Skip to main content

Tackling Why MBA question in B School interviews - Sameer Kamat

Sameer Kamat completed his MBA from the University of Cambridge on a double scholarship. He is the founder of MBA Crystal Ball & Booksoarus. He's also the author of the best-selling Beyond the MBA Hype. As an MBA consultant, he has been helping out MBA aspirants for the last 8 years

Why MBA ? This is a question that doesn't have any 'right' answer, but there are plenty of 'wrong' answers that can kill your chances. So the first step would be to become aware of what not to say. The tips in this article aren't tied just to IIM interviews. The principles would apply to any domestic or international bschool interviews (irrespective of whether the MBA program is CAT-based or GMAT-based).

WHY MBA: What NOT to say

Informally, most MBA applicants will reveal that a higher salary is what they really want. Others might confess that they are sick and tired of their current roles. Some hate their industry. Some dislike their boss. Some want a bigger brand company name on their CV.  So they are hoping to escape from it and move to greener pastures.
These are all legit reasons for the big 'Why MBA' question, but they can't be the 'drivers'. If your 'Why MBA' rationale starts and stops at any of these reasons, it's more likely to be interpreted as being superficial triggers. Gone are the days when you could just focus on cracking the entrance exam (CAT, GMAT) and put your post-MBA career plans on the backburner for the next 2 years. Most applicants who get called for an interview have got high CAT/GMAT scores and impressive profiles to begin with. Think about the additional insights you can share with the interviewer that'll help you knock out the competition and get in.

WHY MBA: Reasons that you can include in your response

There are many factors that you can highlight - the most impactful being your short-term post MBA goals. Go one step beyond the MBA degree and think about what you will do with that degree after graduation.

Some popular reasons revolve around the following:

  •     A change of industry / role /  geography
  •     Picking up new skills that would be relevant for those new jobs
  •     Finding business partners (for a business idea that you already have in mind)
  •     Building a strong network that can help you many years after you have graduated

Having the right reasons isn't enough. The big challenge is that most candidates will be tongue-tied when it comes to articulating their 'Why MBA' reasons even if they have all the answers in their head. Don't forget

Here’s an interview preparation strategy you can follow to ensure that you are all set to beat the interviewers pants off or knock their socks off (or do something similar with another part of their attire).

Step 1: Get a partner in crime
 

Find a friend who is mature and knowledgeable enough to go beyond giving you biased sugar-coated feedback. If this friend is familiar with MBA interviews (current student, alumnus), even better. If one of your immediate family members works as a current admissions committee member from the B school you are applying to, that’s the best. Ummm…ok, conflict of interest issues popping up, so let’s ignore that last possibility for now.

Step 2: Do your independent homework

Share your MBA application with your friend and allow her a few days to review the entire application thoroughly. Don’t speak to her and explain your reasoning at this stage. Allow her to build a picture based on whatever she sees on paper (or the monitor, laptop if she’s environmentally friendly like us).

Simultaneously, think about specific questions that you are expecting from the interviewer based on 3 areas:

  •     whatever you’ve written in your apps (resume, essays)
  •     B-school specific topics
  •     general queries

Step 3: Mock-Interview 1 – B-School and Application specific questions

Ask your friend to do a little research on the B school. Depending on his/her enthusiasm level, here are a few areas for both of you to build up the knowledgebase and raise the level of awareness – the official website, discussion forums, chat transcripts, first hand info directly from students/past students. Ask your friend to build a highly customized list of queries based on your profile and essays.

Have the first mock interview. From our experience a thoroughly researched and well-structured interview can be wrapped up in an hour and a half (including feedback).

Step 4: Mock-Interview 2 – General questions

Take some time off. No, don’t pack your bags and head off to Goa. Just a day’s break should be good enough to recharge batteries. You can work together with your friend to come up with a list of commonly asked queries. You’ll find plenty of these on the web.

You can now have the second mock interview. This can be completed in an hour. Set aside some time for feedback and self-analysis.

Some interviews might occasionally touch upon business cases and guesstimate questions (though this is more common for MBA jobs in consulting rather than in MBA admissions). So be aware of what it involves so you aren’t caught off-guard.

Considering that your friend and you are doing this for the first time (the interview I mean), there’ll be some unfinished business. The questions may not be all-encompassing, the feedback may not be top-notch, the overall experience may not be exactly what you’ll get when you are face-to-face with your interviewer. But your preparation will help boost your confidence and you’ll know how to address a majority of questions that come your way.

Good luck!

Source: This original appeared on the MBA Crystal Ball Blog and has been published here with the permission of the author.

Comments