What are you being evaluated on during your MBA admissions interview?
With MBA admissions interview invitations going out for round 1 applicants, many of you are wondering what questions will be asked, how to prepare, and what will really be evaluated? We’ve already shared some tips to help you prepare for your interview but we also want to provide deeper insights about the specific areas that will be assessed. As former MBA admissions committee members, our Fortuna coaches conducted thousands of admissions interviews so we know exactly what the person across the table from you will be looking for.
Although the questions you get will vary by school, most interviewers are evaluating very similar criteria. Your interviewer will likely complete a formal interview report following your meeting and you will be assessed on a range of factors. While some interviewers are blind (the interviewer does not have access to your application or knowledge of your test scores or undergrad grades), some will have read your application. Don’t be surprised if your interviewer has intimate knowledge of your application and even drills you on questions that relate to a weakness (such as a low quant score on the GMAT) or another potential concern about your profile.
Here are some of the most common areas that you can expect to be evaluated on during your MBA admissions interview.
Given the academic rigor of top MBA programs, your interviewer wants to make sure that you can handle the workload, especially during the intense first year core curriculum at many schools. Are you someone who comes across as knowledgeable about your own area expertise? Are you well informed about current business issues and the challenges faced by companies on the forefront of their industries today? You want to show that you will add value to classroom discussions and bring knowledge that will provide deeper insights into what you are studying.
While it’s expected that you come into the interview with clearly defined career goals, your interviewer will also be assessing your potential for future professional leadership. Your interviewer will be looking to see if you are someone who has demonstrated career progression and taken on increasing levels of responsibility at work. He or she will also evaluate if your career goals appear realistic based on your background, especially for individuals looking to make a career change. It’s important that you know what skills and knowledge from your prior jobs will be relevant for the post-MBA jobs that you are seeking. Be clear about your individual strengths and other personal factors that align well with the future career path that you are interested in pursuing. You will also be evaluated on how an MBA will be critical in helping you reach your career goals, so make sure you can clearly communicate why an MBA degree will be important.
The reality is that MBA programs keep track of their employability statistics (and this impacts MBA rankings) so Admissions departments are looking to admit candidates who appear hirable by recruiters. It’s not enough to just have a strong resume with a well-respected brand name company like McKinsey or Google; you need to come across as likeable and someone who will add value to another organization. Are you someone who recruiters will want to work with and bring in as a colleague at their firm? Focus on how you can position yourself for future success when it comes to your own MBA career search process.
Admissions committees want to get a sense of how in tune with reality you are about yourself, both regarding your strengths and your areas for improvement. Nobody wants to be in class with students who believe they can do no wrong. Self-awareness is also a critical element for executive success so be prepared to answer questions that probe areas around how well you know yourself. Many of us interviewed applicants who tried to avoid answering questions about their improvement areas by responding “I try too hard” or “I’m too much of a perfectionist”. These type of responses can actually backfire so be honest with yourself and take time to reflect on your own personality, character, and opportunities for personal growth.
Schools evaluate your EQ as much as your IQ and they want to make sure you are someone who will work well with others and bring out the best in your classmates. Schools are looking for candidates who value team work and who will be good teammates on study group projects and in campus clubs. Some schools, such as Wharton and Michigan Ross, even go so far as to observe applicants in team-based interviews to observe their interpersonal and teamwork skills in action. Make sure that you are polite and courteous with everyone with whom you are in contact at the school and be sure to send a prompt thank you note after your interview.
FIT WITH THE SCHOOL
One of the most important, but often overlooked, factors in your MBA interview will be how good of a “fit” you are with the program. It’s important for your interviewer to be able to envision you as a student at the particular program to which you’re applying. Each school has its own distinct character and you should be aware of what sets apart each school from its competitors. Interviewers are looking to gauge your interest level in their school so even if it’s not your first choice program, make sure to be enthusiastic about the possibility of enrolling there. If you interview on campus, take advantage of other opportunities offered to experience the school first-hand, such as attending class visits and speaking to current students. A failure to participate in additional opportunities to engage with the school could be construed as a lack of serious interest in the program.
For additional interview preparation resources, see our previous blog and video on the topic. If you are interested in speaking with Fortuna about how we can help you prepare for your upcoming interview, please contact us and see our interview preparation services