The London Business School (LBS) MBA Interview
How to pass your
London Business School Interview
- Since 2002, I have helped more than ten applicants get admitted to LBS
- London conducts interviews in a different manner than US MBA programs
- The biggest difference from schools like Columbia, Wharton, Chicago, and Stanford is that the London interview is not blind
- That means your interviewers have a copy of your entire application package, which they should have read prior to the interview
- Therefore, in addition to typical questions like, "Why MBA?", "Why now?", "Why LBS?", plus leadership and teamwork questions, your interview may also ask a few questions relating to your essays and experiences you have mentioned
- Prepare by re-reading your entire application
- Analyze potential areas that might interest or confuse alumni readers
- You can also ask a mentor or admissions consultant for their review and insights
- Past admitted clients have indicated that the London interview is conversational, so questions typically follow one another
- Here again, the best preparation involves showing your file to a trusted friend or adviser
- Have conversations about your essays and passion for London. Be prepared for anything
- If you are prepared, you can feel confident. If you feel confident, your interview can feel your "fit" with London
- Fit is usually the most crucial factor for an interviewer. Your interviewer has to be able to imagine you at the school
What are admissions officers looking for in the interview reports submitted by alumni interviewers?
Study these criteria to understand what your interviewers and LBS MBA admissions officers are looking for in candidates.
London Business School Interview Criteria (Modified by Vince)
1. Communication / English Language Skills
- Overall, how articulate is this candidate?
- Able to make their point clear?
- Is their English proficiency adequate for the LBS MBA?
- Training Required, (please comment below) YES / NO
2. Team Skills
(from alumni interviewers' interpretations of applicant's essays and interview)
- Proactive contributor to teams/groups?
- Thinks about how teams work together and succeed?
- Understands contribution he/she makes to teams?
- Has insight into his/her weaknesses as team member?
- Able to resolve personal conflicts between self and others?
- Helps to resolve personal conflicts between others?
3. Leadership Skills
- Level of insight into their own leadership style?
- Grasp of own leadership strengths / weaknesses?
- Has identified some leadership development goal(s)?
- Able to see themselves as future business leader?
4. Motivation/Drive & Energy
- Estimated level of motivation / drive?
- Has long-term career and personal goals?
- Manages self to sustain energy levels?
5. Intellectual Skills
- Evidence of strategic perspective?
- Able to analyse/evaluate business situations?
- Has own ideas?
- Able to link ideas and communicate concepts?
- Original approach to problems?
6. International Perspective
- Exposure to cultural diversity?
- Interest in people with different backgrounds / perspectives?
- Aware of positive/negative impact of cultural diversity?
- Active interest in LBS’s internationalism?
7. Expectations & Interest in LBS MBA
- Convinced you of strong interest in taking an MBA?
- Convinced you of strong interest in LBS MBA specifically?
8. LBS Contribution and ‘Fit’
In your view:
- Did the candidate ask good/relevant questions?
- Do you think this candidate will contribute to the LBS MBA?
- Will the candidate work well with a group?
- Will the candidate contribute to the Campus Community? (clubs etc)
- Is LBS the right choice for this candidate?
9. Post MBA Career Objectives
What does the candidate wish to achieve by doing an MBA? (tick more than one if applicable)
- Vertical move
- Change career direction
- Run own company
- Move into consulting
- Move into banking
- Move into industry
In your (alumni interviewer's) view, are these aspirations realistic ?
- YES / NO (given past work experience and LBS MBA exposure)
OVERALL DECISION RATING
1. Excellent candidate, who LBS should pursue actively
2. Good candidate, who would contribute to the MBA
3. Weak candidate (see points below)
4. Unsuitable candidate, recommend LBS reject
If you choose 3 above, please list possible options to mention to the candidate, (if applicable):
1. Encourage them to re-apply in a year.
2. Consider other LBS programme – Sloan, MiF, EMBA
What questions do LBS MBA alumni interviewers typically ask?
My colleague Steve Green compiled and categorized the following list of question from various publically available London Business School interview reports:
London Business School Interview Questions
- Tell me about your work experience to date. / Walk me through your resume.
- What do you currently do?
- Why did you choose your undergraduate major?
- Why did you choose to work at your firm?
- Is your job really necessary? Does your firm actually achieve its mission?
- Expect questions based on resume content and essay content.
GOALS / WHY LBS
- Why do you wake up in the morning?
- What motivates you?
- What are you short-term career goals? Long term? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
- Why do you need an MBA? Why now?
- Imagine world without an MBA. What would you do? If you can achieve your goals without an MBA why do you want to get an MBA?
- What triggered you to start thinking about an MBA?
- What are your criteria for selecting b-schools? Where did you apply? Why is LBS your choice among these programs?
- Why LBS? What differentiates LBS from the other school you applied to?
- What are 3 adjectives you would use to describe LBS?
- Do you have any back up plan in case your goals are not achievable?
- Could you describe your extracurriculars?
CONTRIBUTIONS TO LBS / STUDY GROUP & TEAMS
- Tell me how you work as part of a team.
- Tell me about a time you had to overcome an obstacle while working in a group and what you would do differently if you had to do it again.
- How do you work with people from different cultures?
- Imagine someone in your study group does not do their assigned work. What would you do?
- Imagine you do not get along with someone in your study group. How will you handle the situation?
- How will you contribute to LBS?
- How would you contribute in a group that does not require your background and prior experience in the majority of its cases?
- How would you contribute to your study group at LBS from professional point of view?
- Outside of your professional experience, how will you add value to LBS?
- Imagine that some people in your study group are not contributing enough and your talk to them didn't help. What would you do next? How would you handle it? How would you feel?
SELF-ASSESSMENT 1: Strengths & Weaknesses
- What are your greatest success and your greatest failure?
- What would your co-workers say is your greatest weaknesses? (Please tell me two others. –S.G.) (29.A) How have you overcome this weakness?
- How do you handle stress?
- Tell me 3 of your strengths.
- Tell me your 2 of your weaknesses.
- What kind of a person are you?
- How assertive are you?
- What part of your childhood has influenced your life?
- When was the last time you took a risk?
- What type of personality do you have?
- How would your colleagues describe you?
- What will be your personal development after arriving at LBS?
- What is the toughest decision you made in your life?
- What are your strong points?
- What is your most significant achievement?
- What are your weaknesses from the point of your friend? Do you agree with him/her? What other weaknesses do you have?
- What are the key things for success? Or what is success for you?
- Expect questions based on things written in your recommendation letters.
SELF-ASSESSMENT 2: INTERNATIONALISM
- Tell me about your culture, please. What part of your culture will help you at LBS? What part of your culture could hinder you at LBS?
- Tell me about your travels.
- What did you learn from your international experience?
- Please give me an example of a multi-cultural experience you had.
- What would your co-workers say is your leadership style?
- How do you show leadership at work?
- Tell me about a project where you have been the leader.
- Tell me about a time you failed as a leader? (50.A) What have you done since then to avoid repeating this mistake?
- Tell me your definition of leadership. What kind of leadership have you experienced?
- Are you a leader? Why so?
- What is the difference between a born leader and a manager? Who do you admire as a leader?
- What characteristics should a successful business leader have?
- Tell me about 2 examples of when you resolved conflicts as a leader.
- How do you manage your team?
- What would you do if you had $10 million?
- What would you do if you had unlimited money?
- What is going wrong in the world today? Why? What should be done about it?
- What did you learn in your international experience?
- What are you most proud of? Why?
- How did the financial crisis happen?
- What is the biggest threat to your firm? What’s your strategy? How would you change the strategy?
PRESENTATION TOPICS REPORTED FROM 2013 – 2014 R1 LBS MBA applicants
- Telco is a British retailer that is facing limited growth. The CEO has proposed creating a new tablet, the ‘Hudl’, that will be affordable and target the 75% market in England that does not have tablets. Do you think that this is an innovative idea? Should Telco pursue this venture?
- Assume you have taken over Nokia as CEO. Following the major sale to Microsoft, what steps would you take to ensure the companies profitability and future survival. I was given 5 minutes to prepare and about 5 minutes to present using a whiteboard. The interviewer said he had chosen the topic because it was out of my experience/comfort zone and to see how I would react.
How can Vince help me prepare for my LBS MBA interview?
If you have been invited to interview with London Business School, I would be happy to help you prepare
First, I want to clarify that I provide school-specific training for LBS interviews
After reading your application, I will prepare a custom list of questions to fit your case
- I ask questions that test your ability to discuss issues that might be of concern to LBS alumni interviewers.
- I also assess your communication skills.
- I cannot predict what questions you will be asked, but I can help you boost your confidence by practicing with an expert who understands what LBS expects from admitted applicants.
- In LBS mock interview sessions, I will check your logic and presentation style to find weak points that might be of concern to your interviewers.
If you are interested in my LBS mock interview training, please follow these five sign-up steps
I promise to do my best to help you pass your LBS MBA interview with style
STEP THREE: SCHEDULE SESSIONS
- I will give you access to my Google Calendar once payment clears.
- All times are JST (Tokyo time)
- If you do not find a convenient time, please email me several options
- I will do my best to accommodate
- Finally, please follow my cancellation policy
- If necessary, requests to reschedule appointments should be made at least 24 hours in advance of the originally scheduled appointment time.
- Rescheduling requests made less than 24 hours prior to an appointment will be granted at Vince’s discretion.
STEP FOUR: SEND VINCE YOUR LBS APPLICATION
LBS interviewers read your application before interviewing you. I want to do the same.
Once our session time is set, please attach and send me your
- resume / CV
- application data form short answers
If you have access to your recommendation letters, please send those, as well.
I will use your materials to prepare custom questions to fit your case.
Then, I will destroy any hard or soft copies to maintain client confidentiality.
STEP FIVE: PRACTICE BEFORE OUR SESSION
- Please practice before and after our session.
- You might also want to watch a few sample interview videos found here.
- Finally, remember to continue practicing on your own after the session.
- Interviewing is a learned skill. You will improve with practice.
London Business School Interview Reports
Tokyo-based London Business School interviews are now the same as those conducted elsewhere. Japan-based applicants are no longer be required to take an English Test or participate in a small group discussion.
- Interview with 1 alumnus
- Time: About one hour
- Informed, application-based, not-blind (interview has access to your essays)
- Includes 5-minute impromptu presentation on a topic provided by your interviewer
VINCE'S SYNTHESIS OF JAPAN-BASED INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Based on my analysis of recent interview reports, I encourage applicants who will interview in Tokyo to prepare answers to the following questions:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Tell me about your family background.
- Please describe a typical day at work.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses as a leader?
- Why do you want an MBA?
- What are your future goals?
- Why do you want to come to London?
- Where else did you apply? What are your decision criteria if admitted to several schools on your list?
- What do you feel is your greatest professional accomplishment?
- Please give an example of a multi-cultural experience you had. Please tell me about a time when you had to persuade people from different backgrounds to support your idea. What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?
- Please tell me about a time when you failed to reach your objective
- What are the recent trends in your industry? What are your organization's relative strengths and weaknesses?
- How can you contribute to London Business School?
- How would you describe Japanese culture to your classmates?
- Do you have any questions for us?
London Business School added an impromptu presentation to their interview process in 2004. The school wants to assess your presentation skills and your ability to think on your feet. London AdCom assumes that if you can address a topic within a short span of time, you should be able to contribute actively to study group, classroom discussions, campus clubs and events, and as an alumni member.
- Questions ask you to express a judgment about the worth, value, or effectiveness of a performance, act, or outcome.
- Questions are similar to those found on AWA issue analysis questions.
- Topics usually ask how you would handle a specific corporate predicament.
You will have 2 minutes to prepare and 3-5 minutes to present. During preparation, interviewers leave the room.
Interviewers want to see your thought process. Therefore, make sure your presentation is well structured so that you can convey your message with confidence. Do not over-analyze the question or try to present all sides of the issue. Rather, try to focus on the message you want to present.
Sample Impromptu Presentation Topics from Past Years
Select one of the following. Prepare for two minutes. Then, present for three-to-five minutes.
- At the Davos conference, the plan to introduce minimum quota of women in senior management for every company was proposed. Some countries, such as Germany and Denmark, opposed the idea and insisted that support for working women is much more important than introducing minimum quota. What do you think about the plan? (2011)
- Suppose you were a board member of LVMH conglomerate. LVMH has taken a majority of shares of a family company, Hermes. Hermes’s people were unhappy about this aquisition, because it was unfriendly and it could potentially damage the brand. How would you persuade Hermes’s people to progress further business?
- A company fired an employee because he made a bad remark about the company on Facebook. Do you support the company's decision? Why?
- What is your view of the ethical issue of balancing both profit and environmental considerations in private companies?
Before you begin, ask yourself
- What might be the most important criteria for this kind of decision?
- Does the question mention or imply any criteria?
HOW TO PREPARE
How should you spend your two minutes of preparation time?
I suggest you follow these 10 steps:
- First, confirm and summarize the question.
- Analyze the pros and cons of each perspective.
- Make a decision.
- What are the decision options?
- Do any seem particularly strong or weak?
- What might be the most important criteria for this kind of decision?
- Think about the criteria you have already noted. Do they lead you one direction or another? (i.e. yes/no, hire/fire, etc.)
- Review the decision options and think about which one sounds the best to you. (Criteria: reduce costs; increase sales; regain market share. Which decision gets us there fastest?)
- Apply the criteria that seems to have the most evidence backing it up.
- Look into the decision that works with your strongest criterion.
- Organize your answer, and keep it simple.
- Manage your time: your answer should be as linear as possible. Don’t get bogged down in the details. Answer from a macro–level and move the answer forward. Stay focused on the original question.
- Briefly consider alternatives and counter-arguments, as needed. Consider logical holes, other ways to analyze the situation.
- Often, someone arguing the others side is making different assumptions, or basing her answer on a different set of criteria, or definitions of ambiguous terms. Be ready to defend your idea.
- Exude enthusiasm and a positive attitude.
- Review your opinion, restate your criteria, and repeat your reasons.
- Ask if there are any questions. Interviewers might not ask any in the interest of time or fairness to others who run over-time, but it is good to ask.
(modified from online sources found at http://casequestions.com/cp_commandments.cfm; accessed 2/2011)
The interview is divided into three parts.
This is the Q&A session. The interview is not a blind interview meaning that the interviewer has a copy of the entire application package and would have read the same prior to the interview.
Questions typically would include
Why MBA and why now? Why LBS?
Followed by leadership and teamwork based questions.
The interview is very conversational and hence the questions typically follow one another. Be prepared for few questions relating to your essays and experiences you have mentioned.
The LBS interview includes a 5 minute impromptu presentation on a topic given to you by your interviewer.
You have about 5 minutes to prepare.
The topics are quite general and this is something you shouldn't really worry about.
The school is really trying to see your thought process.
This is the time when it’s the applicant's turn to ask questions.
Ask whatever questions you might have about the program, their reasons for choosing LBS, their experience etc.
The interviews tend to be long and last good 1.5-2 hours.
This might sound very cliché, but be yourself. Congrats and all the best for your interview.
AUGUST 28, 2003
MBA INSIDER: ADMISSION INTERVIEW TIPS
London Business School: The Interview
A Talk with London's Admissions Director
An excerpt from the Q&A: Q: Interviews are by invitation only at London.
What does the school want to find out about the applicant during the interview?
A: Like applying for a job, the first stage for the [job] applicant is getting an interview. The second stage is getting an offer. The process works like this. We'll do a review of the paper application first. We are looking to see whether the application meets our base criteria, for instance educational attainment, work experience, and the [applicant's] references. After the paper review, we'll decide whether or not to ask a candidate for interview. And at that point the interview will be following a checklist of characteristics that we've drawn up.
Q: Is a long interview better than a short interview?
A: A good interview is the best, and they can be either [long or short]. That said, it's tough to establish knowing somebody in as thorough a way as we would like in much less than 30 or 40 minutes. And some of our interviews will go on longer than that.
Q: And the ones that only last 20 minutes...
A: Could be fantastic. But how many job interviews have you had that had just lasted 20 minutes and have you got the job? I would very much doubt that that would be a typical London Business School experience. If we are going to the trouble of interviewing somebody, which is a time-consuming and expensive process, we want to give the candidate a good opportunity to have a good showing. It's also a way for the applicant to find out more about the school.
Comments from Student 1:
Scheduling the Interview: The interview was scheduled through the MBA Admissions office via email at the same time that I was notified I had passed the next stage. They subsequently put me in touch with a local (Los Angeles) alumni and he and I corresponded to set a time.
Location of Interview: The interview took place at my alumni interviewer's office. It was very relaxed, although I was quite nervous since I wanted to make a good impression and be accepted into the program.
Preparedness of Interviewer: My interviewer was definitely prepared and had experience in interviewing quite a few prospective students. He did a good job of selling the school to me in addition to assessing my skills.
Interviewer University affiliation: His name is Josh Parks, and he is an alumni. Atmosphere: It was relaxed since I was with someone more my peer than an admissions officer, but on the other hand, it's always difficult to be in the hot seat and have someone critiquing you. I was glad when it was through!
Josh asked typical questions about why I was interested in business school, what made me choose LBS, what I would be doing after graduation. He also probed into questions about my current job and international experience.
Additionally, there was a new process where I had to give an impromptu "presentation."
I was given three cases to choose from, and 5 minutes to review these and present an oral response. I think the point was to see how well I could work on my feet and analyze my thought process. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but I must have done an OK job!
Length of Interview: This interview lasted about 2 hours.
Comments from Student 2:
Scheduling the Interview: I was given the name and email address of a local alumnus (even though I lived in the city of London at the time). She and I arranged the interview at her convenience. Location of interview: Off campus, though in London. She suggested meeting at Starbucks, which we did, but it was not a great environment for an interview in my opinion.
Preparedness of Interviewer: The interviewer had spent a few days reviewing my application in detail. In fact, she said she didn't want to discuss issues I'd already mentioned in my application, as she had just read that.
Interviewer University Affiliation: Alumnus
Atmosphere: Relaxing atmosphere, conversational. However, Starbucks was distracting with other loud conversations and the blender going! Questions asked:
- The alumnus told me that LBS gave her a standard set of interview questions, so she did not have much choice in what was asked. The following were some of the questions:
- What is a typical day like at work for you?
- What are your biggest challenges at work?
- What is your leadership style?
- What are your leadership development goals?
- Why get an MBA now?
- What other long-term goals do you have?
- What do you think are the skills of a good manager?
- What should you take into consideration when working with people of different cultures?
- What will you bring to your study team?
- What was your biggest intellectual challenge?
- Tell me about a recent project you've worked on.
- Tell me something about yourself that is not on your application.
Length of interview: two hours
Be prepared for questions that focus on specific projects, tasks, and challenges.
Be prepared to be asked more theoretical questions, such as 'your leadership development goals'! I was not prepared for this sort of question based on the other interviews I had done.
Highlight any international experience you've had, and your experience with different cultures. This is very important to LBS. Highlight personal activities and motivations in addition to professional accomplishments. LBS students are very involved and motivated.
Show what you will bring to the program, not just what you hope to get out of it.
Convince the interviewer that NOW is the best time for you to get your MBA.
(I was accepted, notified by email by the deadline set for notification by LBS.)
Comments from Student 3:
For all those who are used to "blind" or "resume-based" interviews, be prepared. It is an intense experience. ([It] does give you the distinct feeling that whatever you say is going to count towards your admissions decision).
Location: Coffee Shop in South Mumbai, India
Interviewer: Alumni, MBA 2002 promotion. (Just a couple of years older than I am). How the system works/ how it went: The alum is given a copy of your file including essays and other details about your application. The adcom probably makes a lot of notes about the questions it wishes to raise during the interviewer. The alum then reads the file himself and makes his own list of questions. At the end of it all, your application has so many scribbles and side-notes in it that you want to hide your face in the sand..! ;-). Professionally thorough. My designated interviewer had some very relevant and incisive questions to ask about certain aspects of my essays. The guy even quoted me from my essays without looking at them! Luckily I had given my essays a thorough read in the morning of the interview and could answer most questions confidently. There were no major hiccups per se. I didn't stumble anywhere, but the interviewer did not give me any clue as to how it went at the end of it all. It was, overall, a very detailed experience (almost two hours). The professionalism and the attention to detail was impressive, and if you are prepared for it, it really shouldn't be a problem. No twisters. The questions:
- Why MBA?
- Why LBS?
- Why your present profession?
- Leadership example
- Leadership style admired
- Failure example
- International Experiences
- Developmental Needs (Personal)
- What matters most to you?
Comments from Student 4:
My interview surprised me. I had prepared as most prospective candidates do by talking with other students, alumni, admissions counselors, etc. before the interview.
Starting my consulting practice, I was used to giving "my pitch" and talking about my business, clients, and the consulting model. I also took some advice from one of my mentors and spent extra time before filling out my MBA applications to discern why I am a good fit for B-School in the first place. All of these things helped me in my Interview.
What was surprising for me, although maybe it shouldn't have been, was the caliber of interviewer. We met at the Four Seasons Hotel in the lobby and planned to spend about 1 and ½ hours together that evening. I had been informed that it was a two-way interview: one in which I would have time to learn more about LBS and they would have time to get to know more about me. They also told me that alumni do the interviewing.
When the time came and the interviewer revealed more about himself, it really made me think about the journey I was about to take. He had graduated 10+ years ago and since then had worked for various tech companies, one of which happened to be Dell. He started, built, and managed the South African office and operations for them. Starting from scratch, he looked for everything from manufacturing facilities to operating partners and then grew it into a major business unit, of which he was president. This was really impressive. This was the type of person who was willing to take time from his busy life, to ensure the future of his alma mater by sifting through prospective candidates. That says something about the school and program.
For me, this was a positive and unexpected experience - one that made my decision much easier.
(found at http://www.businessweek.com/print/bschools/mbapremium/aug2003/bs20030828_6717_bs043.htm?chan=gl; access 2009/02)
1. Name of school and department/degree
London Business School
2. Date received invitation: 12 Feb
3. Date your application was submitted: 3 Jan
4. Date of Interview: 4 Mar
5. Length of Interview: 100 minutes (The interviewer told me that it would take 90 minutes when I made the appointment of the interview
6. Interviewer(s): Alumnus
7. Format of Interview One-on-one
8. Location of Interview: Amsterdam (one of the room close to the airport. The interviewer booked the room for the interview)
9. Language(s) used English 100%
10. Questions asked
He said at the beginning "I know all about you." Then he actually did not much touch upon the contents related to my essays (leadership experience, team work experience or others).
First, he told me who he is in 5 minutes, and stated asking questions.
Most of the questions are very unexpected. It was tough interview, probably, as compare to others; however I somehow could enjoy a lot.
Overall, he created positive atmosphere, and I could fully be relaxed.
NOTE: Blue colored ones are unexpected questions
*What trigger you to start thinking to study at MBA
*What are your criteria to select the MBA schools? Where did you apply, and why LBS is your choice among these schools?
*If you are the interviewer, what kind of perspective students do you recommend to the Admissions Office?
*(I answer to the questions above that "I think the student who has passion to LBS and who have experience." Half of the learning is coming from student, so that it is important that students is good enough to contribute to others with their passion and professional experience). Based on this answer.....How can you assess the passion and experience during the interview, if you are the interviewer?
*Why do you wake up morning? (= It sounds like the question of "why you live?" or "what is your life mission?")
*Tell me about your culture. What part of your culture (Japanese culture) help you at LBS? What part of your culture hinder you from thriving at LBS?
*Tell me about your difficult moment that you would never want to experience again.
*What part of your childhood experience does influence your life?
*Tell me your definition of leadership. What kind of leadership have you had experienced?
*Some chatting about my family
*Who do you think are the most powerful five people in the worked? Why?
*Some experts says that conflicts better results. What is your view on the opinion? How do you manage the conflicts? (This is the question that my friend in Tokyo faced in 1st round)
*Who do you think are the most powerful five people in the world? Why?
11. Interviewer's attitude
12. Any final comments
The difficult part was how to drive the conversation to "MY" direction where I could appeal myself to the interviewer. Many questions asked are really "unexpected" and "tough" questions. I could simply answer to his questions, but it is very difficult to integrate those answers and my appealing points to convey some message to the interviewers.
*Creating the good mood with all your very best effort, especially considering such a long interview. In order to do so, I recommend that we should do research the interviewer as much as possible through Google, Linked-in, etc. Get to know the brief profile in advance helped me prepare myself to break ice at the beginning of the interview.
*Take a break before the presentation. The dialogue and presentation are totally different. Having the break and make yourself relaxed, and switch your mood from dialogue to presentation.
It was a 100 minute session
Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.