Vince answers frequently asked questions about MBA interviewsYou are here: Vince Prep / Interviews / Vince answers frequently asked questions about MBA interviews
Past students who took Vince's Interview Intensive Seminar asked the following questions:
1.) Applicant's Q: My friend was invited to interview before me. Does that mean I have less change of being admitted than him?
Vince's A: No. Schools say, "Since we review applications within each round in random order, there is no significance to the date on which you may receive an interview invitation."
2.) Applicant's Q: How do I reply to unexpected questions when I don't come up with good answer after several seconds?
Vince's A: Practice behavioral event interviews (BEI)
3.) Applicant's Q: How to make a strong first impression and speak concisely?
Vince's A: Practice!
Some of my clients use online services like "RareJob" to reinforce lessons learned from our mock training sessions. Do anything and everything that will help you make steady progress.
4.) Applicant's Q: My biggest concern is how to fully convey my humorous, cheerful and energetic character in an interview.
I believe that my attractiveness is a foundation of my leadership skill, and leads to relationship ability. All my essays are based on this belief. However, once interview starts, I become too concentrated my answers to show my attractiveness, turning into a frown. I wish I could include a few good jokes.
Vince's A: If you are more comfortable "being yourself" in Japanese, you might benefit from choosing to interview with alumni (rather than adcom staff or a student adcom member). Not every school gives that option. Kellogg does. Past clients have told me: Six of my comprehensive clients were admitted to Kellogg Class of 2011. Three interviewed on campus, while the other three chose to interview with alumni in Tokyo...
5.) Applicant's Q: How can I leave strong impression while expressing in a simple way? (in other words, how to show my insights while avoiding confusing explanation.)
Vince's A: Practice using STAR / PAR, or other simple storytelling templates that clearly distinguish a beginning, middle, and end of your example.
6.) Applicant's Q: How to prepare for unexpected questions?
- First, fill out this strengths and weaknesses matrix.
- Second, read these typical behavioral interview questions.
- Practice creating simple R-PAR templates (results headline, problem, action steps, paraphrase results again) for each type of question.
- You can use the same core stories to answer almost any question.
- Test your answers with Vince or another counselor, friend or mentor who know how to help people pass MBA interviews.
7.) Applicant's Q: How can I make the interview fun?
Vince's A: First, become confident by over-preparing.
Most of all, be yourself! As in any conversation with a stranger you hope to impress, start with an "ice breaker".
If interviewing with Japanese alumni, feel free to establish the kind of mood you would want to create with a (new) potential business partner.
If you are meeting a current student or adcom member, be sure to smile, look for chances to create an upbeat atmosphere. Most of all, find a way to stay relaxed so that your natural instincts and interpersonal skills can guide you to success. Not to repeat myself, but this comes from practice. Interviewing is like stage acting. You have to master your mind, body, and emotions so that you can connect your logical answers and passionate feelings to create a winning impression.
8.) Applicant's Q: What kind on question should I NOT ask adcoms?
Vince's A: Avoid asking for information you could find online. Read more advice here
9.) Applicant's Q: How do I fill the silence while I am thinking of my answer to a new / unexpected question?
First of all, please note that it is OK to pause for a few breaths before or even during answers. In fact, pausing can make your answers sound more thoughtful and persuasive. Pausing is certainly better than giving an damaging answer, or filling the air with "verbal junk" like "ahhh", "um", or sighing.
Second, you can the space with thoughtful phrases like, "Well, let me think. (short pause). That is an interesting question (slight pause). I never really thought about it (slight pause). But to answer your question, I guess I would have to say... (WHATEVER YOU CAN!)"
Another strategy (to use sparingly lest your interviewer should doubt your listening skills): Confirm the question. Ask the interview to clarify. For example, if you had not considered how you plan to contribute to School X (bad example, but please bear with me here...), you might say "Are you asking how I plan to contribute in the classroom, or in extracurricular activities?"
As your interviewer listens and responds to your question, you have a few more seconds to formulate your answer. This strategy is especially effective when interviewing on the phone. Try this with your counselor to master the art of "buying time" while avoiding awkward silences and long non-verbal "ummmm" noises.
10.) Applicant's Q: What should I say if my interviewer says, "Where else did you apply, and what is your priority for selecting among them if admitted?"
Vince's A: You should expect this question, and prepare for it. Most of all, figure out some logical answer as to why the school interviewing you is your top choice. What is their "killer" feature that beats all others? It might be location (a banker applying to Columbia or NYU), or people (a certain professor or influential alumni member). My general strategy - be honest. Mention a few other schools that you have applied to already and share the status if you like. I have heard admissions officers say that they can sometimes see where else you sent your GMAT score, so it is best to be consistent. Also, review your application to confirm how you answered this question in writing (if it was asked) at the time you applied. Please contact Vince to see if he finds your logic persuasive. We can schedule a mock interview training session at a mutually convenient time.
11.) Applicant's Q: How do I avoid giving too much background information?
Put the end of your story at the beginning. Start with results.
Use the R-PAR template:
- Results (headline style: "I increased my team's sales by 20%.")
- Problem ("A new competitor had entered our most profitable market.")
- Action-steps ("First, I gathered our top sales staff to brainstorm a new marketing campaign. Then, I created an incentive scheme so that our sales team member could enjoy friendly competition as they delivered our new campaign to capture new customers.")
- Results (paraphrase using different words: "Now, we are #1 in sales again and our competitor has decided to focus on a different market.")
Here is another strategy that can sometimes work.
Confirm your listeners knowledge of the subject. Just ask something like "how much do you know about the hotel business?" Your interviewer will likely say something like, "well, I know some names of major players, and I am sure I don't know everything, but I do understand ..."
This might seem strange, but I can help you practice how to do this naturally (usually a matter of timing). If your interviewer already knows certain basic information, you can skip to the details of your story without summarizing too much background information. This type of "level check" is very natural in everyday conversation, and there are ways to do this at an interview w/o making you or your listener uncomfortable.
12.) Applicant's Q: I am not sure how to answer open-ended questions such as "What would you do if you had 30 free days?" or "If you could invite any five people, living or dead, to dinner at your home tonight, who would you invite and why?"
First, identify your strengths.
Then, pick examples of those strengths. Find the right opportunity to show your "selling points".
13.) Applicant's Q: How do I answer questions about my weaknesses?
How can I take advantage of this question? I think that it is not wise strategy to tell the truth, because an interviewer is not my counselor. I admit several weaknesses, such as impatience and a tendency of being dogmatic. The interviewer will feel that I am a less team player. On the other hand, an interviewer expects my self-assessment ability and self-management skill. I well manage these my shortcomings in my office, so my colleagues and supervisors never mention my negatives as I analyze.
Vince's A: Please read my post (including Adam's advice)
14.) Applicant's Q: What should I say when my interviews asks, "What other schools are you applying to?"
In many cases, I have tried to clearly differentiate "school X" from others when answering "why this school?" And then, I have to answer the question "any other school? " referring common points of these schools. It becomes rather illogical or incoherent. I have to find a way both to mention a common character of those schools and to prioritize them at the same time. It is a very tough question for me.
Vince's A: This is a big issue. Please take my class!
15.) Applicant's Q: What is the difference between leadership and teamwork? Why does my interviewer ask about both.
Vince's A: I love this question. In my opinion, an interviewer asks teamwork-related questions to gauge your future behavior in MBA study groups and project teams. She asks about leadership to test your potential to achieve your stated goals.
16.) Applicant's Q: I am not sure how to answer questions about "leading a team in my company." Because size of my company is small, and most projects are conducted by one or two members.
Vince's A: Try to emphasize your ability to influence others to achieve a positive outcome. If you can demonstrate your ability to lead small groups, and identify your core strengths that made it possible, your interviewer will believe you have the capacity to lead bigger teams in the future.
17.) Applicant's Q: What books do you read now? I have not recently read books for professional or for fun. Should I talk about the book I read before?
Vince's A: Yes!
18.) Applicant's Q: A counselor told me I should write an "interview script". Do you think this is a good way to prepare.
Vince's A: If you feel you must write a script, just be sure that you do not simply memorize it. You might want to write out full answers, then edit them down to "bullet points" or simple key words before the actual interview. Bottom line: do whatever you must do to not sound memorized. Try to enjoy the conversation. An interview is not a speech; nor is it an English test. Show confidence and stay human. If you cannot enjoy a spontaneous conversation with your interviewer, how will you possible survive in the classroom or in a study team?
Just like a professional actor (which Vince used to be), you must get beyond scripts to convey believable answers. Therefore, Vince recommends that you write outlines, not full scripts.
Since 2002, I have seen too many clients waste time writing word-perfect scripts that they memorize. You will reach a point of diminishing returns. After making an outline, you should spend time speaking, not writing.
19.) Applicant's Q: Are there any disadvantages of interview with alumnis in comparison with interviews with ad-coms on campus?
Vince's A: It depends on the school. Please ask Vince for case-by-case advice. In general, you should interview where you can make the greatest impact. If you are not ready to speak to adcoms (staff or student adcom members), start with alumni.
20.) Applicant's Q: Can I use visual aids to support oral communication at the interview? I have heard some schools limit those materials.
Vince's A: Prepare if you wish. Have in your briefcase. Ask if they want to see it. If not, let it go. Do not hide behind a PowerPoint. Some schools (HEC) want to see a presentation. Otherwise, you can create and bring one if it makes you feel more comfortable, but do not plan on being able to show it.
21.) Applicant's Q: I have not been able to visit some of my target schools. In that case, how can I still impress interviewer about my aspiration to the school?
Vince's A: Talk about the people you have met. Show how they influenced your thinking.
22.) Applicant's Q: How should I dress for the interview / what to wear?
Vince's A: Dress to impress! First impressions do matter. Wear business attire on campus or with adcoms in Tokyo. Bottom line: wear what will make you comfortable, allow you to forget about your clothes, and focus on having an enjoyable but focused conversation. For another perspective, please read ClearAdmit's Admissions Tip: Interview Etiquette
23.) Applicant's Q: Should I bring my business card?
Vince's A: Have it with you but only reciprocate (you give yours if they give theirs). If interviewing with Japanese alumni, I suggest you follow Japanese protocol.
24.) Applicant's Q: Should I bring my resume?
Vince's A: Yes! Always bring at least two copies of your most recent resume.
First, doing so gives you a great excuse to highlight a recent achievement, such as a promotion, or big deal closing, or project completion.
At the start of the interview, hand your recommender your most recent resume. If it seems appropriate, use that opporutnity to mention your recent promotion, project result or personal achievement (completing your first marathon).
Finally if you are interviewing on campus, remember to bring at least five copies with you at all times, but only present it if asked.
25.) Applicant's Q: Can I bring or send a small "thank you" gift?
Vince's A: Not appropriate.
26.) Applicant's Q: Should I send a "thank you"letter or email?
Vince's A: Yes! Sending a handwritten note through the postal service is a nice touch. No matter what, start by sending a concise email message within 24 hours of the interview.
27.) Applicant's Q: Due to my work conflict, I have to interview over the phone. How should I prepare?
Vince's A: After completing a few face-to-face interview training sessions with a veteran admissions counselor (or trusted friend who works in an HR-related field), I encourage you to practice for a phone interview over the phone (or Skype). Here are some tips for phone interviews.
28.) Applicant's Q: My counselor told me my body language was bad, but I am not sure what she meant. How do I improve?
Vince's A: First, read this post. Then, practice at home in front of a mirror. Finally, come back and get another opinion from the same or a different counselor. This is important!
29.) Applicant's Q: Should I tell jokes / try to be funny?
Vince's A: Risky. If you feel comfortable with alumni or current student interviewers, you might try. With adcoms, be careful. Treat it like a job interviewer. Would you crack jokes with a hiring director? At the same time, feel free to smile to show that you are kind and confident.
30.) Applicant's Q: Where can I read more about interview strategy?
Vince's A: Here are my best interview-related links. Use them well!
-Updated by Vince on 18 Jan 2013
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"You encouraged me to be genuine, and helped me find the right, true stories that captured who I am. In this way, you offer applicants not only an effective admissions advisory, but also a unique journey of self discovery and empowering dreams."
Havard Business School Class of 2015, with Fulbright Scholarship (also admitted Stanford GSB)
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Kellogg Class of 2015 (also admitted Berkeley Haas)
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