8 Challenging MBA Interview Questions

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8 challenging MBA interview questions

You have submitted an impressive essay and now admissions’ officers would like you to state your case in person. All excitement aside, you should be aware that there are some MBA Interview questions that may prove to be quite difficult, especially if you haven’t prepared well.

Once invited for an interview, some MBA aspirants may decide that they have all but gained admission to their dream programme and take it easy. That would be wrong. The interview is a crucial component of the MBA admission process and should be taken as seriously, just like the GMAT/GRE, the essays or the resume.

Here is a list of some of the challenging MBA interview questions that may come up during your conversation with the admissions officers. However, there is a caveat: you are well advised not to put too much effort into learning laudatory responses by heart because they will not impress the schools. Admissions officers are more interested in sincere answers than in unnaturally stiff responses.

Check out: What to Expect During the MBA Interview

  1. Can you tell me about a time you failed?

Why is it challenging?

Of course, aspirants are eager to highlight their achievements and strong sides but they are well advised to prepare for questions asking them to discuss failures and low points. Questions about past failures can throw those who expect to talk only about success, progress, and growth.

How to answer

Think about a failure which you were involved in but which was not ruinous for the organisation. Explain your role in the failure and what you learned from it. If possible, point to a recent situation where you applied the lessons learned from the failure.

  1. What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?

Why is it challenging?

Again, talking about your strengths is fairly easy—you know what you are good at. It’s much more difficult to talk about your perceived weaknesses. Interviewees often fear that they wouldn’t be able to discuss their weaknesses without detriment to their application.

How to answer

Pick two or three strengths that would set you apart and be ready to illustrate with a few examples. In terms of weaknesses, you can state one or two that are minor or at least corrigible. Be honest. Interviewers have a lot of experience and wouldn’t put much credence in your story if it sounds fake. Bear in mind that interviewers are often more interested in how you handle yourself when hit with a hard question than in your actual answer.

  1. What other schools are you applying to?

Why is it challenging?

This question tends to throw aspirants off balance because they may interpret it to be rude or disrespectful. Admissions officers usually ask this question to assess the chances of your attending the programme, but you cannot really be sure how the answer is going to be interpreted.

How to answer

It would be wrong for you to betray displeasure or hostility, even if you find the question distasteful. Instead, be honest. List the schools and explain why you chose them to show the admissions officers that your selection is based on a careful analysis of your plans and what different schools offer in terms of curriculum and career prospects. Also explain the reasons why you are applying to this particular school.

  1. Can you describe a conflict at work and how you handled it?

Why is it challenging?

This question represents a real minefield. If you are not careful, you can be tempted to speak ill of your colleagues or understate your role in the conflict. And if you started the conflict you may come off as ill-tempered and quarrelsome. In short, it is difficult to describe a conflict you were involved in and remain objective.

How to answer

Avoid disparaging your colleagues, your bosses, or your organisation. The reason admissions officers ask this question is to see if the applicant can see the conflict from different angles. You can prepare for this question by thinking of a conflict at work you were involved in. Describe the conflict in detail and your role in it. Explain how the conflict ended (if, in fact, it ended). It is crucial to mention what you learnt from the conflict and, if possible, point to a situation where you applied the lessons learnt from the conflict.

  1. How would those who know you describe you in three words?

Why is it challenging?

You are very likely to be asked a question or more about your self-awareness. This particular question falls into this category but offers an extra twist: it actually asks you how you think others perceive your personality and character. It may be three, four or five words, or you may be asked to speak about your traits and behaviours in full sentences.

How to answer

Pick three words that describe you favourably and prepare to expand on them. For example, if you answer with “ambitious, loyal, and hardworking,” be ready to elaborate on why you think others perceive you as such. You can ask colleagues and friends how they would describe you. This way you can check if your self-awareness is in line with what others think of you.

8 challenging MBA interview questions

  1. Would you explain to me the last project you worked on as if I were a seven-year-old?

Why is it challenging?

The purpose of such questions is to assess your ability to distil the essence of complex information into simple language, which is a key business skill. If your job entails explaining complicated issues with simple words, you will have no problem with this question. Otherwise, you may find it surprisingly difficult. Just try to explain derivatives trading to your grandmother.

How to answer

Prepare to answer the question about your job, but bear in mind that you may be asked to capture the essence of some other complex issue. Practise presenting complex ideas clearly and watch how others do it. The question may be posed by the interviewer in a humorous fashion, but take it quite literally. Also don’t be condescending to the interviewer.

  1. How do you make big decisions?

Why is it challenging?

This question is not as challenging as it is crucial, because your answer will deliver insight into your decision-making process. It will basically show the admissions officer how you think and whether you apply structure when you make decisions.

How to answer

Describe your decision-making process, but point out the structure you apply to it. Demonstrate how you progress gradually from one stage to the next. Also describe the methods you use when making decisions. Do you jot down the pros and cons on a sheet of paper or use a spreadsheet? Mention that, too. Of course, big decisions are often based on intuition. Don’t hesitate to talk about this.

Check out: Master These MBA Interview Questions

  1. Do you have any questions about the school or programme?

Why is it challenging?

Don’t underestimate this question. It may look easy and it is if you have prepared. If you haven’t, then you are signalling to the admissions officer that you are not very interested in this particular programme, which may have unpleasant implications for your application.

How to answer

Compile a list of specific programme or school-related questions, which shows that you are a serious candidate and have researched the programme thoroughly. Avoid questions that are easily addressed by checking out the school’s website.

Of course this list does not exhaust the admissions officers’ full arsenal of challenging MBA interview questions. You have to anticipate surprises. Interviewers like throwing applicants a curve ball now and then. Just stay calm, apply common sense and you will be fine.

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