There is an art to creating a personal brand that highlights your strengths, experiences, and goals and sets you apart from other applicants during an MBA interview. The core of an MBA interview is to connect with interviewers on a personal level while remaining professional. Here are my top tips that you can use to significantly improve your chances of being admitted to top MBA programs.
1. Create a repository of high impact stories
The best-prepared MBA applicants I know and have worked with excel at doing the basic things right. Know that getting into a top-tier school is about more than just presenting the factual details of your application. Rather, it’s about presenting your unique perspective on the personal and professional experiences that have shaped you. What do you have to say about your experiences?
One of the most important elements of preparing for an MBA interview is building a collection of solid formative experiences and stories. These stories highlight different facets of your personality and skills you have learned along the way in a manner that resonates with the interviewer. Behavioral questions that explore past experiences, strengths, and weaknesses are common, as are discussions on diversity and contributions to the school community. Additionally, interviewers may ask about an applicant’s career goals, ethical reasoning, and current events in the business world.
You may check out common frameworks like STAR(Situation Task Action Result), PAR (Problem Action Result), and CARL (Context Action Result Learning) that can help you structure your stories to highlight key moments, experiences, and learnings.
2. Know what, when, and how much you should say
Even among highly qualified consulting applicants, there have been instances in INSEAD admissions interviews where the conversations felt prolonged, unbalanced, and disconnected. Some candidates, driven by their desire to secure a coveted spot in these fiercely competitive programs, may inadvertently focus too much on highlighting their achievements and strengths. Consequently, this emphasis can give rise to an unintended perception of arrogance during the interview.
While most interviewers will have read your resume before or during the interview, they will see the interview primarily as an opportunity to find out something “extra” about you, such as your interpersonal skills, motivation, maturity, and ability to work in a team. It is important to watch for subtle cues from your interviewer, such as signs of boredom or a desire for more precise answers. Recognizing these cues in time and adjusting your communication style is a skill that develops with experience and increased self-awareness.
Developing this skill early in your interview preparation will greatly increase your effectiveness. Remember that balance and brevity in your answers can help you present yourself as a well-rounded candidate with much to offer beyond your accomplishments.
In addition, part of the skills I also consider extremely important is making sure you have covered all the topics that you wanted to touch upon that highlight the best possible aspects of your profile. Whenever I work with applicants for interview preparation, I have them recall the best narratives they definitely need to cover, even if they have to take the lead and steer the conversation in the direction they want to go.
3. Research your interviewer
With the exception of a few schools, most business schools provide information about your interviewers ahead of time. Standout applicants go the extra mile to research their interviewers on professional platforms. The idea is to discover additional topics of conversation that the applicant and interviewer might have in common.
In the business world, you will often conduct background research on potential business partners or clients you want to meet and convince of your proposals. An MBA interview is no different. I recommend you take some notes on a few topics that can help you connect more deeply with your interviewer (or give you some interview ideas).
4. Prepare well for the most obvious questions
If you are struggling with common questions like “Why an MBA?” “Why our school?” or “Why now?” You probably had to dig deeper in preparing for your goals essay. It is important that when answering these questions, you do not simply repeat what you briefly mentioned in your goals essay.
Rather, you should be prepared to provide multi-layered answers to these questions in the interview. Your answers should be tailored to help the interviewer understand your motivation, your research about what the school has to offer, and your strategic approach to your goals. If an applicant is underprepared for the obvious questions during the MBA interview, it suggests that the applicant may not have done the due diligence required of someone who wants to bet so much money and opportunity cost on an MBA program.
5. Asking questions during the interview.
Most interviewers will allow you to ask questions at the end of the interview.
Asking questions during an MBA interview is not just a formality; it is an opportunity to demonstrate genuine interest in the program, and your ability to engage in meaningful conversation. It’s a chance to make a positive impression and make the interviewer feel good about your candidacy.
If the interviewer is a former student, try to engage them with a reflection on their journey at B-School. Also, learn from the wisdom of this person who has walked the same path you hope to walk
Here are a few examples of questions you could ask
What would you have done differently if you could change one thing about your MBA experience?
How would you describe your experience at the “ABC School” and what is your most important takeaway from the MBA experience at the School ABC’s? What advice would you give to a prospective “ABC school” student?
If the interviewer is someone on the admissions committee, the following may be good references depending on who is interviewing you.
Speaking about the “XYZ diversity and inclusion initiatives” at the program, what are some possible areas where I could help advance DEI initiatives? (Shows that you are seriously looking for areas of improvement that you can contribute to)
I am very interested in the opportunity to contribute my problem-solving skills from the “XYZ” industry to the case collection. What opportunities do students have to participate in case studies as part of the curriculum? (Indicates that you are willing to contribute with your expertise)
I recently heard that ABC Business School has improved its national ranking, and I am incredibly impressed. What specific initiatives or programs do you think contributed to this ranking improvement? I am very interested in learning more about recent developments.