When Booth’s Admission team started asking this question consistently over the past years, candidates were wondering whether they should cite the $275,000 (highest post-MBA salary for 2013-14) post-MBA salary as success or give some profound statements like “the purpose of life is the life of purpose.” It is too deep, and MBA Admission interviewer will give that dreaded blank look. Save the Robin Sharma quote for some other time.
Context Context Context
Don’t give the pre-meditated answer that you had prepared two days before. Understand the context. Is the interviewer asking the question after a personal question, professional achievements, or following a question about your volunteering capability? Highlight your definition of success accordingly, and then elaborate on your prepared answer.
Life Success or Short-term Goals
Success is a broad term, and the admission team is not asking this question to understand your post-MBA goals. Unless the AdCom asks what success means in your career, you should answer success as a balanced individual, looking at four aspects of your personality: Career...
As part of the HBS MBA Admission Interview process, you will have to fill up a post-interview reflection in the ‘Application Status’ page, within 24 hours of the interview. We hope you have crushed the interview, but here are five points worth considering for your post-interview reflection:
1) Don’t Seek Assistance from Reviewers
The major difference in the post-interview reflection is the format. In essays, you write the first draft, modify it with a few anecdotes from your life, and then finally seek assistance from friends/family or expert reviewers to polish the essays further, and make it ready for publishing. The review creases out any flaws in the sentence structure, fixes grammatical errors, and addresses the question but in the post-interview reflection, seeking assistance from expert reviewers might not be a good idea. In fact, any hint that you had pre-meditated the response before the interview will hinder your chances.
2) Wait for 6 hours
We have written product reviews, when we were upset or when we were overjoyed about the purchase, but if you had an average experience, you most likely wouldn’t give...
When MBA Admission interviewer asks this question, a candidate’s natural tendency is to answer the question from the narrow scope of creation, but if you pay close attention, the interviewer is looking for evidence of self-expression.
SELF-EXPRESSION = CREATIVITY
Self-Expression needs a canvas and a story. Don’t worry if you have not written a single short story or you are not particularly good at telling funny anecdotes in parties. We are all great storytellers. Just stop reading this article for 60 seconds, and pay attention to the random thoughts that you are having right now about yourself.
Just 60 seconds.
How were the thoughts structured?
“I have to ace this interview for my future,” “I suck at interviews,” or “I can master the interview; after all I mastered GMAT and Essays.”
Depending on the level of self-loathing or self-respect, your thoughts are primarily in the form of goals or judgmental statements. But once the statements die down, you will hear a story – a story about someone who overcame obstacles after obstacles to reach the...
Before answering this question, you should know the other commonly asked MBA Admission Interview Questions. Based on the distribution of questions – professional or personal, you should plan for this question. We recommend that you include a personal account; something inspiring that led you to develop your principal personality trait. It can be persistence, communication, or leadership.
Persistence - Skill Development
Leaders often swear by this quality, and applicants never miss an opportunity to highlight this quality in the essays, but if you go by the traditional definition, persistence means continuing in the path of pursuing a goal without getting affected by the immediate outcome. If the immediacy of the outcome, however negative it might be, did not deter you from pursuing the goal - mention the experience for the ‘Most Difficult’ obstacle you overcame question.
One good example is Skill Development.
Skill Development: When you develop a new...
Business Schools might have obsessively evaluated your motivation to do an MBA, but don’t forget schools, and admissions team have motivations too. Selecting the best candidate is a goal not the motivation behind the evaluation. When an MBA Admission Interviewer - an Alumnus, takes time away from their schedule to meet you and discuss your plans, they are not getting paid by the hour as a consultant. For a member of the MBA Admission team, the interaction is much more focused. They cannot give excuses like “I was busy last week”. It’s their job.
The Clock Watcher
When candidate Y shook hands with the interviewer – an alumnus, the meeting had finally happened, after three rescheduling. Past two appointments were cancelled at the last minute, and Y was even considering calling up the Admissions team, but better sense prevailed. When rescheduling happens more than 2-times, you can be sure that the interviewer is a Clock Watcher, a fake busy body or genuinely overwhelmed consultant – you will never know, but the phone will be on silent not switched off, and between conversation, he will check for messages at least two or three times. As an interviewee - this can be demotivating,...
This is where understanding your interviewer’s background (explained in MBA Admission Interview Guide) is important. For someone from a consulting background, the greatest professional achievement is when the consultant brings organizational changes that generate substantial cash flow, gives the client a competitive edge, and sparks a cycle of innovation. For investment bankers, raising millions of funds through cold calling, and for a technologist - creating a stable, secure system that serves millions of users are examples of greatest accomplishments.
Instead of worrying too much about the interviewer’s background, you can find comfort in the fact that four qualities find resonance with interviewers, irrespective of their background:
Persuading a client to accept your proposal or your team to work hard on your idea require skills in communication and a deeper understanding on human behavior. You develop the skill through failures, and through keen...
After the initial pleasantries, 90% of the MBA Admission interviewer will start with this question – “Walk me through your resume.” We are assuming that you have rewritten your long-form job resume to a 2-page MBA Admissions resume.
Don’t Start with your Name
When we conducted mock interviews, almost all candidates started with “As you know my name is X.” What a waste of opportunity. The interviewer wants you to be professional about the interview, but this is not a job interview. You have crossed a large number of hurdles (GMAT, GPA, Work Experience & Essays) to reach here. Don’t force the interviewer to change the tone of the interview. A formal interview never fully gives the interviewer a chance to evaluate your personality. Either you will be uptight, revealing no creative spark in your thoughts or you force the interviewer to play the interviewer rather than someone who is having a conversation with you.
Chronology vs. Interesting
Before you start answering, ...
“I could connect with him like I have not connected with any other person,” shared an MIT MBA student about his Admission interview. “We felt completely engaged during our conversation.” Most interesting conversation will not have that awkward long-pause when you are searching for the next topic. Before you learn to be a master conversationalist, cross the first hurdle – “How not to be boring.”
1) Don’t Start & End everything with an “I”
When you are in an MBA Admission interview, the interviewer expects you to talk about yourself. Even if your contributions were visible, quantifiable and according to you -responsible for turning around the outcome for the team, the repetition of “I” in every sentence will force the interviewer to focus not on your thinking, but on whether you are showing symptoms of someone with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Mix “I” with “We” wherever you had to depend on at least one person in your team to complete a task.
2) Don’t Whine
Boring conversationalists complain about something bad that happened to them, and most probably dwell on the fate, bad luck or cite some cosmic...
Build Rapport with the interviewer is a common advice given to MBA hopefuls. But no one has dissected what it means to build rapport. You can do a lot to create first impression – a genuine smile, positive thoughts about the interviewer, firm handshake, and steady eye contact without staring. The first impression rituals last for about 1 to 2 minutes. Beyond that, it is all about building rapport.
The need for building rapport is because of our instinctive behavior – the more we like a person the more we want her to succeed. This instinct has led to the success of writers, artists, actors, sportsmen, politicians and even “YouTube” personalities. No matter how antagonizing their opinions are, or how boorishly they behave, we like them because they have built a rapport.
Since humans have evolved to believe that anyone dissimilar is a threat, we constantly search for similarities. Those who were not alert to dissimilarity perished. This trait has been passed on from our ancestors. Even when there are no similarities, we subconsciously search for any evidence of similarity. The radar is always up, and we are receptive towards any clue, even...
MBA Admission interviewer is unlikely to ask about innovation directly in an Interview, but the question would have variations like “What innovative solutions did you create during your employment?”. Don’t exaggerate simple solutions as innovation, or underestimate the innovative capacity of your solution.
In order to evaluate whether a solution is innovative, you need a third-party’s opinion – not your family or friend, unless they are brutally honest. An expert in your domain should be the one who should reflect on the solution. This exercise might seem a futile one, but shortlisting solutions and evaluating them one by one in an unbiased manner is the key to answering questions about innovation. When you pick the expert, don’t select experts who has exposure only in your chosen field but find the one who is well versed in management too. If you go by the opinion of a domain expert, the term ‘innovation’ would be looked with a narrow context, without going into the impact that the solution had on customers and company.
Most candidates look at...
Switching jobs is a red flag for job interviews, and can be one for MBA Admission interview if the switch is more than two in a period of 3 years. You can change this weakness into strength by successfully articulating how your search for the right career started from the first year, on the job, and have led you to consider an MBA.
Admit Lack of Clarity
The often-heard answer about career search is a fake story about the search for better work environment, and team. Reality is that when we enter the first job, the clarity about the daily job responsibilities is limited, and the difference between perception and reality is quite wide. The less than inspiring daily chores wear the candidates down, and they become disillusioned with their choice. That is when the search for better opportunities starts.
The search for better opportunities starts with shortlisting jobs where the daily chores match your aptitude. Explain how you went through the details of the job, contacted current employees, and interacted with senior professionals, to learn about the career path. Once you understood the job...
Unless you have worked for an incompetent team, or a group of “Yes Men”, you would have faced a few conflicts either with you as a personality or with the ideas you recommend. Conflict in itself is not bad. In fact, most teams develop deep camaraderie after they settle their differences. The problem arises when the conflict about ideas or authority becomes personal dislikes. Most team would question the authority of the leader, at least initially, but once they realize the commitment of the leader, his competence (leadership & technically) and focus on the goals, the suspicion turns into trust and respect.
With over 40 nationalities represented in a typical MBA class, conflict can arise due to communication, cultural or personality gaps. MBA AdCom wants to know whether you would react immaturely, and disrupt the learning experience, or you would take the effort to understand the root cause of the problem, and work towards resolving them successfully. When conflict escalates, team engagement disintegrates, leading to low productivity and morale. Companies miss deadlines, and client goals become unachievable. An MBA class has several hands-on opportunities, and companies put...
Moving back from work to student life would be the biggest change that an MBA candidate would face after the exhausting MBA Admission process. Therefore, it is no surprise that the Interviewers ask this question – “How do you handle change?”. For international students, the change is even more pronounced – they move to a different country, adapt to the weather, people, cuisines, and culture.
Business = Change
Online Businesses are not the only model that experience transformational changes every year. Brick & Mortar Businesses adapt to a competitive landscape, changing price sensitivity, and the demand of the customers. Management professionals should be comfortable with change, and excel in an environment where there are several moving parts. The parts include human resources, technology, company structure (mergers & acquisitions), customer service, and product pipeline.
What the interviewer is measuring is your ability to create workable solutions by learning new concepts, and collaborating with subject matter experts, on a tight deadline. General experience working on a complex...
The phrase “Greatest Accomplishment” is intimidating, and you start searching for the extra-ordinary - the one achievement that is comparable with what other candidates have achieved. This approach is wrong. Instead, shortlist the achievement where you had to learn a lot, work with diverse personalities, and in the end achieved your objective despite a limited budget and time.
Avoid the Trivial
Trivial achievements are tasks, not projects. For any substantial accomplishment, you should demonstrate continuous performance at a professional level. Going beyond the expectation, and completing a task –a report, working late for one or two days to meet a new client requirement, or spotting critical errors in a project seem worth mentioning in a job appraisal form, but in MBA Admissions, you are competing with some of the best and ambitious minds from around the world. Stakes are high and how you answer this question confirm whatever you have written in the MBA application essays. No matter how much you ...
Difficult Bosses come in two forms – the domineering and abusive for the sake of it, and the difficult boss who is behind your back to reach project or company goals. You might have realized this: once you understand the intent behind the pressure, handling their requests and interruption becomes an art. MBA Admission Interviewers ask this question for two reasons – is it difficult to work with you and how you handled authority.
The pressures that supervisors and managers face are different from the ones faced by team members. Applicants with a perspective about why supervisors behaved rudely or enforced their quality guidelines would be able to give a balanced narrative, instead of opening up the complaint box, and spewing venom on previous supervisors. Applicants who do that invite suspicion about their competence. Those who complaint about micromanagement also invite certain amount of intrigue.
Did the supervisor micromanage because you cannot be trusted or you were lazy?
This question has to be addressed head-on by offering context and backstory.
Even though MBA...