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How to answer the most common MBA Interview Questions?

Shatakshi Sharma, St Stephens College, University of Delhi Graduate, ISB MBA, strategist to government of India, former BCG management consultant, advisor to tony blair institute, ivy league exchange student, LinkedIn Top Voice and co-founder of Global Governance Initiative

Career insights by GGI is a new series by GGI sharing hacks and tips around management consulting, MBA, product management and public policy.

In this GGI career insight, we will be sharing insights into: the tricks of cracking your MBA interview.


Why MBA?

This is the most difficult and the most common question asked in an MBA interview.

This is very important question, particularly because a lot of people rush towards doing a degree, especially an MBA. Thus, it becomes important for the interviewer to know you rationale behind it.

Let me give you my context- when I sat for an MBA interview at ISB Hyderabad, I had 5.5 years of experience in management consulting and public policy. That means, I was not just a fresher looking to just get a job.

I have also maintained that you should get some experience before getting an MBA.

It is a degree for the experience, not just a placement agency.

Having said that, there is a difference between being smart and being over-smart.

My ISB interview was delayed for over 2 hours and I was left waiting.

Right of the bat, my interviewer asked me if I was feeling uncomfortable being surrounded in a new environment amongst new people. They were trying to put down the other interviewees that were present.

But, I had legitimately had really good conversations with people while I was in the waiting room.

Some of the people there had worked in Mahindra and Mahindra, Tata Motors, etc. I was genuinely very curious about their stories and what inspired them.

So my answer to the panel’s question was- “Not really. I genuinely like other people’s stories and what kind work they did. I believe every type of work is important and adds a value to the table. That is the kind of intellectual curiosity I had as I sat with them.”

In some shape or format, the panel was checking, does this candidate have humility.

You need to understand what the school is really looking forward to have.

You can’t answer the question- “why MBA?” - till you understand the school. This answer is going to differ from school to school.

Largely MBA schools are looking for 3 things.

1. Leadership Potential

The top most MBA schools are not just looking for managers or churning a labour force.

They want people who could become future leaders.

2. Alums who can give back to the school

A school is as good as its alumni network.

If you think of ISB, HSB or LBS, they all have a very strong alumni network who give back to the school.

3. Alignment of goals

The school is looking for a good fit and synergy between what the school can offer in terms of employment and the student’s career goals.

Here is what I suggest you should say when asked “Why MBA?”-

1. Short term goal

In my interview, I had mentioned that I wish to pivot into management and development consulting.

With the kind of employment partners, business acumen and peer network I will surround myself in, it will become relatively easier for me to pivot into my desired career roles.

In fact, I was asked to name the exact firms I want to interview for in development consulting as it is not a strength of ISB.

Do thorough research about the domain you want to get into.

2. Long term goal

Here, I talked about my ultimate goal of becoming an entrepreneur.

I did not want to leave one job, only to get into another one after MBA. I wanted to take a career break in the form of an MBA to start my entrepreneurial journey.

Make sure, whichever school you apply for, your answer is well researched.

At my own venture, we offer an alternative to an international MBA. In addition to this, we help students cultivate hard and soft skills required to excel in their careers. They attend masterclasses taken by industry leaders, network and gain employment support.


Author: Shatakshi Sharma, Co-CEO Global Governance Initiative, Ex-BCG Management Consultant, Former Policy Advisor, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

If you are interested in learning about GGI's MBA Scholar program, you can learn here.

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