Best Stanford MBA interview tips

Congratulations. You have been invited to intervieww with Stanford GSB. Now what?

First, please watch these videos.

As indicated on the GSB admissions website and admissions director's blog, Stanford alumni seem to be asking mostly behavioral interview questions. Here are some recent patterns I have noticed from client interview reports.

BEHAVIORAL EVENT INTERVIEW QUESTION CATEGORY

ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE / IMPACT

Tell me about a time (in your professional work) that you saw an opportunity for improving an organization.

Follow up questions

  • How did you convince your boss?
  • How did that process work exactly?
  • What ended up happening?

BEHAVIORAL EVENT INTERVIEW QUESTION CATEGORY

Relationship building: the ability to build and maintain professional relationships

Otherwise known as

TEAMWORK

TEAMWORK QUESTION VERSION 1

Tell me about a time when you worked with difficult people.

Follow up questions

  • What did you do?
  • What did you say?
  • What were you thinking?
  • How did you feel?
  • What was your role?
  • What was the result?

TEAMWORK QUESTION VERSION 2

Have you ever had a difficult person in your team? How did you react to the situation?

Follow up questions

  • What did you do?
  • What did you say?
  • What were you thinking?
  • How did you feel?
  • What was your role?
  • What was the result?

BEHAVIORAL EVENT INTERVIEW QUESTION CATEGORY

Drive: the ability to set an objective and achieve it

Otherwise known as

GOAL ORIENTED

GOAL ORIENTED / DRIVE QUESTION VERSION 1

Tell me about a time when you exceeded expectations.

Follow up questions

  • What did you do?
  • What did you say?
  • What were you thinking?
  • How did you feel?
  • What was your role?
  • What was the result?

GOAL ORIENTED / DRIVE QUESTION VERSION 2

Tell me about a project where exceeded the goal set by your boss.

Follow up questions

  • What did you do?
  • What did you say?
  • What were you thinking?
  • How did you feel?
  • What was your role?
  • What was the result?


BEHAVIORAL EVENT INTERVIEW QUESTION CATEGORY

Influencing others: the ability to influence a person, group or organization

Otherwise known as

LEADERSHIP

LEADERSHIP QUESTION VERSION 1

Tell me about a time when you led a team.

Follow up questions

  • What did you do?
  • What did you say?
  • What were you thinking?
  • How did you feel?
  • What was your role?
  • What was the result?
  • What was the hardest part?
  • What do you wish you had done differently?
  • Why?

LEADERSHIP QUESTION VERSION 2

Tell me about a time when you improved your team as a leader.

Follow up questions

  • What did you do?
  • What did you say?
  • What were you thinking?
  • How did you feel?
  • What was your role?
  • What was the result?
  • What was the hardest part?
  • What do you wish you had done differently?
  • Why?

Stanford Interview Question Analysis

How often Stanford alumni interviews asked certain questions

Based on a sample of interview Japan-based reports since 2003

  • Why Stanford? (Asked 8 times)
  • What do you think are the most important traits of a leader? (Asked 7 times)
  • Please give me example of leading a team. (Asked 7 times)
  • Why MBA? (Asked 6 times)
  • Have you ever failed at doing something? What did you learn from the experience? How have you applied the lessons in your later actions? (Asked 5 times)
  • Any questions? (Asked 5 times)
  • Please describe a situation where you showed teamwork. (Asked 3 times)
  • Please tell me about your greatest accomplishment. Why do you feel this is your greatest accomplishment? (Asked 3 times)
  • What is your career goal? (Asked 3 times)
  • Tell me about some non-business books you read. Why do you read them? (Asked 3 times)
  • Please introduce yourself. (Asked 2 times)
  • Please tell me about your job. (Asked 2 times)
  • Why did you choose this career? (Asked 2 times)
  • Tell me about an experience where you felt that an MBA experience would benefit you. (Asked 2 times)
  • When were you most challenged, how did you get through with it? (Asked 2 times)
  • When have your ethics been challenged? How did you respond? (Asked 2 times)
  • Tell me about your personal qualities. (Asked 2 times)
  • Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses. (Asked 2 times)
  • Tell me about constructive feedback you received, and how you responded. (Asked 2 times)

STANFORD INTERVIEW PRACTICE QUESTIONS

My colleague, H. Steven Green, has put the following together by reviewing interview reports:

RESUME

  • Walk me through your resume
  • Take me through your resume. (Probe how decisions were made, e.g. to change positions or jobs, the biggest professional challenge it was addressed, and biggest accomplishment)
  • Tell me what you do for fun -- or some interesting books that you've read
  • Tell me about your background/walk me through your resume.
  • Tell me a bit about yourself
  • What extracurricular activity are you most proud of?
  • What did you take away from your undergraduate experience?
  • What did you like about your undergrad? Why don't you want to go there for your MBA?
  • What do you like to do outside of work?
  • Tell me about your international experience.
  • What is your favorite place you’ve traveled?
  • What is your company’s strategy? Is it succeeding?

GOALS

  • Why MBA / Why now
  • Why Stanford
  • Career goals?
  • Tell me about a major goal that you have set for yourself. What have you done to achieve your goal? Led to a follow-up question directly related to my career goals)
  • What would you do as a Plan B if your first choice for your career didn't work out?
  • Tell me about a specific time when you realized you needed an MBA.
  • How would you decide between schools if you got into multiple MBA programs?
  • What will you bring that is unique to the program?
  • How will you contribute to Stanford?
  • What are your short-term goals? Long-term goals?
  • Where else have you applied? How have those worked out?
  • Explain how you are ready for academic rigor.

LEADERSHIP

  • Tell me about a time when you went beyond the realm of your authority on a project. What was the result?
  • Tell me about a time where there was not a defined leader and you took on that role
  • Tell me about a time that you did something that was innovative / transformed your team
  • (Probe: For example, ask how convinced team to follow given junior level)
  • Tell me about a time that you really led a team
  • Tell me about a time when you made an impact. How did people respond to that? What was the long term result?
  • Tell me about a time when you worked on a really analytical project. What was the result and how was it used in your organization?
  • Tell me about a time when you went beyond your immediate realm of authority. How did you get the authority to do that?
  • Tell me about a time when you went beyond the realm of your authority on a project. What was the result?
  • Tell me about a time when you identified a problem and solved it. How did you get people to use your solution? How did senior level people react to your solution?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to take authority of a team
  • What is your leadership style? Tell about a time you streamlined operations/made things more efficient? What did you do? How did you measure its success? What metrics did you use?

HANDLING CRITICISM

  • Tell me about a piece of important feedback you received and why you think that it was the most important feedback you received
  • Tell me about a time when others have pointed out a weakness of yours.
  • Tell me about the most valuable piece of feedback you've ever received. How did it change your relationship with that individual? Why was it important?
  • What is a valuable piece of feedback you have received?
  • Tell me about a time when you received constructive criticism. What did you learn?

WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT & RELATIONSHIPS

  • Tell me about a challenging work environment and how did you respond?
  • Tell me about a challenging work experience? What did you learn?
  • Tell me about someone difficult to work with that was in a position above you and what you learned from it.
  • Tell me about a time when you took initiative and developed a project.
  • Tell me about a time when you didn't agree with an idea. How did you work to reach a resolution? Tell me about a time when you dealt with a problematic person, what was the situation and how did you react? What was the result?
  • Tell me about when you've dealt with a problematic person and what you said and did to resolve that. How did that person respond? What do you think others on the team thought about you playing that role?
  • Tell me about a time things didn’t go according to plan and you failed? What did you learn from it?

FAILURE

  • What did you learn from a failure?
  • Tell me about an individual or group failure.
  • Tell me about a time when you failed. What did you learn from that event and how have you implemented what you learned from that failure?
  • How do you deal with failure?

BOOKS YOU’VE READ

  • Name a book that you've read recently that was not for work. We then discussed that book.
  • What is your favorite book that is not work related?
  • What are your 3 favorite books?


INSPIRATION, PASSION

  • Tell me about what inspires you.
  • Is there anything you’ve done merely out of passion?
  • If money were not an issue, what cause would you pursue most vigorously?
  • Tell me about a time you wanted to give up but found the motivation to keep going?
  • What is your greatest accomplishment?
  • Tell me about a time you had to make a trade-off between two equally attractive opportunities?

CONCLUSION

Stanford GSB Interview Reports

Stanford GSB seems to give alumni interviewers a set range of topics from which they chose specific questions. Here are some recent reports from interviewed clients I helped.

2012 R2

Stanford Interview Log

Mr. X X (Real Estate Investment Management, Country Manager)

Mar 18th 15:10-16:00

[Process and Questions]

A very short small-talk was followed by instructions that he will be very straightforward in evaluating the interview, and that interview is part of the overall evaluation process.

He brought with him a booklet named Stanford GSB Standard Interview Questions (or something like that), and a 2 page evaluation sheet with lots (more than 20) of 5 level forms. He was generous not to box-tick in front of the interviewee during the session.

He strengthened that interview is an opportunity to know the applicant better, and also for the applicant to know the school better. He mentioned it will be a 45 min session, and started.

His questions

  • Why MBA
  • What episode made you think so?
  • Why Stanford?
  • Example of leading a team.
  • Example of when a member of a team lags behind by either ability or participation, and what would you do? What do you think is important in that situation?
  • When were you most challenged, how did you get through with it?
  • What is your definition of a good leader?
  • How does your boss evaluate you?
  • Describe when your belief was most challenged?

[Overall]

He asked quite a number of behavioral questions.

I was not sure to take a completely STAR approach or to color more with personal background stories (especially on beliefs question), but looking at the time, I felt I would do better with the latter for some.

2012

When applying to the Stanford GSB, a bunch of my friends came up with common interview questions for the admissions process. At Stanford, you have to be interviewed to get accepted. They interview only about 25% of applicants so getting an interview is a good sign! Hopefully this non-official list of Stanford GSB interview questions helps:

Stanford Specific Questions

1. Tell me about your background. Why do you want to change from your current career? What do you want to do? Why? And how will the Stanford MBA help.

2. Why do you want to go back to school?

3. Why Stanford?

4. Clubs you’d be interested in joining at Stanford?

5. What other schools did you apply to and why Stanford?

6. If you don’t get an MBA offer, what will you do?

7. What value you can bring to Stanford?

8. What are your Long-term/Short-term goals?

Leadership / Teamwork

1. Tell me about how you dealt with someone who was terrible to work with and how you handled it

2. Tell me about a leadership experience you’ve had.

3. Tell me about a time you’ve failed – what did you do?

4. Tell me about a time you were in a team and achieved a great outcome

5. Tell me about a time when you displayed leadership.

6. What is you leadership style?

Other

1. A book you’ve read recently and what you learned from it.

2. What books have you read that were unrelated to work?

3. Tell me about something you are interested in outside of work – why does this excite you?

4. What questions do you have for me? (this was w/ about 15 minutes left, so is important to have good questions)

(found at http://blog.siliconmba.com/2009/03/stanford-gsb-interview-questions.html; accessed 2009/03)

2011 R1

(English @ beginning)

1. Why MBA, Why Stanford..

2. (Part of why MBA) You said Difficulty and Limitation to interact with top management (People different from me)..Can you share your experience? How did you deal with difficulty?

3. You said that you have to motivate people as a turnaround manager? How do you motivate people? What is your style?

4. Why do you think you have this style of motivating people? Why do you have such a style?

5. When my ethics, values were challenged How did you respond?

6. Books you read (Non-business) Why did you read? (I said my friend recommended me)..Why do you think he recommended you this book?

7. Leadership experiences outside your career

8. You started up some discussion group? What is that? Why did you start?

9. Any questions?

(Japanese @ end)

Long term career goal (Kind of dream..)

Clarification about Why Stanford (I said one reason is people) What do you mean by people more in detail?

Alumni you met.

Current students you met..

Admission staff you met..

How did you feel by interacting with them?

Which schools did you apply in addition to Stanford?

What is your impression about Stanford community?

Any questions?

I thought he asked "why" and "how" many times.

Interview went quite well but, he told me honestly at the end of interview he was told by admission to make comfortable environment, so I think most applicants have comfortable interviews

2010

Alumni Interview

19:00-20:00 (1h)

1. Why MBA?

2. Leadership style

3. Accomplishment and why do you recognize the experience as accomplishment?

4. Failure experience

5. Severe feedback and your reaction

6. Strengths and weaknesses

7. Teamwork experience

8. Activities and What motivates you about the activities

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