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

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 submit a quote that is meaningful to you for the interviewer to consider. (See below for more details).

Yale SOM offers two interview options. You can interview on campus on designated interview days. This includes a full day of programming, including a faculty experience, opportunities to connect with current students and other candidates, a tour of SOM and Yale University, and, of course, your interview. You can also opt for a virtual remote interview. 

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. We recommend formal business attire even if. you are interviewing via remote video.

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 complete a small task in preparation for your interview:

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

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.

Assigning this pre-interview question introduces another opportunity for self-reflection, and provides some deep and meaningful grounds for conversation in the interview, helping to reveal what’s most important to you. The assignment also 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.

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.

Key Tips: MBA Interview Prep for Yale SOM

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.

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.

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.

Finally, keep the quote assignment in perspective. An exchange about your quote  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.).

Let’s Get You In.

Fortuna Admissions is a dream team of former MBA Admissions Directors and Officers from 18 of the top 20 business schools, including Yale SOM. With our unparalleled collective expertise, we are able to coach you to develop a clear vision of your goals for business school and beyond. We work closely with you throughout the application process and provide expert guidance at every stage to maximize your chances of admission to a top school.

Our free consultations are consistently rated as the best in the industry. To learn more about Fortuna and assess your chances of admission to Wharton and other top programs, request a free consultation.

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 and advice on applying to Yale SOM, view our related articles and videos:

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.

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