your suitability for the school’s exclusive and sought-after MBA program. Stanford conducts “competency-based behavioral” interviews, meaning essentially that the interviewer will be looking for you to explain your capabilities as a candidate using examples from your past. As Stanford puts it:
“We focus on your past actions, rather than on hypothetical situations, and invite you to discuss meaningful professional or community-based experiences you’ve had in the past few years.”
This can differ from previous interview styles that you may have experienced in your career, wherein you might be set tasks or asked about hypothetical situations to assess your candidacy. Instead, Stanford tries to assess your capabilities by asking you to explain how you've handled past situations.
Your interviewer will only have been given your resume, meaning they will not be looking at your test scores or essay questions to get an idea of your character before your interview. They only have your record of achievement to use to assess you, so prepare detailed examples from your past that show why you are an excellent candidate for Stanford’s exclusive MBA program.
Here are a couple of examples of the types of questions that the interviewer could ask you to assess you as a candidate:
- Tell me about a time you faced a challenge at work and how you influenced the outcome.
- Tell me about a time when you faced a roadblock in completing a project.
- Tell me about a time you worked well within a team.
- Tell me about a time you were effective on a team you were not in charge of.
These broad questions allow you to bring in any professional or personal experiences you feel demonstrate your abilities. Questions are typically geared towards uncovering your leadership abilities, a vital factor that Stanford is looking for in educating the next generation of business leaders.
Your goal in the interview will be to show that you have the qualities that Stanford wants to see and to show those qualities using your past experiences.
How to Prepare for the Stanford GSB Interview
Now that you know how your interview will be conducted and its goals, we can discuss what you can do to ensure that you have the best chance possible of getting into Stanford. Firstly, as previously mentioned, this interview differs from those you might have experienced at different business schools or in your career. The only thing that the interviewer will have to ask you questions on is your resume, so this should form the basis of much of your preparation.
Try to focus on key experiences you have had that you think demonstrate your abilities as a candidate and practice discussing them until you can draw out the exact details you want to focus on in the interview.
This does not mean that the rest of your application is irrelevant! Remember, you will be offered an interview based on the rest of your application, including your test scores, letters of recommendation, and essay answers, but the interviewer will only have access to your resume. This means that there will be some qualities shown in your application that the school found exciting, and the interview will now be your chance to show those qualities based on the experiences you can draw on in your resume.
Another thing you can do is prepare questions to ask your interviewer. This will show curiosity and initiative on your part as you try and learn more about your potential school, but will also give you more insight into whether a Stanford MBA is right for you. There is a chance that your interviewer will themselves be a graduate of the school, so this will be an invaluable opportunity for you to gain insight.
Ask them about their time and experiences at Stanford GSB, and you will not only show your curiosity about their former school but will also let you get answers to questions you might not get from anyone else!
Top Tips on How To Ace the Stanford GSB Interview
The Stanford GSB interview is, like for many high-ranking business schools, a crucial part of the application process, but the unique approach Stanford takes means it pays to be prepared. We’ll try and use this space to show you some of the ways to maximize your chances of success in the interview.
1. Research, research, research
Taking the time to learn everything you can about the interview, its purpose, and its process will absolutely boost your chances of a great interview. There are ways that you can try and understand what the Stanford GSB interview will demand of you. Read over the information that Stanford gives for recommenders to help write about the candidate.
By the interview stage, you have already secured your letters of recommendation, but Stanford’s leadership grids provide an excellent insight into the precise leadership qualities they are seeking. For example, from the section on ‘Influence and Collaboration,’ Stanford describes the highest level candidate as one who “Uses tailored influence approaches to create and leverage a network of strategically chosen individuals to improve collective outcomes.” This is just one aspect in which good background research could benefit your interview performance, but know that the more you can understand this unique interview system, the better your chances of a smooth interview.
2. Understand the interview format.
The Stanford GSB interview explores your past actions rather than asking you to deal with hypothetical future tasks, so you should plan accordingly. Extending your research to prepare yourself for the competency-based behavioral style of Stanford interviews should help give you an edge. A good strategy can be to look up sample questions and figure out what your answers would be to them.
The questions asked in the interview will most likely be familiar, and your interviewer is not trying to trick you. Stanford is looking for you to genuinely demonstrate the competency that you have shown elsewhere in your application but will mainly be asking you to discuss it in the context of your resume.
Practice answering some general questions that may come your way, and know the sets of experiences that you will be turning to in your answers each time. Coming into the interview with this level of preparation will help you show your abilities to your interviewer. If you need any help in this area, in particular, there are services available that offer valuable school-specific interview help that could help boost your performance with Stanford!
3. Be yourself!
In the heat of the interview, you might feel the need to modify or exaggerate the depths of your experience in one area or another if you feel nervous, but honesty will always be your best route to success. Your invitation to take part in an interview means that Stanford liked your application, so you should try to expand on the anecdotes and other information you included there.
Furthermore, suppose your responses in your interview paint a very different picture to the rest of your application. In that case, your interviewer may notice the disparity. Your best option is to try and express your abilities and recount your experiences as clearly as possible. Demonstrate the positive qualities that Stanford picked up on in the rest of your application, and be yourself!
1. Is getting a Stanford interview a good sign?
Being invited to an interview is undoubtedly a good step, but it does not mean that you are guaranteed a place in their MBA program yet. Only a small fraction of applicants are invited to interview, meaning the admissions committee is clearly impressed by your application.
2. What is the timeline of the Stanford GSB interview?
Your interview with Stanford will most likely consist of an introduction, wherein you can give a brief overview of what you offer as a candidate, the rest of the time will likely focus on behavioral questions, plus time at the end to discuss what life is like at Stanford. The interview may be conversational or it may be more of a straight delve into the behavioral questions. The tone of your interview can depend on the person interviewing you.
3. How important is the Stanford GSB interview?
Like with most prominent business schools, the Stanford interview forms an essential part of the application process. You are required to participate in an interview to be offered a place on one of their programs.
4. Does it matter if my interview is conducted digitally or in person?
No, Stanford values all interviews equally and does not make decisions about applicants based on how their interview was conducted.
5. When will my Stanford GSB interview take place?
Depending on what round you are applying in, your interview could take place around many times of the year. The time and date of your interview will generally be set 7-10 days after you make contact with your interviewer.
6. Who should I contact if I have more questions about the interview process?
If your question isn’t answered here, you can contact the school about their MBA applications.
The Stanford GSB interview is a unique approach to the MBA interview process but still gives you a great chance to highlight your candidacy. Knowing the specifics of this interview style is a must, and this article should have helped you gain a reasonable amount of understanding regarding the interview’s intricacies.
Ensure you know the aspects of the interview and its goal before the real thing to maximize your chances of success. Practice answering questions and think of the specific experiences that you will want to draw out from your resume before your interview.
These actions will allow you to give yourself the best chance of a successful Stanford GSB interview. Just know that if you already have an invitation to an interview, you are already ahead of the competition and have a great chance of getting into the most exclusive business school in the US. With the tips and tricks we’ve provided, you have the tools to ace the Stanford GSB interview.