My coaching clients who plan to apply to business school within a few years is to immediately start using a notebook or diary to record their experiences and to reflect on them on a minimum quarterly basis. You might be asking why? You might be wondering why. The time you had to deal with a difficult colleague about the next year’s roadmap, or the decision on which project should be funded in your first year of work could end up being the best answer to a behavioral question in an MBA interview. The most common topics discussed in interviews are leadership, conflict, teamwork, and failure.
Create a “Story Bank”
You can reflect on your professional experience if you don’t keep a journal. As you go through this mental exercise, consider all possible scenarios. Keep a list of your thoughts to organize them. Macro prep is where you think about stories first, then micro prep is where you think about the types of questions that the story can answer. This strategy is better than attempting to practice interview questions from the internet. It isn’t a bad idea to review any MBA interview questions that might come up during your conversation. This may help you to improve your story bank. In our article Most Common MBA Interview Questions, we cover common interview questions. Our MBA Interview guides also contain details specific to programs.
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Find the right framework for you and research them
The STAR framework (Situation Task Action, Action, Result), is well-known to most interviewees for answering behavioral questions. This framework is very popular and well-known.
The STAR Framework for Interview Preparation
The STAR framework helps you organize your thoughts and present an answer to the interviewer.
Let’s now look at the framework. STAR stands for:
- Situation Set the scene, and provide the details for your example.
- Task: Explain what you were responsible for in this situation.
- Action Describe the steps taken to resolve it.
- Result Let us know what results in you achieved.
The Muse states that the STAR format is a good choice for answering behavioral questions. It can be used to open up such openings as:
- Please tell me about a time…
- What should you do when…
- Are you a…
- Please give me an example of…
- Please describe a…
The CARL Framework for Interview Preparation
CARL is another framework I love. I love CARL because it encourages reflection and sharing what one has learned. This can help to complete a response. Remember that interviewers are not just interested in what you did, but also the how or why.
The University of Edinburgh states that the CARL framework was adapted from a job interview process where you structure your answers according to the various aspects of the model. This model is a great tool to help you reflect on your experiences and present a compelling MBA interview because it mirrors the reflective nature of answering many job interview questions. CARL stands for:
- Context Briefly describe your experience’s context
- Action Describe the actions you took
- Learn Identify the lessons you have learned
You’ll need to ensure you have covered all elements of either the STAR or CARL interview frameworks. If you spend 50-60 seconds explaining the context and only 5-10 seconds explaining what you did, then you are likely to have missed the mark. You can also look at your value-add. To ensure you are answering the question effectively and delivering great content, I recommend working with a professional.
Questions to ask MBA interviewers
Although the interviewer may not be looking at your questions, they will ask you if you have any questions.
You should prepare for interviews by thinking beyond your stories. Remember that flexibility is key. If the interviewer is an alumnus, your questions can be tailored to reflect their past as a student of the program. You should also be asking specific questions about the program you are interviewing for. This skill requires expert guidance and knowledge of the top MBA programs.
You don’t want to rely upon pre-rehearsed questions which aren’t relevant for your interview. MBA programs might assess your ability to adapt quickly and be successful in business.
Questions for MBA interviewers
- Your program’s culture is described by alumni and students as XYZ. Based on your experiences so far, would you agree?
- What direction is the program heading? In the next five years, what kind of changes can we expect to the program?
- What advice would you offer me based on your knowledge of my profile?
To sum up, you should ask at most 3-4 questions of the MBA admissions committee at your interview. If you need to adjust them, you should still aim for at least 3 questions before you leave.
The top three MBA interview tips that will ensure a successful outcome include:
- Create a “story bank”.
- You can research frameworks to find the one that works best for your needs.
- Ask questions of MBA admissions officers
These tips will help you get better results than just drilling stock interview questions from the internet. It will also make you appear more genuine and qualified for business school. Professional coaching is a great way to improve your preparation.
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