How to Ace Your MBA Interview: With Prep Questions & Answers

Applying to top business schools? Here's how to ace your MBA interview, with expert tips & tricks, as well as real-life interview questions (and answers).

Posted May 22, 2024

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What is the MBA Interview?

Quick — what comes to mind when you think about business school applications? Most likely it's the fundamental parts you have to submit before the deadline: application essays, GMAT or GRE scores, grades, letters of recommendation, resume, etc. Of course, if you're concerned about those parts of the application, we've got you covered. See here:

There is one more step on your way to a top MBA program, however, and it's often overlooked: the MBA interview. Everything else in your application goes on a piece of paper; the MBA interview is your chance to show up as a real candidate, your opportunity to make your two-dimensional application come to life.

If you're lucky enough to earn an interview invitation at a top school, that's a great sign: it means the school is interested and thinks you have the intelligence and career potential to attend their program. The interview is their way of assessing whether you're a good fit for their program, as a human being.

That being the case, it's critical to prepare properly. Read on to find out how.

When Should I Start Prepping for My MBA Interview?

Many candidates will wait until the last minute to prep for their MBA admissions interview. Don't make that mistake! Ideally, you'll start preparing well before you receive an interview invitation. Generally, it's a good idea to start researching and preparing for your interview once you've submitted your application. Some prep is naturally included in the application process, too. Knowing your story, your “Why an MBA?”, and “Why this school?” will help you prepare thoughtful interview answers.

When you receive an interview invite, that’s when you’ll want to start prepping more intensively–ideally, with a mock interview. Mock interviews are the number one most effective mode of preparation, especially if you do it with someone who knows what to screen for and who can help you workshop your answers, like an admissions coach. However, even a mock interview with a friend will put you in a better position than not doing one.

As with most components of your application, you want to be proactive, not reactive!

How to Prepare for Your MBA Admissions Interview

So you have submitted your application—good job at getting this far!

This is the time when top MBA candidates differentiate themselves by preparing for the interview. Not sure where or how to start? You’re in luck. Below are some guidelines to help you on your journey, and to make sure you show up as your best self during the interview.

Research the School

Just as every MBA program is different, the interview at each MBA program is different. Each school has specific objectives and formats for its interview. It's critical to understand these specifics so you can set yourself up for success.

A good first step is to visit the admissions section of the program’s website. Many schools outline the exact format of the interview and provide tips and tricks directly from the faculty or Assistant Director of Admissions. Look through the school’s values, student profiles, and any other information listed.

Consider the information you learn from the program’s website as table stakes. It's what every other applicant should be aware of, so it's important to go a step further to gain more insight.

One way to do this is to talk to people with real insight into the program. Reach out to current students and/or alumni to see if they'd be willing to share their experiences or offer any advice. Use LinkedIn to find people with some kind of connection to you–perhaps someone from your alma mater, someone with a similar career trajectory, someone who played the same sport as you, or someone who volunteered at the same organization. Reach out, let them know you’re a prospective applicant, and ask if you can set up a brief chat to learn from them. Most times, you'll find people very willing to share their experiences. Make sure to prepare thoughtful questions and show your gratitude for their time during and after the call.

Other ways to dig deeper include the following:

  • Look through the curriculum, professors, clubs, student orgs, community events, etc. to learn how you would fit into the campus. What would you bring to the class? Where will you spend your time?
  • Read whatever you can find about the program. There is a lot of information online that isn’t listed on the school’s website.
  • Take a tour of the campus, if you’re in a position to. You’ll get a feel for what the school actually feels like and have a tour guide from whom you can get more questions answered.

We’ve also got lots of school-specific articles that can help you familiarize yourself with the nuances of each program. Check these out on the MBA Library page.

Understand the Types of MBA Interviews

Once you've done your initial research, it's important to get acquainted with the different types of interview formats. Here's a primer on some common varieties.

Invite Only vs. Everyone

First, let's look at interviews based on who gets the invite.

Some programs prefer to interview only those candidates who have a good probability of admission based on their application. Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan are examples of this preference. Getting an interview is a good sign, but by no means a guarantee of admission.

On the other hand, some programs consider the interview a key component of the overall application and therefore interview as many applicants as they can. Kellogg is one such program.

Blind vs. Not-Blind

The next difference in interviews is how much the MBA admissions interviewers know about you before the interview.

Some programs are blind, meaning that the interviewer hasn’t read your application or has only received a portion of it, usually the resume. In this case, you have the opportunity to show who you are from a relatively clean slate. This also means you have a lot of information to convey in a limited time, so being succinct and cogent in your answers really matters here.

Other programs are not blind, meaning that the interview is well-versed in your application. They will likely come prepared with specific questions related to your professional or educational background. Many programs will go a step further and pair you with an interviewer who has experience in your current or desired industry. You can expect very specific questions to gauge your understanding of the details of your experience.

Led by Admissions Committee vs. Alumni vs. Second-Year MBAs

Another difference in interviews is who is conducting the interview. Some programs have only their MBA admissions committee interview applicants. Other programs involve alumni to act as MBA admissions officers. Still, others use current students, typically second-year MBA candidates, to conduct interviews. Some schools stick to one of these whereas others will include all three.

In any case, expect the interviewer to have a vested interest in protecting the reputation of the program. Understand that they will be asking themselves, “Is this a person I would be happy to consider a classmate or fellow alum?” and “Will this person make the school better?” Ultimately, these are the questions you're trying to answer with a resounding, “Yes!” in your interview.

Video vs. In-Person

The final variety we’ll cover is where the interview is held. Before COVID, many schools preferred in-person interviews. These were conducted either on campus or at a chosen location with local alumni. Since COVID, many schools are opting for remote interviews online via Zoom or some other teleconference provider. Make sure you know which your target program is offering, and prepare accordingly.

Read our guide to virtual interviews at How to Nail Your Virtual MBA Interview.

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MBA Interview Structures of the M7 Business Schools

Now that we've covered the basics, let's get into some details about specific schools, particularly ones with unique or distinctive interview protocols. Note: the information below stays at a high level; it's not a replacement for your own research and preparation!

Harvard Business School

  • Type: Invite-only
  • Interviewer: Conducted by an interview board, a group of individuals trained to conduct HBS interviews
  • # of Interview Invites: ~20% (about 50-60% of invitees are then accepted)
  • Format: Resume-driven, not blind, and approached like a case study. You will likely be asked very specific questions about small details on your resume. Get ready for a lot of “why?” questions. In-person or remote.
  • Length: 30 minutes
  • Timeline: HBS interviews most applicants in October for Round 1 applicants, late January to early March for Round 2 applicants, and late May to June for deferred applicants
  • A note from HBS on a unique part of its interview process:
    • As part of the application process, you will be required to complete a Post-Interview Reflection. Here are a few details:
      • The Post-Interview Reflection is not intended to be another formal essay. Think of it instead as a reflection after a meeting.
      • We will be much more generous in our reaction to typos and grammatical errors than we will be with pre-packaged responses. Reflections that give any indication that they were produced before you had the interview will raise a flag for us.
      • We do not expect you to solicit or receive any outside assistance with this exercise.
      • Your Post-Interview Reflection is due within 24 hours of the conclusion of your interview. Let the interview soak in a little bit...no need to start writing your reflection right at the conclusion of your interview.
      • There is a word guidance of 300-450 words for the Post-Interview Reflection.

For more information and advice on the interview process at HBS, read our article How to Ace Your HBS MBA Interview and How to Ace Your HBS 2+2 Interview, or learn more about the overall program at Harvard Business School—MBA Program and Application Overview.

Stanford GSB

  • Type: Invite-only
  • Interviewer: Conducted by trained alumni or an admissions officer
  • # of Interview Invites: ~900 people (there were 6,190 applicants in 2023 so Stanford interviewed around 14-15%)
  • Format: Behavioral-driven, remote or in-person
  • Length: 45-60 minutes
  • Timeline: GSB interview invitations will go out late September to mid-November for Round 1 applicants, mid-January to mid-March for Round 2 applicants, and late April to mid-May for Round 3 and deferred applicants
  • A note from the GSB page on interviews:
    • We conduct a competency-based behavioral interview to gain a deeper understanding of what you have done and how you have done it. We focus on your past actions, rather than on hypothetical situations, and invite you to discuss meaningful professional or community-based experiences you’ve had in the past few years.

To get some additional advice and strategies for your interview at Stanford GSB, read our article on How to Nail Your Stanford GSB MBA Interview: Overview, Questions, & Tips. For a broader overview of what the program offers, visit Stanford Graduate School of Business—MBA Program and Application Overview.

Northwestern University Kellogg

  • Type: Kellogg invites almost everyone to interview
  • Interviewer: Admissions committee, alum, or a second-year student
  • # of Interview Invites: 85-90% or more of applicants are extended an interview invitation
  • Format: Blind, based only on the resume; conducted virtually
  • Length: 30-45 minutes
  • Timeline: Applicants schedule their own interviews within six weeks of the application deadline
  • A note from Kellogg on interviews:
    • Due to the high demand for interviews and limited availability of interviewers, you may receive an interview waiver. If your interview is waived, the admissions committee may contact you if further information is needed to make a decision on your candidacy.

For more tips and tricks on acing your interview at Kellogg, check out our detailed guide on How to Nail Your Kellogg MBA Interview: Overview, Questions, & Tips. You can also explore the program in depth by visiting The Kellogg School of Management—MBA Program and Application Overview.

MIT Sloan

  • Type: Invite-only
  • Interviewer: Admissions committee
  • # of Interview Invites: 20-25% of applicants
  • Format: Virtually, scheduled on East Coast time
    • Sloan’s interview is commonly referred to as a “behavioral event-based interview” – questions almost exclusively focus on your past actions, rather than hypotheticals. They want to know why you made the decisions you did.
  • Length: 30-45 minutes
  • Timeline: Invitations are sent out on a rolling basis until the decision deadline
  • A note from the MIT page on interviews:
    • Those invited to interview will be asked to respond to two additional written questions prior to the interview. Details for submitting your essay will be included in the interview invitation.

For more expert advice on navigating the interview process at Sloan, see our post on How to Nail Your MIT Sloan MBA Interview: Overview, Questions, & Tips. More information about the program can also be found at MIT Sloan School of Management—MBA Program and Application Overview.

University of Pennsylvania Wharton

  • Type: Invite-only
  • Interviewer: Admissions committee
  • # of Interview Invites: About 40% of Wharton applicants are invited to interview, and roughly one in three of those receives an offer of admission
  • Format: Group, a team-ba
  • ed discussion (“TBD”) with 4-5 other applicants, followed by a short one-on-one with the admissions officer
  • Length: 45 minutes
  • Timeline: Around late October for Round 1 applicants, mid-February for Round 2 applicants, mid-April for Round 3 applicants, and late May for deferred applicants
  • A note from the Wharton page on interviews:
    • The Team-Based Discussion (TBD) is meant to model the highly collaborative nature of the Wharton MBA environment in order to identify characteristics (communication style, level of engagement, leadership skills, decision-making process, etc.) that we believe contribute to the success of a Wharton student.

This is an opportunity for you to express who you are as an individual and as a member of a functioning team. The TBD is one element of Upenn’s MBA admissions process that, when pieced together with your written application, helps to paint a clearer picture of who you are and how you would fit into the class. Our hope is that through a team-based discussion, you will not only be able to present how you approach and think about certain challenges and opportunities, but that you will also have a chance to experience, firsthand, the teamwork and learning dynamic that is central to our program.

Read our article on the TBD at Wharton MBA Interview Guide: The Team-Based Discussion or learn more about the program at the Wharton Business School—MBA Program and Application Overview.

Columbia Business School

  • Type: Invite-only
  • Interviewer: Usually an alum, occasionally an admissions officer or second-year student
  • # of Interview Invites: ~50% of applicants
  • Format: Blind, based only on the resume; behavior-focused questions
  • Length: 45 minutes
  • Timeline: Invitations are sent out on a rolling basis within six weeks of the application submission

To learn more about preparing for your interview at Chicago Booth, refer to our article on How to Ace Your Columbia Business School MBA Interview: Expert Tips and Sample Questions. For an extensive look at the program, visit Columbia Business School — MBA Program & Application Overview (2023).

How to Practice for Your MBA Interviews

Okay, we've covered the types of interviews and school-specific details. Now, it's time to practice! Here are some tips and tricks for prepping for that MBA interview!

General MBA Interview Tips & Tricks

1. Know Your Interviewer

As discussed, research the format of the specific school’s interview process and objectives. If you're able to find the exact name of your interviewer (especially if they're an alum), find out everything you can about them, so you're completely prepared for a discussion with them.

Read: How to Build a Lasting Connection in Your MBA Interview

2. Know Yourself

Be ready to speak about/explain every fact on your resume or in your application. You should be able to go several layers deep for every line on your resume – why did you do that thing, what were the challenges, what was the impact, why did it matter, etc. You don't want to be grasping for answers when you're in the interview. Have several compelling anecdotes in your back pocket that you can pull from and adapt to different questions.

3. Understand Your Stress Behaviors

Do you rush through answers? Do you get long-winded? Do you use a lot of filler words (e.g. um, so, like, right)? Be aware of your tendencies, and practice to minimize these. Develop calming strategies to mitigate these behaviors during the interview itself.

4. Answer the Question

This sounds obvious, but answer the question the interviewer asked you! Don’t force an example simply because you're prepared for it. Stay on topic. Don't be afraid to pause if you need time to think. It's perfectly fine to say, "Great question. Let me think about that for a moment." Requesting time like this will show the interviewer that you're mature and are genuinely preparing a thoughtful answer to their question.

5. Be Clear and Articulate

Practice organizing your thoughts and communicating clearly, and for anecdotes, use the STAR method: situation, problem, action, result. Don't rush through your answers, but don't be long-winded, either. This is one area where doing a mock interview ahead of time can be hugely beneficial.

6. Don't Sound Scripted

You aren't a robot (we hope), so be flexible. Trying to repeat canned answers won't work; the admissions committee is looking for real human beings! You should absolutely prepare and have stories to draw from, but don’t memorize responses to common questions by rote.

7. Practice, Practice, Practice

Ask an admissions coach, friends, trusted colleagues, or even family members to conduct a mock interview with you. Pretend it's the real thing; don’t break character. Ask for honest feedback about your pace and clarity, and repeat.

8. Be Personable

This one sounds obvious too, but make a connection with your interviewer if possible. It can go a long way. When you're done, genuinely thank them for their time, and reiterate your interest in their MBA program. Remember, your interviewer was very likely once in your shoes. They remember the nerves and the desire to make a good impression. Give them a reason to be on your team.

Ace Your MBA Interview With the Help of an Expert

The number one thing that you can do to prepare for your MBA interviews is to do a mock interview with an expert beforehand – you’ll have chosen the right stories, know how to weave responses into the broader application, and have more polished answers. Below are some of our top MBA coaches who are experts in the interview process. View all of our world-class, vetted coaches here.

MBA Interview Questions

All right, now that you’re familiar with tips and strategies to conquer MBA interviews, it’s time to prep you with some common MBA interview questions. Here are some sample MBA interview questions – this list isn't comprehensive, but it will give you an idea of what you can expect.

And a quick pro tip: The first question you will undoubtedly get is: “How are you doing?” Of course, this is just the start of a conversation, but don't treat this as a formality. Don’t just say “Fine.” That's a dead end, and you want to make sure that your conversation with the interviewer is as impressive and memorable as possible. Come up with another answer to build rapport and connect with your interviewer. It's also a chance to shake off some of those early interview jitters. Be honest. Be genuine. Show a little personality — then you can kick off the interview on the right foot!

Now on to the MBA interview questions.

Getting to Know You

Whether the interview is blind or not, you will be asked to describe yourself. Be prepared to talk about who you are, specifically those characteristics that define you and differentiate you from others.

  • Tell me a little bit about yourself. / Walk me through your resume.
  • Why do you want to pursue an MBA degree?
  • Why did you apply to this program? What other MBA programs have you applied to?
  • What questions do you have for me? (usually reserved for the end of the interview)

Behavioral Questions

You'll almost certainly encounter behavioral questions in your interview. These are used to explore how you have reacted to various situations in the past, either personally, academically, or professionally. These can be questions like:

  • Describe a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
  • Describe a time when you were faced with an ethical dilemma.
  • Describe a time when you had to make a decision with limited information.
  • Describe a time when you had to persuade team members to do something your way (and they didn't want to).
  • Describe a time when you had to adapt to an opinion or idea different from your own.
  • Describe a time when you had to step up in an area outside of your authority.

Questions About the Program

Certainly, interviewers will want to know why you want to be in their program. These questions might be phrased like:

  • Why did you choose to apply to this program? / Why this school?
  • How does this program fit into your career goals?
  • If shifting careers:
    • Why do you want to change industries/careers?
    • Do you need an MBA to shift to that field?
  • What do you anticipate will be the major challenges in this program for you?

Spoiler alert: “Because you’re highly ranked” is not a good answer. Be prepared to discuss your career goals in detail. This includes both short-term and long-term goals. If you don’t have a clear career trajectory mapped out, that's okay — share what you do know about what you want to do with your career and explain where you still have gaps.

Probing Questions to Test Your Knowledge and Self-Awareness

Many programs will throw in questions designed to cut straight to who you are as a person. These might sound like:

  • What is the biggest problem your current CEO is facing?
  • How would your friends describe you in three words?
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • Tell me more about [bullet/project] I see on your resume. Why did you do that? What was the result?

Curveballs

Finally, know that there are scenarios you simply cannot prepare for. Some interviewers or programs may throw in a question like “If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?” or “If you could start your own business, what would it be?” You can't prepare for these, and that's by design. These questions are meant to test how you think on your feet. Rest assured, there is no right answer to questions like these. Remember, a confident mind is a nimble mind, so give yourself a moment to think and be yourself.

Most Common Interview Questions of the Top 10 MBA Programs

Download our free guide to the most common MBA interview questions to be as prepared as possible to nail your interview

Questions to Ask Your MBA Interviewer

As mentioned, at the end of your MBA interviews, you will almost certainly be asked something along the lines of, “Do you have any questions for me?” Though this sounds innocent, it’s an incredibly important part of the interview and a place where you can really stand out.

Here are some of our general tips for asking your interviewer questions:

Have some questions prepared ahead of time. If you know who your interviewer is, use that information when thinking about questions.

Customize your questions depending on whether the interviewer is a current student, alum, or admissions board member. For example, you could ask an alum, “How has attending X school impacted your career since graduation?”, but that’s not a question you would want to ask someone on the admissions committee.

Don’t ask anything that you could find the information to online. Your interviewer is not Google, nor do they want to be (we would assume). You should ask questions that the interviewer has some unique perspective on or understanding of.

This is your chance to evaluate the school. As much as the school is evaluating you, you should be evaluating the school. We’re going to guess that you want to get into a program where you will fit in and thrive. In asking the interviewer questions, you have a key opportunity to get answers to anything you genuinely want to know. Use it wisely.

For a list of specific questions to ask, see: Top 10 Questions to Ask During Your MBA Application Interview

MBA Interview Tips From Admissions Consultants

Here are some key pieces of advice on the MBA interview from professional coaches.

  1. "Imagine you're talking to a future colleague. You'll be professional, but still friendly and warm, perhaps with an occasional smile and even a joke. A lot of applicants are international, and I acknowledge there are cultural differences. In many countries, there is an expectation of extreme formality in interviews, but in the US, we love the "airport test." The airport test is simple: would your interviewer want to be stuck at an airport with you?In my interviews with the top business schools and MBB consulting firms, most interviewers were very responsive to a friendly conversation approach, and I even got bonus points (one acknowledged this after I received the offer) for a couple of jokes I told! But it's always important to read the room–if the interviewer seems more reserved, don't crack a joke." - John P: Wharton MBA, Booth/CBS/Yale/Tuck Admit, McKinsey
  2. "Most interviews are conversational and meant to gauge how you communicate verbally and otherwise, and whether that’s consistent with how you relate your story in written materials. Keep in mind that this conversation is very much a two-way street – you’re getting the opportunity to evaluate the program as much as they’re taking the time to get to know you better as a candidate. The interviewer (whether it’s AdComm or an alum) wants to represent the school well, and leave you with a good impression!" - Laura N: Professional Admissions Coach, Ross MBA + AdCom, 15+ Years of Experience
  3. “I always recommend that applicants prepare extensively, then be flexible during the interview. Common interview questions for each school are widely available - have answers prepared ahead, but be ready to adapt based on the flow and direction of the interview. Think exhaustively about each bullet on your resume as interviewers like to unpack specific experiences. What was the impact? What did you learn? What was the team dynamic? How did you exhibit leadership?Additionally, imagine yourself as a student and how you hope to take advantage of a school's specific resources to support your goals, both professional and personal. And just as crucially, think about how you would give back to the student community. Be prepared to speak to these with enthusiasm. Interviewers are assessing for professional and community fit, and your genuine interest is a significant piece of this.” - Christian S: Kellogg MBA, Accenture/Meta, Big Tech, Mock Interview Expert

Read more at: MBA Interviews: Six Admission Consultants’ Best Advice

MBA Interviews FAQs

Let's wrap up with some commonly asked questions about the MBA interview.

How important is the MBA interview?

  • The MBA admissions interview is a critical component of every application. It can help to think of MBA candidates in three camps: those highly likely to get accepted despite the interview (the top 10%); those highly likely to get rejected despite the interview (the bottom 10%); and those who need to compete for open seats (middle 80%). For the majority of candidates, then, the interview can be the difference between getting accepted or rejected. It's your chance to differentiate yourself by conveying personal qualities you weren’t able to fit in your written application.

Do all MBA programs have interviews?

  • Every competitive MBA program will have some interview component. If you're seeking an MBA from a top business school, expect to have an interview.

Does everyone get an interview for an MBA?

  • Different MBA programs take different approaches to the interview. Some schools, like Kellogg, interview as many students as possible before considering admittance. Other programs, like Sloan, only interview candidates who have passed an initial round of consideration and use it to make the final cut.

What should I wear to my MBA interview?

  • It's important to research the expectations of the particular MBA programs you are interviewing with, but generally speaking, it is a good idea to wear business attire to your interview. Some programs may allow business casual, but it is better to err on the side of caution and dress as you would for an important job interview.

How do you introduce yourself in an MBA interview?

  • Introduce yourself as you would in a job interview. Take cues from your interviewer. If they introduce themselves first, listen to what information they provide, and offer a similar reply. It's important to establish a connection and convey confidence. Smile, look the interviewer in the eye, tell them your full name, and let them know you are pleased to speak with them today.

What questions should I ask in an MBA interview?

  • One question every interviewee can expect is “What questions do you have?” This is not a formality. The interviewer expects you to engage in conversation, and to have done your research on the program. They want to know if you have been thoughtful in your consideration of MBA programs and why you think their program is right for you. Ask questions about the program, or ask them to confirm if their experience aligns with the expectations you have about the program from prior research. For example, “I spoke with a few alumni who said that they found (X rewarding or Y challenging); was this your experience as well?”
    Additionally, your interviewer is looking to see if you can build a rapport with someone new. If they are alumni or current students, they were very likely in your shoes at one point. Ask them about the decisions they made or the challenges they faced. Show interest in them and their story; this will demonstrate that you're serious about their program and make it more likely that they'll remember you fondly during the selection process.

How long does it take to hear back after an MBA interview?

  • It really depends on the program and how they schedule interviews. For those MBA programs that interview candidates early on, you can expect to wait longer than those that interview as a final round of consideration. A typical timeframe can be a few weeks to a couple of months.

    The MBA interview isn't a formality, and it's not something to dread. Whether the program interviews every applicant or only a select few, consider the interview as your chance to set yourself apart. It can be the difference between hearing "Better luck next time” and “We’ll see you in the Fall!” so give it the time and attention it deserves.

    Remember above all that the interview is a conversation, not a scripted dialogue. Not even the best candidates have perfect, flawlessly delivered answers to every question. Your interviewer will have specific questions, but at the end of the day, you're having a conversation. Be prepared, then relax and have fun! And good luck — you can do this!

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