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MBA Admissions Interview

We rarely have the time or attention span to sit and read 2-hour a day for a week to complete a standard 250-300 page book. The admission team realizes that to succeed in an MBA program, you must be a voracious reader. On average, a top MBA candidate reads close to 25000 words per day – close to 50 pages of a standard book. During the test season, it would climb up to 50000 to 75000 words per day or 100 to 125 pages per day.

Remembering Information: I rarely note down what I have read. I try to find the emotion, life lesson, author’s journey that led to the position, and the theme of the book. Unlike my goal to write in an interesting way to convey unique and traditional ideas, MBA candidates’ goal is to capture the attention of the management with a succinct summary of trends backed up by reliable data and patterns of past events & actions.

After a Global Experiential learning trip, one of the deliverables is a report that is presented to the client. Defining the audience, understanding their expectations, and capturing all the relevant information and strategy to grow, maintain the market position, or resolve a regulatory/funding/process hurdle require removing significant background information. Although your personal experience feeds into the recommendations, reports are rarely the place to capture your rationale.

Motivation behind the question


Not at the same level of enthusiasm as pre-2008, Finance still holds sway on 25% of the class. Technology has taken over favor from the Finance role. Most Investment Banking, Financial Services, Private Equity/VC, and Corporate Development role are targeted by those in the industry.

If you are a career switcher, the path to transition is extremely competitive and achieved only through an internship. Since evaluating business school ranking and the surveys are a big part of my job in finding hidden gems to recommend for my clients, I have noticed that apart from Booth, Kellogg, Darden, Haas, Tuck, and Darden, the top 20 MBA programs fare poorly on Career service rank. Not because they are purposefully botching this crucial part of the post-MBA journey, but because the type of students accepted to top programs are more driven and typically need little hand-holding.

Survey questions on facilitating network events or coaching the students for interviews miss this key differentiator.

Finance folks have a rare form of chutzpah or what we call an extreme form of self-confidence. I can vouch for this as someone who has worked with several...

Consulting is the only profession where your leadership, communication, or problem-solving all can translate to a successful transition. The believability is in the sincerity of your narrative.

Leadership: Leading a non-profit or your school through an event/sports/social engagement are all examples of leadership. Consulting, although, codified with frameworks on interviewing stakeholders and capturing the most relevant information, mostly involve working with incomplete information and scenarios. Leadership requires the courage to work with the unknowns and orient the team for success.

A narrative on setbacks and motivating the team to find a solution would all translate to your post-MBA role as a senior consultant where you would be working with other consultants, who look up to you for strategic direction.

Communication: It is unlikely that anyone of you called for an interview have poor communication skills. Finding the ‘root’ cause of the problem involves probing – a foundational skill for consulting. If you have seen mock consulting case interviews, the questioning technique...

Give an Example of an Ethical Dilemma you faced. How did you handle it?

Ethical Dilemma stems from any action that violates information asymmetry or takes advantage of the power dynamics in an organization. The protagonist – you, would feel uncomfortable as the choices are not easy and the ‘right’ path have consequences both on you and for your organization.

The most common ethical dilemma involves the information disparity between a client and the employer. As a service provider, most sales team have a thorough understanding of the client needs. The add-on services and clauses that capture additional revenue from the client might be a strategy that is good for the company’s bottom line. The problem arises when they are abused.

Depending on your job function and industry some of the unethical practices might have become mainstream with no one batting an eyelid to question the practice. Citing examples that demonstrate a complete shaking up of a system or your organization’s common practices might not be believable as the admission team realizes the limited power you had. However, if you were part of a core team in a start-up environment, mentioning such example is ideal.

For a larger organization, the ethical dilemma could arise in six forms:


Tell me a time when you made a Mistake. What did you learn from it?

You might have written, re-written and edited the creases out of the failure essay. So when the admission team asks you again about failure, it might not come in a straightforward manner. Most Alumnus would rephrase the question to - what would be the biggest mistake you have made. Don’t get fooled by the wording. We all make mistakes, every day. That is part of learning. The question is not that.

When someone asks you about failure, face to face, looking for signs of pain, it better be authentic. We as humans have improved our lie detection technique. Interviewers trained with a primer in unravelling incongruent stories would grill you down to the last details, forcing you to connect events, particularly the reverse sequence as authentic applicants could slice and dice the chronology and expand on any aspect of the failure. Even the most well-crafted failure essay if made-up could break down inconsistency when details on location and timeline are re-examined. The applicant making up the story would forcefully slowdown as he connects the story or makes silly grammatical mistakes. Slowing down of narrative might be misconstrued as a process of reflecting on the results, but if the pace varies while reflecting on your biggest mistake/failure and picks up while narrating about...

Business School admission team have the hard job of choosing candidates who have demonstrated a balance in academic rigor, professional growth, extra-curricular and volunteering experience. The most common reason for rejection in admissions is lack of experience.

With close to 25-35% of the applicants receiving interview invites for most top schools, interviews are a relatively easier hurdle to cross.

Any shortcuts – working 2-3 months and getting recommendation letter/experience certificate indicating 2-3 years of experience or made up stories on volunteering are revealed during one on one conversation.

While preparing clients during mock interviews, we reiterate the need to have at least 3 narratives on extra-curricular and volunteering with preference shown to experiences in the past three years. The more far off the applicant go back to cite involvement in the community, the more likely that they would face rejection.

Why School needs proof of volunteering?

According to a 2016 labour survey in the US, the lowest volunteering age was in the 20-24 age group with the highest in the 35-44 and 45-54 range. To break the trend, MBA Applicants who typically start their professional career at the age of 22 would have to break the stereotype, plan or emulate the...

It doesn’t matter whether you believe the interview would be conversational or formal, around 75% of the interviewer will switch from friendly to part confrontational in a role that we have all known as the Devil’s advocate. The interviewer might believe in your achievements, goals or even ambition to change the culture, but they want to see how you respond to skepticism.

Even though Devil’s Advocate was an official position until 1983 in the Catholic Church, primarily created to challenge the evidence offered in favor of sainthood, in admission interviews, the challenges are not one dimensional. Business Schools must evaluate competitive factors while balancing the percentage of international, women and minority students in the class. Any evidence of incongruity or lack of salesmanship could be interpreted as a weakness. In addition to ‘being in the moment’ with enthusiasm and sincerity, here are 6 tough follow-up questions to expect in MBA Admission interview.

1) Career Choice

The choice of a discipline might be the result of a trend you followed, or it might have come from a sequence of events in school that gave you the aha moment. In interviews, the fakeness of a story cannot be hidden with flowery phrases. The interviewer is observing even the minutest twitch, smiles and wordplay. Truth always triumphs. Don’t create stories. Reflect and...

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