Stanford MBA Interview Overview.
The Stanford GSB admissions committee will invite a limited number of applicants to interview for its MBA program during the 2021-22 MBA application season. Top MBA programs like Stanford GSB generally interview 2-3 applicants for every available place in their upcoming MBA class. While an invite is already a great sign that you stand a chance of securing an admit, remember that you’re now part of a highly competitive subset of the overall applicant pool. I recommend preparing for your interview with the help of this guide and, optionally, the Mock Interview Service.
Tip: If you’re wondering if interview invites have already gone out for the 2021-22 application season, I recommend checking out the MBA LiveWire for real-time updates.
Where? Off-campus. With Whom? Alumni.
At Stanford, the vast majority of 2021-22 MBA interviews are conducted by alumni and take place off-campus (usually at the alumnus’ or alumna’s office or in a nearby restaurant/coffee shop. A few interviews are carried out by Stanford admissions committee members.
During the 2021-22 MBA application season, the Stanford MBA program will be conducting blind interviews. A blind MBA interview is one in which the interviewer has not read the applicant’s MBA application (recommendations, essays, short answers etc.). What the interviewer does have access to is the applicant’s resume (and, if they decide to do an internet search, the applicant’s LinkedIn profile or any other biographical information on the web such as an ‘about me’ page on a organizational or community website).
That gives the MBA applicant free range to weave stories and material from their application into the interview. If the MBA interview is in-person, applicants should bring a paper copy of their resume to the interview location as a courtesy to the interviewer. If the interview takes place online then applicants should have a PDF copy of their resume handy should the interview request that it be sent via email. Oftentimes busy MBA interviewers won’t have spent much time reviewing the applicant’s resume before the interview. That’s why Stanford MBA applicants should be ready to give their interviewer a 2-minute overview of who they are at the beginning of the meeting (note that this is often the first interview question anyway, ‘So tell me about yourself…‘).
Influence of interview on admissions decision? Low to Moderate.
The reality is that a successful interview will not help an applicant secure an admit to Stanford’s upcoming MBA class, but a failed interview can hurt an applicant (i.e. result in a ding). Not obvious at first blush, below, interested readers can delve into an explanation of why that is.
Imagine you’re the Stanford GSB MBA Admissions Committee. For the 2021-22 MBA application season you’ve secured more than 100 alumni volunteers, scattered across the globe, conducting MBA admissions interviews for the GSB. Jane concludes in her report to the admissions committee that MBA applicant #1 is ‘great‘ and Bill reports in that another applicant, applicant #2, is ‘a good fit‘. You (the Stanford MBA admissions committee) only have one place left to fill in the upcoming MBA class. Which applicant would you choose?
It will be a very difficult choice because with so many different interviewers, it’s impossible for you (the Stanford MBA admissions committee) to quality control the process and make good use of the qualitative feedback you receive from interviewers. After all, what’s the difference between a ‘good fit’ and a ‘great’ applicant? The truth is that the admissions committee is really only interested in one question: Would this applicant make for a great classmate at our school? Is this person a good fit with our school culture? and conversely, Are this person’s attitudes and manner of comporting himself at odds with the GSB culture? i.e. Is this person a jerk (insert adjective of your choice here)?
A successful 2021-22 MBA interview at Stanford is one in which you persuade your alumni interviewer that ‘Yes!’ you would be a great classmate and you are a fit with the culture. This won’t help the application per se, but it won’t hurt it either (which is the important thing). If instead you fail to convince the alumnus that you are a great fit, and on top of that do something to actively put him or her off, then it can seriously hurt your application. Nobody wants to recruit a jerk to campus.
I hope that my explanation makes sense to you and sheds light on the student or alumni-led MBA interview which always carries less weight in the decision process than an admissions committee or staff-led interview (where quality control is possible and results an be normalized). At schools with student or alumni-led interviews the written application takes on greater importance. MBA programs with student or alumni-led interviews include: Berkeley Haas, Chicago Booth, Columbia, Dartmouth Tuck, Duke Fuqua, INSEAD, Kellogg, London Business School, Michigan Ross, Stanford, UCLA Anderson, Wharton, and Yale.
At the other end of the spectrum, schools that rely on a small group of trained admissions committee members or staff to conduct interviews. At these MBA programs the interview plays a greater role in the admissions process (relative to student or alumni-led interviews). MBA programs with admissions committee-led interviews include: Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan, UVA Darden and NYU Stern.
Sign up for a Stanford MBA Mock Interview.
Below you can listen to a former client receive feedback on his answer to Why an MBA?. You can earn more about my Mock Interview Service here ($150 for 1.5-hour session).
While each MBA program has a slightly different approach to the types of questions asked in interview, generally speaking there are no big surprises. The goal of your Stanford MBA interviewer isn’t to throw you curve balls but to offer up questions that give you the opportunity to highlight your professional and personal accomplishments, your strengths/weaknesses, your goals, your decision to pursue an MBA and why Stanford GSB is of interest to you in particular.
When faced with an impending interview, you may be tempted to scour the internet and amass an exhaustive list of interview questions. What will you do with all those questions? Most Stanford MBA interviewees will think through answers to each and every one in their head. Sometimes they’ll write out their exact answers on paper and then practice them verbatim. The problem with those strategies is that the first one isn’t very efficient and then second one will leave you sounding robotic when you rattle off your answer out loud.
When I work with Stanford MBA applicants during a mock interview session, we focus on developing answers to a few specific questions (like Tell me about yourself? What are your goals? Why MBA? Why school X?). We then use other questions (Strengths/Weakness?) and behavioral questions (Tell me about a time when…?) to develop a core set of stories. It might surprise you to learn that most people have just 4-6 core stories. That’s because with just a few core stories clients learn to answer multiple interview questions.
At a minimum I would suggest that you prepare the following questions for the Stanford MBA interview:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your short-term goals and how can Stanford help you achieve those goals?
- What would you get involved in outside the MBA classroom?
- What would others say are your two core strengths and one area for improvement (weakness)?
- + Prepare stories for at least 3-5 behavioral questions of your choice. An example would be: Tell me about a time when you mentored someone. Tell me about a time when a team was underperforming. Tell me about a time when you stepped outside of your defined role.
- What question do you wish I would have asked you?
- + Prepare two solid questions for the interviewer.
Examples of Stanford MBA Interview Questions.
Below you’ll find mock interview sequences from Stanford MBA interviews. Studying the sequences will give you a sense of what sort of questions tend to come up. Note that Stanford’s MBA admissions committee provides its alumni interviewers a list of questions to choose from during the MBA interview with the applicant. So while an interviewer may sprinkle in a couple questions of his or her own, the majority of the interview questions will have been preselected by the school.
Stanford MBA Interview Questions 1
- Walk me through your resume.
- Why pursue an MBA at Stanford?
- How would you spend the summer between first and second year?
- What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced at your current employer?
- What was it like mentoring an at-risk high school student?
- (Behavioral Question) Tell me about a time when you feel you added value to a team effort.
- (Behavioral Question) Give me an example of a time when you overcame a hurdle.
- Any questions for me?
Stanford MBA Interview Questions 2
- Why an MBA and why Stanford?
- What is one thing that you did that you’re really proud of?
- (Behavioral Question) Tell me about a time when you had to collaborate with someone who had a different working style or a different communication style from you.
- (Behavioral Question) Can you tell me about time when you convinced someone or a group of people to see things your way?
- How do you work with all the different people that you do? How do you communicate with them?
- (Behavioral Question) Can you tell me about a time when you received a piece of constructive feedback. What did you do to address the issue raised?
Stanford MBA Interview Questions 3
- What is the world’s biggest misconception about the pro tennis world?
- Why Stanford?
- What made you decide to choose philosophy as your major at university?
- Tell me about the hardest situation you’ve ever been in at work? What did you learn from it?
- (Behavioral Question) Tell me about a time when you stepped outside of your defined role.
- (Behavioral Question) Tell me about a time when you mentored someone.
- (Behavioral Question) Tell me about a time when you failed.
- What else should I have asked you?
Stanford MBA Interview Questions 4
- Tell me about yourself
- (Behavioral Question) Tell me about a time when you took initiative.
- (Behavioral Question) Tell me about a time when you were part of a team that was struggling.
- (Behavioral Question) Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a goal you’d set for yourself.
- Tell me more about your thesis in college.
- Do you have any questions for me?
Stanford MBA Interview Questions 5
- What made you decide to start your own company during college?
- Tell me something you’ve learned about yourself.
- Why were you selected over more experienced colleagues to be the project lead?
- Was it difficult managing those same colleagues (given that they were older/more senior)?
- (Behavioral Question) Tell me about a time when you identified a new way to do something or to approach an issue.
- (Behavioral Question) Tell me about a time when you encountered an obstacle or someone prevented you from doing something?
- (Behavioral Question) Tell me about a time when you showed initiative.
- What questions do you have for me?
Stanford MBA Interview Questions 6
- Why an MBA? Why Stanford?
- (Behavioral Question) Tell me a time when you created something / were creative.
- (Behavioral Question) Tell me a time when you deal with a difficult team member.
- (Behavioral Question) Tell me a time when you were under a tight deadline.
- (Behavioral Question) Tell me a time when someone persuaded you to change your opinion.