Top 10 Business School Interview Questions: Be Prepared!
Most business schools invite applicants to an on-campus interview as the final step in the screening process. Some schools don't conduct interviews, but if they do and you're invited, you'll know that things are going well. Essentially, the school is telling you: "Look, we like you on paper. But we want to meet you in person to make sure that your marbles are in order before making a decision."
Sounds straightforward, right? Wrong! Unlike the rest of the admissions process, interviews don't follow a rule book. You won't really know what to expect, nor will you be able to determine what the interviewer is looking for – at least with any certainty. So what's an honest human to do?
For starters, take care of your wardrobe. Wear formal business attire and present a professional image. Next, prepare yourself mentally. Visualize the interview as a two-way conversation between peers, not as an interview.
Finally, it's time to prepare for the most frequent business school interview questions. Chances are that you'll be asked at least a few of them, so preparing will help you look like less of a dunce. Here are the ten most frequently asked business school interview questions, in our experience.
"Tell Me About Yourself"
This open-ended question has the potential to cause you to trip and fall into a bottomless chasm. So don't take this four word question lightly. A strong answer establishes your status as a talented, motivated, and intriguing individual at the personal, academic, and extracurricular levels. You could start by explaining where you're from, where you grew up, and any salient personal circumstances. Then talk about your undergraduate education and why you made those choices. Finally, talk about your career choices and where you are today. Everything you say should build toward the idea that your life has naturally led you to apply to business school. Your answer should be a concise, two to three minute response, demonstrating your ability to synthesize and structure your thoughts.
"Why Are You interested in an MBA?"
If you haven't figured this out in your application essays, you should go back to the drawing board. Basically, restate what you've written in your essays, but go deeper and broader. By deeper, we mean explaining in more detail those factors and motivations that you mentioned in your essays. By broader, we mean all the stuff you couldn't fit in the essays. A good answer shows both depth and breadth. If we had to pick one, we'd say to focus on breadth and let the interviewer guide you on what topics to go into more depth.
"Why Are You Interested in Our School?"
Why not? List all the reasons why their business school is the single best match for your career goals. Discuss its faculty, facilities, theoretical approach, course offering, student activities, job placement record, location, and any and all reasons that demonstrate a deliberate choice. Your goal is convey your belief that the school is a highly compelling choice for you, if not your first choice.
"Discuss A Time When You Were A Leader"
Your interviewer will almost certainly dwell on your leadership qualities. He or she may ask you to expand upon the leadership examples mentioned in your essays, or ask for a brand new example. Whatever the case, be sure to have several examples ready illustrating different forms of leadership – leading a team, taking the ethical high ground, making a positive impact, etc.
"What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?"
Nobody likes answering this question, but it comes up. Describing your strengths should be straightforward. Pick two or three qualities that you possess which demonstrate your business acumen. For example, if you're an HR director, you can discuss your ability to identify strong candidates and match them with great opportunities. Talking about your weaknesses is another story. The general rule is to pick weaknesses that are really "weaknesses turning into strengths". You might say, for instance, that you don't always pay attention to details because you're focused on the big picture, but that you've started to train yourself to do so.
"Why Should We Accept You?"
Why not? Describe in modest and balanced terms why you are eminently qualified for the program. Talk about your personal, academic, and extracurricular accomplishments and how they make you a strong candidate for the program. Discuss your long range plans and how you will make full use of the university's resources to accomplish your goals. While may sound selfish, you're really telling the school that they won't be wasting an admissions spot with you.
"What Are Your Career Goals?"
You might not have a clue, but it's important to have a preliminary idea of your career goals. Perhaps you want to become an investment banker, or use your business degree to open up a non-profit foundation. Whatever the case, sketch your plans and make it clear how an MBA is an integral stepping stone. It's okay to have more than one career goal, so long as your goals show that you're planning to apply the knowledge you'll acquire. Whatever you say, don't say you want to make money.
"Where Else Are You Applying?"
This is a delicate question. If you answer, you're admitting that you're interested in more than one school. If you don't, you risk coming across as defensive and combative. One way to deal with this question is to say that you've applied to a few other schools whose programs correspond with your coursework interests, career goals, and other criteria. But that their school is really an excellent fit and that you'd love to be considered for the entering class. This is somewhat evasive, but doesn't force a direct comparison between their school and other schools. Another option is to disclose everything, particularly if you have other offers. This shows that you're an attractive candidate and it may help you get admitted. Which approach you take is up to you.
"What Have You Read Recently?"
Don't answer the latest New York Times Bestseller. The interviewer is interested in establishing your intellectual quality and curiosity. Ideally, your reading will consist of business books, newspapers, and journals. This demonstrates that your interest is genuine, maybe even indicative of a passion. You can also mention wider reading, to show that you're well rounded, but start with material that's closer to your interviewer's heart.
"What Questions Do You Have For Me?"
You're almost guaranteed to have this in your business school interview questions. So prepare a list of five or more questions. The best questions demonstrate that you've researched the program. For example, you can ask the interviewer to talk more about opportunities to connect with practicioners in the private equity industry: "I'm interested in pursuing a career in private equity. Are there conferences or other student activities that would enable me to meet with industry practicioners during the course of my studies?" You can also discuss specific aspects of the school's facilities, courses, or other peculiarities that show that you're a serious applicant. So have your own list of business school interview questions in your back pocket!