Questions to ask to nail your MBA interview

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Prodigy Finance - August, 19 2021

7 min read

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Remember the joy you felt when you received an interview request?

Indeed that was followed with a combination of anticipation and dread. This is the make-or-break moment for many applicants. The last thing you want to do is put your foot in your mouth or stammer through incoherent responses.

Different schools mean different MBA interviews

Every interview you have is going to be different. Each school has different expectations from this step in the admissions process. And, they have diverse ways of determining who they want to be a part of the alumni in a few years.

You may expect a committee to interview you as this is the most traditional avenue. But, it really depends on each school. You’ll find this at MIT Sloan, for example. But, at Columbia, you’ll interview with that school’s alumni (and you have an opportunity to decide which one).

A similar process occurs for INSEAD interviews. If you’re selected for the interview stage at INSEAD, you’ll need to prepare for two alumni meetings in your home country (that varies, of course, based on the availability of interviews in your neck of the woods).

On the other hand, Wharton invites you to a nerve-wracking “Team Based Discussion” (TBD). There’s simply no way to prepare for these different settings in the same way, and therefore the questions to ask in the MBA interview will differ.

How to prepare for MBA interviews

Once you know the format your top-choice business schools use for interviewing potential MBA candidates, you can prepare for that interview.

The best way to begin your preparation is to consider the MBA interview questions to ask, as well as questions you’ll receive and tactics that are often used. Specifically, pay attention to core questions and prepare yourself to answer just about anything.

MBA interview questions: Know the core questions

Throughout your application process, each admissions team is trying to establish that you have a plan for your life and that it’s rather specific.

According to Holden Bonwit, a Prodigy Finance-funded student who received an MBA from the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, you need to prove to them “that you as an applicant are going to complete a beautiful puzzle in this lifetime. But one piece that is missing is the [Oxford] MBA; there is no piece that can replace it, and you know exactly where it goes.”

With that in mind, take a look at these core questions that another SBS candidate summed up perfectly. Nikolay Kobzev suggests that you prepare to answer these MBA interview questions:

  • Why MBA? (Do you know what you want to achieve in this life?)

  • Why our business school? (Can we help you to achieve your goals?)

  • Describe your leadership style. (Will you contribute to our school?)

  • Give me an example on how you work in cross-functional teams. (Will you be able to study with classmates who have completely different professional backgrounds?)

Here’s a list of other commonly asked MBA interview questions:

  • How will this programme help you reach your goals?
  • What skills do you hope to obtain?
  • Tell us about a challenging situation, how you resolved it, and what you learned.
  • What qualifications or experiences do you have that will contribute to the programme?

Although you may suffer from a bit of stage fright and nerves, you should already have these answers at the forefront of your mind. Without them, your application would never have been complete.

Be prepared for anything

Business school is about preparing business leaders for just about anything. And, if you’ll make it through this stage of the eliminations, then you should be ready to answer just about anything.

You could be asked about “the challenges of maritime shipping and the influence of possible future oil shortages,” as Pascal Hofmann, another SBS candidate, was. The territory of questions is infinitely vast, and you may want to spend some of your preparation hours in front of the nightly world news.

The most important aspect will always be that you remain genuine throughout the time that you have. But, according to Denis Shamanin, who received his MBA from the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) in Berlin, it never hurts to get to know the admissions team when you visit the campus before submitting your application.

It might be a little late for that if you’re holding an interview invitation in your hand, but you’ve still got time to consider the core MBA interview questions and familiarise yourself with current events. And so you should; after all, not everyone gets an invitation.

Questions to ask in an MBA interview

The MBA questions you ask at the end of the interview are just as important as your responses to the questions asked of you. They demonstrate your interest and motivation as much (if not more) than any answer in the interview.

And, not asking questions subtlety tells your interviewers that you’re not all that interested in their programme.

And, although you need to be prepared for anything in your interview, you shouldn’t plan to go off the cuff when it comes to your MBA interview questions. You want to prepare them carefully.

The MBA interview questions you should be asking

Remember that your interview is not really a test. The school is looking for reasons to accept you.

At this point, the admissions team wants to see that you are as vivacious and motivated as suspected - and that you’re still keen on their programme.

The first part of your interview is about proving that you’re genuine and that your essays and documents accurately represent the person you are.

The questions to ask in an MBA interview are meant to show your interviewer that you want to be a part of their programme.

Here’s what you should ask:

  • School assets: Feel free to ask what the interviewer thinks are the school’s most significant assets or benefits. But, make sure you ask what the drawbacks are and what future students can do to help transform challenges into programme strengths.
  • Ask for advice: You can ask for advice on making the most of your time at their school if you’re accepted. This is always a good question because it gives you both something to think about.
  • Campus life: When you inquire about specific buildings, facilities or activities, it shows that not only are you picturing yourself on campus, but also being actively engaged in student life. (But, remember not to ask anything that you could learn from the website!)
  • Research and faculty: Asking about specific initiatives in your field and how you can become involved shows that you’re excited about their educational content and faculty.

Finally, don’t forget to ask about the best person to speak to in the future if you have specific MBA questions if you are accepted into the programme.

What not to ask during your MBA admissions interview

To begin with, there are plenty of MBA interview questions that you must avoid during your interview. These range from personal to obscure and asking any of these questions could produce undesired results:

  • General questions: If you can find the answer to your question online or in a brochure, you’re way off the mark with your question. Admission teams want to see that you’ve dug deeper.

  • Personal questions: You can ask your interviewer how she would define the school and some of her opinions, but you can’t ask anything that crosses a personal line. You also can’t ask what your chances are. If you do, your prospects are likely to plummet.

  • Unrelated questions: If you’re planning to pursue a finance specialisation and everything in your application supports that, don’t ask questions regarding classes or professors outside your focus.

Questions to ask MBA alumni

Several schools have an interview process that their alumni conduct. In such a case, your interviewer has spent time at the school you are planning to attend and can tell you quite a bit about the school and the opportunities it offers. Here are some questions you can ask MBA alumni:

  • What are the few things that you learnt from your time in this programme, and how did that help you in your career?
  • How beneficial was the career management centre in helping your dreams unfold?
  • Which were the classes you found most helpful?
  • How did you balance your academic hours and leisure time?
  • What are some challenges you faced while studying this programme?

The EMBA interview process

Executive MBA aspirants are expected to have more business experience and knowledge. So, if you are an EMBA aspirant, don’t think you’ll get questions that are usually reserved for candidates who are just beginning their careers in the business field.

Questions to expect in an EMBA interview

EMBA interview questions vary from MBA questions, as it's directed at the more experienced candidates. Here are a few Executive MBA interview questions that you should prepare for:

  • What are your past experiences in the field of business that set you apart from other aspirants?
  • How can you help our programme improve?
  • Why do you want to pursue an EMBA?
  • Why did you choose this particular university for your EMBA?
  • Was an EMBA always in your plan, or was this a sudden necessity?

Tips to ace your interview

  • No matter the question asked, always be confident and maintain eye contact with your interviewers while speaking.
  • Keep an eye on your posture and body language while speaking and listening.
  • Concisely describe your achievements.
  • Mention points that have been featured in your personal statement or essay.
  • Think of a few qualities to mention during the interview to help you stand out among fellow aspirants.

Remember, that you only have a limited amount of time, so be sure you keep your questions and answers succinct and pertinent.

And now? Off to the mirror for some practice.

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