In my last post, I discussed the standard MBA interview questions. Here are five advanced questions, and advice about how to prepare for your MBA interview.
1. How do you handle conflict?
Business Schools are very interested in understanding how you get along with other people. They do not want to admit abrasive people who will disrupt the classroom and the study group, and ultimately be hated by their co-workers. They also avoid candidates who are unable to hold their own when challenged. To answer this question, you need to be honest, balanced and diplomatic. Saying that you have never experienced conflict is a mistake (the interviewer will think that you are clueless or lying) and it is also a mistake to say that you revel in conflict. (Being too aggressive and arrogant does not signal leadership potential, it makes you seem deranged.) I suggest coming up with a few examples so that you can illustrate your response. “I recently had a conflict with a co-worker that I was able to resolve by leveraging our preexisting relationship and my listening and negotiation skills…”
2. How would your co-workers describe you?
This question tests self-awareness. It is also a cleverly disguised strengths and weaknesses query. The most effective answers that I have heard list two or three strengths and one weakness. Again, examples help; saying that your co-workers love collaborating with you because you always support them but being unable to relay an example of this dynamic undermines your credibility. In terms of a less positive trait, you don’t want to flag anything truly alarming, so I would avoid using terms like abrasive or dismissive. Most people who are headed back to business school have very appropriate developmental needs that can be woven into this answer. Mention something like “My co-workers would say that I can sometimes focus more on the details than the big picture, which is something that I hope to address in business school.”
3. What is the biggest failure that you have experienced?
Selecting the best illustration for this question takes time – you do not want to answer it off the top of your head. It is important to discuss a true failure, or at the very least a decision that you regret or something that you would do differently now. I have heard some very compelling personal responses, so you do not need to limit your response to the professional arena. However, whatever you choose, please exercise good judgment. You should also make sure to tell a complete story. Include an admission of fault and a proactive statement about how you have made positive changes as a result.
4. What are you most proud of?
This is your opportunity to talk about what really matters to you. I would stay away from discussing accomplishments that are found on your resume unless you have something to add that will enhance your candidacy and allow the committee to learn more about you. So, if graduating from college was a major accomplishment for you because you had to work full time to pay your tuition, this reflects very positively on you and should be shared. This is also an appropriate place to discuss risks that you have taken and to explain what motivates you on a personal level.
5. What do you like to do for fun?
Believe it or not, this is an important question! The admissions committee genuinely wants to know what you do outside of work. It’s important for them to see that you will contribute to the community, not just go to class and then fade away. It’s fine to talk about reading, sports, travel, volunteer activities, obscure musical interests – whatever you really like to do. It’s even better if you can tell them how you will continue these activities at school – “I look forward to skiing at the Dartmouth Skiway and to joining the Glen Tuck Scotch club.” By the way, I would sometimes ask this question in the middle of the interview, especially if I sensed that the candidate was struggling, as a way to put them at ease. Ideally, it should be an easy, relaxed part of the conversation.
Bonus Round – Do you have any questions for me?
You know that this question is coming, so why not prepare for it? You should ask two or three questions about things that you could not have researched on the web. So, no questions about class size or the student faculty ratio. Instead, if you are interviewing with a second year student you can ask them about their internship or their favorite class. Ask an administrator how they have seen the school evolve over the past few years, or about upcoming changes. NEVER ask how you did in the interview, or about your chances of admission. And please don’t pass on this opportunity – it makes you seem disinterested and can undermine the great impression that you made during the rest of the interview.