Last Friday, I wrote that practicing sample interview questions and taping your responses is an excellent way to prepare for interviews. Several people reached out and asked if I had good interview prep books or resources so that they knew what questions to prepare for. At Gurufi, we focus exclusively on the written aspects of your application (personal statements, CVs, etc.) but I have extensive experience advising clients informally, have conducted dozens of real and mock interviews myself, and understand the process quite well. What you’ll discover once you’re in the interview chair is that these things tend to *fly* by, and they can often feel like they’re over before you know it. With that in mind, your best strategy (beyond what I wrote last week) is to study the school well, have a clear idea of why you would be a good fit and what you hope to do while there (classes, clubs, extracurriculars, etc.) and why, and also do lots of recorded reps for these ten questions, which cover most of the basics. If you have solid answers and feel prepared for these 10 questions, you’ll probably be ready for whatever comes.
- Why did you choose to pursue an MBA? This question is a common one, and the interviewer wants to know what motivated you to pursue an advanced business degree. In other words, this is your “big why?” moment. To answer this question well, you should highlight your specific career goals and how an MBA will help you achieve them. If you feel comfortable, you can also frame this within your personal story as a way of explaining why this feels like the right moment to do something very important for your life and career.
- What are your career goals and how will an MBA help you achieve them? This is a similar question to the first, but it goes a bit deeper into your future plans. Be sure to have a clear and concise answer that showcases your motivation, focus, and long-term vision. Remember, MBA admissions is ultimately about the future. How clear and compelling is the picture you’re painting of the person you aspire to be and the things you hope to build or accomplish? So as you answer this, keep in mind the idea of showing that you have a compelling aspiration and a clear plan for achieving it. Sometimes, this question will be broken down by time periods. As in, “how will an MBA change your career trajectory over the next 5 years?” As such, it’s a good idea to have a sketch of your post-MBA timeline.
- What sets you apart from other MBA candidates? This question is an opportunity for you to highlight your unique skills, experiences, and strengths. Be confident in discussing what makes you different from other candidates and why you are a good fit for the program. Sometimes people feel sheepish about bragging, but remember that it only comes across as bragging if you don’t link a descriptor to an accomplishment. For instance, “I’m really smart” is bragging, but “my work refining our company’s high-frequency trading algorithm shows that I’m detail-oriented and can handle big, cognitively complex tasks” is just a frank description that shows rather tells the reader that you’re smart.
- Can you discuss a specific leadership experience you have had? This question is an opportunity for you to showcase your leadership skills and experiences. Be specific in your answer and talk about the challenges you faced and what you learned from the experience.
- How do you handle conflict in the workplace? This question is asking about your problem-solving skills and how you handle difficult situations. Be honest in your answer and give a specific example of a conflict you faced and how you resolved it.
- Can you discuss a time when you had to work with a difficult team member? This question is similar to the previous one and is asking about your ability to work with others and handle conflict in a team setting. Provide a specific example and talk about what you learned from the experience.
- How do you prioritize and manage your time effectively? This question is asking about your organizational skills and work habits. Give a specific example of how you prioritize your tasks and manage your time to meet deadlines.
- Can you discuss a time when you had to make a difficult decision? This question is asking about your decision-making skills and how you handle challenging situations. Be specific in your answer and talk about what you learned from the experience.
- Can you discuss a project or accomplishment that you are particularly proud of? This question is asking about your past achievements and what you are proud of. Choose a project or accomplishment that showcases your skills and strengths and be sure to explain why it is significant to you. A storytelling tip: establish the stakes early. If you’re talking about a big project, if you relate why it was important (for instance: what would happen if you failed? What was at stake?) then your success feels more substantial and meaningful.
- What are your weaknesses and how are you working to improve them? This question is asking about your self-awareness and how you are working to become a better professional. Be honest in your answer, but also focus on what you are doing to overcome your weaknesses. Most importantly: DON’T HUMBLEBRAG by saying something like, “I care too much,” or “I work too hard,” or “I hold myself to too high of a standard.” That comes across as phony, disingenuous, and an evasive way of avoiding talking about your weaknesses.
For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Gurufi.com. Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top MBA programs. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.