MBA Interview Prep and Tips

Hey everyone, today’s post focuses on the interview process. As I get ready for interviews at Kellogg and Tuck (and TheEngineerMBA ramps up for his HBS interview), I collaborated with Critical Square to answer some key questions everyone has about the MBA application interview process. The original post is here.

I come from a corporate leadership rotation program and am also intensely involved with professional non-profit organizations in addition to blogging about my MBA journey. Throughout my career I have interviewed several candidates in various settings ranging from panel, one-on-one, and group interviews. I have a lot of firsthand experience interviewing candidates and knows how nerve-wracking it can be!

At Critical Square, their goal is simple – to enable yours! They have services and solutions for every applicant and their MBA Interview Prep services are detailed, rigorous, and in-depth! I encourage you to check them out if you think admissions consulting is a good choice for you.

Some questions Critical Square had for GrantMeAdmission:

What aspects of the interview worry you?

  • [Differing Formats] IF I get an invite to Wharton, I am a little worried about the group interview format. Because I have conducted formats of a similar fashion for my own company, I know the precarious perfect balance of leadership potential, team building, communication, intuitiveness, and critical reasoning is tough to achieve in a group setting.
  • [Making Meaningful Connections] What are they looking for? Although interviewers often go through an interviewer training, they all bring a personal agenda to the table. Will I be able to make that much-needed connection in 30-60 minutes? Will I be able to articulate meaningful vision that they understand
  • [Demonstrating Cultural Fit] Every school has a unique culture; even though I would love to go to each school I applied to, they all have a different spin. Will I be able to effectively show how I align with school’s culture in the interview? In my opinion, this is really tough to do in several days; even tougher to do in several minutes. (Interested in learning more about the schools you’re interview for? Check out free School Profiles!)

How are you preparing for the interview process?

  • [Mock Interviews] I am getting a few of my friends to conduct mock interviews with me; being good at interviewing is often times a matter of practice
  • [Knowing the Customer] Understanding who the school is, their vision, their culture, etc is ABSOLUTELY a key part of the preparation. A candidate that is REALLY familiar with the school/company will always impress the interviewer.
  • [Practicing my Examples] I have a little example grid I make; basically the rows are my different roles at work/non-profit and the columns are different potential questions. Depending on how the interview goes, I will utilize different examples based on the questions. (Psst – reader – this is a great idea!)

What types of questions do you have planned for your interviewer?

  • What is your favorite part of your school’s culture? (I always ask this question of anyone in any interview; it is REALLY revealing of how they feel about their school/organization)
  • How has your school assisted you personally in your job/internship search? (Most of the details of the general process are noted on the website/brochure, but I always like to get a personal perspective.)
  • What clubs do you participate in OR what has been your favorite class? (same as above)

What are some of the most challenging question types for you?

I generally perform very well on interviews, and I do extensive preparation on all the questions. However, here are some questions that I could potentially struggle with:

  • How do you think you will perform at this school?
  • What is the most significant event that has shaped you? (This is a tough one, only because I find it hard to pick the ONE most significant… still working on that….)
  • Any off-the-wall random questions (like Google interview questions)

Some questions GrantMeAdmission had for Critical Square:

What are the three most important things schools are looking for in an interview?

  • [Fit] The most important thing adcoms are looking for in an interview is fit, fit, and more fit! Securing an interview invite says the admissions committee thinks you’re qualified on paper but now it’s about you as a person. It goes without saying you should be enthusiastic and well researched. A lot of programs have an informal “no jerk” policy so treat the process (and the people) with respect! How you treat everyone from the interviewer to the student who greets you to the administrative assistant is super important!
  • [Additional Information / Context] The interview is also used to fill any gaps in the information you’ve provided or to set context for the adcom to better understand where you’re coming from. Some schools have a fairly standard approach to this but others, such as MIT, will have your entire application on an iPad in front of them to drill deep on particular components. That can be disconcerting!
  • [Employability] Finally, an admissions committee wants to determine how employable you are. Top business schools are feeders to the best companies in the world, and these MBA programs are measured and ranked based on their job placement rates. The interview showcases your personality and “soft skills” such as interview skills, self-awareness, and communication abilities that will determine if you will be a highly sought after candidate come recruiting season. How will you represent the brand?

What is the correct mix of extracurricular examples vs. career examples when giving answers?

  • To be honest, there is no “right answer” here. Pick the examples that answer the question and showcase your strengths in the best light. That said, admissions committee do prefer more career examples that demonstrate your ability to succeed in a work environment. You’re applying to a business school, after all! If you decide to use extracurricular examples make sure you show how your skills and experiences could be applied to a professional setting.

How is an applicant being “scored” and how much does the interview weigh against the rest of the application?

  • When it comes to “scoring”, many interviews are more of a qualitative evaluation versus a quantitative measure of your candidacy. The admissions committee is interested in what the interviewer thinks about your personality, fit with the program, intellectual skills, expected contribution to the school, leadership potential, and ability to communicate. The interviewer will capture comments across each of these areas and then be prompted to either recommend you as a strong candidate, good candidate, or weak candidate based on your overall performance. Some schools, such as London Business School, do have numerical scores in their interview evaluations but there is no special formula, weighting, or threshold that you need to worry about. You have enough to worry about!
  • As far as how much an interview weighs in the application process, this really varies by school and depends on a number of factors. A common mistake applicants make is to assume it won’t matter much if they’re already a really strong candidate on paper. That could not be further from the truth! However, if you do have a lot of things working for you, then you have a slight advantage heading into the process. On the other hand, if you are a candidate that is right on the edge due to an average GMAT score, lack of meaningful work experience, or some other gap in your application, then your interview is going to mean a bit more! Additionally, if you belong to a highly competitive group such as consulting or banking or you are an Indian male with an engineering background, your interview plays a significant role. Why? Because the admissions committee is going to struggle to differentiate you against a large pool of candidates sharing similar credentials and qualifications!

How do schools that interview (Kellogg and Tuck) everyone differ from the traditional invite to interview model?

  • That’s a great question! Schools that interview everyone (or those who offer open interview sessions) are making a significant investment and it is important, as an applicant, to realize that! Interviewing thousands of applicants takes a lot of time and money. But they clearly are seeing value from this process so they’re doing it, year after year. These are typically schools who really value their culture or who have smaller class sizes. So when you go through the interview process, understand what the schools are looking for and what concerns them!

Critical Square is great (I did a free consulting session with them). They have MBA Interview Prep services or you can sign up to chat with them and to figure out what the path forward looks like!

If you liked this post, make sure to subscribe on my main page and follow me on twitter @GrantMeAdmissio 

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3 Responses to “MBA Interview Prep and Tips”

  1. Brandon

    I’ve often heard tell of interviewers asking prospective students about low GPA or GMAT scores. What do you think about asking the interviewer “World news ranks W/S/H as all #1. What does Tuck/Kellogg have to do to be #1?”

    • GrantMeAdmission

      I personally would steer clear; many schools have publicly stated they dont like the ratings game. I personally believe that the top ten are pretty synonomous and then it comes down to culture and fit. (With that being said HSW offer phenomenal differentiators for the PE and VC folks).

      I wouldn’t mind asking what is Tuck/Kellogg’s five year plan and how does the school plan to increase its innovation and competitiveness?


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