Encouraged by the response to her previous article (How I got into Stanford MBA and Columbia from India), Mahak Garg is back to share more tips on how to crack the Stanford GSB and Columbia MBA interviews.
The fact that my previous posts were very well received (I received so many LinkedIn, Facebook and Gmail messages thanking me for sharing my “inspirational” story, I received 260 LinkedIn profile views on the day the MCB article was published) has encouraged me to put down another article for all the MBA aspirants.
Through this article, I aim to share my interview experience. I decided to take this up first simply because the R2/R3 admit interviews are around the corner and I received number of messages requesting me for the same.
Please note this entire guide is based on my interview experience with two colleges with which I interviewed – Stanford GSB and Columbia Business School. While the advice will be helpful for students interviewing with other colleges too, there may be differences in the overall procedure.
Congratulations! If you are reading this post, chances are that you have received an interview invite. All your efforts, those countless hours of brainstorming and crafting and recrafting, bore results. Your application stood apart from the pool of application that the school received and here you are with the coveted interview invite. What next?
I have broken this guide into two parts: First, I discuss about some general interview related advice. Next, I share the specific interview questions and experiences with Stanford and Columbia, the 2 colleges with which I interviewed.
While the interview is a very important part of the admissions process, its importance varies from college to college. You can refer to this link to comprehend your chances of an admit post an interview invite (Disclaimer: The authenticity of the data in this link may be questionable. However, it will give you some useful insights).
Both Stanford GSB and Columbia prefer to conduct in person interviews with seasoned college alumni in your city to the extent possible. However, if you come from a small-town, chances are that you will go through a Skype interview.
The minute you receive the email inviting you for an interview, drop everything and start the interview preparation (although it’s advised to prepare even before the invite, chances are you are like me and would not want to prepare for interviewing with a college without receiving a confirmed invite email). The actual interview is just around the corner.
For Columbia, after receiving an interview invite, you are required to log in to your account and update your information (city preference etc). The system immediately generates the name and email address of the alumni with whom you will be interviewing.
For Stanford, after receiving an interview invite, you are required to log in to your account and update your information (city preference etc). You will subsequently receive an email from the admissions team with the contact details of your interviewer. There was a time gap of almost 48 hours between the two emails- 1st where they extended the invite and 2nd where they revealed the details of the interviewer.
In both the schools, you are required to email your interviewer to schedule an interview date. Additionally, in both the colleges the interviewer has no access to any part of your application (unless of course it’s not an alumni interview and you are interviewing with an admissions team member over Skype). You are required to email your resume to your interviewer.
All this is clearly mentioned when you login into your account. However, chances are that you may not expect this and hence miss out on this crucial piece of information.
Also, with some basic Google search, you may find a list of colleges that conduct ‘blind interviews’ (i.e. the interviewer has no access to your application other than the resume) vs ‘open application interview’ (the interviewer has access to all parts of your application).
How swiftly you accept your interview invites and send across emails to your interviewers to schedule the interview is crucial here (in my opinion). The sooner the better frankly. But do remember to email your interviewer only after you are fairly prepared for the interview.
Why do I say so? Well because interviewers more often than not will give you a very tight timeline, sometimes as tight as same day! (Yes, for Stanford I was interviewed exactly 6.5 hours after sending an email to my interviewer).
Of course, the interviewer will always be kind and say – if A day does not work we can schedule some other day. But unless you really have a genuine reason, try not to reschedule it! It just shows your availability and commitment to the school. It also reflects that you are indeed well prepared for your interview.
Prepare the general interview questions. You will find a long list easily on any consulting website (here’s one such repository of MBA interview questions for practice). Love all the free material offered by such websites.
So, put on your lucky interview suit and brace yourself for all the questions!
To break the ice, the interviewer first told a bit about himself. This was followed by the following list of questions:
There might have been few more. I really can’t remember though.
Stanford asks a lot of situational questions. So brace yourself accordingly. Stanford appreciates “We” rather than I. Though you want to portray yourself as an achiever, you cannot afford to sound arrogant.
There were lot more questions which were borne out of my replies. But those were very specific to my career choices.
Disclaimer – The running answers that I mentioned just as a sneak-peek into my interview should not inspire you to use same/similar answers. While the pool of questions will remain fairly constant, the nature of the answers can change quite a bit based on the school and one’s profile.
Finally, both interviewers gave me a chance to ask them any questions that I may have. Needless to say, prepare 2-3 good questions that really show your keenness towards the course and the college.
One of the questions can be around the current role of the interviewer (always good to read about your interviewer to understand his/her interests etc) and the others can be around the college and the course (culture, interviewer’s experience etc).
Don’t ask a question which you should be aware of. That is a big put off. Do your own research well. I repeat “DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH WELL!”
Keep it conversational at all times. Don’t just go on with one answer in your excitement to impress the interviewer. He/She can live without knowing every minute detail.
Smile a lot. Put your best look on.
Do A LOT of school specific research. It in fact always fetches you brownie points to mention that I spoke with X Y current student/ alumni and attended the admissions event (if you have). It shows your dedication to the college.
Finally, don’t forget to shoot out a thank you email to your interviewer soon after your interview (preferably same day).
And then starts the LONG wait. The wait that will drive you crazy. But be patient. Absorb yourself in your work. Keep your phone with you because in both cases I got a call from the admissions team of the college to share the news that I have been selected for their MBA programme (you really don’t want to miss that ONE call!)
All the best. You have made it this far! The admit invite is just round the corner.