Updated November 4, 2022
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) admission interview is a chance for adcoms to get to know the real you, the person behind the application materials. An interviewer’s role is to test, challenge and probe – and your job is to have strong answers at the ready, and come across as an eager, qualified, and informed candidate.
This is your final opportunity to convince the admissions committee that your candidacy is authentic, competitive and valuable. What do you need to do?
Let the admissions professionals at The MBA Exchange break it down for you. These MBA interview tips present you and your candidacy in the best possible light.
What is the MBA admissions interview?
It’s a fact about MBA admissions: only 40-60% of interviewees will be accepted. You’ve got to understand the beast before you can conquer it. Before asking how to prepare for MBA interviews, ask – what’s the point of MBA admission interviews?
You’ve researched questions like “what is the GMAT” and “GMAT vs. GRE,” polished your resume, submitted all your other application materials and reached an important milestone in your pursuit of a seat in an MBA program – the admissions interview.
This is your last, most crucial chance to impress the MBA admissions committee and secure your place at the b-school of your dreams. It’s make or break time.
After the interview, there’s only background verification standing between you and MBA admissions success.
When should I start preparing for MBA interviews?
You want to take sufficient time on MBA interview preparation to get it right, but not so long that your responses to MBA interview questions start sounding rehearsed and lose life and immediacy. 2-3 weeks, with at least several extended prep sessions, is a good bet in terms of your timeline.
Be sure to stay aware of relevant MBA application deadlines! You could also be on a different calendar for deferred admission MBA programs.
Most programs require interviews, but some part-time MBA programs may not require interviews for admission.
How to prepare for MBA interviews
Your MBA interview preparation is going to depend on your own strengths and weaknesses as an off-the-cuff speaker. You might need to work on keeping on topic, or practice speaking up with confidence and clarity.
As a rule of thumb, we suggest taking a cold run at prepping for the most common MBA admission interview questions, then getting some feedback and start working on individual areas that need improvement.
Working with an experienced admissions consultant is a great way to get a clear view of your strengths and weaknesses as an interviewer, as well as proven strategies to improve targeted areas of your self-presentation.
MBA admission interview questions you need to ace
MBA admission interviews usually allocate about 30 minutes for each candidate. So, every word counts. Clarity starts with structure – each answer to MBA interview questions should have a beginning, middle and end. Take the time you need to collect your thoughts and ace your answer.
Planning ahead for key or common MBA interview questions lets you cut to the chase more quickly and smoothly. Here are some key MBA admission interview questions to prep for before you show up.
What are your career goals?
Adcoms want to see both ambition and an ability to make concrete, actionable plans from prospective accepted students. You should be able to talk about your career goals without sounding hazy, foggy or overconfident, or without giving an impression of aimlessness.
Why do you want to pursue an MBA?
Show that an MBA is an asset you understand and value by detailing the ways you see an MBA fitting into your career trajectory and personal goals.
And, if you’re pursuing an executive MBA (EMBA) instead of a traditional MBA, this is a great time to show your awareness of details about the program you’re targeting.
Walk me through your resume
Getting an invitation to expound on your experience is a great opportunity for you as a candidate. Be prepared to take full advantage of the chance to take your interviewer through your resume in greater depth, highlighting both what you’ve shown you can bring to the table and how an MBA could enhance your professional profile.
Tell us about a time you failed
This question is another blessing in disguise. It sounds like a bad thing to discuss past failures, but your interviewer wants to get to know the real you and assess how you could enrich the school’s community and fit into its culture.
Avoid the temptation to be perfect. The adcom may interpret that as an attempt to hide character flaws or vulnerabilities. Arrogance, entitlement, and ego don’t work.
Conversely, a bit of appropriate humor and self-deprecation convey the humility and confidence that business schools value. If you’re pursuing a long shot like an MBA with a 3.0 GPA, you need every boost you can get.
MBA interview tips & tricks
Here are some helpful MBA interview tips and tricks, and advice on how to prepare for MBA interviews when you want to come out on top.
Don’t memorize answers
Interviewers take an active role in discussing your candidacy. So, don’t memorize answers to the questions you think they’re going to ask as part of your MBA interview preparation. Rather, build stories around your strengths that you can adapt to a wide range of questions. Instead of memorizing a script, practice using talking points so your responses are thoughtful and natural.
Be yourself (unless you’re a jerk…)
During MBA admission interviews, strive to present your best, most poised, authentic self – after all, that’s who the adcoms met and liked in your application! A good GMAT score only goes so far. Adcoms want to see the person behind the numbers.
Be specific, be prepared (and always be on time!)
Interviewers want to know that you will accept their offer of admission if one is extended to you. Be sure to include school-specific references in your interview responses. Consider how you’re going to align your candidacy with offerings like courses and clubs to show how their MBA program is the ideal fit for you.
Since interviews are not offered in-person these days, check your internet connection, computer camera, background and microphone at least a day before your scheduled interview. Ideally do a practice session with a trusted resource.
A professional admissions consultant at The MBA Exchange can provide you with additional interview strategies, tactics, tips and feedback. We’d be happy to speak with you about how we can help you ace your interview!
Write an MBA interview thank you email
Once you make it through your admission interview, there’s one last thing you need to do before you can relax and stop worrying about this part of the admissions process – and that’s to send off thank you emails as needed. Expressing gratitude shows your bona fides as a solid prospect, and, additionally, gives you the last chance to make a great impression.
If there’s one of these tips and tricks you don’t want to forget, procrastinate on or avoid, it’s this one. You might be surprised about how much impact simple courtesy can produce.
Send emails to each person who supported you in getting through the challenges of the interview
process. That could include contacts from jobs, college or university or other contexts in your life. If possible, send personalized thank you emails to your interviewers, acknowledging their time and attention. Initiating contact makes you look responsible, on top of things and aware of the importance of networking, all pluses from an MBA admissions perspective.
Let people know why you’re reaching out, that your interview is complete and that you appreciate their help. Formal salutations are appropriate for this kind of email, as is careful proofreading! Spelling mistakes at this point aren’t a great look, and could make you seem sloppy. But, if you happen to have additional points of support for your candidacy that have only recently developed, a thank you email is a great place to add one final update before signing off.
You weren’t invited to an MBA admissions interview
Applying to business school but then not getting an interview feels frustrating, painful. Maybe even devastating. The admissions staff has denied you the chance to look them in the eye, tell your story and answer their questions in person. They provide no personalized explanation, rationale, feedback or advice. Just “thanks and best wishes.” That sucks.
As unfair and unsettling as this outcome feels, the reality is that you have viable options.
Being denied admission now, without an interview, is a gift. Yes, a gift. If you’d been interviewed and then rejected in a few months, you would have less time to select another school and prepare a strong application in time for the upcoming deadline. So, seize this moment and channel your disappointment by strengthening your candidacy and creating a killer app for a different MBA program that’s likely to appreciate you more.
If you’re unsure about which other business schools to pursue and how to frame your candidacy for admission, partnering with a pro is a smart move. The MBA Exchange features a roster of former admissions professionals and MBA grads from all of the top-tier schools. In fact, some of them likely share your industry experience, undergraduate major or cultural background.
If your heart is still set on attending your original target school, and if waiting an additional year to enroll (if admitted) is okay with you, there’s no reason to delay your re-application campaign. Now is your chance to get a head start on the thousands of other applicants who will be denied admission later in the process.
It’s far more efficient and effective to maintain your momentum, re-evaluate your candidacy and refine your application materials now than having to re-start from a dead stop next spring. A comprehensive admissions consultation from The MBA Exchange is the ideal solution. Starting with an assessment of your denied applications, an experienced advisor will provide guidance and support that maximizes your chances for success on the second try.
Is your confidence shaken by the lack of an interview invitation? Are you feeling less certain about whether an MBA education is the right next step? This reaction is certainly understandable. However, there’s no benefit to remaining in limbo.
If you want to make an informed decision about whether to pursue, postpone or put aside your MBA dream, getting the perspective of a professional admissions consultant should be your next step. Your consultant can tell you, promptly and objectively, how competitive you are and whether attending business school aligns with your vision.