The MIT Sloan interview, like the Sloan application, is unique among elite business schools.
For one, it’s the only M7 program besides rival HBS in which the interviewer – who is a member of the admissions committee – will have reviewed your entire application. Applicants invited to interview are also required to respond to two pre-interview questions – the first around diversity and inclusion and the second related to how you make data-driven decisions.
As a Fortuna Admissions coach who is seasoned at preparing candidates for the MIT Sloan interview (among others), I can affirm that its admissions committee operates from the belief that past behavior is the best predictor of future performance. With behavioral type questions, you can expect to be asked very specific examples of what you did, why you did it, what was going through your mind at the time, what was the impact on others, and what was the final outcome. Responding effectively means being able to go beyond what you’ve done or accomplished to convey the attitudes, behaviors, and skills that guided your actions and decision-making.
Before diving into your prep strategy, I’ll cover what to expect from your MIT Sloan interview in terms of format, tone and style, then outline what the admission committee is looking for, with sample behavioral questions collected from recent MIT Sloan interview candidates by my colleagues at Fortuna Admissions.
What to Expect from MIT Sloan
Like the Stanford GSB interview, the MIT Sloan admissions committee conducts application-based, behavioral style interviews, which can range from 20 minute to two hours long. Typically it runs about an hour, and given this year’s virtual format, I wouldn’t anticipate longer than 60 minutes.
The interview will be a conversation, and you can expect the interviewer to be pleasant. But don’t be fooled by the collegial vibe – MIT Sloan’s line of questioning requires your thorough and thoughtful preparation. The key to success is not just thinking about answers to standard questions (why the MBA, why this school – although both are important to MIT Sloan), but coming up with specific, substantive – yet succinct – situational examples.
What MIT Sloan is Looking For
Ability to build relationships, influential leadership, drive and motivation – these are competencies that MIT Sloan is screening for, and you can expect to be asked for concrete examples that speak to these core traits.
As Fortuna’s Karen Hamou says in her 7-minute video on how to prepare for the Sloan interview (below), you can expect the interviewer to pump you for additional detail, and to take lots of notes. As such, it is essential you make your stories clear and concise. Be specific and describe one event, and avoid theorizing or speaking in generalities – MIT wants to know how you actually behaved, not how you would behave in a certain situation.
Tips on How to Prepare
You’ll want to prepare by identifying a handful of stories that can be used interchangeably, such as a time you’ve resolved a team conflict, mentored someone, or handled a challenging client. That said, the interview reflects what’s important to the interviewer (verses to you), so you may not have the chance to deliver prepared stories. Expect follow up questions that probe for ever more granular levels of detail; some candidates were even asked to recreate a specific conversation within a given scenario.
To this end, think about recent, positive situations involving work experience, leadership, professional relationships, teamwork and planning. Remember: It’s not a blind interview, so focus on examples that aren’t already in your application.
Map out your examples to make sure you can set the scene and get to the point quickly— and remember to go from big picture to detail. I recommend using a technique such as STAR (Situation/Task/Action/Result) or CIA (Context/Action/Impact) to make sure you do not forget pieces of the story.
At the same time, ‘why MIT’ is a question posed to nearly all candidates and an important one to MIT; you’ll want to demonstrate a deep understanding of the school’s mission and ethos in your answer. You may also be asked to introduce yourself or describe your background, so have your MBA elevator pitch at the ready.
Example Behavioral Questions Reported by Recent MIT Sloan Candidates
- Tell me about a time you had a conflict with someone at work (or in a team) and how you handled it.
- Do you think you handled it to the best of your ability?
- Tell me about a time you led a team.
- Tell me about a time when you had to convince others.
- Tell me about a time you revitalized a stagnant team.
- Tell me about a time you challenged the status quo.
- Tell me about a time you failed. Follow up question on how you felt / what your thoughts were when I realized there were issues in the project.
- Tell me about a time when you needed help from others to execute on your vision for a project.
- Tell me a time when you needed to ask for help.
- Tell me about a recent success / accomplishment.
- Tell me about a personal goal you want to accomplish in the short term.
- Tell me about a time when you led a group to convince people of something that was outside the norm.
- Tell me about a time when you mentored someone; what’s your mentorship style?
- Tell me about a time when you wished you had more information or more time making a decision.
- Tell me about a situation where you received push-back.
- Now tell me about an instance where you pushed back on something.
- Recount a difficult conversation you had at work. (Follow-up:) How did you handle this particular aspect of the conversation.
- Tell me about how you are able to build relationships at your firm.
- Now talk about one individual in particular that it was maybe more difficult than others to build a relationship with.
- Tell me about a time when you faced a challenging client.
- Tell me about a time you convinced a group of an idea in the face of opposition.
- Tell me about a time you came up with something innovative?
- Tell me about a piece of constructive advice you were given.
Finally, be sure to set yourself up for a successful virtual interview by ensuring your connection is flawless, your background uncluttered, and your sound quality excellent, among other details. My Fortuna colleagues Judith Silverman Hodara offer excellent and essential tips in her related blog on How to Prep for a Virtual MBA Interview.
Brittany Maschal is an expert coach at MBA consulting firm Fortuna Admissions and a former member of admissions teams at Wharton, Princeton & Johns Hopkins. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation. If you already know what you want, you can sign up directly for MBA interview prepwith a Fortuna expert coach or explore all services.