Category Archives: Admission process

Preparing for Top MBA Program Admissions Interviews

By Puja Daga (last updated: December 11, 2019)

The Landscape of Business School Interviews 

In recent years, business schools have introduced new interview formats to assess business school applications. Getting familiarized with the different styles of admissions interviews is an important step for any candidate applying to leading business schools.

If you have recently received an interview invite, then it is a strong signal that the school sees you as a potential fit for their program. You might also have a high chance of getting in and it is a good time to start preparations. You may be confident about acing the interview, but remember you have a short window of time to impress the interviewer. So, you need to focus on the essentials like trying to get to the point quickly and preparing yourself to various MBA interview styles.

We have seen that admissions interview methods vary greatly based on the institution and preparing for different kinds of interview formats is vital. The following sections show a few examples of different interview styles followed at some of the most elite business schools.

Interview Formats of Top MBA Programs 

In a Harvard Business School (HBS) interview, you just have 30 minutes to make a good impression. You may have a two-on-one formal interview, where one admissions officer is actively interviewing while the other is observing. The interviewer is already familiar with your resume and has studied your application in depth – so the interviewer might ask questions focusing on “why” – for instance, why you choose economics as your majors? Why did you work/want to work with consulting firm? Your response to such questions should illustrate on your motives, values, role you have applied in your team.

Although, HBS tends to concentrate less on ‘behavioral question’, but there are chances that the interviewer may ask questions to know your motivations, decision making process and experiences. During the interview, HBS is interested in knowing your rationale for making the choices and moves. To evaluate a candidate further, HBS requires you to submit a post-interview reflection within 24 hours.

On the other hand, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) places emphasis on ‘behavioral questions’, so one has to be very clear and specific while explaining. Why you studied a specific course, what was the idea behind working on a particular issue, or the impact it had on others, are the kind of questions it prefers to ask. It is generally an hour-long blind interview with an alumnus and the interviewer has only seen your resume.

So be ready to walk them through your background and your motivation to pursue an MBA. Highlighting skills such as creative instincts, leadership potential, personal qualities and performance-oriented tasks help you increase your admission chances.

At the MIT Sloan School of Management, just like an HBS interview, the interviewer has studied your application in depth but conducts ‘behavioral based interview questions’. The concept behind this format is that the MIT Sloan believes that the past behavior is a reliable indicator of the future response in a similar situation. So while preparing for the interview, a focus on the life based events, relating to work experience or leadership examples helps. Explaining such experiences in a generic fashion doesn’t help, giving details yet keeping it concise is the key. Before the interview, MIT Sloan requests its applicants to complete a brief essay. 

Apart from these, there are other schools like Wharton and Michigan Ross which uses ‘team-based interview’ format for its MBA admissions. For instance, they assign a real-world business scenario to a group of candidates and asks them to work together. This kind of dynamic task helps interviewers to observe candidate’s behavior and how they operate in an unknown condition. For Wharton and Michigan Ross, community building is an important value, by employing ‘team-based interview’ they unearth candidate’s values on team building. Further to team-based interview, Michigan Ross also conducts a traditional interview while at Wharton a ten-minute one-on-one debrief with an admissions representative is followed.

Recently, in addition to traditional invite interview, schools like Kellogg, Yale, INSEAD and London Business School have introduced a video essay as an important part of the application. They expect candidates to answer questions spontaneously with very little preparation time. This newer trend sometimes adds pressure on the applicant, limiting the time to answer with confidence and clarity.

At the other end of this new trend, London Business School conducts five-minute impromptu presentations. This might seem unwarranted, but these exercises have a real-life application and gives you an opportunity to influence the admissions decision by sharing details about your life story.

Quick Tips for MBA Interviews

In short, to ace your business school interview:

  • keep some concrete examples ready, 
  • master the interview style and 
  • make an impact by researching important aspects about the school. 

This will help you to feel prepared, confident and the interviewer will find you more compelling and appealing. Even if there are different mechanisms for evaluating prospective students, at the end of the day, the interviewer wants to “know you” and “why you’d be a good fit” for the institutions. Being authentic, real and goal-oriented is what pays off.

GMAT Preparation Advice From A 760 Test Taker

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: October 10, 2019)

In a recent conversation, I asked a colleague at BCG to tell me about her experience preparing for the GMAT. Since she ultimately scored an impressive 760 (99 percentile), I suggested that she share her experience with MBA Admissions Advisors readers, which she gladly agreed to.

Can you tell us a few words about yourself?

I graduated in May 2013 with a Masters of Applied Science and a Bachelor of Engineering from Polytechnique Montreal (Quebec). Since then, I have worked for 1 year in management consulting. I took the GMAT in order to apply for a top MBA program and I intend to enroll in September 2015.

What was your score on the different sections?

Verbal: 42 / 96%
Quant: 50 / 89%
Total: 760 / 99%
AWA: 5.5 / 80%
IR: 6 / 67%

 How long did you prepare for the GMAT? How intense was your preparation (weekly hours)?

Continue reading

The MIT Sloan Fellows, Stanford MSx, and LBS Sloan Masters: one-year alternatives to regular MBA programs

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: October 15, 2019)

The Sloan Programs, exciting MBA alternatives for experienced leaders

Over the last few applications cycles, we have received an ever increasing number of inquiries regarding three 1-year MBA programs aimed at senior managers:

  1. The MIT Sloan Fellows program (probably the most popular amongst our clients)
  2. The Stanford MSx program
  3. The London Business School Sloan Masters program

In this post, we will review what makes these programs particularly attractive to some of the most experienced MBA applicants. We will also highlight the key facts that candidates should consider before starting the application process. Continue reading

Why Earn Your MBA At London Business School

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: October 10, 2019)

London Business School’s Full-Time MBA program was ranked best MBA in the World by the Financial Times as recently as 2011.

London Business School Campus

London Business School Campus

In this post, I am going to explain what distinguishes LBS from other top Business Schools, and why I had ranked its MBA program among my top options when deciding where to apply just a couple of years ago. In the second part of this story (to be published in a couple of days), I will discuss the school’s application process, which I remember quite vividly, having successfully applied to the class of 2013.

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HBS Round One Interview Invites

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: October 2, 2019)

Round One Interview Invites for HBS Class of 2021 Applicants

The Harvard Business School Admissions Committee recently sent out interview invitations to first round applicants.

What are the odds of being admitted after receiving an interview invitation?

Our estimate is 55% to 60%. It’s high, but low enough to make a lot of applicants have regrets… Every year, brilliant candidates call us after their HBS interview wishing they had better prepared for it… Unfortunately, there is no second chance.

To help you be on the right side of the applicant pool, we wanted to put all our interview prep resources in one place. These resources should help you get ready:

Mock HBS interviews: Interviewing is a skill, and the unfortunate truth is that many of us think we are better at interviewing than we really are. It requires practice, which is why we would encourage every candidate interviewing at HBS to take advantage of our interview preparation services:

  • Email us if you are interested in a mock HBS interview.
  • One mock interview plus personalized feedback is $395, and two mock interviews plus personalized feedback is $695.
  • Kyle, Imola, Daina, or myself — all HBS alumni/students — will work with you personally during the mock interview, which will mirror the HBS admissions interview process as closely as possible: first, we will review your application prior to the interview; second, we will conduct a 30-minute mock interview with you via Skype; and finally, we will provide you personalized feedback immediately after the mock interview or at a time of your choosing.
  • Slots fill up quickly, so please email us to express your interest or get more information.

Alternatively, you can secure your spot directly by signing-up via paypal. We will get back to you within 24 hours to arrange a suitable time slot. Simply use the form at the end of this post.

What it’s like to interview at HBS: Kyle’s personal account of what it is like to interview at HBS, from receiving the email inviting him to interview to receiving the phone call congratulating him on his admittance.

Mastering Every Admissions Interview Question: Advice and tips on how to best prepare for an MBA admissions interview — at HBS or any other MBA program.

Post-Interview Reflection: Guidance on how to approach preparing for, drafting, and sending HBS’s 24-hour post-interview reflection email.

Should you have questions about our ability to help you, we’d like to invite you to visit our “client feedback” page. We have pasted a few emails from past clients at the end of this post.

If you’re looking for additional guidance on your application or have any questions about the MBA admissions process, please reach out to us via our free consultation link.

We also offer a comprehensive “HBS ding analysis” package, along with hourly consultations to discuss round two strategies for unsuccessful round one applicants.

We’re happy to help, even with last-minute questions and requests. Good luck!

Secure your spot now
To secure your mock interviews, please email us and attach this form

“Dinged by Stanford, accepted by HBS! Thank you guys SO much for all of your help. Really appreciate it. As for the service- excellent! You guys took your time answering all my questions and really grilling me hard. I loved the experience and would definitely recommend it to anyone else interviewing at HBS. Regarding [your competitor] Sandy [the hbsguru] I had a pretty good, but completely different experience. (…) But if I had to pick one I think I’d choose you guys. From you and Kyle I got the traditional mock interviews, and fantastic specific feedback on my style, tone, answers, etc. and 2 interviews was great. I had a fantastic experience.” 

“I wanted to follow up with good news: I got into HBS! The interview itself was, as everyone says, totally impossible to predict (60-70% focused entirely on me describing my current company’s technology and business model), but the practice of being nervous and answering impossible-to-predict questions with you guys was valuable and let me push past my (high) stress level.Thank you!” 

“On December 11th I found out that I was admitted to HBS. Prior to my actual HBS interview, I had conducted a mock with Vincent of MBA Admissions Advisors. Our session made a huge difference in the preparation process, but it was only after the actual interview [at HBS] that I realized how well I had been prepared. Vincent made very detailed observations about my performance, and after our debrief session I had a very clear picture of my strengths and areas for improvement. Perhaps the most important thing I worked on with MBA Admissions Advisors was how to think on my feet in order to answer any question, as opposed to preparing answers to a laundry list of publicly available questions from past HBS interviews, a much less valuable exercise. During our mock interview, although Vincent had a list of targeted questions based on my profile, he did not seem to be following a script. He built on my responses with follow-up questions to constantly challenge me. This was exactly what happened during my actual HBS interview. Last but not least, Vincent remained engaged throughout the admissions process, and he by far exceeded my expectations. He gave me access to valuable interview preparation resources, remained available to answer questions, and systematically responded to my emails promptly. I was delighted to receive ‘good luck’ messages the day before my actual HBS interview and on the school’s first round decision day. These little things made working with him a great experience. “ 


The Harvard Business School MBA Class of 2021 Application is Open

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: June 24, 2018)

In the last couple of weeks, several programs have opened their applications for the MBA Class of 2021. Chad Losee, Harvard Business School’s Managing Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, recently announced that there would only be two main application rounds in September and January, and a dedicated round for 2+2 candidates in April.

The mythical Round 3, which saw me succeed as an HBS applicant in 2011, is no longer. In Chad Losee’s own words: “Getting a decision earlier will give admitted students better access to on-campus housing, more cohort options for HBX CORe, and more time for visa processing. For students admitted in Round 3 in the past, the timing has always been tight. We know it takes a lot to finish up a job and move to a new city (!) and we hope the additional time will be helpful to admits on a number of fronts.”

The new application deadlines for the Harvard Business School MBA are as follows:
Round 1: September 5, 2018
Round 2: January 4, 2019
2+2: April 9, 2019 Continue reading