Getting invited to interview at one of your top choice schools is exciting.  It indicates that you are under serious consideration.  However, in order to make a strong impression you need to prepare.  In addition to practicing walking someone through your resume, here are 5 questions that you must be able to answer in order to succeed in your MBA interview:

1.             What job do you want right after business school?

Please get specific, even if you aren’t actually sure what you want to do. It is not enough to say that you want to work in marketing – you need to say that you want to be a brand manager for a consumer packaged goods company like General Mills, which you see recruits at this school.

2.             What job do you want 10 years after graduation?

Also known as your long-term goal, this question can be surprisingly challenging.  Please talk about something viable yet sufficiently impressive, so that the interviewer understands that you are appropriately ambitious and will reflect well on the school as a graduate.  So, if your short-term goal is to work in CPG, as per above, your long-term goal could be to serve as Chief Marketing Officer for a global brand like Pepsi.

3.             Why do you need an MBA to accomplish these goals?

For this question, you must articulate why the MBA is the right degree to help you accomplish your goals.  Again, please mention specific courses and skills that you hope to acquire – additional leadership training, enhanced quantitative skills, international business experience.  You should tailor this answer so that you are citing courses and opportunities that exist at this school.  Also, try to weave in references to your background.  For instance, “I have a lot of experience with quantitative analysis and market segmentation.  I am looking for additional managerial training so that I can lead people more effectively in my post MBA role as a HR strategist.”

4.             Why are you interested in this school?

This question offers you a great opportunity to demonstrate genuine enthusiasm and knowledge. Your interviewer most likely loves their school, and will quickly intuit any ambivalence on your part.  Keep it really positive, talk about any personal contacts that you have had and again – demonstrate specific knowledge of the program.  If this school touts their world-class faculty in every publication, you probably want to mention a few specific professors.  If the partner club is very strong and you are coming with your family, talk about how you are drawn to the supportive community.

5.             What will you contribute to our community?

You want the interviewer to see you as a personal asset, someone who will be an active and welcome member of the class.  The last thing that the admissions committee wants to do is offer a seat to someone who will be disengaged.  To help the interviewer envision you at the school, talk about clubs that you want to join, community service projects that you want to lead, social opportunities of interest and unique hobbies that you will share with your classmates.  Be sure to use the exact name of this school’s club – the hospitality club at school x may be called the hotel club at this program, and it is important to get it right. Emphasize how much you value relationships.  It is also appropriate to mention any unusual perspectives that you can share in an academic setting.  For instance, if you have a military background or have worked abroad you can bring this lens to classroom discussions.

If you can answer these 5 questions with authority, you will establish your readiness for an MBA and your fit for this school. In my next post, I will discuss the 5 interview questions that truly exceptional MBA candidates are also prepared to answer.