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MBA Admissions Interview

MBA Admission Interview RapportBuild 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 Interview InnovationMBA 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.

Unbiased Evaluation

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 MBA Admission InterviewSwitching 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.

Better Experience

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...

Conflict Management MBA Admission InterviewUnless 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...

MBA Admission Interview Handling ChangeMoving 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.

Fast Learners

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...

MBA Admission Interview - Greatest AccomplishmentsThe 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 ...

Answering question about Difficult BossDifficult 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...

MBA Admission Interview Work ExperienceMost 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 Interview Low GradesMBA 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...

Tell me about Yourself MBA Admission InterviewAn 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.

10-20-30-40 Rule

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 Interview ScenariosMBA 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...

MBA Admission Interview - Three Dimensions of a PersonalityThree 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...

MBA Admission Interview TipsMBA Interviews are a critical part of the MBA Admission process; they can make or break a school’s decision to admit a prospective student. Students that look good on paper (via their MBA essays, resume and recommendation letters) are being tested in the interview - are they as good as they claim to be? Did they really write their own essay? Can they communicate and connect? The burden of proof is on the student.

Some schools interview a large portion of the applicant population, and every student that is invited to interview has the potential to be admitted. The chance of being admitted based on an interview varies from school to school; for example, Columbia Business School interviews a significant segment of its strong applicants, while NYU Stern School of Business interviews a smaller percentage. The nature of the interview and the number of available interviewers also varies from school to school (and even from year to year). An interview invitation from LBS, INSEAD, Harvard or Stanford is a strong indication of the student‘s potential to become an MBA student at that program.


MBA Admission Interviwer Personality TypesPersonality evaluation is one of the objectives of an MBA Admission interview. But interviewees often miss the chance to evaluate the personality of the interviewer – a task that can help them tune the tone and style of the answer. It is not what you say, but how you say it that helps the interviewer evaluate your personality. The chance to evaluate the interviewer happens with the small talk about your family, and the location of the interview.

There are numerous studies on evaluating and classifying personality based on attitude and functions. To make it easier for you to understand, and classify the interviewer, we have created four categories:

• Extrovert Irrational
• Extrovert Rational
• Introvert Rational
• Introvert Irrational

Definition of Irrational & Rational

When we hear the word “irrational” associated with any personality, the first thing that comes to our mind is someone who is not wise. This is not the case. Irrationality has been attributed to some of the best inventions and creative solutions in the world. If the world was inhabited by logical and data driven minds, the possibilities would be limited...

MBA Admission Interview HandshakesHandshake is a ritual that has been practiced from 4th Century BC in Ancient Greek as a gesture of peace and equality. In modern Businesses setting, handshake is the first point of contact with a stranger in most cases. For MBA Admission interviews, the first impression is created based on this simple gesture.

How Long Should It Last

The length of the handshake depends on the familiarity of the individuals. For first time meetings, the handshakes typically last between 3 to 5 seconds. For meetings with colleagues or partners that you already know, the handshake can last a little longer.

Type of Handshakes

As most Body Language experts would say, the nature of the handshakes speaks volumes about the person. Although there are 100s of variations of handshakes, the handshake in Business and MBA admission interviews are categorized into four types:

Dead Fish: This is the biggest giveaway that you are not confident about the interview, your candidacy or about the interviewer. You are nervous, and would rather...

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