Monday, November 11, 2013

MBA Interview Questions: The Master List

This is a repost of an earlier entry inspired by a request for a comprehensive set of MBA interview questions. Here's that list, although to be honest I think a comprehensive list has only marginal value.  Use this list below to figure out if you have any gaps in your interview preparation, i.e. topics you haven't yet considered and therefore might not be prepared to answer.  

At the same time though, be thorough in your preparation for a specific school's interview and use lists of interview questions used by that school to ensure you are ready ('s Schools Section is a great resource for this). While what follows here is a good starting point, it is not a substitute for the specific types of question and situations you will encounter at interviews with schools like MIT, Harvard, Wharton or London Business School. 

With that in mind, here are your interview starting points. Other elements you should also be considering, such as managing your appearance, projecting confidence and the questions you'll ask of your interviewer aren't included.

Small Talk
Did you have any trouble finding (building name)?
What do you think of (campus/current location)?
How have you enjoyed your visit so far?

Please introduce yourself.
Walk me through your resume.
Why did you choose x as your university major?
Why did you choose to work for company x?
Tell me a bit more about (any bullet point in your resume).
What would you like to highlight in your resume?
Walk me through a typical work day.
How have you shaped your career progress?

What are your career goals?
What are you short-term goals?
What are your long-term goals?
What do you see yourself doing immediately after graduating?
What do you see yourself doing in (3, 5, 10) years?
What is your ultimate goal?

Why MBA/Why Now?
Why get an MBA?
Why is now the right time?
Did you decide to apply for sponsorship or were you chosen?
Why did you decide to apply for sponsorship?

Why (School)?
Why are you interested in (school name)?
What (classes/clubs) particularly attract you?
What other schools are you applying to?
What is your criteria for choosing schools?
What would you do if you are accepted to all of them?
What will you do if you're not accepted to this program?
How do you feel a sense of fit with our program?

Leadership Questions
What is your leadership style?
Who is a leader you admire?
Tell me about a leadership experience.

Teamwork Questions
What is your usual role on a team?
How would you define your teamwork style?
Tell me about a teamwork experience.
Tell me about a teamwork experience on a high performing team. What did you contribute?
Tell me about a teamwork experience on a low performing team. How did you resolve any issues?

Other Stories
Tell me about your most significant accomplishment.
Tell me about a failure experience.
Tell me about a time when you had a creative solution to a problem or challenge.
Tell me about a time when you improved upon a process in your company or organization.
Tell me about a time when you received negative feedback. How did you react?
Tell me about a time when you had to convince others to accept your idea.
Tell me about your experience with an ethical dilemma.
Tell me about an international experience.
Tell me about a time when you had to motivate someone.
Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult co-worker.

Hypothetical Questions
Name one thing you would change about your company.
If you could be the CEO of your company for a day, what would you do?
If you could be the President of your country for a day, what changes would you make?

Strengths and Weaknesses
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
What are your personal strengths/personal weaknesses?
What would your (supervisor, co-worker, subordinate, family member) says are your strengths/weaknesses?
What is your biggest concern about starting the MBA?

How will you contribute to our program?
What kind of clubs do you plan to get involved in?
What sets you apart from other applicants?
Why should we accept you to the program?

Outside Work
What do you do for fun/to relax?
What are your interests outside of your work?
Walk me through a typical weekend.
Why are you involved in (anything from the additional section of the resume)?
What book are you reading now?

Topics not Covered in the Interview
Is there anything else you'd like to say?
Is there anything you wish I'd asked you?

John Couke

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Interview with Julie Barefoot, Goizueta Business School at Emory University

 Julie Barefoot is the Associate Dean of MBA Admissions at EmoryUniversity’s Goizueta Business School. I am glad she took time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions, especially given the strong connections she has made in Japan (where 50% of my readership lives!) where she has been active in recruiting for Emory since the early 1990s. She can be reached at


What in the minimum required TOEFL for entry to the 2-year MBA program at Goizueta?

We prefer that candidates have received at least a 100 on the TOEFL, but it is not a minimum because we have, in fact, admitted applicants who score below that level. We take a holistic approach to reading an applicant’s application file and consider not only the total TOEFL score, but place special emphasis on the Speaking results as it can often be more enlightening than the total score in predicting a candidate’s ability to contribute in Goizueta’s small, intimate learning community. 

Has your admissions team gotten a handle on the new IR section of the GMAT? What are you looking for here?

We don’t have enough data yet to determine how the scores translate or predict how an applicant will perform in our program.  We just enrolled the first batch of students who took the IR, only a small number of applicants, so in the coming year we will be analyzing their academic performance relative their IR scores.  Based on our knowledge of the IR assessment, what we’re looking for is a comfort level with reviewing and synthesizing data which is a key skill that MBAs need.  So far we’ve used a high score on the IR to support admission for an applicant whose quantitative GMAT score or undergraduate grades in quantitative courses are mixed or concerns us.  A strong IR score helps an applicant but so far we’ve not really penalized applicants with mid-range scores.  A weak/poor IR score is not viewed positively.

What are your expectations for the verbal section of the GMAT? Is 30 a target to be achieved?

For international applicants, yes, at least a 30 (or 57% on the verbal GMAT) would be a good target to be achieved—of course, in combination with a solid TOEFL speaking and overall reasonable score on TOEFL. However, a 30 on the GMAT verbal section will not compensate for a poor total TOEFL score.


The One-Year MBA program doesn't offer an internship. Does that mean it's intended only for those wishing to graduate into the same industry? What are some other differences between the 1-year and 2-year programs you'd like to highlight?

First, let me share that our One Year MBA program offers the same degree, shares the same faculty and curriculum components (leadership, management practice, experiential learning, etc.) with our Two Year MBA program. 

The One-Year MBA program is intended for those who are not making a dramatic career switch which would necessitate a summer internship.  But, that does not always mean that they are staying in the same industry or functional area. For example, a candidate who is working as a CPA and wants to use the MBA to transition to a career in corporate finance (different function and different industry) would be an ideal One-Year applicant.  But, that same CPA who wants to use the MBA to transition to a career in investment banking would not be a good One-Year applicant because investment firms make their full time offers to candidates in their summer internship programs.  So, career paths ideal for One Year MBA candidates include:  consulting, corporate finance, real estate, health care, marketing analytics, family business, entrepreneurship and leadership development programs.   Career paths that are not typically the best match for the One Year include investment banking and brand management.

The One-Year Program provides an intensive summer curriculum after which the class of approximately 50 students integrates fully with Two-Year MBA Program students.

Does the Goizueta MBA mix case studies with lectures? What's the balance between the two and why do you feel that balance works best?

Yes, Goizueta MBA faculty employ a mixed teaching method, employing lectures, group work, project-based experiential learning and case study method in the classroom.  I believe our mixed teaching method enables our faculty to convey the course material in the manner that they believe will be most effective.  

Student Profile

The 2-year MBA has about 150 students, and so has got to be one of the smaller class sizes of respected U.S. programs. Any plans to grow this?

No, we have no plans to significantly grow our Two Year MBA enrollment.  We seek to enroll between 150-170 students each fall as we believe it is a key advantage for us, enabling Goizueta to remain nimble and also to most effectively implement our management practice electives.

It is noted that the One-Year MBA program looks for applicants from business, economics and engineering backgrounds. How about the 2-year program?

Applicants from all academic backgrounds are encouraged to apply to our Two Year MBA program.

The Experience

How does Atlanta add value to the program?

Atlanta, which is #3 in the US for Fortune 500 Headquarters, is a fantastic resource for our faculty and students.  Our location gives our faculty easy access to a wide array of class speakers and also is a plentiful source of real-world projects for our management practice (experiential learning) courses. 

Do students live on or off campus? What options do they have?

Attractive and affordable housing options are plentiful near Emory’s campus. Most of our MBA students live off-campus, in the graduate apartment complex owned by Emory or other high quality apartment complexes close to campus.  Most apartment communities have many nice amenities including security, tennis courts, swimming pool and beautiful landscaping.  Students can also rent condominiums in Decatur which is a community just 5 minutes from campus.

A big plus for our students is that, relative to other major cities in the USA, Atlanta is one of the most affordable places to live. 

Any final thoughts about the Goizueta experience and/or admissions?

Goizueta offers MBA candidates a transformative academic experience.  Our program is rigorous but operates within a supportive and collegial learning environment.  We pride ourselves on fully preparing our graduates for the career search process and for Day One job readiness.  Our strong career results confirm our success in this area. 

Thanks very much Julie!

John Couke