If you make it to the interview stage of the MBA application, the admissions team likely thinks you might be a good fit for their business school. The MBA interview is an opportunity for you to learn more about the specific community you’re applying to join -- and a chance for your chosen school to learn even more about you.
“Interviews allow the admissions committee to further evaluate your interpersonal and communication skills, career focus and motivations,” explains Steve Thompson, senior director of full-time admissions at the Kellogg School of Management in Illinois.
They may not ask you this directly, but your interview will be assessing how well you fit into the MBA classroom environment, and if you can offer a valuable perspective in a diverse cohort.
So as you prepare for the interview, it’s important to be authentic. “One of the biggest mistakes an applicant can make, is by not being themselves, perhaps by answering questions they think the admissions team wants to hear,” observes Thompson. “Your unique challenges and experiences are important to building a unique community.”
Research thoroughly and come prepared
Another common mistake that candidates make is simply not being prepared for their MBA interview. A top business school will expect you to have an understanding as to why you have chosen their institution. “Think through your own story and experiences and consider how you can share your story most effectively,” Thompson stresses.
What kind of questions will you be asked in the interview? Schools say they take a personalized approach, with no fixed set of questions. But, broadly speaking, you can expect the interview to focus on your background and motivation.
A few sample questions could include:
· Tell me about a time when you led a diverse team?
· How would you describe your leadership style?
· Tell me about a challenge you have faced; walk me through how you dealt with that challenge.
· Why are you looking to pursue an MBA?
· Why are you considering our school and how will you contribute to the community?
With these questions, the purpose of the interview is really to get to know each candidate on a deeper level, beyond the insight offered in your essays and CV.
“The interview enables us to consolidate our personal relationship with candidates,” explains Rossana Camera, head of master’s degree recruiting and admissions for SDA Bocconi School of Management in Italy. “We want to examine their personality, and test their social and soft skills.”
Like Kellogg, SDA Bocconi advises applicants to thoroughly research what is on offer, to make sure that the MBA program is the right fit for you. “Sometimes candidates have no clear sense of the distinctive features of our school, but MBAs are wildly different,” Camera emphasises.
Admissions committees want to see that you have a genuine interest in their program and have taken the time to research it thoroughly. If you cannot answer basic questions about the MBA or cannot explain why you are a good fit for it, the school may doubt your commitment and enthusiasm.
Avoid scripted answers that look inauthentic
Authenticity is more important than ever, schools all agree, especially in this digital age with tools like ChatGPT in play. This next-generation artificial-intelligence system has stoked concerns that students could use it to cheat in their MBA applications.
“Some applicants are giving what sound like cookie-cutter answers,” reveals Nicole Tee, director of MBA programs at National University of Singapore Business School.
To avoid scripted answers, she encourages applicants to share real-life examples. “Rather than saying ‘I’m a good team player,’ you could describe a time when you worked effectively as part of a team to achieve a specific goal,” she recommends. Storytelling will help bring your answer to life, and make it more engaging and memorable for the interviewer.
At NUS, Tee says candidates can “definitely” expect questions that probe your short and long-term career goals, and how you think the MBA will help you succeed. “We want to know the person behind the academic transcripts and essays; we want to figure out what makes you tick,” she explains.
The MBA interview is an opportunity for you to showcase your personality, communication skills, passions and values. But schools underline the importance of being concise; avoid rambling or providing too much unnecessary detail.
“Make sure you are answering the question directly and provide enough detail to support your answer without going overboard,” Tee adds. “If you are unsure whether you are talking too much or too little, try asking follow-up questions to clarify the interviewer’s expectations.