Expect These Six Questions at Your Business School Interview
- Student Tips
Getting into business school relies on many factors. And while many applicants spend ample time and effort stressing over everything from grades to the essay, there’s another, often intimidating obstacle waiting up ahead of them. The interview. The good news? You don’t have to stutter and stammer awkwardly through the conversation. Instead, start prepping now with these six common b-school interview questions.
1. Why do you want to earn a business degree?
Sure an MBA may put you on the fast track to big bucks, but this isn’t the answer business schools are looking for. (Nor is it a particularly good reason to go.) Looking at this question through the frame of your career goals and how a business degree can help you reach them will yield a simple yet satisfying answer.
Think of it this way: An MBA is a terminal, professional degree. Focusing your response on how it can help you achieve your professional goals is both direct and informative.
2. Why are you interested in this school/program?
There are hundreds if not thousands of business schools all around the globe. So what makes one better than another? The possibilities are manifold -- but only if you do your due diligence.
Before stepping foot into an MBA interview, take time to research each program’s features and characteristics, as well as to identify why these features and characteristics are attractive to you. Facilities, faculty, course offerings, networking opportunities, student activities, class size, and location are all components to look at when drilling down on this question. This is an opportunity to showcase not only your knowledge, but also “fit” so be specific.
3. Describe a time when you had to be a leader.
Odds are, you haven’t gotten this far in life without stepping into a leadership position at one point or another. And leadership is a big deal in MBA programs. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for people to draw blanks when put on the spot during an interview. So don’t be put on the spot. Instead, have a few leadership examples at the ready. Don’t limit yourself to academic or professional leadership examples, either. Extracurricular leadership experience demonstrates initiative, commitment, and time management skills. You can also pursue MBAs in Leadership.
4. Describe a time when you failed.
No one likes to talk about their worst moments. However, this is a relatively common question that arises during MBA interviews. The good news? No one expects you to have led a failure-free life. (And if you said you did, no one would believe you.) Rather, the interview is looking to learn more about what you learned from the experience and how you’ll apply that learning moving forward.
Advises US New & World Report, “When you discuss a failure during an MBA admissions interview, acknowledge your role in the incident, explain your reaction and discuss what lessons you learned or what you wish you could have done differently. Don't blame others; your overall tone should come across as positive.”
Also, avoid sharing “pseudo failures” and humble bragging (i.e., the success parading as a failure) as well as mistakes that may suggest serious character flaws.
5. What others schools are you applying to?
It would be unreasonable for b-schools to expect applicants to apply to only one program. And yet this question can still feel like a minefield. In truth, it serves several purposes for b-schools. For starters, it can give them more insight into their yield. It can also help them understand more about you as a candidate.
It is fine to be honest and list all the schools to which you’ve applied, as well as why you chose them. However, it’s also important to convey why the school where you’re currently interviewing is in the running. The more your selection criteria meld with the offerings of the school, the more genuine you’ll come off.
6. What questions do you have for me?
The interview isn’t just a chance for schools to get a better sense of who you are as a candidate. It’s an equal opportunity for you to understand more about each school. Don’t think you’re doing an interviewer a favor by refraining from asking questions. This makes you look, at best, unenterprising and, at worst, indifferent. Instead, prepare a list of at least five or more questions to ask the interviewer. Some of these may be covered during the course of the interview, others are a convenient opportunity for you to learn more about the finer points of a particular business school, as well as for you to convey your interest and thoughtfulness to the interviewers.
While you may not be asked all six of these questions during your interview (and may also be asked additional questions, too), thinking about these questions in advance can help you come off as a calm, collected and compelling candidate -- in other words, as exactly who you are.
Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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