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Preparing for Your MBA Interview Questions 0
Preparing for your MBA interview questions

You’ve scored your MBA interview invitation. Now what? Practice, practice, practice! You do not want to wing this; the more prep you do before the big day, the more confident you’ll be and the more smooth and seamless your answers will be.

You’ll be asked lots of questions that cover topics like your background, your skills, and your goals. Below you’ll find the most popular MBA interview questions – you may not be asked these exact questions, but they’ll likely come up in one way or another during your interview.

  1. Walk me through your resume.
  2. Why this MBA program?
  3. What questions do you have?
  4. What is your weakness?
  5. Why do you need an MBA?
  6. What will you contribute to this program?
  7. How have you been affected by the COVID pandemic?
  8. Additional MBA interview questions

MBA interview question 1: Walk me through your resume.

Reason for asking the question

This question (or some version of it) is very often the first question asked in an MBA interview since it should be a fairly easy question to answer and provides a foundation for the rest of the interview. Here’s what they’re checking: Can you remain focused on answering the question? Are you especially nervous? Can you summarize your work accomplishments succinctly while at the same time providing a narrative about your career progression? All of this information is helpful to manage the interview.

The interviewer has already had the chance to look at your resume, but wants to understand the “why” of it. Your responsibility as the candidate is to highlight some career accomplishments, but primarily to explain the reasoning and motivation for the most significant career moves made.

How to prepare your answer

The answer to this question should be 2-3 minutes long, so once you have chosen the things you would like to highlight, practice your answer several times to make sure you can fit it into that timeframe. The point is not to summarize everything you have done at every job, but to briefly discuss accomplishments and the circumstances surrounding moves from one role to another.

The logical starting point is your graduation from college. Summarize the degree you received and how it made sense to pursue the career you did based on your education. From there, look closely at your jobs. In 1-2 sentences, how would you discuss your time in that role? What was the motivating factor to move from that role to the next one? For your current job, lay out your current responsibilities. While it may be tempting to continue on and also answer “why an MBA” when you get there, just wait until that question is asked.

How to highlight particular circumstances

Situation 1: Worked two years at a consulting firm, then switched to work in marketing at a pharmaceutical company.

“While at ABC Consulting I had an extended engagement with a major pharma company. Working there made me realize the growth and potential of the industry, and I no longer wanted to be an outsider looking in. I wanted to accomplish specific goals of XYZ.”

Situation 2: Worked in operations at a manufacturer, then switched to finance.

“During my time in operations, I worked closely with the finance group in preparing our supply chain forecast. Through that experience, I came to realize that I really loved numbers, and that finance more closely fit with where I saw my career going. I made the case to senior management, and after recognizing my capabilities in the area they found a spot for me.”

Situation 3: Moved up in the organization from analyst to senior analyst to associate.

“I was fortunate to be involved in projects that gave me a lot of responsibility early on and had supportive mentors along the way. This allowed me to be recognized for my contributions and move up in the organization.” [In this type of situation, mentioning a few details of the projects would be appropriate.]

Important things to remember

  • Do not rehash everything on your resume. Remember, the interviewer will have already read through it, and seen several details. They want to understand WHY you have done what you have in your career thus far.

  • Stay focused. Don’t get bogged down in details that the interviewer doesn’t need or want to know. HIGHLIGHT and move on.It’s possible the interviewer might ask “Tell me about yourself” instead. In this case, it is still appropriate to give the details about your work experience, but also to give some background on you. Possible things to share: Where you grew up, interesting information about your childhood/schooling, why you chose to go to the university you did, and why you chose to study what you did. Essentially, by wording the question this way, the interviewer is encouraging you to include more personal details about your life, both current and from the past.

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MBA interview question 2: Why this MBA program?

Reason for asking the question

This question gauges the sincerity with which the candidate is approaching the school.

How to prepare your answer

You need to make sure you show that your reasons for applying to the program go well beyond the obvious reputation, location, or network. Your job in answering this question is to convey your sincere enthusiasm for the school. You need to be as specific as possible. Appropriate topics for a convincing response:

  1. Unique curriculum necessary to reach your goals

  2. Faculty you are excited to learn from

  3. School clubs or organizations you are particularly passionate about joining

  4. Components of the program that intrigue you – study abroad, entrepreneurship project, etc.

Aspects of your visit to the school (provided you have had the chance to visit) that really got you excited about being a part of the community – classroom environment, conversations with students, admissions officers, or other prospective students.

Important things to remember

  • When preparing your answer, select aspects that are unique to the program, and make sure your answer isn’t one that could be valid for other schools you are looking at. Hopefully this is an easy question for you to answer since you are legitimately excited at the prospect of attending the school.If the school is not a top choice, you still need to do the job of convincing your interviewer that it makes sense to offer you admission, and if admitted there would be a decent chance you would attend. Even if this is a “safety school,” you need to be respectful of the school and interviewer.
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MBA interview question 3: What questions do you have?

Reason for asking the question

This question ensures that you have all pertinent information necessary about the school, as well as to confirm that you have thoroughly researched the program and consequently have thoughtful questions.

How to prepare your answer

This will most likely be your last opportunity to ask questions about the program before you find out the admission decision, so make sure the questions count. Take enough time to consider this prior to your interview since this is perhaps the only question you can be positive will be asked in the interview. Write your questions down if this helps.

You do not want the questions to be procedural in nature, such as, “When will I find out about your decision?” Those types of questions can be asked at the very conclusion of the interview (if necessary), but well after your primary questions. Questions should be well thought out and perhaps give the interviewer pause before answering. After all, the interviewer has had YOU in the hot seat for the last 30 minutes with challenging questions, so you should have some in return!

The best questions are the ones that make the interviewer have to dig deep into their knowledge to answer or might even be ones the interviewer can’t answer then and there. In this case, the interviewer will need to check into a question and get back in touch with you. YES! – one final opportunity to have a connection with someone critical to your admission decision. Thoughtful questions could focus on “big picture” things like school strategy, trends, or specifics related to particular coursework.

Important things to remember

  • Even if you have memorized all the content on the school’s website, visited campus, and already asked (and had answered) all the questions you think you could possibly ever have, you better not have a blank stare, or a simple “None” answer.

  • As a general rule of thumb, plan on asking 2-3 questions (not of the procedural type).

MBA interview question 4: What is your weakness?

Reason for asking the question

This question ensures that you are humble enough to recognize that nobody is perfect, and to measure how introspective you can be in an assessment of yourself.

How to prepare your answer

This question requires some real reflection. Nobody is perfect, yes, but one can always be striving to be one’s best self. In a work context, what areas do you need to develop? Where do you find yourself stuck? Is there a consistent theme that comes up in your annual review – something you need to work on? Jot a few things down as you work on answering this question. Sometimes we don’t want to acknowledge our weaknesses to others – a natural thing!

Once you have identified a few areas for improvement, think about how to portray those weaknesses so they could also be considered strengths. For example, being too detail-oriented might bog you down with too much work, but it ensures you are thorough, leaving no stone unturned. In this particular example, you are overworked, BUT you also have a strong work ethic.

Important things to remember

  • As you detail your weaknesses, be sure you also identify how you are working to improve them.

  • Try to have at least two weaknesses to discuss, and don’t have them be situational, such as, “my network is weak since I am primarily surrounded by IT people.”

MBA interview question 5: Why do you need an MBA?

Reason for asking the question

The interviewer wants to make sure your reasons for getting an MBA match up with what the MBA degree will provide you.

How to prepare your answer

Coming from almost any function, the likely answer to the “Why MBA?” question is that you have a significant amount of depth in a particular field (marketing, finance, IT, engineering), but in order to break free of being labeled as simply a subject matter expert, you need more breadth.

Most people look to get an MBA in order to move into a management role or to change fields. To succeed in management, you need to have an understanding of all functional areas of business, from finance to operations to technology and more. An MBA degree provides the toolbox you need to succeed in management in the shortest amount of time.

For career-switchers, a full-time MBA program provides one of the best opportunities to make that switch. It gives you access to critical coursework, training in “soft skills” and leadership, the all-important summer internship, and more.

Important things to remember

  • This is not meant to be a “gotcha” question, and you should in no way feel threatened by it. The interviewer simply wants to ensure that your expectations for the MBA are in line with what the program delivers. They want to know you are realistic.

  • There is no doubt that adding an MBA degree to your resume will bolster credibility and prestige. You want to make sure you don’t come across as someone only interested in an MBA degree because of the pedigree. That is a big turn off.

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MBA interview question 6: How will you contribute to the program?

Reason for asking the question

With this question the interviewer is interested in discerning whether or not you have thought about what you think you will add to the overall MBA experience if you are accepted to the program. The admissions committee is looking to put together a diverse group of people, not just in terms of work experience and ethnic background, but in terms of life experience as well.

How to prepare your answer

In thinking about how to answer this question, you should be considering:

  • What makes you truly unique?

  • In what classes might your work experience be particularly useful to the learning environment?

  • How does your ethnicity, culture, and/or places you have lived inform your view of the world?

  • What personal interests or hobbies might bring an interesting or unique perspective to an activity or aspect of the school?

  • What lasting mark do you intend to make at the school?

Important things to remember

To answer this question in the most productive way, imagine that the admissions committee has to choose between you and someone else with a similar demographic profile and with similar work experience. What will make them choose you?

MBA interview question 7: How have you been affected by the COVID pandemic?

When you are interviewing for a spot in an MBA program in the coming application cycle, it is possible that you will be asked how you have been affected by the COVID pandemic. To answer this question, consider approaching it in two parts:

  1. The first step is to answer the stated question and give a clear, literal answer. Let the interviewer know if you or a loved one caught COVID; whether you were furloughed or lost your job; had been homeschooling your children because school was remote; and any other ways in which COVID has affected your life. 
  2. There is also a sub-text to this question: How did you respond to the challenges you’ve just mentioned? How did you cope with job loss; the loss of loved ones; illness due to COVID; lack of childcare; or anything else COVID-related? 

In all of this, you might be wondering (and we hope you are!): What if I have been relatively unaffected by COVID? In this case, think about what you have done to help ease the suffering of others during this time. What initiative have you taken to lessen the suffering, vulnerability, or loneliness of others? Did you use your technical and organizational skills to organize a food delivery service for the vulnerable? Did you organize your neighborhood, professional colleagues, or alumni network to participate in that food delivery project? Did you begin volunteering for a mental health hotline or perhaps organize a fund-raiser for first responders and front-line hospital workers? 

The point here is to show that, whether you were a victim of the pandemic and the ensuing recession, or whether you have fared rather well, you had the internal strength to rise above the difficulties and become a leader and contributor to your community.

So if asked about COVID, answer the stated question AND address the subtext to bring out your resilience, initiative, teamwork, and leadership.

Additional MBA interview questions

Some of our clients shared additional questions they were asked during their MBA interviews:

  • Discuss your career progression.

  • Give examples of how you have demonstrated leadership inside and outside the work environment.

  • What are your short-term and long-term goals in regard to business function, industry, and location?

  • Why are you pursuing an MBA? Why now?

  • Describe an ethical dilemma you faced at work.

  • Describe your career aspirations.

  • What would you do if not accepted?

  • Why does this school appeal to you?

  • What is an activity you are involved in? Why is it important to you?

  • Can you share some of the experiences you have had at work?

  • Why are you interested in a general MBA program?

  • Why did you choose your undergraduate major?

  • Describe yourself.

  • What contributions would you make to a group?

  • Name three words or phrases to describe yourself to others.

  • What do you find most frustrating at work?

  • How would your coworkers describe you?

  • Describe a typical work day.

  • Have you worked in a team environment? What were your contributions to the effort?

  • Discuss any experience you have had abroad.

  • How did you choose your job after college?

  • What do you do to relieve stress?

  • It’s two years after graduation, what three words would your team members use to describe you?

  • Describe a situation where you brought an idea forward and it failed.

  • How do you define success?

  • What would you do if a team member wasn’t pulling their own weight?

You need to nail this interview, and the expert advisors at Accepted can help! Check out our Mock MBA Interview Packages and get the guidance you need to GET ACCEPTED!

admissions expert

Jen Weld is a former Accepted admissions consultant and Assistant Director of Admissions at Cornell’s EMBA program. She has an additional 10 years of experience in higher ed and corporate marketing. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!

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