Tag Archives: MBA interview

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.

Mastering Every Admissions Interview Question

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

When I set out to write this post, my intention was to compile a list of common interview questions that spanned the spectrum of what applicants might be asked. But after gathering a handful of what I thought were good questions, it occurred to me that I never had to answer any of the ones I had compiled during my own admissions interview at HBS. Instead, I was asked 30-minutes worth of nearly impossible to predict questions — which, granted, is what HBS tells applicants they will try to do. Just as a recent Poets&Quants article (The Questions Behind MBA Interview Questions) explains, MBA interviews aren’t about questions at all.  They’re about connecting with your interviewers.

My interview began when the admissions committee member asked how my leadership role as a resident assistant compared to other leadership experiences I’d had. At one point she just said, “Recommend something to me.” I’m not sure any list of MBA interview questions, no matter how long, would have reasonably catalyzed me to prepare for such prompts. However, there is a method that will get you ready for questions like those — or whatever the admissions committee throws your way.

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HBS Round Two Interview Invites

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

Round Two Interview Invites for HBS Class of 2019 Applicants

The Harvard Business School Admissions Committee sent out interview invitations to its second round applicants in two distinct waves, at 12pm noon ET on January 25th and February 1st, 2017.

For the lucky 900-or-so applicants who received an invite (~20% of second-round applicants), the scramble to prepare will begin quickly, as interviews will be conducted from February 3rd until March 6th (HBS Second Round Decisions are expected to be released on March 22nd).

But first, the answer to your most common question:

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:

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.

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 $295, and two mock interviews plus personalized feedback is $495.
  • Kyle or myself — both HBS alumni — 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 very 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 three strategies for unsuccessful round two applicants. Keep in mind that HBS is a re-applicant friendly school, with up to 10% of re-applicants in each class (see an inspiring story from a successful re-applicant here).

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 below.

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

“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.” O., HBS MBA Class of 2016

“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!” A., HBS MBA Class of 2016

“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. “ I.S., HBS MBA Class of 2016

How to Prepare for the Kellogg Video Essay

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

Video interviews are here to stay at Kellogg

Kellogg confirmed last summer that they would once again be asking MBA applicants to go through the video interview questions for the school’s MBA Class of 2017 application. The “video essays” were introduced last year by both Kellogg and Yale SOM (we also analyzed the Yale video essay at length as part of our Analyzing the Applications series). Video interviews help schools compare applicants more directly, as the admissions committee is not only able to watch every applicant’s video (as opposed to seeing just the handful that they interview) but they are also able to juxtapose applicants’ answers directly.

At the same time, the new video essay format induced a lot of anxiety among applicants. However, we do not think there is much cause to be anxious. If you are about to go through the video interview process, we suggest that you read our list of preparation tips in order to increase your odds of making a positive impression on the adcom.

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My HBS Interview Experience

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

What It’s Like to Interview at HBS

My invitation to interview at HBS came on the first day that the admissions committee began emailing candidates. It was a relief, to be sure, but it also was undoubtedly a bit nerve racking. Three days later, I received a follow up email, this one with a link to an online portal where I would actually schedule my interview. I chose an afternoon spot on a Monday on campus in Boston. It allowed me to fly up from Washington D.C. during the weekend, ensuring I would be settled in and wouldn’t face any logistical snags come interview day.

The morning of the interview I kept completely free. I wanted to make sure I was well rested and unrushed. At noon I attended a luncheon hosted by the HBS admissions committee for applicants interviewing that day. We had sandwiches and made small talk in the back room of the Grille, a staple of the HBS dining circuit. There were a few of us there, and we each took turns asking relatively low-risk questions of the admissions staffer that had joined us.

After an hour or so, lunch wrapped up, leaving me about 90 minutes before I was scheduled to be at Dillon House, the admissions building at HBS. I walked across the Charles River and had a cup of coffee, rehearsing my answers to the most basic interview questions (strengths, weaknesses, why an MBA, why HBS). By that time I was wishing I had scheduled my interview for a little earlier. Time seemed to be passing pretty slowly.

I started heading over to Dillon House about 2pm, arriving 10 minutes before my scheduled interview. When you walk in the door, there is a short hallway with a big glass window on your left, so I could see the receptionist through the glass pane well before I could actually say hi to her. I greeted her warmly, and she told me to take a seat while I waited for my interview to begin. I did, playing with one of those mini Zen gardens you find in offices sometimes to keep my mind from wandering.

Sure enough, at 2:30pm on the dot, an admissions officer walked out to greet me. She walked with me about 30 feet to a small office in the back of Dillon House, and along the way we made small talk about my trip in to Boston that weekend.

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HBS Round 2: Preparing for Your Interview

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: July 6, 2014)

On January 29, HBS sent out interview invitations to many of its Class of 2016 applicants (including round two applicants and round one candidates whose application was “deferred” to round two). Around 20% of all round two applicants received an interview invitation on January 29, and a second round of invites will go out to candidates on February 5, according to the HBS admissions blog. Interviewed candidates will then stand a 60% chance of being admitted to the #1 MBA program in the World (according to the latest Financial Times MBA rankings).

We’d like to wish the best of luck to everyone, and for the happy few who have received the coveted email from Dillon House, it is time to prepare for the last step of your application. While we have been writing about the HBS interview process for a while on this blog, we thought it would be helpful to bring all of our resources together in one place:
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