• Samriddhi

The 10 most common MBA interview questions and how to answer them

The interview is the final step in your MBA application journey. For most programs, the chances of an admit from here is approximately 50%. So you're almost there!


The main purpose of an interview is to get to know the person behind the resume: Who you are, how you think, how you communicate, what values you uphold, and why you want to pursue an MBA.


Do not go into this unprepared.


It's crucial to prepare what you're going to say to tackle the expected questions and rehearse the stories you'll lean on to handle the curveballs.



To help you to prepare for the interview, here are 10 of the most commonly-asked questions followed, by some analysis:

  1. Tell me about yourself.

  2. Why do you want an MBA?

  3. Why our school?

  4. What are your short-term and long-term goals post an MBA?

  5. Tell me about a time when you failed.

  6. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  7. Describe your 3 most notable accomplishments.

  8. Describe a time when you worked in a team.

  9. What will you contribute to our school?

  10. Do you have any questions for me?

  11. BONUS QUESTION: Which other schools have you applied to?


1. Tell me about yourself


"Tell me about yourself;" an icebreaker in the interviews is usually an open-ended question. Start your answer by walking the admissions committee personnel through your profile chronologically.


BUT focus on the WHYs: Why you pursued each activity and why you moved between each role. Walk them through where you're from, your academic and professional background, and your extracurricular interests. Keep your answer concise and well-aligned with your plans to pursue an MBA.


It would also be great to allude to your overall mission and the deeper motivation behind your choices.



2. Why do you want an MBA?


Articulating your motivations to pursue a business school degree is the key to this answer. Focus on how you view an MBA as an avenue to building your technical and practical skills further.


Examples of technical skills you'll learn during the MBA curriculum are: Financial modelling and strategy frameworks. However, do not forget to add why learning these skills is key to advancing your career journey because they won't necessarily be familiar with your industry.


Some practical skills that usually drive candidates towards an MBA are time management, handling negotiations, and public speaking. Do add the relevance of choosing these skills with regard to your profile. If you believe the MBA network is another reason, be specific about what kind of network you're looking for.



3. Why our school?


Go beyond the obvious geographical advantages. Studying at NYU so that you can go to New York or LBS for London is not good enough! You want to show the interviewer that you're deeply invested in the process. Even though you might have applied to certain other schools, show that you have thoroughly researched this particular school and that your values fit theirs.


But how do you do that? Refer to the academic curriculum, electives and/or the specialization that interests you. Are there any professors whose work you find particularly interesting? You could also mention any other factors you considered while making this choice if relevant to the interview.


Be sure to go beyond academics too! Show them that you will be an active member of the community and have made plans to join certain clubs, societies or intend to start one in your time at the school.


Feel free to add a personal touch - do you have any friends nearby?



4. What are your short-term and long-term goals post an MBA?


Short-term goals: These must be:

1. Realistic: Do you have most of the skills/visa/network required. Schools like applicants changing 1 or 2 of the following after MBA: Role, Industry, Geography. Changing all 3 is called a ‘triple-jump’ and is rare.


2. Ambitious: This must be interesting, so the school wants to hear about it. It must flatter their numbers (post-MBA salary, especially). Or bring glory to the school (startup founders). They want to be sure you won't stagnate post MBA.


3. MBA required: Ideally, your target role will directly leverage the skills you’ll gain during your MBA. For example, some ’typical’ post-MBA roles are product manager, consultant, or venture capital analyst because these use a wide variety of MBA skills (communication skills, hard skills such as finance/strategy, and leadership skills).


Think outside of the box but keep your profile in mind. Some obvious examples might be program manager within a fintech/health tech startup. Or McKinsey Fuel, their startup accelerator.

Longer-term goals: They want to see a sensible evolution. For example, transitioning from strategy consulting at a for-profit into a non-profit. Or an entrepreneurial venture in your current field. Something super ambitious, but that you’ll be qualified for in 10 years time.



5. Tell me about a time when you failed.


Be honest! You're not a superhero. If you never failed, you never did anything interesting. Tell the story about a time when you failed but move swiftly to your learnings from this experience.


For behavioural questions like this, be sure to use the SCAR format:

- Situation: Describe the situation

- Challenge: What was the problem that came up?

- Action: How did you tackle the problem?

- Result: What happened in the end?



6. What are your strengths and weaknesses?


You've spent months reflecting upon your journey and rigorously brainstorming to pick the stories for your essays. You should have gained a deeper understanding of yourself, especially your strengths and weaknesses. So, choose one or two of them, back them up with anecdotes and voila!


Mentioning weaknesses is challenging for a few people. But you have to BE HONEST.


"I work too hard" is NOT A WEAKNESS

"I'm a perfectionist" is NOT A WEAKNESS

"I can't say NO to extra work" is NOT A WEAKNESS


Discuss a weak spot that has been identified in recent performance reviews and the measures you have taken to overcome this roadblock. Ideally, this would match the feedback given to you by your recommenders in your letters of recommendation.



7. Describe your 3 most notable accomplishments.


Pick 3 stories from different walks of your life and describe the anecdotes with vivid details.


The risk when you're asked to provide a list, such as here, is that you talk for far too long! Whenever you are asked to give a list, be direct and brief. If the interviewer wants to know more about any of these notable accomplishments, they'll ask you.



8. Describe a time when you worked as part of a team.


Use this as an opportunity to give insight into your work life, such as the team structures and team dynamics you're part of.


It's another behavioural question, so be sure to use the SCAR format:

- Situation: Describe the situation

- Challenge: What was the problem that came up?

- Action: How did you tackle the problem?

- Result: What happened in the end?



9. What will you contribute to our school?


A well-balanced answer would start from things within the classroom and then venture outside of the classroom. Reflect upon your plans during your MBA and discuss:


1. During the MBA, in some classes you will be contributing heavily, in others you'll tend to sit quietly and absorb. Explain which classes you'll be contributing to based on your professional and academic experience.


2. Given your prior extracurricular engagements, which on-campus activities piqued your interest. Examples of activities might be musical (battle of the bands, anyone?) or sport.



10. Do you have any questions for me?


Try to have at least 3 relevant questions ready to ask the school. Research the individual background of the interviewer and ask them about their own experience.


How does this school compare to other schools they've worked at? What do they like most about it? How will the school handle in-person classes as we come out of Covid lockdowns? Even better - something you're genuinely curious about! Don't overthink it.



11. BONUS QUESTION: Which other schools have you applied to?


Be honest, but not too honest. Ideally, 3 schools which are somehow connected to their school. For example 3 European schools. This way, your reasoning for an MBA makes sense.




Hope these questions and their analysis helps you to be better prepared to handle your interview. If you need personalized guidance to ace your interviews, use the link below to book a chat.

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