The coronavirus pandemic has led to significant changes in the MBA admissions process. Most campuses are closed to visitors, while information sessions, networking events, and interviews have moved online. But what about the MBA interview questions themselves—will there be any changes in 2020? The short answer is: maybe.
Several top b-schools have added admission essay prompts that require applicants to reflect on the social and political events of 2020, and questions of this nature may come up during the MBA interview.
New MBA interview questions for 2020-21
Here are a few examples of new questions to come up this year.
“2020 has been a year of seismic disruption—fighting the global COVID-19 pandemic, tragic deaths that have brought systemic racism and social justice issues to the forefront of long overdue conversations, and economic and political divides that are growing deeper and deeper. How has this unprecedented year challenged you and how have you faced that challenge?”
“How have events of the past year influenced the impact you would like to make in your community, career, or both?”
“2020 brought many defining experiences, including: a global pandemic, changes to learning and working environments, and calls for social justice and racial equity. [...] What have you learned about diversity, equity and inclusion in 2020?”
Although these questions may arise, interview preparation depends mainly on the basic interview questions that are asked every year, including this year.
How to prepare for MBA interviews this season
Knowing how to answer basic MBA interview questions with precision and clarity is the best way to make a good impression on your interviewers.
As a result, your MBA interview preparation should revolve around honing your answers to the four most common questions asked in an MBA interview, which are described in some detail below.
Additionally, you could seek professional help for MBA interview preparation, in which you practice communication strategies and interview techniques that boost your confidence and calm your nerves.
4 Common MBA interview questions
1. Tell Me About Yourself
This question often comes at the beginning of the interview, as it is designed to make you feel comfortable and to give you an opening to bring up anything you want to mention.
While your initial impulse might be to rehash your resume in chronological order for this question, you should keep in mind that the interviewers already know the basic facts about your background, like where you went to school and where you have worked.
Instead of repeating information already available to the interviewers, take advantage of the open-ended nature of the question to describe something that is both interesting and stimulating about you.
Just be sure that it is not so creative that it has nothing to do with the MBA.
For example, you might talk about a hobby you have outside of work or about the deeper motivations that have guided your career. This could be a good opportunity to expand on any extracurricular activities you listed in your application.
The trick is to have a memorable answer that distinguishes you from the hundreds of other candidates the interviewers may talk to during the application round–and to start the interview off on the right foot.
2. Why do you want to do an MBA?
With this question, the interviewers want to hear about your career goals and your post-MBA expectations. In formulating an answer, you should ensure that your ambitions are realistic, but still inspiring.
You do not want to say something too wild, like “the MBA is going to make me the next CEO of Google!” And you don't want to say something too boring, like “the MBA will help me get a 5% raise at work.”
In the end, you want to demonstrate that you have taken the time to understand what the MBA can do for your career, while sharing your loftier aspirations.
3. Why is our business school right for you?
Here the MBA interview moves away from the general and into the specific: why do you want to attend this particular program.
Top MBA programs, although fairly similar, each want to hear how their program is different and how their unique program is perfect for you. How do the specific MBA program’s offerings help you achieve your (career) goals?
Be sure to cite details about the MBA program in your answer, showing that you have carefully researched classes, clubs, and other resources offered by the program.
You want to answer this question with a heightened sense of specificity, and you want to make sure that you mention resources you plan on using if accepted into the program.
One note for 2020: do not emphasize aspects of a program that involve travel in your answer, as the future of travel is uncertain.
MBA admissions officers want to know that students would be happy to attend even if coronavirus measures forced a hybrid learning model, and your answer should reflect this.
In fact, by emphasizing your continued enthusiasm for business school in spite of disruption related to COVID-19, you may give yourself an advantage over those that are unwilling to participate in alternative learning methods.
4. Behavioral questions
This type of question comes with the most variations in wording, but essentially the interviewers want you to walk them through a real situation from your background and to describe how you responded to it.
Depending on the wording, the interviewers might want you to touch on a situation that demonstrates:
Leadership “Show how your actions as a leader resulted in some important kind of success.” Good leaders understand the central role collaboration plays in their own success, so you might consider adding detail about the people you led, rather than focusing on yourself.
Teamwork “Explain a difficulty or conflict you experienced as part of a team.” The interviewers want to evaluate how you will behave as a student in the MBA program, so ensure that you can show a positive outcome to the conflict you describe. Kicking someone off a team to solve the difficulty will not be a strong answer!
Overcoming failure “Describe a time when you had to overcome a failure.” Don’t hold back here: describe a situation in which you failed at something meaningful. This kind of question provides the perfect opportunity to show your capacity for introspection and your ability to learn—and grow—from your mistakes.
The MBA interview process can be unnerving as it is a crucial step in business school admissions.
By preparing responses to the common MBA interview questions listed above, you can anticipate much of the content your interviewers will cover—in 2020 and beyond.