MBA Alumni Interview Seminar
Since 2008, I have offered a small group interactive lecture featuring peer-to-peer practice. I spend the three-hour seminar facilitating, listening, giving feedback, and providing model answers.
For my clients in Japan, I offer face-to-face interview training sessions. Clients have also requested me to offer interview lectures that include cold calls and live interactive practice, both with Vince and other applicants.
My clients' experiences indicate that understanding formal MBA interview processes and typical questions PLUS mock interview trainings yield even better results. Therefore, I offer my special three-hour MBA Interview Questions behind the Questions Seminar. This class will cover three main topics:
Whether you are attending my Interview Intensive Course or merely coming to meet me for one-to-one mock interview training, I suggest you begin your preparation with these four types of questions:
- Goals / why MBA
- Strengths and weaknesses (hard and soft skills, professional and personal examples)
- Leadership and teamwork (definition, style, personal and professional examples)
- Questions for your interviewer
These four topics (self-intro, goals, strengths and weaknesses, and questions for your interviewer) represent 30-50% of most interviews, but they count for more than 50% of your final interview "score". In other words, you can and should practice as much as possible to ensure that you
- Make a positive first impression (interesting self-intro)
- Appear credible (ambitious but realistic goals / why MBA story)
- Show self-awareness (strengths and weaknesses as shown through well-organized stories)
- Demonstrate your critical insights into MBA life (by asking great questions)
My Interview Intensive Course includes a mix of lecture (theory) and practice (application). Over the years, clients have told me that they greatest value of my class is the chance to practice with peers. Many of your interviews will be with alumni. It is also helpful to hear the good (and bad) ways that others answer the same core questions.
During our four hour class, you will spend more than two hours talking and listening.
You will practice these four topics with each other. I will facilitate / cold call / give my feedback. You will also give each other advice / critical feedback / constructive criticism.
First, let's focus on your self-introduction.
STYLE 1: "Walk me through your resume." (WMTYR)
Some interviewers start the conversation with: "Walk me through your resume." OR "Summarize your professional life since graduating from university."
The best strategy for this type of self-introduction question is to show each period of your career as a choice. "I joined my company because I wanted to work in an international setting and believed that the ABC industry would provide me with the best chances to use my XYZ skills. I joined the Finance Department in order to learn accounting and profit-based decision-making. Later, I moved to (another department) in order to learn (another set of skills)...."
Try creating an (invisible) "why" column on your resume. Show your motivation for each choice.
- What skill/knowledge did you hope to gain by choosing your university major?
- What interested you in your industry?
- Why did you choose your company?
- What skill did you hope to acquire in your first / second / current position?
You might also want to create a macro analysis / summary of your career to date. For example, " I have worked in two different functions. First, I learned sales skills since I knew they would be useful in any business situation. After earning the top sales award in 2007, I was promoted to my current position in corporate planning."
VINCE'S NOTE: Clients have asked me if you should give this answer in chronological order. Absolutely! In other words, if your resume lists professional experience above educational experience (as I suggest) you are actually walking your interviewer UP your resume from college graduation up to your current position.
STYLE 2: "Tell me about yourself" (TMAY)
Another common way for an interviewer to start the conversation (after small-talk / ice-breakers) is to say, "Tell me about yourself".
She is asking for quick "snapshot" images of your professional and personal achievements and interests. Your life as a list.
- One macro sentence (# of years / functions / skills)
- One recent accomplishment or highlight such as being awarded company sponsorship or completing an important project
Personally, I…(list 2 to 3 interests)
- 1st hobby / interest (perhaps showing how you use your "mind" such as studying history, a science, or third language)
- 2nd hobby / interest (perhaps showing how you use your "body" such as sports)
- 3rd hobby / interest (perhaps showing how you use your "spirit" such as the arts, cultural activities)
VINCE HINTS: Some clients ask if you should only mention current / ongoing interest. Not necessarily. I personally would talk about music even though I am not currently in a band. I enjoy strumming my guitar to make my son laugh. And I certainly take every opportunity to listen to live and recorded music. Most of all, some of my best lifelong friends are those I have made through music. So I would mention it as my first personal interest.
2. GOALS / WHY MBA
- What is your ideal post-MBA position and why?
- What are your short and/or long-term goals? (Strategy: also practice answering if asked in general about your goals w/o the interviewer specifying short or long-term)
- Why do you need an MBA? (Strategy: give three reasons, balancing hard and soft skills. Even better: give the most important reason first)
- Why now? (Strategy: balance external "pull" and internal "push" factors)
- Why this school? (Strategy: give the most important reason first; try to say something that no one else could say)
3. Behavioral Event-based Interviews
Tell us about a time that you had to work on a team that did not get along. What happened? What role did you take? What was the result? Based on that example, what would you do if your MBA study team members were not getting along with each other?
Q: Personal or professional example?
A: Professional is best. Remember the purpose of a behavioral interview question -- your interviewer is trying to get a sense of how you will act in study groups and project teams. Work examples are more similar to MBA life than college or non-work experiences. If the question relates to team work, try to think of team projects that involved cross-functional members where no one was the absolute "boss" or leader (like MBA).
Please find other FAQs are here
Q: "HOW CAN I ASK GOOD QUESTIONS AT THE END OF MY INTERVIEW?"
- FIRST, PREPARE TWO OR THREE QUESTIONS AHEAD OF TIME THAT HIGHLIGHT YOUR STRENGTHS AND RELATE TO YOUR GOALS.
- SECOND, KEEP YOUR MIND OPEN FOR INSPIRATION. IF YOUR INTERVIEWER SAYS SOMETHING DURING THE INTERVIEW THAT INTERESTS YOU, ASK FOR MORE INFORMATION.
The last 5-10% of every interview is perhaps the most important. You need to leave a strong final impression by asking good questions.
Nearly every interviewer gives you the chance to ask questions. (HBS interviewers usually do not.)
Your interviewer may ask
- Do you have any questions for me?
- What else can I tell you about School X?
You must ask at least one question. If you fail to ask questions, your interviewer will assume you are not very interested in attending their school. Think about it. MBA is going to be one of the biggest investments you will ever make. If you were buying a car or a house, wouldn't you have LOTS of questions to ask before making such an important purchase?
I encourage my clients to prepare at least three questions ahead of time. If you think of something during the interview, of want to follow up on something your interviewer said (or something you heard during your campus visit), do not be afraid to improvise. Fresh, authentic questions are always better than tired standards like, "What was your favorite class?"
Make sure your questions are:
- not easily answered by checking a website
- directly related to you and your goals
- relating to topics your interviewer is likely to know
- appropriate to your interviewer (alum vs. current student vs. admissions committee member)
Questions for Adcom (professional staff, either at an off-campus "hub" interview location or on-campus)
Questions for Current Student (adcom volunteer on campus)
Questions for Alumni Interviewer (in your home country)
1. Ask about trends that affect your goals. For example, a client recently asked adcoms to confirm a rumor he heard that the school would open a new program on another continent. Since my client's long-term goals involve expanding to that market, he could ask about while reinforcing his future vision.
1. In general, you want to know her advice (based on her current / recent experience as a student at your "dream school).
1. You want to ask alumni for advice based on their experience before, during, and after attending your "dream school".
2. Ask questions about the school's future plans / mission / direction (but be sure to ask in the context of your goals).
2. What surprised you most after enrolling in School X? (In other words, how have your perceptions changed as you moved from applicant to student?)
2. How did attending School X affect your career?
3. Ask how the school is related to the alumni community in your city / country. Ask about ways the want alumni to be more active (if you can show your potential contributions).
3. Why did you chose this school?
3. How have you leveraged School X' alumni network in your professional (and/or personal) life?
4. If you know your interviewer's name before meeting her, use Google, LinkedIn, etc. to find out if the interviewer herself is an alumna of the school. If so, you can ask some "alumni-type" questions since she has a dual perspective (former student; current staff member).
4. What has been your most valuable academic experience, and why?
4. What surprised you most after enrolling at School X?
5. Ask if there are ways to contribute case studies or other curricula (based on your experience).
5. What has been your most valuable non-academic (club, experiential learning) experience?
5. Where else did you apply? Why did you chose School X?
Getting In October 23, 2008
The Admissions Interview: Your Questions
A good admissions interview involves asking questions as well as answering them. Here's how to be prepared
By Dan Macsai
During every business-school admissions interview, there's a moment where the tables turn. Usually, it's near the end, after you've been probed ("What sets you apart?") and prodded ("How was the workforce?"), and you're ready to head home. "So," the questioner chirps, "do you have anything to ask me?" This is, of course, an optional request. But it's also an opportunity to make an impression, or blow your chances, says Randall Sawyer, director of admissions at Cornell University's Johnson School of Business. "You have to be prepared," says Sawyer. While asking smart, informed questions can set you apart, soliciting information that's readily available on a school's Web site ("What's your class size?") might irritate your interviewer. What constitutes a "good" question? BusinessWeek recently spoke with several private consultants and deans of admission, all of whom recommended a variety of questions. Following are a selection, and some tips on how to ask them. And remember, these are general guidelines; the most impressive inquiries are case-specific.
What to ask deans, board members, and other officials:
- In your opinion, what really sets this school apart?
Officials know this is an important inquiry, especially if you're choosing between multiple schools. To win points, Sawyer suggests prefacing your question with some original thought (e.g., "I've read that Professor X just received the Nobel prize" or "As an entrepreneur, I was impressed with your 'Fund My StartUp Program"). Otherwise, you may get the retort: "Well, what do you think sets this school apart?"
- Can you talk a little about the student job search?
When you're about to drop $100,000-plus on an MBA, you're entitled to ask about career prospects, especially during the current financial crisis. But tread carefully, says Chioma Isiadinso, the CEO of Expartus, an admissions consulting company. Putting an official on the spot ("Can your school find me a job?") is awkward and offputting. Before you broach the subject, show enthusiasm ("I've heard great things about your alumni network") and emphasize that you're willing to be proactive.
For students, current and former:
- How have you most benefited from attending this school?
This question is crucial, especially if the interviewer pursued your concentration. According to Sawyer, it shows that you're "in the game, and interested in success." Be careful with phrasing, though: "How have you most benefitted?" is much more engaging (and much less skeptical) than "Have you benefitted?"
- What was your favorite class? Who were your favorite professors?
O.K., these two are pretty obvious. But they're still good bets, says Dawna Clark, director of admissions at Tuck School of Business. Students (and former students) love to impart wisdom, especially with like-minded interviewees. Give them time to shine, and everyone wins: They'll get to relive a positive academic experience, and you'll pick up some inside information.
- What's a typical day like?
Beyond engaging your interviewer, this question shows you care about more than academic factoids, says Linda Abraham, president of Accepted.com, an online hub for college counseling. After all, you're applying for an experience. It's only human to care about the little things, like when and where you'll eat, sleep, learn, and let loose.
- Is there anything else I can further address?
This should be your final question, says Beth Flye, the assistant dean and director of admissions at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. It's proactive, it's accommodating, and it's a great way to hint that you're eager to attend (as opposed to, say, asking when you'll get your acceptance letter). Also, on the off-chance that you made a mistake on your application, this request could spawn a shot at redemption.
Macsai is a writer for BusinessWeek.
(found at http://www.businessweek.com/print/bschools/content/oct2008/bs20081023_316382.htm; accessed 2011/10)
What are they looking for?
KELLOGG'S INTERVIEW CRITERIA (as of 2009)
1. English Ability
- Conversational Ability
2. Interpersonal Skills
- Team Skills
- Communication Skills
- Listening Skills
3. Impact on Student Life
4. Career Progression
5. Career Focus
6. Intellectual Ability
7. Leadership Potential
8. Overall impression of applicant
COLUMBIA INTERVIEW REPORT (as of 2002)
1. Personal Presentation and Communication Skills (Is the applicant poised, energetic, nervous, articulate, perceptive, enthusiastic etc.?)
2. Leadership/Teamwork Skills (Ask the candidate about leadership style, examples of taking initiative, effectiveness in a team, etc.)
3. Goals (What are the candidate’s post-MBA goals? Are they realistic?)
4. Knowledge of and interest in CBS (Is the applicant aware of CBS’s program? What is his or her level of commitment to CBS in comparison to other schools? Where else did he or she apply?)
5. Red Flags (Any concerns or possible problems? Please give examples.)
6. Points of Interest/Strengths (What, if any, unique qualities or experiences make this candidate stand out?)
7. Recommendation (Would you want the applicant as a classmate or colleague? Consider intellectual ability, contribution to the program, hirability, and commitment to CBS?)
LONDON BUSINESS SCHOOL – FULL TIME MBA PROGRAMME INTERVIEW SCORE SHEET (from 2004)
Communication / English Language Skills
Team Skills (from your interpretations of essays / 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?
- 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?
Motivation/Drive and Energy
- Estimated level of motivation / drive?
- Has long-term career and personal goals?
- Manages self to sustain energy levels?
- Evidence of strategic perspective?
- Able to analyse/evaluate business situations?
- Has own ideas?
- Able to link ideas and communicate concepts?
- Original approach to problems?
- Exposure to cultural diversity?
- Interest in people with different backgrounds / perspectives?
- Aware of positive/negative impact of cultural diversity?
Expectations and Interest in LBS MBA
- Convinced you of strong interest in taking an MBA?
- Convinced you of strong interest in LBS MBA specifically?
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?
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
How to Practice
- I do not encourage you write a full script. (Any significant hours spent writing at this stage is a waste of time!)
- Instead, write bullet points.
- For every hour you spend practicing with Vince or any other advisor, MBA holder or friend, you should practice 10 hours by yourself.
- Use the "Vince Mirror Method" to practice your interview answers at home
How to answer behavioral (event-based) interview questions
Some people believe that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. In a behavioral interview you will have to demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and abilities, collectively known as competencies, by giving specific examples from your past experiences. Instead of asking how you would behave in a particular situation, the interviewer will ask you to describe how you did behave. Expect the interviewer to question and probe you for more details about what you thought, felt, said and did. Also, your interviewer will not allow you to theorize or generalize about several events.
How can you prepare for a Behavioral Event-Based Interview?
During a behavioral interview, always listen carefully to the question, ask for clarification if necessary, and make sure you answer the question completely.
Your answer should contain these four steps (Situation, Task, Action, Result or "STAR") for optimum success. http://web.mit.edu/career/www/guide/star.html
- Situation: give an example of a situation you were involved in that resulted in a positive outcome
- Task: describe the tasks involved in that situation
- Action: talk about the various actions involved in the situation’s task
- Results: what results directly followed because of your actions
Whenever you can, quantify your results. Numbers illustrate your level of authority and responsibility. For example: "I was a shift supervisor." could be "As Shift Supervisor, I trained and evaluated 4 employees."
Example of a STAR Answer
- Situation: During my internship last summer, I was responsible for managing various events.
- Task: I noticed that attendance at these events had dropped by 30% over the past 3 years and wanted to do something to improve these numbers.
- Action: I designed a new promotional packet to go out to the local community businesses. I also included a rating sheet to collect feedback on our events and organized internal round table discussions to raise awareness of the issue with our employees.
- Result: We utilized some of the wonderful ideas we received from the community, made our internal systems more efficient and visible and raised attendance by 18% the first year.
Behavioral Interview Example
Question: “Describe a situation where you have had to deal with a difficult person.”
Answer: “I was transferred to a new project at my previous company to replace a beloved member of the team. My new team leader exhibited hostility towards me, and I found myself left out of vital communications and meetings. After a few weeks, I was able to talk her into a one on one meeting. When laid out all of the key objectives for the team, the previous employees role in meeting those objectives, and then discussed goals that I could set to make sure I was able to serve as a quality replacement. In our discussion, we also identified a few underlying issues with management that she had been carrying around with her. In uncovering all of these sentiments, she was able to clearly define her situation and achieve an understanding with her supervisors. In the end, the entire team morale improved, I was able to exceed my goals and the company itself became more profitable from our teams increased performance.”
Follow-up questions will test for consistency and determine if you exhibited the desired behavior in that situation:
- "Can you give me an example?"
- "What did you do?"
- "What did you say?"
- "What were you thinking?"
- "How did you feel?
- "What was your role?"
- "What was the result?"
MOST COMMON BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW QUESTION TYPES by CATEGORY
- Tell us about a time that you had to work on a team that did not get along. What happened? What role did you take? What was the result? Based on that example, what would you do if your MBA study team members were not getting along with each other?
- How do you resolve conflict on a team?
- Tell me about a time when you experienced cultural conflict and how you handled it.
- What role do you typically play in teams?
- Tell me about a time when you contributed to a team.
- What has been your most difficult teamwork experience?
- Describe a situation in which you had to arrive at a compromise or help others to compromise. What was your role? What steps did you take? What was the end result?
- Describe a team experience you found disappointing. What would you have done to prevent this?
- Tell me about a time when you resolved a conflict in a group.
- Tell us about the most difficult challenge you faced in trying to work cooperatively with someone who did not share the same ideas? What was your role in achieving the work objective?
- What is the difficult part of being a member, not leader, of a team? How did you handle this?
- When is the last time you had a disagreement with a peer? How did you resolve the situation?
- Tell us about the most difficult or frustrating individual that you’ve ever had to work with, and how you managed to work with them.
- Have you ever been a member of a group where two of the members did not work well together? What did you do to get them to do so?
- What is the toughest group that you have had to get cooperation from? Describe how you handled it. What was the outcome?
- What is your leadership style? Give me an example of a time when you displayed that leadership style.
- Tell me your definition of leadership and give an example.
- Tell me about a time when you exercised leadership.
- Tell me about a time when you took initiative.
- Tell me about a time when you introduced an innovation.
- Tell me about a time when you solved an important problem.
- Tell me about a time when you took a position different from the consensus view of your team / organization.
- How do you show leadership outside of your job?
- What leadership areas do you wish do develop through your MBA experience? What specifically do you plan to do at School X to develop in these ways?
- Describe your leadership style and give an example of a situation when you successfully led a group.
- Have you ever been in a position where you had to lead a group of peers? How did you handle it?
- Give an example of a time in which you felt you were able to build motivation in your co-workers or subordinates at work.
- What is your greatest accomplishment?
- What impact have your accomplishments had on your organization?
- Have you ever failed?
- How did you recover from this experience & what did you learn about yourself?
- When have you faced a setback and how did you deal with it?
- What has been your major work related disappointment? What happened and what did you do?
Ethics / Integrity
- Discuss an ethical dilemma you faced at work.
- Describe a situation where your values, ethics, or morals were challenged. How did you handle the situation? What did you learn about yourself?
Information compiled from various public sources including: http://web.mit.edu/career/www/guide/star.html
Click here for Vince best behavioral interview tips and videos
I have compiled several frameworks to help clients structure essay and interview answers. Use them well.
PAR stands for Problem-Action-Results; in other words, first you state the problem that existed in your workplace, then you describe what you did about it, and finally you point out the beneficial results.
Here’s an example: “Transformed a disorganized, inefficient warehouse into a smooth-running operation by totally redesigning the layout; this saved the company thousands of dollars in recovered stock.”
Another example: “Improved an engineering company’s obsolete filing system by developing a simple but sophisticated functional-coding system. This saved time and money by recovering valuable, previously lost, project records.”
PAR = Accomplishment Statements
For each accomplishment, describe the problem as well as the result. Accomplishment statements can highlight one primary action and result or may contain a few lines of information that stress additional skills and specific results. Use the Problem-Action-Result (PAR) approach for each accomplishment
State the Problem - (The challenge, need, opportunity or goal.) Aim to state the main problem/challenge in one to two sentences. This provides the context for the actions you took.
State the Key Actions Performed - (Begin each sentence with a key skill word.) This helps to target your skills to the requirements of the job.
State the Result - (Quantify the result(s) when possible.) Use percentages, numbers etc. to demonstrate the significance of your actions. If you cannot quantify the result, try to qualify the result by stating the type of improvement you observed.
Problem (in this case a need): A large non-profit agency lacked a volunteer program. Valuable staff time was used to perform services that volunteers could do.
Action (key skills used): Researched volunteer management theories. Interviewed volunteer coordinators. Prepared a cost/benefit analysis of hiring a coordinator to recruit and train volunteers. Drafted and submitted a proposal.
Result (quantify or qualify benefits of your actions): The organization created a full-time position that expanded the agency services and maximized staff time.
Summarized PAR for Use in Resume: Expanded agency's service and maximized staff effectiveness by researching and recommending new volunteer program with a full-time volunteer coordinator.
Incorporate your completed accomplishment statements into the body of your resume and expand upon these accomplishments in your interview to communicate the specific skills and unique benefits you bring to the position.
(found at http://www.skillscan.net/intro/Cap/Self-Promotion/SPTips.cfm; accessed 2009/10)
Variation 1: R-PAR
I suggest a modified PAR template: R-PAR. Put the result at the beginning.
- Results (headline, summary)
- Results (paraphrase)
Variation 2: PART
Variation 3: SOAR
Provide a structured framework to keep your answer clear and concise, while conveying how you effectively overcame the challenge.
Variation 4: SOFT
- Takeaway (what you learned)
- Harvard Business School Class of 2012: "Vince's Interview Intensive was quite helpful. Experiencing the interviewer's role helped me pass adcom and alumni interviews for HBS and Wharton."
- INSEAD Class of 2012: "Thank you very much for your advice and support facing my interviews. I could see the impact of your suggestions in the interviews first hand."
- Chicago Booth Class of 2010: "One of the biggest benefits of Vince’s seminar is seeing other applicants' interview styles. Specifically, brainstorming Q&A questions as a group helped me to prepare for actual interview situations. It was also useful to hear about other applicants’ recent interview experiences.”
As a bit of a cheap bastard and control freak, I manage this website alone.
Thus, I do not always have time to update it as I would like.
Information is subject to change. Please, verify all data with the schools.