MBA Interview Tips and Tricks

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By Michelle R Kelley

With Advice from Phillippe Barr

Published on August 19, 2021

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Interest in MBA programs surged during the 2020 economic downturn. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), in 2020, one out of three MBA programs reported a more than 20% increase in the number of applications compared to the previous year. The number of students applying to earn their MBAs online also grew.

The MBA interview is a critical component of the MBA application process. In fact, how well you perform during your interview may be as important as your score on the GMAT exam in determining whether you gain admission. Read on to learn more about the MBA interview process and how to excel during your interview.

What Should I Expect in an MBA Interview?

During an MBA interview, interviewers evaluate applicants' ambition, leadership potential, and other attributes. Some MBA interviews are formal, while others are more conversational.

“Students should expect to talk about their career and academic goals, as well as demonstrating a certain degree of emotional intelligence.”
Phillipee Barr, Former Assistant Director of MBA Admissions for Kenan-Flagler Business School

Usually, interviews are conducted by MBA admissions departments, which may include administrators and faculty. Some schools also ask current students and alumni to conduct interviews. These interviews are often more casual than MBA interviews with faculty and administrators.

Some MBA programs conduct blind interviews, which means interviewers only read students' resumes before meeting with them. However, at other schools, interviewers review students' resumes, application essays, and references. Depending on the program, you may be interviewed by one person or by several.

Five Tips to Help You Ace an MBA Admissions Interview

1. Research Each MBA Program's Interview Process

During your preparation, research the interview process of the programs you're applying to. Some MBA programs conduct interviews by invitation only, while others expect applicants to initiate interviews themselves. Also, some schools conduct group interviews with several applicants at a time.

Knowing the interview format in advance can help you better prepare.

2. Review and Practice Common MBA Interview Questions

Before your interview, practice your responses to common interview questions for MBA programs by conducting mock interviews with family or friends. By practicing, you'll grow more comfortable discussing your goals in a conversational context.

Often, MBA interview questions are similar to those asked in MBA essay prompts. Interviewers will likely want to know why you're pursuing an MBA, your career goals, and how you'll contribute to the program. They may also ask why you are interested in their specific MBA program and about challenges you've faced and how you overcame them.

3. Be Ready to Explain Your Goals and School Fit

You want to demonstrate to your interviewer that you've researched the program to which you're applying and understand what sets it apart. Before your interview, review the program's website. Read faculty bios, course descriptions, and mission statements. Then, draw on this research to discuss how the program's unique features can help you achieve your goals.

“Be prepared to talk about what sort of impact you would like to make on the program. It is a great way to move away from yourself and your needs and show the admissions committee that you have a lot to offer and a lot to share with your future colleagues.”
Phillipee Barr, Former Assistant Director of MBA Admissions for Kenan-Flagler Business School

However, don't focus exclusively on what the program can do for you. Instead, discuss what you can contribute to the program. For example, if you enjoy working collaboratively, you might describe how you look forward to working with your peers during group work. Focusing on what you can do for others can be an effective way to demonstrate leadership potential.

4. Prepare Anecdotes and Talking Points

During your interview, identify your qualifications and provide evidence to back up your claims. One way to do this is by relating stories of your past accomplishments.

Think of a time when you solved a problem or led a team. Then, discuss it during your interview. Describing obstacles you've faced and how you overcame them can be an effective way to show you have what it takes to succeed in an MBA program.

Draft a list of anecdotes and other talking points to bring up during your interview. However, take care in the way you introduce your talking points.

“Admissions committees can easily identify candidates who are fixated on saying the right thing and relying on gimmicks rather than using their own voice.”
Phillipee Barr, Former Assistant Director of MBA Admissions for Kenan-Flagler Business School

Don't shoehorn a talking point into a discussion with your interviewer where it doesn't belong. Practice incorporating your talking points seamlessly into conversations by holding mock interviews with friends and family.

5. Ask Smart Questions

Asking questions during your MBA interview demonstrates that you're interested in the program and engaged in the interview process. However, avoid asking questions that you could answer by reviewing the program's website. If you do, it may suggest to your interviewer that you haven't done your research.

Instead, ask about the program's culture, industry ties, and how faculty hope to see the program evolve in the coming years.

Frequently Asked Questions About MBA Interviews

How do you know if an MBA interview went well? true

When an MBA interview is going well, the conversation flows naturally. Your answers to the interviewer's questions are confident and concise, and the interviewer seems genuinely engaged. If your interviewer asks you follow-up questions or compliments an item on your resume, it's a sign your interview is going well.

What should I wear for an MBA interview? true

For a formal interview, consider wearing a business suit with a dress shirt and dress shoes. It's best to avoid flashy ties, white ankle socks, sleeveless shirts, denim, and heels higher than two inches. Business casual attire is often appropriate for interviews with current students and alumni.

How important are MBA interviews? true

MBA interviews can significantly impact admission. A 2015 GMAC survey found that many executive MBA programs give more weight to interview performance than standardized test scores when evaluating applicants. At two-year MBA programs, interviews and standardized test scores were considered equally important.

What do admissions departments ask in MBA interviews?

Your interviewer may begin with an open-ended question, such as "tell me about yourself." Answer briefly, and relate your response to your educational and career goals.

Your interviewer may then ask why you want to earn an MBA. Sometimes, interviewers ask applicants to discuss challenges they've faced. Use this opportunity to demonstrate your ability to solve problems and overcome obstacles.

How long are MBA interviews?

MBA interviews vary in length depending on the format. However, most last 30 minutes to an hour.

Interview From:

After having served for three years as Assistant Director of MBA Admissions for Kenan-Flagler Business School, Philippe has been an admissions consultant at Accepted.com for the last 5 years where he helps prospective students present their competitive advantage on paper and in-person. Prior to joining Kenan-Flagler, Philippe served as an assistant professor at UNC, Chapel Hill for seven years where he coordinated the admission process for the masters and doctoral programs. He holds an M.A from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University.

Whether you're majoring in business or thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, these 25 must-read business books can give you the tips you need to succeed. Declining MBA enrollment is changing business education. Students want flexible and affordable MBAs, and schools need to adapt to these trends. Learn about scholarships and financial aid available for students pursuing a degree in business.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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