How to Answer the Most Frequently Asked Top MBA Interview Questions


Which MBA interview questions are the most important?
Different universities are known to ask specific questions in their respective interviews, and this goes for the top ten business schools in the country (according to US News & World Report). Testimonials from MBA applicants gathered by Clear Admit and Poets&Quants paint a clear picture of the most frequently asked in MBA interviews at these top-tier universities.
By our logic, the most important questions to know about are those asked by most of these top schools. So let’s look at the five most frequently asked interview questions, note which schools are highly likely to ask them, and decide what information to include, what to avoid, and how to give a response that will make that post-interview handshake feel oh-so-satisfying.
1. Why are you interested in this school/program?
What the interviewer is looking for: One of the popular “Why?” questions, the answer to this question might seem obvious. After all, you are interviewing at one of the best business schools in the world. However, don’t spend too much time discussing the school’s history and prestige and focus instead on the practical reasons why this school is a good choice for you personally. Admissions officers want to know what it is about their school that made you go choose them. Explain how this program aligns with your goals and interests and why it makes the most practical sense for you. And remember that honesty and authenticity are essential.
“I applied at Berkeley because it is one of the very few schools that offers an MBA program with full specialization in Entrepreneurship. I plan to run a software startup company upon receiving my degree and the Haas School’s emphasis on small business, reflected in the Marketing Management course led by Prof. Paul Heider, will prepare me to venture out into the competitive world of software design. Also, because I currently live in Sacramento and have residence in California, a state school like Berkeley is the most practical choice for someone in my financial position.”
2. Why are you pursuing an MBA now?
My decade of sales experience in the dairy industry has been extremely fulfilling and I’ve grown as a leader while developing communication and problem-solving skills through numerous campaigns. This has given me a desire to branch out to other industries as a marketing consultant, where I can use my industry knowledge to benefit growing businesses.
Because I wish to devote my career to helping small organic farms acquire a foothold in mid- to large-sized markets and execute their marketing strategies, I realize that I need to gain all of the current strategies of consulting that an MBA program offers. I recently became interested in marketing strategy and how it increases visibility. I have begun networking with other consultants in the industry, leading to informational interviews that have grown my interest while showing me the necessity of a world-class business education.
With my past education in sales, there is no way to break into consulting unless I ‘power-up’ my skills with an MBA. I am 38 years old and have a young family, so I can’t imagine a better time than now to take this leap.”
3. Tell me about yourself.
My name is Rahul Singh and I’ve been a client relationship officer at Trident Affiliates for the past four years. The most important things to know about me are probably that I have a passion for using numbers to get the best results, and that I always look for the positive in everything I do. These traits have sustained me during challenging periods in my career but have also kindled my passion for management and my resolve to take on the role of COO for an NGO.
After graduating from Texas A&M with a degree in finance, I got my first corporate job as an account analyst at Struthers & Co., where my positive attitude came in handy. During my three years at the firm, I spent a lot of time on tasks I felt did not fully utilize my skills. But through this work I learned the value of attention to detail. When I moved to Trident in 2010, I turned this attention to detail to my clients. I tried to learn everything I could about them and truly appreciate their character and values in order to maximize their satisfaction for the benefit of the company. Although working with people is a lot different than crunching numbers, I find that paying attention to details like their needs and personal perspectives requires an equal amount of care and focus. I truly love this aspect of management.
I am grateful for my experience and proud of my achievements at these firms over the past seven because they have brought me to where I am today. With a deep respect for people and for hard work, and with my past experiences and the invaluable skills I will learn in this MBA program, I am optimistic about the next chapter in my career.”
4. Tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership. What did you learn from it?
SITUATION/TASK: “When I began working as a marketing manager with Stratton Corp., sales were only at 70% of that of our closest competitor. Although we were running over twenty active advertising campaigns, our ROI was quite low. As you can imagine, the head office was unhappy with this performance and the morale in the marketing department was dismal. As a manager, I was responsible for maintaining optimal performance and for the effectiveness of the department’s activity.”
APPROACH: “I decided that we needed to not only run different marketing campaigns, but to entirely rebrand at least three of our product lines. I first divided the marketing team into smaller task force groups, each responsible for brainstorming new ideas, benchmarking and researching competing brands, and creating proposals for marketing strategies to enhance our brand image. Next, I developed a marketing workflow so that new ideas could be shared ASAP with other groups and so that each group could receive feedback on their proposals. Although I was responsible for providing managerial feedback, my biggest role was in facilitating cooperation between them so that the most impactful proposals would rise to the top.”
RESULT: “The positive effect my workflow restructuring had on sales was immediate. Within four months we had completely rebranded three of our main products. We recorded a quarterly sales increase of 25%, the largest in the branch’s history. But the impact on the morale of the employees was the most astonishing to me—within one month, almost every member of the task force teams was volunteering to work late to come up with the best ideas. Involving all members in the creative process and discovering strategies for improvement made them feel empowered. This success taught me that leadership is more about strengthening the lines of communication than about giving orders.”
5. What are your short-term and long-term career goals?
My ultimate career goal is to head an environmentally-friendly outdoor sporting goods company in Minnesota, preferably near my hometown. My deep love of the outdoors has inspired so much of what I do in life, and so I see this goal as a way to give back to my community and pass on my experiences to future generations. As CEO, I would be in a position to create a substantive company policy that ensures our products are environmentally friendly.
Reaching this position will require a tremendous understanding of the ins and outs of the sporting goods industry, as well as knowledge of the manufacturing process. Therefore, my short-term plan includes getting an MBA in strategic management and then working in the sales and marketing department of a sporting goods company to learn first-hand about consumer tastes and purchasing habits. Within ten years, I would like to head product development at a branch level. This will give me a more holistic view of sales trends and inform my understanding of implementing strategies focused on environmental awareness and CSR.
Ideally, I will be heading an established company or one that I found within 15 to 20 years. I expect to be experienced enough to lead as CEO after having gone through diverse experiences and having produced results at multiple levels. I feel that the knowledge I gain during my MBA will be fundamental to achieving these goals.

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