How to Prepare for Business School Interviews

How to Prepare for Business School Interviews

Written by Overseas Education Consultant and Study Abroad Career Counsellor in Mumbai, Karan Gupta


Even the best GMAT scores don’t mean that you can strut into a US B-school. For many institutes an interview is vital to the admission process.


Most of the top B-schools in the US require an interview before they can admit students for the MBA programme. B-schools look at competitive GMAT scores, work experience and ‘good’ grades before they consider a candidate for admission.

Once they decide that an applicant meets the minimum criteria for admission, top B-schools require a phone interview with prospective students.

Some B-Schools have alumni around the world who interview the prospective MBA applicant. In either case, MBA applicants should realise the importance of an interview.

B-school candidates cannot really prepare for an interview, but being alert and confident are the keys to successfully completing an interview.

B-schools usually focus on the past work experience. Candidates can be asked any thing about their workex ranging from questions like “How did you come across the job?” to “What is your work ethic?” Most of the workex questions are related to the applicant’s resume.

Whatever the applicant has stated in his or her resume may be questioned during an interview. Applicants should, while having a phone interview, keep their resumes in front of them so that they are clear about their dates of employment, job profile and so on. Besides work-related questions, applicants may be asked questions concerning their reasons for pursuing an MBA programme in the US.

Some are even asked about their short-term and long-term career goals. Applicants should answer such questions as honestly as possible.

For instance, if an applicant wants to work in the US after completion of the programme, then he or she should not be afraid to say so.

Stating that you want to work in the US will not hamper your chances of admission and will not be used against you when you apply for an F-1 visa here in India.

An interview is an excellent medium to convey to the admissions committee any possible flaws in your application. If your academic background is not good or if you’ve dropped out a year during college, the interview is the right time to explain this.

However, be careful while stating these reasons, as it should not look like you are attributing your grades to external circumstances. You must take responsibility for your actions, which reflects positively.

The admissions committee is looking for attributes like confidence, maturity, clarity in speaking and critical thinking in prospective candidates.

Applicants should speak as clearly and slowly as possible since effective communication is an important characteristic needed while pursuing an MBA degree.

Please do not try to talk in an accent that you normally do not use. If you articulate your words correctly, you will be understood. Also, applicants should refrain from asking the interviewer personal questions and avoid excessive familiarity.

If you are not sure about an answer or need more time to think about a question, tell the interviewing officer that you need more time or that you are unsure of the answer, rather than being vague. Remember it’s a better idea to ask for a minute to collect your thoughts rather than stammer in front of the interviewing officer.

Years ago I was interviewed by a top university and I remember being stumped when the interviewing officer asked me, “How many blue cars do you think there are on the streets of America?” I asked for a minute and then gave 3.5m as my answer. The interviewer was obviously curious to know how I reached the number.

I explained: There are approximately 200m people in the US. If we assume that there are at least 4 people per family, there are 50m families in the US. If we assume that there are at least 2 cars per family, we have 25m cars on the streets.

Now, there are seven popular colours, blue being one of them and hence there may be approximately 3.5m blue cars on the streets. My figures may have been wrong, but the interviewer was impressed with my analytical thinking.

Sometimes, there are no wrong or right answers, but logical thinking may be the key to succeed.

Some universities like Case Western Reserve University put applicants in a spot to check their response. For instance CWRU used to ask applicants, “If you had a lot of money and did not have to work, what would you do in your free time?”

Again, such questions have no right or wrong answer but are used to test the applicant’s creative and analytical skills. Whether you are having an interview in person with an alumnus or over the phone, maintain your stance on an issue.

If you have a strong opinion, stick to it and do not change your opinion because you later realise that the interviewer would like to hear a different answer.

Feel free to use incidents, arguments, books you have read, prior work experience among others to support your stance.

While scheduling an interview over the phone, make sure to e-mail the admission committee at least two phone numbers where you can be reached.

Also, during the interview ensure a noise-free atmosphere and avoid talking over a cordless phone. Remember, an interview is probably the only chance you will have to talk to an admission officer about your application, so make the most of it.

A successful interview may just tilt the scale in the admit direction.

Karan Gupta is the leading international education and career consultant in Mumbai, India. Since 1999, he has given career counselling and has helped thousands of students with study abroad and get admission and visas to universities and colleges in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore and EU and also helps them get scholarships, loans and financial aid. In addition to aptitude tests and career counselling, his firm also provides training and coaching for the GMATGRESATACTTOEFLIELTS, and PTE exams. Karan Gupta is the best study abroad career counsellor, consultant and career guidance expert in Mumbai.

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