Your b-school applications are in. You just checked your inbox and received the coveted invitation to interview at your top choice b-school! Congratulations! While this isn’t the same as an offer of acceptance, it indicates that the school wants to pursue the admissions process with you. They’re interested!
Once the initial excitement about reaching this stage has worn off, it’s time to start thinking about the interview. Interviews typically last about a half hour and may be conducted on-campus, off-campus (in person), or via Skype. Whatever the venue is for the interview, take time to prepare. This will go a long way toward helping you succeed in the interview. It will also help allay any anxiety you may have about it.
You likely won’t be surprised by the interviewer’s questions. The questions are fairly typical across the board. They aren’t designed to trick you or catch you off guard. Rather, the goal is to get to you know you on a personal level, aside from the information you’ve presented in your application. The interview is a great way for the school to get a complete picture of you. Think of this as a terrific opportunity to set yourself apart from other candidates.
To get some tips about what to expect from an interview at a particular school, start with the school’s website. Often, there’s excellent information pertaining to the interview process – who will be conducting the interview, how long it will be, etc. Some schools will even list specific questions that might be asked.
Speaking of lists – here are 6 typical b-school interview questions and some advice on how to answer them.
1. Why do you want an MBA?
If you’ve come this far in the admissions process of an MBA program, then hopefully you know why you want an MBA! Discuss how an MBA will help you attain your career goals. Be sure to address not only “why?” but also “why now?”
2. What are your career goals?
Include both short term and long term goals. Short term goals are easier to address. Make sure the goals are realistic and attainable. Long term goals may be more difficult to articulate. Think this through and if there is a specific element to the b-school that will help you reach your goal, be sure to address that here. You can review your application essay to find inspiration that will help you formulate your answer.
3. Tell me something about yourself.
This open-ended question can be the toughest type to answer effectively. Remember, your goal is to show the interviewer that you’re a great candidate for their MBA program. Be brief–speak no more than 3 minutes. Focus on things like the reason you chose your major in college, your successes at work, or personal accomplishments outside of work. Don’t just recite your resume – they’ve already seen it!
4. Discuss your accomplishments as a leader.
You can be pretty confident that the topic of leadership is going to come up in your conversation. Make sure you have several specific examples from both the workplace and other areas where you’ve demonstrated leadership skills. Describe how you motivated others to reach their goals.
5. Why are you interested in our MBA program?
The way you answer this question is very important. Make sure you do your research on the specific program and can articulate what attracted you to it. Don’t answer with generalities that could easily be applied to many b-schools. What makes their b-school unique and appealing to you? How does the program align with your career goals?
6. What questions do you have for me?
Be prepared to use the last five minutes or so to ask your own questions about the program. It’s possible that the questions you want to ask were already answered during the first 25 minutes of the interview, so make sure you have several questions lined up in case some no longer apply. Don’t ask questions you can easily find the answers to on the school’s website. Do your homework and come in with well thought out questions that can distinguish you from other applicants.
In general, don’t sound too rehearsed. Stay on topic and be succinct in your responses. You don’t want to accidentally find yourself on a tangent that has nothing to do with the question! Soojin Kwon, the Director of Admissions at Michigan Ross, suggests, “Answer the questions that are asked. This will differentiate the scripted interviewees from those who aren’t. It’ll also demonstrate listening and thinking skills.”
Ultimately, think of the interview as a way for the admissions committee to get to know you better and vice versa. This is your moment to let your personality shine through.