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...
Most MBA Admission interviewers after going through your personal background and academics will focus on you career. The first question will start with a summary question – “Tell me about your career progression till now”, or “Tell me about your career. What motivated you to choose the current career path?”. For Interviewers, the resume is the Bible. They are checking for inconsistencies, and preparing for follow up questions based on how you summarize your career.
1) Increased Responsibility
Unless you performed poorly or switched jobs where you had to compromise designation for a higher pay, most career path of candidates involve progression, both in responsibility and designation. A project associate to Team Leader to Project Manager is one example of a career progression. Depending on the hierarchical structure and the size of the company, your progression would be slow or fast.
Some organization – mostly Software...
MBA Admission interviews starts with “tell me about yourself”, and ventures into academics, work experience, goals and your future contribution in an ad-hoc or a sequential manner, depending on the interviewer’s style of conversation. Business Schools ask Original transcripts for a reason – measure your ability to complete an MBA program successfully. Your answer to questions regarding academics depends on three scenarios.
Low Grades in Major
If you have scored poorly – anything less than B- , in one of the subjects in your major, you need a strong explanation. Most applicants cite personal or extra-curricular activities for the lack of focus. You have to back it up with evidence. If you have not included details of extra-curricular activities in either your resume or your essays for the same period, blaming extra-curricular for your low grades would not be tenable.
Unless personal reasons were health related, it would be unwise to cite any personal reasons as an example.
The deathblow to your chances for MBA admissions is when you cite...
An MBA Admission interview typically starts with “Tell me about yourself”. It is easy to talk about yourself but understanding what is relevant, and guiding the interviewer to the next question depends on how you answer this question. Follow the 10-20-30-40 rule when it comes to dividing the answer into four relevant segments.
Personal details: family & hometown should occupy the least time in the interview. Most time should be spent explaining your passion. Education should have the second lowest priority in the conversation since most interviewers would have an understanding about your undergraduate course through the resume. Even though a large chunk of Interview time is dedicated for questions related to your work, AdCom select candidates based on their demonstrated performance on the job. Dominating the interview time with conversation about your passion, followed by your work experience, will give an overview about your motivations and why pursuing an MBA program is essential. The gap should be obvious.
10 – Personal
When you talk about your family, stick to siblings and parents. If one of...
MBA Admission interviews generally start with personal questions related to your education, work experience, and goals. This is followed by specifics, mostly related to on the job experience. The answers are personal, but make sure that you follow the best practices, and understand the intent behind each question.
Failed to meet Project Deadlines
If you have worked 3-5 years in more than three projects, it is likely that you would have missed at least one project deadline – not necessarily the final deadline but the deadline for at least one of the project phases. This can be the result of lack of coordination, complexity of the project or on the fly requirement changes from a demanding customer. Whatever be the case, prepare the answer in such a way that you can offer an objective evaluation. Don’t run away from the responsibilities if you were leading the team. The intent behind this question is to analyze how you respond to failures, and your awareness about the chain of responsibilities. Own up to your mistakes if you were a contributing factor in the failure. However, conclude with the lessons learned. The Interviewer appreciates candidates who can look at...
Three aspects of your personality - Personal, Cultural, and Academic would play an important role in the selection process. Balancing them out is not necessary but understanding how to sell in these three dimensions is crucial.
The first point of evaluation is to understand the candidate’s personal qualities. Business Schools value leadership, confidence, teamwork, vision, communication, calculated risk taking, and humility. Incorporating these traits through the manner in which the interviewee communicates, and the experience she cites is important to convey a holistic picture of her personal attributes.
The resume should highlight leadership skills and teamwork. But the one on one communication is an opportunity for the interviewer to verify these traits, and also to learn about the candidate’s humility, confidence, and thoughts about risk taking and vision about the future.
Before attending the interview, the candidate should have at least two experiences, each of risk taking, leadership, and teamwork. Do understand that a good interviewer will be prepared...