In 2019, U.S. business schools received over 130,000 applications from prospective graduate students around the world. To stand out in a crowded field of candidates for one of the best MBA programs, you have to prove your potential to excel in both the classroom and the workplace. That starts with submitting an up-to-date résumé featuring evidence of your past professional and academic achievements, recommendation letters from highly credible references and an essay that compellingly explains your reasons for pursuing graduate education.
Candidates who make it through the initial round of selection often face a crucial challenge: the MBA interview. This is an opportunity for admissions committees to find out more about your reasons for pursuing an MBA and for you to exhibit your greatest strengths as a candidate. Make the most of it by researching what types of questions to expect and developing a strategy to present your qualifications.
Your MBA interview preparation could make a big difference in achieving your career goals. Here are a few MBA interview tips to consider before taking the next step toward enrolling in a master’s program at a top business school:
Present Yourself in the Best Light With These MBA Interview Tips
Do Your Homework
You’ve probably already researched the business schools and MBA programs that best suit your academic and professional goals before applying, but you should dig deeper prior to the interview. Keep in mind that an admissions committee evaluates your ability to meet the school’s academic demands as well as make a positive contribution to its culture.
Find out as much as you can about the program’s educational philosophy and curriculum so you can explain how you’ll fit in. Interviewers may be especially interested in what you have to say about topics like collaboration with peers, corporate responsibility or big data’s role in the future of leadership.
Minimize surprises by finding out what interview format to expect. While some business schools may simply have you speak one-on-one with an admissions representative, others might ask several candidates to take part in a group discussion or invite you to meet faculty members and alumni.
Advocate for Yourself
Your goal is to convince your interviewers that you’re not just qualified, but an exceptional candidate for an MBA program. Strengthen that argument by determining four or five key points that you want to emphasize during the interview.
Each of your main ideas should highlight how you exhibit vital skills and characteristics for business leaders like:
- Problem solving
- Strategic planning
- Time management
Consider how your past accomplishments and experiences support each of your major points. Keep in mind that you’ll have limited time to provide details, so choose straightforward examples that vividly illustrate your capabilities.
Practice Your Responses
A mock interview is an effective way to hone your answers and bolster your confidence. Responding in real time to tricky questions can help you get comfortable with discussing complicated challenges and naturally referencing the qualities that make you stand out. Ask a professional associate, a mentor, a friend or a family member to participate and provide feedback on your performance.
Try to make the mock interview as realistic as possible:
- If your MBA interview is in person, you should arrange to practice in a professional location like an office or conference room.
- If you’re preparing to interview online, a practice session is an excellent time to test your video-conferencing software. Consider your backdrop. Find the right angle for your webcam and remove any clutter from your workspace.
- Dress for the occasion, even if your mock interview is online.
Focus on Tone and Timing
Verbal communication skills are vital for advancing your career and also essential to MBA interview preparation. Get your points across effectively by speaking clearly and accounting for speed and tone. Take a video of yourself answering some practice questions to identify any problems in your self-presentation and make corrections.
Some key aspects to consider when reviewing the video include:
- Do you talk at a pace that’s engaging and easy to understand?
- Are your tone of voice and vocabulary appropriately formal?
- Do you emphasize key terms and occasionally pause to let your points sink in?
- Are you in control of your volume?
- Do you consistently employ professional body language and posture that make you appear attentive and confident?
- Are you projecting genuine enthusiasm for the program and institution?
Bring Your Own Questions to the Table
Interviewers search for applicants who would be positive additions to their MBA program and business school community. By asking thoughtful questions, you present yourself as someone who has done your research and is genuinely engaged in learning more.
Avoid bringing up topics that are covered extensively on the school’s website or promotional materials. Instead, have questions in mind that tell the interviewers something about your professional goals and interests. Possibilities include asking about the program’s approach to a particular business issue, networking opportunities, faculty research or special events planned for the coming year. Following up on a topic your interviewers mentioned earlier is a good way to show off your listening skills.
Know the Most Common MBA Interview Questions
In an interview, you need to think on your feet and concisely address complicated issues. Build a strategy for promoting your biggest strengths and most significant experiences while strengthening your confidence. You can make things easier in the moment by considering how you would answer MBA interview questions and outlining your ideas in advance.
Investigate whether the program shares sample interview transcripts online, and see if you can communicate with current students or alumni about their experiences. You can’t predict every topic that interviewers might raise during your conversation, but there are a number of central issues that come up frequently in MBA interviews. Even if these specific questions are not covered, solidifying your responses to each of the following ahead of time could help you express your main ideas:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want to earn your MBA in this program?
- How will earning your MBA help you reach your long-term goals?
- Why are you a good candidate for this program?
- What characteristics or skills make you an effective leader?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- What is your greatest weakness?
- How would you contribute to our school’s community?
- Tell me about a challenge you faced and how you handled it.
- Is there someone in your industry you admire, and why?
Each interview is unique, and it’s imperative to steer the conversation toward a convincing argument for your admission. As you practice, note any opportunities to bring up your most relevant skills and qualities, supporting your claims with examples and anecdotes from your professional background. Plan how you’ll answer follow-up questions and elaborate on your statements.
Graduate education is about both expanding your skills and forming relationships with peers, faculty and stakeholders in organizations. A top-ranked program like the Online MBA from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business strives to select students who will become effective leaders and active members of the university community. If you’re invited to a USC MBA interview, you’ll have the chance to demonstrate what makes you an exceptional professional and advance toward your long-term objectives. By approaching this conversation well prepared, you could set the course for the future of your career.
About the USC Marshall School of Business
USC Marshall is one of the premier business schools in the U.S. and internationally recognized as a home for path-breaking research that emphasizes entrepreneurship, innovation, leadership and social responsibility. The USC Online MBA from the Marshall School of Business is built to help students succeed in the digitally driven business landscape, providing a curriculum focused on the practical skills expected of today’s global leaders. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, Marshall brings undergraduate and graduate students a unique perspective on the world, including global opportunities for experiential learning. The vibrant and active Trojan alumni community includes more than 89,000 people in 92 countries.