The Gift of Hindsight: MBA Interviews

MBAs share their toughest b-school interview questions, how they responded at the time, and how they would respond now!

BusinessBecause has asked MBAs about the most difficult questions they were asked in business school interviews, and how they might answer them now they know more about the process.

MBA interviews are notoriously tough, and anecdotally the part of the admissions process that worries applicants most. But worry no more – these successful applicants have spilled the beans on the toughest questions they were asked, their answers, and how they would improve them if they were to be asked the questions again.

Vladimir Chernyaev, who studied for an MBA at IE Business School, gave us the following insight.

My toughest question:
What additional value can you add to a class?

My original answer:
I responded about my sales experience in the healthcare and pharmaceutical market.

What I would say now:
I realise now that a better answer would have been much broader, taking into consideration not only my work experience, but my cultural and personal background, and would show an understanding of market conditions. I would also recommend that interviewees take into consideration the key values and strengths of the business school they are applying to: for example, IE Business School is very focused on diversity.

Ankit Khanna, an MBA from HEC Paris, wanted to expand his operations as an entrepreneur beyond India and into Europe.

My toughest question:
Why do you want to do an MBA when you can achieve your goal just by finding the right contacts?

My original answer:
I answered that I wanted to pick up relevant marketing skills during the MBA that will help me target the right customer base in Europe.

What I would say now:
During the MBA, I realised that developing a business in Europe needs a lot more than just having the right marketing skills. So if I were to answer that question now, I would emphasize how the diversity at the HEC MBA program would help bring the cultural understanding that I need to develop this idea. Also, I would point out that HEC's incubator program would provide immense support to my ambitions. Moreover, I would also emphasize how I could leverage the huge HEC alumni network to develop relevant contacts.

Chris Wong’s interview at CEIBS focused on the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy case, an area in which he had worked.

My toughest question:
Why did Lehman fail, and what can be done to prevent such failures in the future?

My original answer:
As this did not specifically relate to the day to day bankruptcy work that I was doing (which involved handling creditors’ claims and the distressed assets that Lehman had invested in previously), I answered the question as well as I was able to, talking about how bank regulations have to be improved.

What I would say now:
My answer would probably be along the same lines, but perhaps I would have been able to quote specific regulations, having briefly studied and researched about them during my MBA course work. My advice is for candidates to not just focus on the specific work they are doing, but to have knowledge on the bigger picture, be aware of the issues, and form their own views on them. They may very well be asked about such topics in their interviews!

Jonathan Blackwell, who interviewed for an MBA at AGSM after having majored in visual art, had a positive interview experience.

My toughest question:
My interviewer was the kindest, most motherly figure I could have imagined, and was not the "grilling" type of person in her interview style. There was no question I couldn't answer, only experiences I didn't have yet and would not have until I'd completed the degree.

My original answer:
I simply presented my interests, my passions, and my character as accurately as I could, not knowing what to say or even how to prepare for something like this with my arts background.

What I would say now:
If I were sitting in that chair again, I would shown my awareness of how an MBA would be a humbling experience. I agree with Roger Martin in "The Design of Business" that more people looking to do an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) should get an MBA, so our Masters of Business Administration are leading from our own collective future of highest potential.

With creative business leaders, we will see more of our problems being solved through businesses in the free market that are not afraid to lead with a positive intuition based on the creative spirit that keeps artists feeling truly alive.

It is my calling in life to show that artists, when given business knowledge, can truly lead in the otherwise intimidating world of business that has driven the global economy to where we are today. As we start using more of our right brains to match the traditional left brains in business, we also open up the creative energies that we all posses. The more creative our business leaders, the more women and minorities will also have a seat at the table.

And Charlie Chen, from Manchester Business school, allays fears by telling us that the interview wasn’t that bad after all...

The interview actually wasn’t that dreadful, especially when you have years of work experience in sales and marketing. Basically, you are just selling yourself on how you can help the school to expand in the future. My suggestion is to prepare for possible business school interview questions ahead of time, by writing down your answers. In addition, schools like to see a diverse student profile, so demonstrating how international you are could also help too.

Comments.

Alison

Friday 13th July 2012, 13.24 (Europe/Paris)

Charlie agree if you've worked in sales you should be able to 'sell' yourself but if you come from a finance, IT etc background it might be more difficult - the number of IT guys I know who struggle to string a sentence together! Great advice though...

Julie Diethn

Friday 13th July 2012, 15.50 (Europe/Paris)

Awesome article

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