The MBA Interview

Interviews offer the best chance for schools to learn a lot more about the applicants. Nevertheless, the interviewing policy varies widely among schools.   Some schools interview only those candidates who have passed the initial checks, whereas others interview only borderline candidates to know them better before making a final decision. In some schools, the admissions committee conducts all interviews either face-to-face or over the phone. Some other schools use alumni or even second year students. A school like Harvard Business School does not interview any of its candidates. While others like Wharton Business School interviews more than 95% of their candidates. Whatever be the case, if you end up in an interview situation, you need to be very well prepared.

Should You Choose to be Interviewed for the MBA?

If given a choice, you should go for an interview only if you are a good interviewee and feel confident that you can enhance your chances of admission by interviewing. For students who are basically shy, or lack language skills or are just not the best interviewees, it’s better to let your application speak for you. A bad interview could really diminish your chances of getting an admission.

If a school requests for an interview, it would be a mistake not to agree. This may be taken as a lack of interest or lack of confidence. Either way, it would most likely cost you your admission.

Pointers for the MBA Interview

  1. Consider the interview as your final opportunity to market yourself. Establish your objectives for the interview. Think about ways of reinforcing your strengths and addressing your weaknesses. Be prepared to support your claims in the application essays. Good preparation will also help you relax somewhat during the interview.
  2. Read everything about the school and the program (From the brochure or web-site). Your knowledge about the program will enable you to talk intelligently and ask good questions. Knowing specific details about the program should convince the interviewer that you are serious about attending that particular school. One common error is asking a question which is already addressed in the web-site.
  3. Prepare for the typical interview questions. Most of the interview questions come from two categories (1) Standard questions for all students like Why MBA, Why Wharton etc. (2) Questions tailor-made for you based on your essays and your resume. The interviewer may wish to probe into some of your claims to fame in your essays. Be sure to review your application, essays and resume prior to the interview. The worst thing you can do is contradicting yourself at the interview.

List of standard questions

  • Why do you wish to pursue an MBA?
  • Why do you want to attend this school?
  • Name some other schools that you have applied to?
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your career goals?
  • Where do you see yourself in ten years?
  • What value can you add to the program?
  • What are your greatest achievements?
  • What do you consider your three top strengths/weaknesses?
  • Why should we accept you?
  • Do you have any questions?

Most of the above questions would have been covered in your essays in one form or the other. The interview is  your big chance to elaborate on things that you could not cover in your essays. You should also be ready with 3-5 good questions that reflect your concerns about the school and your success in the program.

Other typical interview questions would most likely be from one of these categories:

a) Undergraduate Education

  • What was your major/Why?
  • What courses did you do best/worst in/Why?
  • Do your grades reflect your abilities?
  • Which extracurricular activities did you participate in?

Tips

Remember your interviewers are from the academia, so give adequate importance to learning and education. Show your commitment to learning and growing.  Talk about your extracurricular activities and how these activities helped build your well-rounded personality. Detail your contribution as well as what you learnt. Describe how your schooling will help you in achieving your career goals. Describe any leadership experiences and what you learnt from those experiences.

b) Work Experience

  • Why did you choose this profession/firm?
  • What are your key responsibilities?
  • What do you like most/least about your work/Why?
  • Describe a failure on job?
  • Describe your most challenging assignment?
  • Have you changed firms/Why?

Tips

Be enthusiastic about your job experience.  Portray yourself as one who tries to exceed expectations. Stress on teamwork, motivation, continuous learning and ownership. Be positive when talking about your boss or your firm. If you changed jobs, it should have been motivated by a desire for more challenges, more responsibilities, opportunity to grow and so on. Avoid negative comments like unappreciated, underpaid etc. Don’t be afraid to talk about a failure.  Stress on what you learnt from your failure. Describe your leadership experiences at work. Leadership potential is a very important quality desired by all MBA programs.

c) Goals

  • What will be doing in 5 years?
  • How will this program help you in achieving your goals?
  • Have your goals changed in recent years?

Tips

Show that you are committed to your career objectives. Your goals should be consistent with your experience and your desire to pursue further education. Be practical where you see yourself in five years ( refrain from making a statement like “I will be the CEO of Hewlett-Packard”) and be prepared to demonstrate how advanced training and education will help you achieve your goals. Highlight some of the strengths of the program to further justify your choice. Make sure that all your answers connect and reflect the thought you have put in planning for your future.

c) Personal

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • Tell me your three strengths/weaknesses?
  • What books have you read recently?
  • Who most influenced you when you were growing up?
  • What are your favorite hobbies/activities outside school/work?

Tips

Be sure to prepare a brief outline of your upbringing. Take every opportunity to show that you are achievement oriented and strive to develop both personally and professionally. At the same time, show yourself to be a well-balanced and sensible person with varied interests. In your choice of books, it does not matter whether it is science fiction or biographies: the idea is to show yourself as knowledgeable in whatever interests you pursue.