The three questions that you will – without a doubt – be asked in your MBA program interview are: Why an MBA? Why now? And why this school? My best advice, from experience, is to be completely honest. The worst answers you can give are the ones that you think the interviewer wants to hear. Furthermore, you will only be able to authentically expand on your answers when you are honest. You’ve already gotten the interview which means that you’ve satisfied all of the application requirements enough to make it to this last step… now, the interviewer wants to see how the person they met on paper looks and feels like in real life. To convey your fit, you need to:
- Be the type of student that the business school wants to admit (which will be revealed by other questions in your interview)
- Show individuality in your responses. Individuality will set you apart from other candidates.
I’ve spoken with Arthur Redillas, Director of Recruitment and Admissions for graduate programs at SFU Beedie School of Business, who conducted my MBA interview last December 2018. Arthur stressed that each school has its own culture, and as a result, every school wants to admit a particular type of student. As much as business schools are sometimes in competition with each other for the best applicants, there is still a difference in the type of applicants each school really wants in their programs. For example, Arthur says that often SFU Beedie differs in what they look for in an applicant compared to their main competitor, UBC Sauder. Take note of the application process so you can best plan your responses to these 3 questions that you WILL be asked at any MBA program interview:
1. Why an MBA?
Another way to look at this question is “what personal and/or career goals would an MBA help you achieve?” and “what motivates you to want to go through an MBA program?”. Reflection on these topics can help you answer this question:
- Changing careers and/or industries
- Family expectations and/or lifestyle expectations
- Being motivated by additional responsibility at work
- Achieving a future financial prosperity
- Personal achievement
- Growing your professional network
- Changing the way industries operate
- Making an impact in an area that you are passionate about
What was my answer? I talked about a few things. First, I talked about how I had hit a glass ceiling at work and decided that my options were to either find another job or to go back to school. I knew that I had what it takes to get through an MBA program, and an MBA would most effectively serve my future career goals. It would afford me a better chance at the impact that I wanted to have in the business world, so I made my decision to apply and that was it. I also mentioned that with the rising cost of living in Vancouver, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to offer my future family the same upbringing that I had when I grew up. The financial prosperity offered by MBA career opportunities would help to achieve my goal of providing an enriching, colourful life for my future family.
2. Why now?
This question is exactly what it sounds like. Why is now the best time for you to take part in an MBA program? Thinking about these topics will develop a great answer to this question:
- Taking the next step in your career development that isn’t offered at your workplace
- Family planning
- Career research points to upcoming opportunities for MBAs in your industry
- Looking to make a change in careers
What was my answer? I answered this question straight from the heart. In all honesty, I was concerned for the next five years of my life and whether or not I would be able to get to a point in my career where I’m satisfied with my progress enough to think about a family. I am not alone in that! This is an issue that concerns the career development of both women and men. Furthermore, my spouse and I agreed that we would prioritize my career development at the moment. Once my MBA is finished and I have gained enough experience, then we would shift gears once again.
3. Why this school?
This question dives deep into the reasons you applied to the school you are interviewing at. It’s the equivalent of “why do you want to work at XYZ company?”, so handle it the same way you would in a job interview. To establish a rapport with your interviewer about the school, think about how each of the following affects your future career:
- Accreditations of the school
- Companies that hire from the school
- The reputation of the school
- Your experience throughout the application process
- Personal connection with the school
What was my answer? It was a mix of a few things. First, I had mentioned the EQUIS and AACSB accreditations which would make my future education recognized globally, lending me the option to work anywhere in the world with a recognized MBA. Less than 1% of business schools globally have both accreditations. Secondly, I wanted to develop the future leader I would be and, throughout the application process, Beedie summoned in me an authenticity that made me confident that Beedie would be the school where I would flourish at the most. Thirdly, – and I had the most fun with this one – I wanted to go to SFU Beedie because no one, other than my mother-in-law, can drink out of our family SFU coffee mug unless they graduated from SFU (this is a rule in our family). I told Arthur that my mother-in-law spoke of her Master’s at SFU fondly and that I was determined to be the only other person in our family who could drink out of her SFU mug. And upon graduation, it looks like that’s going to happen!
My MBA interview with Arthur was the most memorable interview I’ve had. I was definitely nervous going into it, and it ended up being one of the interviews that changed my future outlook on job interviews. That tells you that your MBA interview can be a very positive experience with the right preparation.
I’d like to extend a very special thank you to Arthur Redillas, Director of Recruitment and Admissions for graduate programs at SFU Beedie School of Business, for a wonderful MBA interview, and for his time and feedback in reviewing this article. Thank you, Arthur!