Congratulations! You’ve submitted your MBA application to California State University, Monterey Bay. The next step on the road to graduate school may be an in-person interview. In it, you’ll meet members of the admissions staff and help them get to know you. A successful interview can make you stand out from a wide field of qualified applicants and help to ensure your acceptance into the program.
Every MBA program is unique, but most interviewers want to hear about your professional accomplishments and career goals. Although their questions may seem simple, there’s an art to nailing the answers. You can dramatically increase your confidence for the interview by preparing your responses and practicing them in advance. This doesn’t mean coming up with a canned speech for each answer; it means getting comfortable and fluent with your responses, knowing which points you want to hit and in what order, so they come out easily when you’re in the interview.
Read on to see the questions you’ll most likely encounter, followed by coaching tips for presenting your best answers.
Tell me about yourself.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s very important. This is your chance to showcase your communication skills, background, and experience in a concise, well-organized answer. Keep it brief—a couple of minutes at most—and avoid rambling and recapping your resume. Instead, highlight key elements of your background, personal goals, and career aspirations.
Why are you pursuing an MBA?
This is the moment to discuss how a graduate business degree can help you achieve your career goals. Highlight the skills you want to learn during your MBA program and how you plan to use them after graduation.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
You don’t need to outline a specific plan, such as the job title you want or the company you’re hoping to work for, but if you have those things in mind, feel free to share them. Instead, this question helps an interviewer determine if you can set clear goals and achieve them. Use this answer to demonstrate a willingness to work hard to accomplish your goals.
Why do you want to attend this school?
It’s essential to have a very specific answer about why you’re interested not just in grad school, but in this school. Research the school thoroughly to learn about its programs, faculty, and student life so you can highlight those reasons for wanting to attend. If you plan to pursue international business, for example, and this school has world-renowned international business faculty, highlight that in your response.
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Everyone expects some version of this question, and most people are comfortable talking about their strengths. We all tend to stumble in talking about our weaknesses. Some people try to find a trait that is actually positive and identify it as a weakness (“Sometimes, I’m just a little too organized”), but that can seem disingenuous. Instead, talk about something you struggle with and the lessons you’ve learned as a result, or steps you have taken to improve. For example, if disorganization is a weakness, talk about using technology like reminders, a calendar app, or a personal project management system to stay on track. Being sincere and willing to admit you’re not perfect can help interviewers see you as a unique person, and not just another applicant.
Describe a time when you failed.
This one can be uncomfortable, too, but the interviewer wants to know if you use failure as a learning opportunity. The failure you discuss doesn’t need to be catastrophic, but it should give you the chance to discuss your role and how you would do things differently, given the chance. If, during your time as an undergraduate, circumstances beyond your control affected your studies, this is a moment to mention them—keeping your focus on how you would work to resolve them, rather than on placing blame.
Questions about leadership.
These could take a few different forms. Some interviewers may ask about your personal leadership style, or about an example of a time when you were in a leadership position. Use examples, from your professional or personal life, of times when you filled a formal or informal leadership role.
You may be asked about your leaders and managers. If you’re asked to describe a bad manager or supervisor, explain the issues you had as briefly as possible, without being petty or bitter. Highlight how you adapted to the situation and what you learned about leadership from the experience.
What is the most challenging team you have ever been part of?
Most MBA programs include a lot of teamwork, so this question can help interviewers identify whether you can work well with others. In framing the question as a negative—”the most challenging team you have ever been part of”—they’re looking for insight into your conflict-resolution skills. The important thing here is not to assign blame to anyone else for a group’s shortcomings, but to discuss what you learned or how you took on a leadership role to improve a bad situation.
Tell me why you would be an asset to this MBA program.
This is the chance to highlight your strengths. Focus on what you can bring to the program in terms of academic, professional, and personal experience. Think about things that genuinely set you apart from your peers. Your GPA may not differentiate you, but if you spent the past year spearheading a critical new program at your current job, that could make you stand out.
What questions do you have for us?
Come prepared with at least five questions. They should be sincere and demonstrate that you know and care about the program. Prepare for this moment by studying the school’s website and social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) to get a sense of what campus life is like and to see announcements about research, student accomplishments, and faculty honors. Ask questions about areas where those things intersect with your interests. For example, if you’re interested in entrepreneurship, ask about the school’s incubator program.
Further Tips for Acing the Interview
Once you have your answers (and questions) ready to go, complete your winning presentation in these ways: - Plan for travel, allowing extra time for unexpected delays - Arrive for the interview at least 15 minutes early - If your interview will take place online, do a few practice runs using the technology you’ll need—Skype, Zoom, short-answer video platforms, etc. - During the interview, maintain eye contact and smile. In a video interview, remember to address your responses to the camera on your computer, rather than to the interviewers’ eyes as you see them on your screen - Be yourself and let your personality shine through
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