MBA Interview Tips
Tips to Ace Your Interview
Having a great interview may not be guaranteed admission, but a poor interview will certainly not do you any favor either!
It pays to be prepared and in this series, we will touch upon all aspects of an MBA interview.
That said, even if you practice the tips and think about other possible questions that the interviewer could come up with, a lot depends on the panel you meet on D day. That is one variable that changes from one interview to another.
Pray for a friendly panel but be ready for anything with these tips:
Your Story Should Come Across No Matter what the Questions
Having key talking points prepared before the interview can significantly increase your chances of getting accepted. Keep a mental checklist of 5 to 6 key points that you want to emphasize during the interview and strike them off as you share the points. This way, you won’t regret that you missed out on something crucial. This technique will help you showcase your prime selling points and why they should accept you instead of other candidates.
Do a couple of mock runs
Interviewers can identify whether you are a scripted bot or whether you are answering questions from the heart. You can practice for common questions by involving your friends and admission coach to create an interview room like environment. It’ll help you sound more genuine and clear. Which is way better than leaving a lousy impression by sounding scripted. This way you can look forward to a vibrant discussion.
Listen Before You Speak
Interviewees often make the mistake of not listening to the whole question asked by the interviewer. Instead, they try to prepare a great answer before the question comes to its end, which is a wrong approach. No one is going hold you back from taking a moment to prepare a response, so go for it. It can reshape a confused impression or response into a confident one.
Build a rapport
Smile. Often that can make all the difference and change the atmosphere from an interrogation to a friendly ‘lets get to know each other session’. When you smile you automatically look confident and in control. It eases the tension in the room and gets everyone relaxed. A smile will also lower your anxiety levels and help you connect with your interviewers at an emotional level.
Strike the right tone
Maintaining a lively environment does not mean you have a license to be casual and pour your heart out. You should maintain a friendly but formal personality and be clear about your aim of getting accepted.
Be polite and down to earth during the interview; a little arrogance can spoil everything. Pay attention to the way you are speaking and your tone while describing your achievements. No one wants to leave behind an impression of being arrogant right?
Stress Interviews – Yes, they are a thing
Many schools just want to know how a candidate performs under pressure. That means interviewers try to create a high pressure environment for the interviewee by repeatedly returning to the same question. Stay calm in such a situation, and make sure you convey your answer in a self-assured manner. Keep in mind; the school has given you a chance to be interviewed, so they are not challenging you or trying to show you down – they just want to know how you perform when you are challenged – which happens all the time in the business world.
Keep to the point
Most schools set a word limit for the essays – that is an unspoken rule in interviews too! You should be concise and provide short answers to the questions asked. To express your response in a better way, you should use relatable examples. This way, you can show how effectively and easily you can convey your thoughts to someone.
Open windows of conversation
Candidates with strong communication skills can guide the conversation as they want. You can do the same by using “windows” to link one subject/point to another.
When answering a question, you can briefly guide your answer and then link it to another related subject/point by referring to it. In this way, you can cover more points about the topic or your story and put them on the table.
This also takes us back to point 1 – know the core points of your story that you want to cover and bring them to the table when you get an opportunity.
But if somehow you don’t get the chance to cover all the points, then don’t worry. You can do so at the end of the interview when you are asked what else the admissions team should know.
Ask intelligent questions
Only the interviewer should ask questions during the interview? This is a common misconception. The interview process doesn’t work like this; it is more of a two-way process.
You should ask interesting questions about the overall program, community activities, and how the school can help you take your personal interests to the next level. You can also discuss and ask about other topics such as faculty research and what are the goals of this school for the next few years.
But be careful there because you shouldn’t ask questions whose answers are already mentioned on the school’s website. Instead, the questions should be more about your personal and professional goals.
Plan your time
Interviews may go up to 45 minutes; however, there isn’t a specific time limit. So you should prepare yourself accordingly and provide clear, confident, and strong answers. Your answers should be concise and short, but that doesn’t mean you should end an answer like there isn’t anything left to talk about.
Arrive early, and if possible, get a feel of the room you will be interviewed at
Walking into a room you haven’t seen before can be unnerving. Seeing a team of interviewers can set the pulse racing for many. If the facility allows for it (for instance if you are being interviewed in a hotel conference room), go a bit early when the rooms are being prepped and take a walk around. Then the room will seem like familiar territory when you enter it for the interview and you will be more at ease.
For interviews, your appearance definitely matters and its best to be dressed in formal business attire.
After the interview, its good manners to send in a thank you mail to your interviewers. However, make sure to give examples of specific things you genuinely appreciated rather than send a canned thank you mail from the internet.
What MBA Interviewers Are Looking For
These are some of things an MBA interview panel is trying to ascertain through the interview:
- Aspects of your profile that set you apart from other candidates
- Familiarity with the school’s history, core strength of the courses, culture and facilities
- Clarity on career goals after MBA
- Honesty, sensitivity, confidence, ability to work hard and bounce back from failures, focus, ethics
- Good communication skills
- Leadership skills and team player
- Ability to respond to change and innovate
Difficult MBA Interview Questions & Answers
While an MBA interview may seem straightforward, cracking it is sometimes harder than it looks.
Some business schools are known to ask some bizarre questions, such as “What would you do if you were God for a day?” You might be wondering what the right answer could be that would impress the judging panel.
But often, there are no right and wrong answers to the questions asked at MBA interviews. And therefore there is no way you can prepare for such questions, except learning to control your stress, develop a calm attitude and learning how to think on your feet.
That said, there are plenty of questions that you can expect that you can be well prepared for!
Hard MBA Interview Questions
1. What do you consider to be your biggest weakness?
The time will come when you’ll be asked about your success, but that’s not what an interviewer wants to hear when he asks this question. This is not the time to package your strengths as weaknesses – a novice mistake made by many. We are talking about responses such as “working too hard”, “being too honest” and the like.
So does the interviewer really want to know your weaknesses? Yes and no.
Knowing your weaknesses tells them whether you would fit well in their MBA class – so if you count math as your biggest weakness, for instance, the business school may be worried about how you will keep up with the rest of the class. To that extent the business school would want to know your shortcoming.
Do not over-share here and put any weakness out there that could jeopardize your chances of admission. The reason behind asking this question is often larger though.
How you answer this question would also reveal your humility, acceptance of your own weaknesses and efforts made by you to rise above them. So, you don’t need to lie, or sugar coat your weakness, but instead, focus the discussion on how you have attended to the weakness and risen above it.
If your weakness is ‘lack of willpower’ for instance, you can talk about how you built a regime of waking up early and have done so consistently now for the past 6 months and thanks to that have built a healthier and more productive lifestyle for yourself.
2. Narrate an experience where you have faced failure
Students are mostly prepared to narrate their success stories, but talking about failure doesn’t come easy. People forget that problems too make a person stronger and contribute to future success. The purpose of talking about your failures isn’t to corner you – this question is asked by the interviewer not because they want to know where you failed, but rather how you responded to it and grew from the experience.
Did you if you learn from the experience? Did you change tactics? Or Did you give up entirely? This is what the admission team really wants to know. For instance, if you have failed in an exam in school or university, the interviewer would be keen to know how you tackled the problem and faced your fears.
If you responded to this failure by creating a strategy for success and gave it your 100% – the interviewer would see a potential student who doesn’t give up. By replying in this way, students catch the attention of the interviewer.
Do remember however to not blame other people for your failures and to take responsibility for them. Interviewers are looking for candidates who learn from their mistakes and can introspect on what went wrong.
Also, be sure to answer this question without trying to twist it into a success story. Answering this way might make the interviewer feel that you are avoiding the question for some reason. Face your failures head-on and share them like they are. Remember, no one in the world has only successes to their name – the difference between the successful ones and others is simply how they responded to their failures.
So instead of hiding your failures, you should let the interviewer know how you ended up making the mistake that led you towards a particular failure. Focus more on what that particular situation taught you. That’s what an interviewer would like to hear and know about you.
All said and done, maintain a balance and don’t share a gross failure that hurt your employer or created a law and order issue or something of that magnitude – you still need to create a good impression. By being humble, and yet fearless and unapologetic about your life story, you can leave a great impression on interviewers, which will open doors to other interesting questions.
3. Have you worked with a bad manager? How did you manage the situation?
Aah! A chance to finally bad mouth the incompetent nincompoop that was your former boss! No – that’s not what that this is!
The interviewer is actually interested in knowing if you are a people person or not and know the ways to how to handle people and difficult situations, plenty of which would come up in the MBA program and the job you take up thereafter.
When answering this question, keep the bitterness your manager aside and show how you handled the situation. For example, one possible situation you could have faced is a manager who keeps demeaning you publically and creates a toxic workplace.
How did you tackle the situation? Did you let the insults hurt you or did you ignore them? Did you talk to your manager to sort out the situation or did you approach Human Resources? This is what the interviewer wants to know.
Try and showcase a story that shows you in positive light – something that shows your sensitivity, grit, ability to handle tough people and situations. Ideally, something that not only made the situation better for you, but also made things better for the organization and the manager.
4. Have you faced conflict at work? How did you manage it?
Much like the two questions above, the interviewer is not so interested in the actual conflict as much as how you responded to it. Call it another test of emotional intelligence. When answering this question, it would be better to share a conflict you resolved rather than started!
Don’t chose a conflict where you were a bystander – such as your boss getting fired – pick a conflict you faced directly as the team wants to understand how you tackled the situation. Also don’t just dump blame other people for a conflict in the company.
You have to show that you are capable of seeing both sides of the conflict. You are aspiring to an MBA tag and you have to show you are ready to shoulder the responsibility of your actions and how you can help your team navigate and progress through conflict and politics within the organization.
Stay ready with an example. Mention who all were involved in the conflict and how you addressed it. Did you learn anything from the conflict? This is an excellent juncture to talk of your leadership. How did this conflict help you understand human behavior and did it help you led your team through other conflicts as well in the future?
5. Did you ever face an ethical dilemma at work?
The interview panel is testing your ethics and moral compass and also whether you have the maturity to handle such a situation. For instance, if you found that your company was bribing a client for more business but layoffs were on the horizon and the organization could not afford to lose business – did you see this as a problem or business as usual? Hint –don’t say business as usual J.
How did you come to terms with the situation? Explain the way you analyzed the situation and the actions you took. Maintain a high moral ground, even if you could not resolve the situation entirely. The organization consists of many people and opposing forces and the interview panel does not expect you to be superman – they simply want to know whether you can tell right from wrong and whether you will do your best to keep your organization on the right side.
How you handled the situation will also tell them about your tact and capability to navigate situations which are not entirely black and white.
6. What business schools are you applying to?
Might seem like an unfair question. The only objective behind asking this question is seeing whether you are applying to all top schools wildly or you have a set criterion to apply to them. They may also be looking to simply ascertain the chances of you joining the program in case you are accepted.
There is no reason to hide anything – give an honest answer and list down some of the other options you are exploring and the reasons for considering the other B-Schools. If another school has already accepted you, tell that in the interview – it will show the admission committee that you are a much-wanted candidate!
That said, you can show a preference for the school you are interviewing for with reasons for the choice – this will keep the admissions team in good humor!
7. Do you have any questions for the interview panel?
Take this opportunity to clear any doubts you may have. Don’t ask things you can find on the school website such as what’s the class size etc. Use this question to show that you have done your research and are inquisitive and interested in knowing more.
Some possible questions can be – what are the advantages of doing an MBA from this business school? Are there any new courses in the pipeline?
Tough MBA Interview Questions
Samples of tough MBA interview question
Now for some tough questions that may get thrown at you.
Q: Describe yourself?
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, yes, it is. But make sure you give your response in a well-organized manner. You must mention your education qualification and extracurricular interests and highlight your career goals, which will not take more than two to three minutes. You should sound authentic and interactive. You could also practice the answers with your friends or family members.
Remember they already have all your information so don’t focus on trivia such as your name and the city you come from. This is a business school interview so implicit in the question is the real question – What are your goals and how does an MBA fit into it?
As per your response to this question, you might end up opening the doors for the interviewer to ask more detailed questions about what you just said, such as Why an MBA now? Why an MBA at this business school etc, so be prepared for it.
Read more here: Tell Me About Yourself: How to answer.
Q: What attracts you to an MBA?
In response, you can describe how an MBA fits into your career plans and how this program can help you achieve your goals. Genuinely tell the interviewer why you are choosing the school to pursue your MBA and how it is going to be fruitful to you. Again, keep it concise and be cover each answer in four to five sentences.
Q: How do other people perceive you?
The goal of asking you this question is to check how you perceive yourself. Be humble, and save that swag for another time.
Your goal should be to let the interviewer know about your self-awareness and thought process. Try highlighting some of your strong points and positive personality traits with a special focus on traits needed to succeed at business school.
Q: How will this school’s resources be useful for you?
Try not to sound scripted; instead, try to respond to this question in an interesting yet straightforward way.
Share how the school’s curriculum and faculty, career services and extracurricular facilities such as clubs could help you further your career and personality.
You should focus more on the school’s specialties rather than things that are common in every school. So if the school has a finance lab with Bloomberg terminals, focus on that instead of talking about the great campus.
So it is very important that you research the school in detail before the interview!
Q: Share your experience as a leader?
Not everyone has had a chance to step into a leadership role by the time they are applying to business school.
But you would have had a chance to show your leadership skills by now. In case you haven’t handled a leadership role at work, spend some time talking about situations where you have displayed leadership.
It could be anything from your work at an NGO, handling a crisis at work, or even helping someone on the road when no one else came forward.
Q: What do you like the most about your job?
Even if you don’t like anything about your work, try finding and giving an answer on a positive note to reflect that you are passionate about your work.
Q: If you get a chance to make changes in your workplace, what would it be?
Here you can talk about changes that can be productive in a workplace and could have to with business readiness, an HR policy or marketing communication.
Your approach or idea could show your creativity and ability for innovation.
It would be an excellent idea to use some MBA tools for this answer such as a SWOT analysis on your company, a PEST analysis or study your company on Porters Five Forces Model. This would show you are proactive about learning business tools and already have working knowledge about some of them.
Tricky MBA Interview Questions
Examples of Tricky MBA interview questions
If it’s your lucky day, the interviewer may skip the easy stuff and take you straight to these bouncers J
- What was the worst day of your life?
- If a movie was made on your life, what would be the title?
- What title would you give to your biography?
- How will you prove that anger isn’t a part of your personality?
- Do you have a belief in the Tooth fairy?
- How do you explain your job to a 10-year-old?
- How many chocolates can fit in this room?
- Suppose if an elephant came into this room, then how would you react? What would be your first reaction if a tiger entered this room right now?
- Share something about you that the world believes is the truth but that you know is a lie
- Tell me something about this school that I don’t know
- What is the value of Eifel Tower?
- Are there any chances that two people in New York City have the same number of hair strands?
- Why should a company pay you $150,000 a year after your MBA?
How you should answer tricky interview questions
The idea of tricky questions is:
- a) to stump you and
- b) to see how you think
So for instance if the interviewer asks “How many chocolates can fit into this room”, he is not looking for the exact mathematically correct number, but instead on your approach to the problem and your method of solving the problem, because that will show them how you will respond to learning within the classroom.
The other thing to keep in mind is that it’s not about having the perfect answer to each question. See them as entry points to your story – its all about how well you connect your answers with the rest of the story and your unique selling points.
And it goes without saying – don’t lie. Take your time to respond and only share facts and present them in a well-organized manner.