Difficult MBA interview questions and answer tips for some tough, tricky and hard ones

Your responses to common MBA interview questions can define the outcome of your business school application.

So you made it to the business school interview stage: Cause for celebration, or last-minute panic? The way you approach the MBA interview can directly impact admission decisions, so it’s important to dedicate time and attention to this important component.

The most effective, time-tested strategy for approaching an interview is to imagine the questions you’ll be asked and to practice your delivery. Below, we’ve detailed some of the most common questions asked during MBA interviews so you can begin developing your unique responses (although there can be some tricky MBA interview questions, too).

Answer the 5 Hardest MBA Interview Questions
  • What is your biggest weakness? …
  • Tell me about a time you failed. …
  • Describe a poor manager you’ve had. …
  • Tell me about an ethical dilemma you faced. …
  • Tell me about yourself.

As Wharton’s former head of admissions, I can assure you tough questions aren’t motivated by schadenfreude. (Although in the case of the prime number, our client had a first-time alumni interviewer who may have been a bit overeager.) I’ve certainly thrown a curveball question to shake an overly rehearsed candidate from their script or to deepen the conversation. As the purpose of the interview is to get a stronger sense of who you are and how you think, your authenticity and professional presence is key.

So how can you prepare to handle the tough questions? Read on for top tips and insights from my Fortuna colleagues on 10 tough questions you should be prepared to encounter.

Judith Silverman Hodara, is a Co-Founder & Director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Wharton acting head of Admissions. You can sign up for MBA Interview Prep with one of Fortuna’s former MBA Admissions gatekeepers – from HBS- or MIT-specific prep to one of our mock Wharton TBD sessions starting Oct. 31, 2021.

In her article on HBS essay advice, Fortuna’s Karla Cohen affirms that some of the best essays she’s ever read open with an applicant’s story of a failure and how it has shaped them, creating credibility through their introspection and authenticity. “From my perspective, if you are never making mistakes, you aren’t working hard enough,” says Karla.

Point of view questions like this are an opportunity to show that you are informed about the business world and macroeconomics. Just take your time to answer and avoid something too ambitious or complex. In the time leading up to your interview, stay current on news sources like the Economist, Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. This can be a great opportunity for you to link your news interests to industries related to your career goals.

Seven Hardest MBA Admissions Interview Questions

Most candidates, when preparing for an interview, focus on the positive aspects of their story. They cannot wait to share their successes and highlight their strengths. So when asked directly to describe a failure, they can be unnerved at best and completely thrown at worst, especially if they haven’t given such a question any thought.

The type of failure, the time frame of the failure and what you learned as a result will all be relevant in terms of addressing the question.

There are a few potential pitfalls with this question. First, avoid picking a failure that is really just a veiled success story. For example, “we missed one deadline (failure) but we shipped an outstanding product (success).” This type of answer can be perceived as avoiding the question. At the other end of the spectrum, you don’t want to select a failure so substantial and/or recent that the interviewer might genuinely worry that it could happen again—either due to incompetence or because you just simply haven’t had time to learn from it yet.

Make sure you prepare to address a real failure that you played a part in and acknowledge your direct role. While the failure should be substantial, it should not be catastrophic to an organization. Address the process you went through in terms of deconstructing the failure and how you have learned from the experience. Finally, discuss a more recent success that demonstrates your use of the lessons learned from the earlier failure.

Examples of the hardest MBA interview questions

The key to answering this question is to know that the interviewer is trying to find out whether you have done some introspection on your own personality, and thought about your biggest weakness and how to overcome it. Show humility and self-awareness when answering.

For example, if you have not mentioned much social service or participation in community programs, the interviewer may try to find out whether you have identified this shortcoming.

Your reply to the question may get him interested if you say that you feel you have not done adequate work for the community and are making sincere efforts to involve yourself in more programs. You could give an example of a program you have started to attend.

Read this: Importance of extra curricular activities in MBA admissions

You are fully prepared to answer a question about your successes, but you don’t normally expect a question about your failures. The objective of the interviewer is not just to find out where you failed but also to know whether you have learned from the experience.

Instead of only narrating an episode where you failed, you also need to show how it taught you something, how you faced your fears, and how you emerged stronger.

For example, suppose you failed in your first year of engineering, because of some reasons (ranging from a lack of seriousness to a severe disconnect from the chosen subject).

Instead of giving up and letting the failures pile on, you did some self-introspection to understand where you were going wrong. You then created a study plan for yourself to not just catch up with the subject but also be among the top 10% of the graduating class.

By doing so, you created a positive experience from a humbling one. Remember to take the blame and not pass it on to someone else. [Read how to deal with low percentage / GPA in college]

Be wary of giving an answer that really only hides a success story.

For example, “We missed the delivery deadline, but we delivered a product of great quality.” The interviewer may feel you are avoiding the question. Don’t give an answer that shows your failure caused difficulties for your organization.

The interviewer wants to find out whether you are a people person and can manage difficult colleagues and classmates once you have been admitted into the MBA program. While answering the question, you need to keep at bay any bitterness from your experience with a poor manager and try to show that you are capable of being empathetic with and sensitive to others.

For example, maybe a senior manager you worked with was initially under the impression that you were trying to replace him and didn’t respect his experience and knowledge. You had a personal discussion with him where you cleared his apprehensions and expressed interest in learning from him.

This transformed your relationship, and the senior manager not only passed on some rare tips but also provided you an environment where you could give your best. You have shown that you not only confronted the situation but handled it maturely and professionally to make things better for yourself, the manager, and your organization.

The interviewer is trying to test your emotional intelligence and what picture of your company and colleagues you give others. You cannot heap blame on someone for a conflict as that would be like throwing that person under the bus.

You cannot say you really had no role in it and only others were involved as this could mean that you aren’t important enough at your workplace. You need to show that you were capable of seeing both sides of the conflict. Of course, you shouldn’t imply that you started the conflict.

It pays to be ready with an example. Explain who was involved in the conflict, how it was addressed, what your role was, and what the outcome was. How did it shape your leadership style? Show what the resolution of the conflict taught you. Were you able to use what you learned to resolve another conflict? If yes, you win full points.

The interviewer wants to test your moral compass but also whether you have the maturity to resolve such situations.

Suppose you found when compiling data that your company had been exaggerating numbers to keep the investors happy. You know that your manager had a hand in the fudging but should you confront him and let him know that you have found out the fraud, or should you let things be?

You should explain to the interviewer how you analyzed the situation and what action you took that shows not only that you want to score high on the moral scale but also that you handled the problem with tact and maturity.

This question is widely perceived as unfair to the candidate, because the candidate cannot ask the interviewer what other applicants the admissions committee is considering.

The objective may be to assess whether you are wildly applying to all the top schools or only to certain schools where you have a good chance and which offer programs suitable to you.

Or the aim may be to find out what the chances of your accepting admission if it is offered, and whether you would rather prefer another school in your list. Read more about how bschools manage yield.

You should honestly list the schools in your target list, explain why you chose them (for their academic programs, teaching style, campus environment), and say why the school you are interviewing for is an excellent choice for particular reasons that you also need to explain. Mention a specific reason why this school is your first choice, compared with another school.

“Show them the love,” says an expert in admissions and recruitment. You need to show you understand the school’s culture and will be able to gain from and contribute to it.

If you’ve been accepted by another school, say so. It would make your candidature more attractive for the school.

This is the time to turn the tables on the interviewer, as it were. Use the opportunity to clear your doubts and curiosity. But select your questions wisely.

Among good questions would be, “Since you’ve graduated from this school, what are the advantages of doing an MBA here?” “How does the school maintain ties with the business world?” “What changes are on the cards for the school’s MBA program?”

Go prepared with school-related questions based on your research, note down questions that arise during the interview, and avoid questions that the school website can answer.

Question 1: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

A safe place to start, use this question to talk briefly and concisely about your background, experience, and accomplishments. Limit your answer to 2-3 minutes and identify key talking points that relate to the school or program. Plan to discuss topics such as:

  • Your undergraduate education and why you chose the major you did
  • Your past and present work experience and accomplishments
  • Your career goals, and your journey to discovering what matters most to you in your chosen industry
  • FAQ

    What questions do they ask in MBA interviews?

    Common MBA Interview Questions
    • Tell me about yourself. …
    • Why do you want to receive an MBA? …
    • Why are you interested in this school or program? …
    • What has been your most challenging or rewarding academic experience so far? …
    • Discuss a time when you were a leader. …
    • What do you like most about your current work?

    What is the most difficult interview question to answer?

    The most difficult interview questions (and answers)
    • What is your greatest weakness? Strengths-and-weaknesses interview questions are a given. …
    • Why should we hire you? …
    • What’s something that you didn’t like about your last job? …
    • Why do you want this job? …
    • How do you deal with conflict with a co-worker?

    What do MBA interviewers look for?

    9 Tricky Interview Questions (With Answers)
    • What are your weaknesses? …
    • Why do you want to work here? …
    • Where do you see yourself in five years? …
    • Why do you want to leave your current company? …
    • Why is there a gap in your work history? …
    • Tell me about a time you made a mistake. …
    • What can you offer us that other candidates can’t?

    Related Posts

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.