Like most M7 MBA programs, MIT Sloan interviews are by invitation only.
This year, Sloan asks candidates to submit responses to two questions prior to the interview (up from just one last year). Pre-interview requirements seem to be a growing trend among top schools; Fortuna’s Bill Kooser recently wrote on how to respond to Chicago Booth’s video question, which this year’s candidates received within their invitation to the interview.
The first question is a behavioral prompt that seeks evidence of your active alignment with MIT Sloan’s mission, and its values around diversity and inclusion:
Required Question #1: In 250 words or less, please describe a time when you contributed toward making a work environment or organization more welcoming, inclusive, and diverse.”
For this essay, you need to identify one meaningful example and then extract lessons learned that showcase the kind of person you are and leader you hope to be. Your answer stands to communicate how you will engage with the very diverse and global community at MIT Sloan, and how you will add value.
Channel your authenticity and courage to show how you have already engaged this capacity – and then make clear where you hope to let it shine at MIT. Show, don’t tell – give them the scene, then tie the story to what the implications are for your future. Self-reflection is essential here: Remember that diversity and inclusion can be about race and ethnicity, but also gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, politics, age, and other realms. How are you inviting diverse perspectives, creating a welcoming work environment where differences are valued, and cultivating awareness of the less visible forces that shape decision-making and group dynamics?
It’s also excellent foreshadowing for the questions you can expect in your interview, as they tend to skew toward behavioral. Like many programs, Sloan perceives past behavior as a predictor of your future potential, and you can anticipate that your interviewer will want to explore this in more depth during your interview.
(For MIT Sloan interview tips and example behavioral questions, view this related article by Fortuna’s Brittany Maschal.)
Decoding MIT Sloan’s New Question 2: Top Tips on How to Respond
The second required question is the same as last year; it offers two options to choose from and is similar to questions I’ve encountered in tech-industry interviews. Let’s break them down and explore how you might approach each option:
Required Question #2: We are interested in learning more about how you use data to make decisions and analyze results. Please select one of the following prompts to respond to:
In 250 words to less, please describe a recent data-driven decision you had to make, and include one slide presenting your analysis. The slide may include a data visualization example and should present data used in a professional context. Your slide must be uploaded as a PDF.
Please select an existing data visualization and in 250 words or less explain why it matters to you. The data visualization should be uploaded as a PDF. Examples may come from current events, a business analysis, or personal research.
Option A, in particular, is a question you might encounter in an Amazon interview, where you’re often asked about how you used data to influence others.
While slightly different from MIT’s question, it’s ultimately less about the specific data you used, and rather if you used the right data that resonates with and influences your audience, considered your stakeholders and/or customers, and elevated your credibility with strong logic.
There are many things that can potentially qualify as “data.” Most business leaders need a lot of perspectives and opinions and utilize many resources to make calculated decisions. You could say that those perspectives equate to “qualitative data.”
I’ve also encountered situational questions about how you would go about deciding whether to focus on a new product/partnership, which is really asking, ‘what data do you need to make that decision?’ This may, and should, include qualitative data like “industry expert insights” or “client feedback.”
In structuring your response, consider an adapted version of the STAR (Situation Task Action Result) format, where the task is the decision you have to make, and the action is more about your consideration of the factors and hypotheses that go into making that decision.
Here are a few examples for inspiration on how you might put together a slide.
These examples are designed to guide your reader very simply and clearly through your analysis, starting with your main goal, an enticing visual, a few key and influential insights, and finally a logical conclusion. However, there are several other factors that may be helpful to include, such as a list of key hypotheses variables, or methodology, so long as the overall effect of the slide doesn’t become too cluttered. Remember: Anyone looking at your visual should be able to draw the same conclusion you did.
Option B lends itself more to a values/goals question, whereas option A is more of a leadership/situational question.
Meaning, option B is an invitation to share startling statistics that have motivated you to make a change or impact.
A good place to go for finding visuals in the “business analysis” category would be CBInsights. They do thorough analyses and collect visuals from a lot of other resources, like Statista and Financial Times. (While it’s a pay-to-play service, they do offer a 30-day trial.)
For additional inspiration, my Fortuna colleague Zach White recommends seeking out the work of Edward Tufte, oft referred to as the godfather of modern data visualization and quantitative design. As you do, consider Tufte’s Fundamental Principles of Analytical Design:
- Show comparisons.
- Show causality.
- Show multivariate data.
- Integrate evidence; text, tables, illustrations, videos, formulas, etc. shouldn’t be segregated, but presented together so as to reinforce one another.
- Document evidence.
- Content above all else.
For more advice on how to prepare for the MIT Sloan interview, along with example behavioral questions from recent clients, view this related article by Fortuna’s Brittany Maschal.
Updated Oct. 22, 2021
Trisha Nussbaum is an MBA Admissions coach with Fortuna Admissions and an NYU Stern alumna who has experience working at top tech giants Google and IBM. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.