How To Prepare For Business School Interviews?

Congratulations! After years of scintillating work experience, outstanding GMAT/CAT score, spectacular leadership qualities, compelling admission essays, and dazzling recommendation letters, you have finally received the ‘interview call’ from an elite Business school. You are just one step away from getting into your dream MBA program. The interview is your opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and skills in person and become the Business Leader/CEO you aspire to be.

Why do B-Schools conduct interviews?

Business Managers are responsible for planning and executing new projects or managing ongoing operations in an organization. Senior management personnel in large organizations often lead teams of several thousand people. In addition to managing a large team, they also need to coordinate with multiple stakeholders both within and outside the organization. 

Strong verbal communication, awareness of your environment, ability to think on your feet and maintaining your composure under pressure are crucial skills for a manager. B-schools conduct interviews to gauge these skills in applicants. They look for academically strong candidates, with leadership skills, global mindset, teamwork, understanding of one’s environment, and self-awareness, who can thrive in the corporate jungle. 

There are three main types of interviews conducted by different B-Schools.

Personal Interview:

Panel interviews are a mandatory admission requirement for all the top MBA programs. The ideal way to prepare for personal interview is to go through your essays and resume and identify unique stories and narratives to share with the interviewer(s). After discussing your achievements and projects, the interviewer(s) might dive deep into your experience, global mindset, and ask you some situational, teamwork, leadership, and behavioural type questions. Some of the common questions are, 

  • Why you want to pursue MBA?
  • Where do you see yourself five years (or ten years) from now?
  • What are your future goals? Do you have a Plan-B if Plan-A fails?
  • How will you contribute to our diverse student community? What values and cultural experiences do you bring along?
  • Describe an ethical dilemma you faced at work? What steps did you take to solve it? What did you learn from this experience?
  • What are you most passionate about? Explain with real-life example.

Most personal interviews for international students are conducted virtually. However, universities like Harvard Business School, Said Business School Oxford, and ESADE, Spain might also ask you to meet their university representatives at a location/city near you and schedule the interview date as per your availability.

Stanford Business School conducts ‘Blind Interview’ where the interviewer has only seen your CV and not the rest of your application. Blind interviews are typically longer and can last up to 60 minutes.

At the end, you will be given a chance to ask any question you might have about the program or the university. Therefore, research the university website thoroughly and be ready with three to four intelligent questions.

Group Discussion:

The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are well-known for their high-energy Group Discussions (GD), which play a critical role in the admission decision. GD topics are generally based on current affairs, economics, politics, technology, gender equality, global warming etc. The best way to prepare is to read newspapers and keep abreast of the latest developments in the world. Avoid any extreme positions. It is always good to be assertive but do not interrupt. 

Like the IIM GDs, Wharton Business School conducts a team-based interview wherein you will be asked to solve a business problem as a part of the team. This group exercise is followed by a 10-minute personal discussion where you must reflect on the steps taken to solve the given problem.

Video Essays:

Universities like Yale, Kellogg, London Business School, and INSEAD require short video essays to be recorded and submitted on the spot. This is a way to determine applicant’s ability to think and act extemporaneously. Applicants are given a couple of minutes to comprehend the question/situation and record their response. Some of the most common video essay prompts are – 

  • Introduce yourself to your future classmates.
  • Describe any hardship you have faced: financial, familial, cultural, or professional.
  • Describe your strengths and weaknesses. What steps you have taken to overcome your limitations?
  • What is your vision? How would you help this world with your MBA degree?

Don’t wait till you receive an interview invite; be proactive and start preparing for your interviews as soon as you send in your applications. Participate in mock interviews and discussions with your seniors or seek help from admission counsellors. Remember to be authentic and keep your answers succinct. 

Practice in front of a mirror or record yourself such that you can evaluate and hone your hand gestures, expressions, posture, and overall attitude. Finally, be confident, dress formally, maintain eye-contact, and communicate effectively. 

Vivek Bhandari

Vivek Bhandari is the Founder & CEO of Scholarly. An alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Calcutta, Vivek is passionate about higher education. A former banker and mortgage expert, he mentors students and professionals for admissions to the Ivy Leagues and top universities globally.

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