Questions to Ask at Your MBA Admissions Interview

The last part of every interview is perhaps the most important. You need to leave a strong final impression by asking appropriate questions. Nearly every interviewer gives you the chance to ask questions. (HBS interviewers usually do not.)

Q: HOW CAN I ASK GOOD QUESTIONS AT THE END OF MY INTERVIEW?

  • Prepare two or three questions that highlight your strengths and relate to your post-MBA career goals

  • During the interview, keep listening for chances to follow up on something the interviewer said

  • If your interviewer says something during the interview that interests you, ask for more information

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. Your 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. adcom member)

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.

For anyone:

  • 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. (found at http://www.businessweek.com/print/bschools/content/oct2008/bs20081023_316382.htm; accessed 2011/10)

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 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 choose this school?

3. How have you leveraged School X' alumni network in your professional (and 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 choose School X?

Information is subject to change. Please verify all data with the schools.

Questions to Ask MBA Admissions Officers

Sometimes, you need more advice than you can find by perusing an MBA program's website and attending an admissions event. The best way to get a real sense of a school's culture and MBA program is to ask the people who know it best: MBA admissions officers and current MBA students. We've compiled a few questions for you to request an MBA admissions officer or MBA students as you get to know schools and their programs.

Questions About Academics

Understanding the academic program and teaching style of business schools of interest is critical before applying to an MBA program. If you're interested in an MBA, some questions about academics are better suited for current students, and others great questions for admissions officers.

QUESTIONS FOR ADMISSIONS OFFICERS

  • Are students able to select a major or a concentration in this MBA program?

  • When do students need to declare a major in the X MBA program?

  • How easy is it to pursue more than one major?

  • What do classes at X look like? Are classes taught as simulations, case studies, or lectures?

  • What are the core classes in the X MBA?

  • Are there academic support services on campus, such as tutoring and writing centers?

  • What elective courses are available to X MBA students?

  • If I don't major in the Health Care Management Program, can I still take courses offered to students within the program?

QUESTIONS FOR CURRENT MBA STUDENTS

  • What are MBA classes like?

  • How hard are the classes in the X MBA program?

  • What is a typical schedule for MBA students at the X MBA program?

  • Is the learning environment competitive or collaborative?

  • How accessible or approachable are professors?

Questions About Culture

No matter what MBA program you're considering, you'll want to ensure that the business school's culture is a good fit for you. While admissions officers can help in this area, asking MBA students or recent alumni about the culture is the best way to learn what it's like at the school.

QUESTIONS FOR ADMISSIONS OFFICERS

  • What is the X MBA culture like?

  • Is X more competitive or collaborative?

  • How diverse is the student body?

  • Do most students live on campus or throughout the city? How do they engage with each other?

Questions About Careers

Many people consider an MBA to advance their careers, while others pursue an MBA to change careers. When exploring MBA programs, it's essential to compare what career support is available and how the school can support your professional goals. Here are a few questions to gauge the quality of an MBA program's career services and support.

QUESTIONS FOR ADMISSIONS OFFICERS

  • Are there on-campus recruitment opportunities?

  • What do recent graduates say about X MBA Career Management services?

  • What are the top industries that X MBA graduates work in?

  • What companies do MBA alumni usually work for?

  • What is the placement rate for MBA graduates?

Questions About Support

Deciding to attend business school is more than the academic and career services. It's also about the network, the community, and access. Whether you want to be an entrepreneur or consultant, an investor or a product manager, here are a few questions to learn if the MBA program has the right tools to help you succeed.

QUESTIONS FOR ADMISSIONS OFFICERS

  • What kind of support do X MBA students receive?

  • What resources are available to MBA students?

  • What is the size of the alumni network?

  • Do current students get opportunities to engage with the alumni network while in the MBA program? If so, how?

  • What benefits do X MBA students receive following graduation?