The “Final Exam” Question of B-School Interviews

By - Sep 21, 04:00 AM Comments [0]

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One of the last questions you’ll get asked in business school interviews is also one of the most important: what questions do you have for us?

It’s tempting not to take this question too seriously. It feels like a softball.

Just because it’s the last question, though, doesn’t mean it’s the least important! In fact, adcoms can tell a lot by what questions you choose to pose to them. Plus, you know this question is coming, so there’s no reason not to have a good response ready.

Of course, this question is hardly specific to business school interviews. Author Suzy Welch says that in job interviews generally, the “what questions do you have for us?” question is one of the most important – she calls it the “finale of your job interview.”

For B-schools, then, we could call this question the “final exam.” It’s a chance to recap everything you’ve covered – your commitment to the school, your interests, the things that you make you unique.

Not that you need to verbally restate your entire application at this point in the interview. But a well targeted question or two will show you’re serious about the school and make you stand out.

So what does a good answer to the “any questions for us?” question look like?

Well, first, here’s what it definitely doesn’t look like: “No, that’s OK, I already know everything I need to know.”

No matter how much research you’ve done, saying you don’t have any questions doesn’t make you look knowledgable. It just makes you look like you’re lacking curiosity, or possibly not very interested in the school you’re applying to.

By contrast, a good response to this question will show that you’ve already done your homework on the school and that you’re eager to learn more.

A winning formula for this question is to make an observation about something you’ve noticed that was unique about the school, then use that observation as a point of departure for a more in-depth question.

For example, you can start your question with something you learned after talking to many people about the school: “I observed X about the student community that struck me about the flexibility, diversity and genuine celebration of varied interests…”

Another way to pull this off is to focus on an area where your interests line up with the strengths of the school you’re applying to: “I have an interest in X and would like to know…”

With this latter approach, notice how a simple question can underscore that (1) you’ve done real research on the school in question, (2) you have a good idea of what your own interests and strengths are, and (3) you’ve reflected on how (1) and (2) fit together.

So, you can start to see the power of a simple question! Adcoms can learn as much about you from the questions you ask as the answers you give to their questions.

There’s an important prerequisite before you can ace your business school interview “final exam” question: you have to actually do your research. Scour the school’s website, pick the minds of students and alums, and learn about the school wherever you can.

Then think carefully about the school, and what questions you have that haven’t been answered. A genuinely insightful and curious question can’t be faked. That’s why doing your homework is important, and that’s why adcoms can tell so much from this portion of the interview.

You want to finish your interview strong – your last question or comment can have a huge impact. Fortunately, you know this question is coming, which means that with some research and reflection, you can knock this deceptively simple “softball” question out of the park!

In the meantime, if you’re wondering how to approach the interview given your unique situation, or if you’re still figuring out which schools are right for you, feel free to contact us for a free consult!

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