You’ve almost made it the finish line – now you have to seal the deal.
What you have to remember at this point is that (at least in my mind) you are basically in! You just have to show your interviewer why you are a good fit for that specific institution.
Most people leading up to and on interview are a nervous wreck. You need to remind yourself and say out loud:
THERE’S NOTHING TO BE NERVOUS ABOUT
You’ve done all of the hard work already. Now you have to show them how awesome you really are.
How Do I Show Them How Awesome I Am?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
There are a few steps that I took in preparing for my interviews that not only did me justice throughout the MBA interview process, but is great to have ready to go in your back pocket for any type of future interviews.
It will do you good in the short term to commit time to really flushing out the overall story that you want to tell and the stories that make you who you are. Your job is to show your interviewer who you are, why you are a great fit for the school, and how you will be an active member of the community. The following is a guide on how to do that well.
Five to Thrive
When having any type of interaction, you have to keep in mind who your audience is and what you want to convey about yourself and your personal brand. In this instance, you want your interviewer to walk away from your conversation with a few high level key points on who you are as a person. This is your five to thrive.
A five to thrive is great for any type of pitch, whether that be pitching yourself for a place in the class, or pitching a business idea. It is a list of five items that are necessary for you to succeed. For MBA interviews you need to think about: What makes you you? What do you care about? How do you want people to see you? So you can ultimately align all of your stories and examples with this high arching ideas.
For example my Five to Thrive that I read through before each interview was:
Morgan’s Five to Thrive
- I have a bold dream and am driven / committed to make a positive impact on the world
- I am an Esemplastic solution builder
- I am a leader in every environment
- I Value community and bringing people together with a commitment to uplifting my community
- I am wonderfully Curious and ambitious in my love for learning
My five to thrive was my manta and what I believed in and still do believe in. It is imperative to know who you are so you can clearly articulate where you hope to go.
Tell Me About Yourself
This is arguably the most important part of your interview, and the only part that is completely in your control. If anything, you should be able to ace it. However, many if not most don’t fully utilize this gift of an opportunity to truly tell their story. Instead, they use it as the time to recite their resume.
Your resume is in front of your interviewer – they don’t need you to read it out loud for them.
Your interviewer wants to know who you are – this is your chance to capture them within the first three minutes and tell the bulk of your story. If you do that well, then you’ll get to use the rest of your interview time to have a great conversation with your interviewer and get to know each other.
This is what this looks like.
Morgan’s Interview Intro
I know that I am here to make a difference. My whole life has revolved around building communities through meaningful conversations that have positive consequences. I have done this for over a decade now, and really began to live it as my life’s motto at Vanderbilt.
I lead and was very involved with quite a few organizations. As an SEC football team, Vandy was the worst. 2-10 record. When we hired Coach Franklin i approached him about letting me build out the tour guide recruitment program. When he said yes, I proceeded to build out a team of tour guides, a list of stop and scripts and lead our group every weekend for years as we built our program to a 10 and 3 bowl game winning team. Through this process I fell in love with the business of sports and building something form nothing. I learned how to build communities through conversations from recruits, their families, to students faculty and people from the city of Nashville.
I sold a dream at Vanderbilt, so I figured I could sell sports media so I went to Turner Sports.
At Turner sports I learned how to connect brands with fans and the value of eyeballs. During my time in sales, I recognized the lack of diverse perspective and solutions at upper management’s tables, which are necessary to reach our target audience. I co-founded the Culture Catalysts with my mentor and successfully made permanent seats at the table for young multicultural minds to share their ideas and solutions that will carry Turner into our next chapter.
Now, after learning the importance of community and conversations I am ready to start my next chapter in the tech sphere focused on the growing trends of connectivity and mental health, but in order to do that I need foundational business tools to match the natural business acumen that I possess, which is why I am here today.
Within a few minutes, I have answered quite a few questions that my interviewer was guaranteed to ask me:
- What is your background?
- What did you do before school?
- Why were you in that industry?
- Are you a career changer?
- What do you want to do next?
- What do you care about?
You want to lead with your why, not with what. The goal is to get to your how quickly – which should be how going to x business school will get you to your next chapter. Curate your “Tell Me About Yourself” piece to be eye opening, insightful and personal. It shouldn’t be super lengthy, just long enough to get the important pieces in.
Be proud of your story.
Whether you enjoyed your last job or not, pick out the pieces that really shaped who you are. Authenticity and being genuine goes a long way. Don’t be someone that you’re not.
The STAR Method
Situation.Task.Action.Result & LESSONS LEARNED
You should be practicing all of your behavioral question responses with STAR method responses. But, don’t forget the double L on the end! Giving your lessons learned is the most important part of any behavioral question response. Do not spend the bulk of your time explaining the situation. The situation should be brief such as, “I was working on a project within a team in which a peer interacted with me a non-professional way.” Do not go into how Michael was a terrible person and xyz 123. Your interviewer doesn’t care, they just want to know how you approached the situation, what happened because of your approach and how you learned from it – easy peasy. Be concise.
Talk to Students
Whether the school you are interviewing at is your #1 choice of your #10 choice, you should show a lot of enthusiasm and excitement for the school you’re at. Extending an offer is a huge sign of interest from the school and shows how excited they are for you. So, do your due diligence and talk to students about the school so you can better understand their love for their program and what makes their school unique. Embody their energy. Reciprocate that energy. You won’t know what makes a program special from their website – it’s going to take talking to students and alum to paint that picture for you so you can paint your own.
Questions That You Should Ask Yourself
Below is a list of questions that I curated for myself that you can take your time to write responses to. Should you take the time to do so, you will thank yourself later. (I thanked myself when I went to go on an interview last week and was able to just go back into my master document and prep from there) Your responses should align with your own personal five to thrive.
Feel free to reach out to me if you are unsure of how best to answer any of these questions, or need additional guidance on how to kick ass and show your best self at your MBA interview!
- Tell Me About Yourself
- Why do you want to receive an MBA now?
- Why am I a unique applicant?
- Short-Term / Long-Term Goals?
- What do you want to be known for in your lifetime?
- How would friends describe you in three words?
- What do you like doing outside of work?
- Tell me about something in your life you would have done differently if you had the opportunity.
- If you were to establish a set of values and beliefs on which to build a business, what would they be?
- Is there anything specific/else that you would like the admissions committee to know about you?
- Define success/failure.
- Discuss any experience you have had abroad
- Describe a life experience that had a strong impact on you?
- How would you describe yourself?
- How would your friends describe you?
- What would you like to change about yourself?
- What do you get passionate about?
Your Business Mind
- What Kind of Team Member Are you?
- How would your colleagues describe you?
- How do you make big decisions?
- Give me two cases where you demonstrated leadership.
- How would others describe your leadership style?
- What do you think is the right way to get things done through others?
- What would you do if a team member wasn’t pulling his own weight?
- What qualities should a successful manager possess?
- Have you ever spoken to a group of people? How large?
- Could you name someone you view as a strong leader? Why?
- Who are your role models?
- What role do you usually play in group situations? Could you give an example?
- Do you prefer to work under supervision or on your own?
- Give me an example of your teamwork experience.
- Have you worked under deadline pressure? When?
- Do you prefer large or small companies? Why?
- What kinds of people do you enjoy working with?
- What kinds of people frustrate you?
- How do you contribute to groups?
- What do you like most about your current job?
- Describe a professional failure? How’d you come back from it?
- Tell me about an ethical dilemma?
- Describe your work experience (in general or with specific employers).
- What did you find most frustrating at work?
- What kinds of changes would you make at your work if you could?
- Do you have any opportunity for innovative thinking?
- Could you describe an incident where you disagreed with a superior? How was this settled?
- What aspect of your job do you most enjoy? Why?
- Of what accomplishment at work are you most proud?
- Could you compare your experience in these two jobs you had
- If I ask your manager what he/she values in you, what will he/she say?
- What did you enjoy most/least about position X?
- Of which three accomplishments are you most proud?
- What problems have you solved in your previous positions?
- What have you disliked in your job with employer
- What are some recent responsibilities you have taken on?
- What do you think it is about yourself that enabled you to earn achievement X?
- Describe a typical workday
- In dealing with a customer, think of your most difficult situation and tell me how you handled it.
- Give an example of a case when you felt your boss made a bad decision and explain how you would have handled it differently.
- Describe a situation where 20 different things had to get done at once and how you handled it.
- Describe a disagreement you had with your boss. What did he say? What did you say?
- Describe a major problem you have faced on the job and how you handled it.
- Why did you leave job A for job B?
- How will you contribute to the campus?
- What are you most looking forward to in Business School?
- If you are admitted, what do you think your biggest challenge will be?
- What are you looking for in our program?
- What can you contribute to your class?
- Why do you think you would enjoy your chosen area of study?
- What clubs are you considering joining?
- It’s two years after graduation, what three words would your MBA team members use to describe you?
- Describe a time when you had to bend the rules a little in order to accomplish a goal.
- Can you recall a creative/innovative activity of yours?
- Tell me about a time you took a risk and what the experience was like.
- What will you do if you are not accepted to any of the MBA programs you applied to?
- What will you do if you are not accepted to our MBA program?
- Why did you choose to do X?
- Describe your ideal job after completing the MBA.How does your education or work experience relate to your career goals?
Undergrad College Questions
- What was the most rewarding aspect of your undergraduate experience?
- What are you most proud of about your undergraduate period?
- Why did you select this undergraduate major? Would you have changed your decision today?
- To what do you attribute your strong academic performance?
- In which campus activities did you participate? What did you learn or gain from this involvement?
- Have you ever dropped a class? Why?
- Which college classes did you like the best/least? Why?
- Do you think you received a good education?
- Do your grades accurately reflect your ability?
- Were you financially responsible for part or all of your college education?
- How many classes did you miss because of illness, personal business or other reasons?
Be Yourself & Believe In Yourself
Because if you don’t – who will?