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Business School AdmissionsInterview Questions

Admissions Overview

Business school admissions are typically for MBA (Masters in Business Administration) applicants. The nature of the admissions process varies depending on the school an applicant is applying to, but many requirements are uniform across institutions. 

Business school applications often have a six- to eight-month window for applications in the time leading up to the beginning of a new term. Some schools operate on a system of rolling applications accepted year-round and evaluated at the beginning of each new term. 

Other schools operate on rounds, with timed cycles for accepting applications. Applicants should determine what system is used by the school they are applying to in order to avoid confusion in the application process.

 

Requirements

Business schools require standardized tests such as the GMAT or the GRE for the application process. Some schools require one or the other, and some require both. Applicants should check the requirements specific to the schools they are applying to. 

A copy of undergraduate transcripts and GPA scores are required as well. Coursework in subjects such as micro- and macroeconomics, statistics, and other applicable fields are helpful or required by some schools. Schools also take into account the reputation of the institution the undergraduate degree was issued from. 

A professional resume is mandatory and should include several years of professional experience, academic and professional achievements, and community service projects. A personal essay highlighting these achievements in more detail is typically a part of the application process. 

How to Prepare for Business School Admissions

In order to prepare for business school admissions, applicants should do the appropriate research on the school as well as the faculty to determine if the school is a good fit. It’s important for applicants to determine the specific conditions of each school to make sure their application checks off all requirements.

 

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Business School Admissions Interview Questions

Question: Why do you want to pursue a graduate degree, and what do you plan to do with it?

Explanation: This is a general question that interviewers will ask early in the interview to begin the conversation, collect some information about you, and learn more about your background.  This type of question sets the tone for the interview, so your answer is critically important.  Try to guide the interviewer towards an area with which you are comfortable and can easily answer the questions you anticipate being asked.

Example: “I have chosen to pursue an MBA because there are gaps in my background, which are impeding my advancement in my current position.  Although I attained a great deal of knowledge through my undergraduate program and work experience, I know I need to learn more about finance, accounting, marketing, and other business activities related to my profession.  Once I obtain the MBA, I plan to start applying for management roles in my current organization.”


Question: Have you ever had to deal with an ethical dilemma, and if so, how did you overcome it?

Explanation: It is not uncommon to encounter ethical dilemmas in school, business and life.  While you can’t avoid these, you can choose how you react to them.  The interviewer will ask this question to ensure that you act with integrity and honesty, even if it impacts your career or a business issue in a negative way.

Example: “Fortunately, I have not had to deal with many ethical issues in my career.  However, there was an incident where my manager asked me to inflate the revenue projections for the upcoming quarter.  This would enable our department to receive a larger budget allocation.  I knew this was wrong, so I questioned the manager’s motivations, explaining to him the implications if we were not able to hit the numbers we were projecting.  After some discussion, he agreed with me, and we used the correct revenue projections.  Ironically, management still allocated us a larger budget than we were expecting, and we exceeded our sales projections.”


Question: Tell me about your short and long-term goals and how an MBA will help you achieve them.

Explanation: Business professionals should always have a set of long-term and short term goals.  This helps them stay focused and make decisions that guide them towards achieving those goals.  You should be able to explain this to the interviewer, and how the MBA will assist you in reaching your goals and setting new ones.

Example: “My short-term goals include getting an MBA and advancing to a management position in my current organization.  Long term, I would like to gain the experience and skills necessary to achieve a senior leadership position in an organization in the financial industry.  I’m confident I would enjoy managing large teams of diverse individuals and setting strategic objectives that contribute to the overall business goals of the organization.”


Question: What has been the most difficult business challenge you have overcome?

Explanation: The ability to overcome challenges is a key trait hiring managers look for in the candidates they interview.  The experience doing this will help you overcome similar challenges in the role for which they are interviewing you.  Interviewers want to hire people who have the skills and experience to contribute to the business's goals, helping them succeed and grow.

Example: “Probably the most challenging business issue I had to overcome was reaching my department’s revenue goals without having the budget and resources I believe we needed to be successful.  When presented with this challenge, I gathered my team together, and we brainstormed solutions to the problem.  We realized that we could leverage resources from other departments without diminishing their operations.  This action helped us to exceed our revenue objectives by 10%.”


Question: How would you describe your leadership style, and can you provide an example to illustrate it?

Explanation: Candidates applying to a business school are expected to advance to leadership positions within their organization.  Admission officers will be interested in your leadership style, or at least your perception of it.  You should be able to describe your style briefly and succinctly.  This demonstrates a high level of self-awareness.

Example: “I would describe my leadership style as being subtle, dynamic, and inspirational.  I believe that leadership involves creating a team of talented individuals, providing them with a clear goal, giving them the resources they need to achieve it, and then allowing them to do their job.  I lead from the front by creating a business vision, from the rear by being available when my team needs support, and from the side by working along with my team to achieve our common objectives.”


Question: What will your biggest challenge be after you are admitted to our business program?

Explanation: MBA programs challenge students in virtually everything they do.  This is done on purpose and contributes to developing the leaders the program is meant to produce.  Each course will offer instruction, resources, and then challenges you can use to practice the techniques you learned.  Failure is accepted because it is a learning experience that has smaller consequences than if you were to do it in a real business situation.  Your answer to this question can address these types of challenges, or ones you may encounter in your personal life due to the workload required by the program.

Example: “I believe the biggest challenge I will face after being admitted to the program is not applying the techniques, methodologies, and information I learn in the program to my real-world business situations.  Doing this prematurely and without the full benefit of the complete program knowledge, business cases, and the experience I will gain from the projects I work on may cause me to make bad decisions that would negatively impact my current organization.”


Question: Given the opportunity, what one thing about your professional life would you change, and why?

Explanation: AT sometime in their career, everyone would like to be able to hit a reset button and do something differently.  This is human nature.  Nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes or bad decisions.  Admitting this and describing what you would do differently demonstrates that you learn from your mistakes.  This is a key trait business school admissions officers look for in the candidates they are interviewing. 

Example: “Probably the one thing I would like to do over if given a chance was applying for a management role before I was fully prepared for it.  Fortunately, senior management realized I was not ready and did not promote me.  In hindsight, had I taken the role, I probably would have failed miserably, which would have harmed my career.  What I learned was that I should prepare to take on additional responsibility by attaining the required knowledge, skills and experience necessary to be successful in that role before actually applying for it.”


Question: How easily do you adapt to different cultures and teams of diverse individuals?

Explanation: Being flexible and adaptable, easily working with individuals who have diverse backgrounds or come from different cultures is important to any leader.  One of the benefits of an MBA program is it allows you to do this and to learn the socialization and communication skills you need to be successful.

Example: “Fortunately, my upbringing, education and work experience have exposed me to people who have diverse backgrounds, come from other cultures, or have views different than mine.  Early in my life, I found this difficult to deal with.  However, I soon learned the benefits of interacting with individuals who are different from me.  Rather than resisting this or trying to get them to see things the way I do, I set out to learn from them. This allowed me to challenge my ideas as well as glean the best they had to offer.  I believe this has made me a more well-rounded person and given me the skills I need to collaborate effectively with diverse teams of individuals.”


Question: What strategies do you use to both avoid and address conflicts at work?

Explanation: Conflicts with other individuals you interact with in your profession are going to happen.  Most of these will be minor and easily overcome. However, some may escalate and present you with challenges.  You need to have a set of strategies and coping mechanisms you can use when a challenge occurs to get past it as quickly as possible, with the least amount of impact on you, the other individuals, and the organization.

Example: “I learned early in my career that there are going to be challenges in any organization I am part of.  These are a result of individuals who have different viewpoints, opinions, and approaches to resolving issues.  When challenges occur, the first thing I do is actively listen to the other person to completely understand their point of view.  I may agree with it, and we reach an accommodation quickly.  If not, I explain my position and seek to reach an agreement with them.  This requires the willingness to compromise without any emotion or resentment.  If we are unable to do this, I then suggest we escalate this situation to our management team and allow them to resolve it.”


Question: What will you do if you are not accepted into a business school program?

Explanation: There is no guarantee you’ll gain admission to the business school program to which you’re applying.  The admissions officer will ask this type of question to challenge you and understand if you have an alternative plan.  Creating contingencies as another key trait business leaders need to have.  Your answer to this question will demonstrate this.

Example: “If I cannot gain admission into any business school program, the first thing I will do is reflect on my background, education and skill set.  I will try to identify the areas that impede me from gaining admission and then work on them.  In the meantime, I will continue to work for my organization, gaining additional experience and knowledge in the job I do.  I will then apply to a program at a later date, confident that the additional experience and skills will help me to gain admission.  There is no doubt in my mind that I will one day attain my MBA degree and be able to use it to advance my career.”


Additional Business School Admissions Interview Questions

  • Describe your undergraduate experience. 

  • Describe your professional experience.

  • What academic achievements are you most proud of?

  • What professional achievements are you most proud of?

  • What coursework have you completed that has proven most useful in your professional life?

  • Why did you choose to apply to this school?

  • What experience do you have in the for-profit versus the non-profit sector?

  • What was the most difficult aspect of moving from your undergrad to the professional world?

  • Are you familiar with any of our faculty?

  • What do you hope to achieve during your time here?

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