Yale SOM MBA Interview: What to Expect & How to Prepare

September 30, 2021 | by Zachary White

Dan Renzetti Yale University

Photo courtesy of Dan Renzetti, Yale University

The Yale SOM interview tends to be a comfortable and friendly interview experience, lasting approximately 30 minutes, with a second year MBA student or member of the admissions committee.

A unique feature of Yale SOM’s MBA Interview is its pre-interview assignment. If you’re invited to interview (as are approximately 40% of applicants), you’ll be asked to reflect on a quote provided by the school and to submit your own quote for the interviewer to consider in advance (See below for more details).

As is the case with most MBA programs, Yale SOM will be conducting virtual interviews this year due to the pandemic. While you may be interviewed by an admissions committee member, most interviews are with a current Yale SOM MBA student, which offers you the opportunity to glean candid insights from someone who has been in yours shoes.

Yale SOM’s interview model recently evolved to include more behavior-based questions, with the logic that past behavior is a reliable predictor of future performance. That said, most questions will be driven by what’s in your resume. Even for the video format, we recommend formal business attire.

What Yale SOM is Looking for in the MBA Interview

Yale SOM uses the interview as an opportunity to get a sense of your interpersonal skills and fit with the school. As noted on its website, Yale SOM views frames its interview as a straightforward opportunity for you to share more about who you are, speak to your candidacy, and convey your fit with the school. You can expect your interviewer to walk through your resume and delve into your past experiences. You’ll be asked to speak to why MBA / why Yale SOM and why you see it’s vital to your future career plans. “There are no real curveballs. It’s not an interrogation or cross-examination.”

As such, the interviewers put a high premium on honesty and authenticity, favoring an un-rehearsed quality during the interview. Also be sure to come prepared with thoughtful questions for your interviewers (i.e. not a question that is answered on the school’s website), which demonstrates your genuine interest in learning more and gauging fit for yourself.

Yale SOM’s Pre-Interview Assignment: What You Need to Know

Distinctive to Yale SOM, the admissions committee asks candidates to do two things in preparation for your interview:

1. Consider the quote by Dean Kerwin Charles: “Preeminent universities disseminate and produce new knowledge, and some of the best ideas are ripe for revising. However, this demands different perspectives, genders, backgrounds, races, orientations, and points of view.”

2. Submit a quote that has special meaning or that resonates with you, no later than 48 hours prior to your interview day (or ASAP).

As a Fortuna Admissions coach and former assistant director in the admissions office at Yale SOM, I applaud the school for making the application process a bit more varied and conversational. I’m also happy to see quotes at the center of this assignment. Quotes are powerful because they are tied to a specific person or source, and because they are efficient, eloquent expressions of important ideas and emotions. The best business school applications are similar – they feature a voice that can be attributed to a particular individual, and they have a way of distilling that person’s story into a compact statement that is clear and memorable.

There are several dynamics at play:

1. The quote from Dean Charles allows Yale to highlight its ongoing commitment to equity and inclusion. Asking every interviewee to consider the role of diversity in an intellectual/academic context means the idea will be considered by every member of the incoming class. (Note that this assignment also engages many second-years at SOM who will be interviewing prospective students.)

2. More subtly, it suggests Yale is embracing disruption, welcoming people who are open-minded and willing to challenge long-held ideas. This aligns nicely with Yale’s tradition of thinking about leadership and management beyond the for-profit business world. The school invites students to explore new perspectives by enrolling in classes across the university.

3. The assignment helps curb a common interview bias toward people who are quick on their feet. This is a special opportunity for all interviewees – but especially more deliberate thinkers and people who draw extra confidence from being prepared – to know what’s coming and to reflect on a particular idea in depth before the interview.

4. By asking candidates to contribute their own quote, Yale is framing the interview (in part) as an equal exchange of ideas. This reflects a core SOM belief that students have as much to learn from one another as they do from their professors.

5 Key Tips: MBA Interview Prep for Yale SOM

5 Tips to Keep in Mind for the Yale SOM Interview:

1. Be prepared to discuss Dean Charles’ quote by considering where you stand with his claim and why. While his core observation is about diverse perspectives, he’s also talking about the role of the university in creating knowledge, and how ideas are evaluated and revised.

2. Search for and unpack moments when your thinking was challenged or changed by someone with a different perspective. Have you ever been the challenger, helping someone else improve their view of the world? In what ways, situations, or areas of life do you most often engage people with different attitudes, values, and experiences? If they ask how you would contribute to the diversity of thought at SOM, you’ll be ready with some ideas.

3. When selecting your quote to share with SOM, the most important thing is that you test its “special meaning or resonance.” My best advice here is to approach it like the SOM extended essay and focus on actions, not words. Yale is always on the lookout for behavioral patterns, so be ready to give specific examples of how the quote has affected your choices. Maybe it’s a simple phrase that has nudged you through hundreds of little choices over the years, or perhaps it is a profound statement that guided you during a particular decision where the stakes were high. If the quote has real meaning for you, it should resonate with points you make in other parts of the interview about your work and your life.

4. The assignment is an invitation for SOM to get a sense of how you reason, how you listen, and how you persuade. Remember that it’s okay to disagree with your interviewer or express a strong opinion, but be prepared to support your claims and strike the right tone. Balancing conviction and likability can be tricky, but in an interview I always recommend that candidates err on the side of making a friendly, positive connection with their interviewer.

5. Finally, keep the quote assignment in perspective. An exchange about your quote or Dean Charles’ ideas will be one of several topics your interviewer will plan to cover. You want to be prepared to ace every moment of the conversation, but keep in mind that you’re unlikely to be talking about the quotes for more than a few minutes. Don’t get so into the assignment that you forget to prepare for more important questions and topics (e.g., key professional achievements, important personal decisions, your possible futures, etc.).

Want more advice?

For more advice on how to prepare for your MBA interview, including a look at the M7 interview landscape, view this definitive article by Fortuna’s head of interview practice, Malvina Miller Complainville.

For more insights on Yale SOM, view:

You can also view our team’s MBA Essay Masterclass on Yale SOM, Haas, Duke & UCLA, below.

Updated September, 2021


Zachary White is an Fortuna Admissions expert coach and former Yale SOM Assistant Director of Admissions.  For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.

Dan Renzetti Yale University

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