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Interview Prep Tips

What to answer when asked "why do you want an MBA?" and "why MBA?" on your interview

Introduction

Your interviewer will almost definitively ask this question during your interview.  Though it seems like a simple, easy question, you’ll be surprised how many people stumble with their response, taking their chances of getting accepted.

Even if you have a great reason for applying to an MBA program inside your head, it pays to articulate that in a concise and compelling way that will make you a shoo-in applicant.  

What is admissions looking for?

MBA applicants tend to focus on the requirements for getting into a particular program.  That seems logical, since those requirements are usually listed on the admissions website (for example, GMAT ranges) and those requirements are used as a hard cut-off for applications – so they are extremely important.

They are also important for admissions, but think a little harder about who admissions wants in their program.  

Admissions wants two things: People that have achieved great things in the past and will achieve even greater things in the future.

That’s why the “why do you want an MBA” question is so important.  This gives the person interviewing a clue as to what you are going to do with your MBA.  Every business school wants their alumni to go on to do great things – increasing the prestige of said business school.

How to answer “why do you want an MBA” on your interview?

Get all the reasons for applying to an MBA that are inside your head into words.  Be forward thinking, reflect on what you want to accomplish next and how an MBA will help you get there.  

Looking at all those reasons, pick out the one that makes sense with the narrative arc of your life and career while at the same time pointing to an exciting future.

So for example, if you worked all your life in big pharma and want to apply that knowledge to a small scale biotech – mention that!  Compliment your answer with comments on how an MBA is key to fill in gaps in your knowledge and how you’ll be able to make connections with people from the science and medicine departments of the university – clearing a path for you to join a start up.

Another example is if you’ve worked in small non profits all your life and want to amplify your impact through a larger organization.   Or you’re a career corporate warrior and want to take on more demanding and complex roles, potentially even starting new departments and leading culture shifts.

Mention your past, but focus your answer on the future and why an MBA will get you there.

What NOT to answer!

I’ve seen people mention this all the time when asked “why do you want an MBA” in an interview and they are all answers that will greatly diminish your chances of getting accepted:

  1. I want to increase my income
  2. This MBA program has a great ROI
  3. I already live in this city, so it is convenient
  4. I currently live in a foreign country and want to live in the country where the program is held
  5. I wasn’t accepted into the other programs I applied to
  6. I’ll only get a promotion if I have an MBA

These might very well be reasons for you to get an MBA, but they should never be the main reason.  If you do what you love well, you’ll probably reach those goals as a consequence of going a great job.


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Conclusion

The question “why do you want an MBA” might seem trivial and you might think you have it squared away inside your head – actually articulating it in a compelling way to someone from admissions in an interview is a whole different ball game.

Take the time to properly think about this question and make sure you do lots of practice runs so you are comfortable answering “why do you want to do an MBA?”.

Voomer is a great way to get that practice since it was built from the ground up with this scenario in mind.

Questions on Voomer match what you’ll get on the interview of your dream school.  After going through a set of questions, you’ll get an artificial intelligence powered report on your results with specific, actionable steps you can take to improve your performance.

Your response is broken down into multiple components and analyzed individually and then as a whole.  From delivery to content to body language and camera position, multiple data points are analyzed to ensure you have the best MBA video interview prep available.

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Interview Prep Tips

The Ultimate Oxford MFE Interview Question Bank

Introduction

Oxford’s MSc in Financial Economics (MFE) at Oxford’s Saïd Business School is a highly competitive, intense, full-time, nine month long program that has become extremely sought after by people wanting to join the world of finance, private equity, venture capital and similar industries.

The program is very quant-focused and rigorous, don’t expect to talk your way through this program.  Unsurprisingly, the admissions process as a whole reflects this and the interview takes the pressure to another level.

For practice, take a look at a platform like Voomer, where you can practice your interview and get instant AI-powered feedback on your responses.

What MFE admissions is looking for

While MFE graduates certainly go on to be leaders in the organizations they work at, the focus of the MFE program is quite different from most other business-focused masters programs.  

MFE admissions are looking for people that will take the application and study of cutting-edge finance and economics to the next level.

Therefore, at the interview admissions expects you to be highly versed in the foundational quantitative tools you will need to progress in the program and contribute to class.  Expect a highly technical interview, usually with a short case study where you will need to work on some calculations.  

That being said, the interview is not all doom and gloom – if you have a solid quantitative background and studied some economics (microeconomics, macroeconomics, econometrics) and finance, the questions should not be particularly demanding.

On top of that, the MFE interview does have a classic motivational section (think “why do you want to do this program”) that will make the less quant-inclined applicants slightly more relaxed.  However, don’t underestimate the motivational section.  If the person interviewing you doesn’t think you have a good motive to join the MFE program, they won’t be that impressed with your calculus 3 grades.

You’ll also have to answer some questions on a virtual interview platform called Kira.  Questions on that platform are mostly behavioral with a few  

Oxford Said MBA Interview Question Bank

Motivation questions:

1. Why do you want an MFE?

2. Why are you interested in the Oxford Said Business School?

3. How long have you been considering doing a MFE and why now is the right time?

4. What specific skills are you looking to gain at Oxford?

5. What is unique to Oxford MFE that you are attracted to?

Technical questions:

1. Assume 𝑈 (𝑥, 𝑦) = 4(𝑥)^0.5 + 10. What is the Marginal Rate of Substitution of y for x when x=2 and y=4?

2. Sally likes pork Ribs (R) and Chicken wings (C). Her utility function is 𝑈(𝑅, 𝐶) = 10𝑅^2𝐶. Her weekly income is $90 which she spends exclusively on R and C. The price for a slab of ribs is $10 and $5 for a piece chicken.  What is Sally’s consumer problem?

3. Given the above information, what is Sally’s optimal bundle?

4. Given the above, what is Sally’s demand function for ribs?

5. An investment is expected to yield $300 in 3 years, $500 in 5 years, and $300 in 7 years. What is the present value of this investment if our opportunity rate is 5%?

6. An initial investment of $400,000 will produce an end of year cash flow of $450,000. What is the NPV of the project at a discount rate of 10%?

7. In a certain country, GDP grows at the exact same rate every year. In 1990, GDP was at 100, and in 2000 it was at 200.  Will this country first reach four times the GDP of 2000, or twice the GDP of 2010?

8. Briefly explain the causes of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it, a list of questions for the Oxford Said MFE interview that will put you on the path to getting accepted there. If you feel we’ve left any out and would like us to update the list please email us: [email protected]

Besides knowing what the questions will look like, another way to increase your chances of getting in is by practicing.  Voomer is an AI-powered interview prep platform designed for interviews like the one you’ll face at Oxford’s MFE, both the live interview and the Kira interview.

If you are curious about how Voomer’s AI-powered video assessment tools can help you to prepare thoroughly for your upcoming video essays click below to get started!

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Interview Prep Tips

How to introduce yourself in an MBA interview

Introduction

The vast majority of MBA programs that require an interview will ask applicants to introduce themselves in the interview.  That is almost a certainty in live interviews with someone from admissions opposite you (either face to face or via Skype/Zoom/etc).  

Even asynchronous interviews – sometimes called video essays, video interview or video questions, where the applicant has to record their answers and for later viewing by admissions – will usually have a question that requires the applicant to introduce themselves.

Therefore, it pays to prepare for this very important question since it will set the scene for the interview.  Both for the interviewer who will have a better understanding of who you are after listening to the response and for you!  A great response will certainly make you more at ease for the rest of the interview and boost your confidence – improving your chances of getting accepted.

Make sure you practice for this question and a great place for that is Voomer, where you’ll get AI-powered feedback on your answers.

What admissions is looking for

What admissions is looking for depends on whether the interview is blind or not blind.  

In a blind interview, the interviewer will not have access to your application materials.  They might have access to your CV but that’s about it.  So in the question “please introduce yourself”, admissions wants to quickly get a run down of who you are since they are probably learning about you for the first time in that very interview.  This question helps them quickly sketch out who you are and sets the stage for follow up questions.

In a non-blind, or traditional interview, the interviewer will have access to your entire application package – so on top of your CV they will be able to read your essays, transcripts, letters of recommendation and any other materials you submitted.  In this case, admissions is checking for consistency with the rest of your application package.

Something to keep in mind is that in both cases, admissions asks you that question as part of an ice breaking exercise.  “Please introduce yourself” is a pretty standard introductory question that warms you up for the inevitable harder questions.

How to answer “please introduce yourself”

There is no set formula for answering this question – it obviously depends a lot on who you are, what you’ve done and most importantly, what is important to you.

However, there is a structure that works very well which can be used by anyone answering this question in an MBA interview:

  1. Have a concise and engaging opening sentence that summarizes who you are.  If you’ve held several wildly different jobs you could open with “I’m a jack of all trades”.  If your volunteer work is tremendously important to you, a potential opener is “I believe in taking direct, personal action to change the world”.  A lot of nuance is lost in those sentences but it doesn’t matter, you want to deliver a one liner that helps your interviewer quickly understand the broad strokes of who you are.  Despite our best efforts, humans are lazy – a well thought out opening sentence helps your interviewer quickly understand who you are.
  2. Based on the above point, briefly describe your career’s narrative arc so far.  Do not get bogged down in promotions, titles, specific tasks you had to accomplish and the like – focus on what motivated the major changes in your life.  Your interviewer will be on the look out for those anyway, so it makes sense to serve those upfront.
  3. Close with a forward looking statement.  Similar to my first point, keep this as a short one liner that captures what you want to do next – preferably as the logical next step in your career (if you set up a compelling career narrative arc!).  You don’t have to also answer in detail how the MBA fits into that – your interviewer will almost definitively ask that as a separate question.

Potential pitfalls

Keep in mind the “please introduce yourself” question can take on many different forms.  

When I did my first MBA interview, a trap I fell into was hearing the question “walk me through your resume” and taking it literally instead of correctly interpreting it as a “please introduce yourself” question.

The consequence of that was that I walked my interviewer in chronological order through my resume – completely losing her since my resume is pretty convoluted!  She did not approve my application into that program.  However, after I noticed the trap I fell into, at all subsequent programs I interviewed at, I was very well prepared for the “please introduce yourself” question, nailing them.  Ultimately, I got accepted into all other programs I applied to.

Make sure you see the question for what it is and answer in a way that is helpful to the interviewer.

Conclusion

Nailing this question in your MBA interview is absolutely key.  It will help your interviewer quickly understand what you are about as well as calming your nerves and setting you up for success with the rest of the interview.

Make sure you do lots of practice runs so you are comfortable answering “please introduce yourself”.

Voomer is a great way to get that practice since it was built from the ground up with this scenario in mind.

Questions on Voomer match what you’ll get on the interview of your dream school.  After going through a set of questions, you’ll get an artificial intelligence-powered report on your results with specific, actionable steps you can take to improve your performance.

Your response is broken down into multiple components and analyzed individually and then as a whole.  From delivery to content to body language and camera position, multiple data points are analyzed to ensure you have the best MBA video interview prep available.

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Interview Prep Tips

How to answer MBA interview questions with the STAR method

Introduction

MBA admissions season is now in full swing, with several round 1 decisions already posted and round 2 decisions coming up shortly.  

You’ve picked up that GMAT or GRE score, dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” on your essays.  You’ve badgered your former managers for letters of recommendation and submitted that huge packet of data to your dream school’s admissions department.  If you really put in the effort, you’ll get a video interview.

Once you are finished with this article, take a look at Voomer, a place where you can practice for your interview and get AI-powered feedback on your answers.

Video interview format

Video interviews are fast becoming the norm during these crazy COVID months and it looks like for some schools this is here to stay.  Stanford GSB for example only uses video interviews for some of its programs.

MBA video interviews typically involve a mix of questions.  Some of them are very limited in scope, where, for example, admissions wants to understand something that isn’t clear on your CV.  Or they can be extremely broad behavioral questions which give you a lot of leeway in how to answer – up to a certain point.  When discussing software-based video interviews, like the ones hosted by Kira, you’ll typically get a lot of behavioral questions.

What is a behavioral question?

A behavioral question is one that tries to understand how you’ve handled (or how you behaved – surprise, surprise) certain situations or circumstances.  They should be based on past events and therefore completely grounded in facts.

Do not even think of making up something on the spot or stretching the facts of your answer – admissions can easily pick out inconsistencies across your entire application package and probing questions are bound to uncover exaggerations.

How do I answer a behavioral question?

Given the above description of a behavioral question, your answer should be based on examples of things that happened to you at work or in your personal life.

There are two main methods for answering these questions, the CAR method and the STAR method.  Those two methods are virtually identical.

The CAR method helps you structure your answer in three stages: Context.  Action.  Result.  

Conversely, the STAR method helps you structure your answer in four stages: Situation.  Task.  Action.  Result.

The only major difference is that the STAR method splits out the “task” from the “action”.  Defining the task you were assigned to the interviewer is helpful especially in situations where you went way beyond the strict definition of the task and over-delivered.

Answering an MBA interview question using the STAR method

“Situation” is precisely that – what was the situation you faced at your job or in your personal life.  This helps admissions get situated for what comes next and set expectations.  Remember admissions reviews a huge amount of highly qualified applicants, so context is important – or else you’ve lost them right out of the gate and you are now at a disadvantage.  Typically, the context you are giving is one of a problem at work.  Either sales targets aren’t being hit, there are quality control issues, or just plain dysfunction among team members.  The stage is being set for you to come in and save the day.

“Task” is the job you were given by a manager to resolve or improve the situation you described above.  If the task was not assigned by a manager, you can explain how you decided on accomplishing the task yourself – which is actually a great opportunity since this will show the interviewer how you have the initiative to go beyond the discrete tasks assigned to you by a higher up.

“Action” is what you did to remedy that situation.  Did you come up with a plan to turn sales around?  Did you come up with some innovative manufacturing method that eliminated quality control issues?  Did you talk to and motivate your team members to work constructively as a group?  Make sure to tell admissions how you did all that, this is what they are really looking for.  

Behavioral question prep on MBA video interviews
MBA video interview prep – make sure you don’t forget this key step!

Before moving on to the last letter in STAR, there is one word in the above paragraph that is extremely important – “you”.  We’ve seen this mistake being made over and over again, even with well-prepared applicants.  Admissions does not care what the “team” did – they want to know specifically what YOU did.  They want to understand how much of a force for positive change you are, how you exercise your leadership skills and how you go about implementing all that.

“Results” is the conclusion to your answer.  Given the above context and given what you did to remedy it – what happened?  Did those sales numbers really go up?  Did those quality issues really go away?  Did those people really start getting along?  The important thing to remember here is to add data when possible.  If you are discussing recent events and you still remember the numbers, mention those in your answer.  If you don’t, mention that, and give your best estimate.

Keep your best examples top of mind

When interview time comes, you’ll likely be nervous and you might even get “caught in the headlights” with a question you didn’t expect.  That’s why it’s so important to keep around 5 to 7 examples of interesting things that happened in your career or personal life top of mind.  A truly interesting example is also versatile and can be adapte
d to answer a broad range of behavioral MBA interview questions.

Conclusion

First, make sure you are clear on the STAR response format.  Think of all your answers to behavioral questions using that structure – make admissions life easy, they are looking for precisely those things in an answer.

Second, think of a handful of examples that are really compelling and keep those top of mind.  When you get hit with behavioral questions you can adapt those to answer almost anything.

Last but not least in third is to remember who is doing the things in your answer.  It should be YOU, not the team, not your manager.  If you were a bystander in the actions you are describing, look for a better, more compelling example.

Make sure you do lots of practice runs to familiarize yourself with recording video without anybody else on the other end.

Voomer is a great way to get that practice since it was built from the ground up with this scenario in mind.

Questions on Voomer match what you’ll get on the interview of your dream school.  After going through a set of questions, you’ll get an artificial intelligence-powered report on your results with specific, actionable steps you can take to improve your performance.

Your response is broken down into multiple components and analyzed individually and then as a whole.  From delivery to content to body language and camera position, multiple data points are analyzed to ensure you have the best MBA video interview prep available.

Categories
Interview Prep Tips

How to prepare for a recorded video interview

Introduction

Recorded video interviews are quickly becoming the norm when assessing people for jobs and university programs whether that is through Kira, HireVue, or another platform. COVID-19 has only accelerated this trend so it is worthwhile learning how to get ready for a video interview in a way that you look great and minimize things that might distract or irritate your interviewer.

In this article we take a look at how you can either spend a lot of money getting ready for the interview or just hack something together with what you have laying around at home!

Camera angle

Your camera should be level with your face when interviewing on video.  You don’t want the camera too high or too low – its not like the interviewer is interested in getting a great look at your chin and neck!

Expensive solution: Adjustable tables for laptops or even standing desks are all the rage today since people are mostly working from home and need to improve ergonomics.  But the mechanisms on those tables or stands that adjust your computer will also adjust the height of the camera.

Free solution: Books, catalogs, boxes – you name it!  Anything that is flat and relatively solid that will hold you laptop or camera up is more than enough.  Just stack them up until the camera is slightly below your eye level when you are sitting comfortably and you are good to go!  

Laptop on top of a pile of books, bringing the camera to eye level.
Use books as a quick and easy way to raise your camera to eye level.

Lighting

This is an extraordinarily important issue that, sadly, most people don’t address properly.  The whole point of the video interview is to facilitate a better connection between you and the interviewer.  If your face is dimly lit, how will the interviewer be able to see your face and body language?  

Expensive solution: With the increasing popularity of streaming, there are several specialized lighting options available for video calls – from LED panels to ring lights and beyond.  For a truly professional set up, you’ll need three separate lights to be able to set up a three point lighting arrangement – though you’ll probably have to spend hundreds of dollars to achieve that.

Free solution: If you have a desk lamp or two – you are set!  What most people don’t realize is that what matters most is not the type of lighting you use but how you position those lamps.  Place them behind your camera pointing at you.  If the light is particularly intense, angle the light away from you so it bounces off something before reflecting onto your face.  

Put a lamp behind your laptop to light your face, and stand out from the background.

Background

Interviewers are humans, and they will make snap judgements on you based on what is behind you.  Despite working from home (and maybe even from your bedroom or kitchen!) being widely accepted, your background can be distracting to the interviewer, therefore it is worthwhile putting some thought into it.

Expensive solution: A solution that would solve this problem is to buy a photography grade backdrop and stands to prop that up.  This would provide a studio look to your background but comes at a steep price and takes up a lot of room.    

Free solution: Just tidy up your background!  Admissions and hiring staff we’ve talked to have uniformly told us that going on an interview from home is perfectly acceptable – especially given COVID-19.  The caveat is that they expect it to be organized.  If you don’t want to give a stranger a view of your room, move so that the camera is pointing at a bare wall.

An unmade bed next to a made bed.
As long as your background is reasonably tidy – you’ll be fine.

Eye contact

Eye contact is absolutely key in face to face interviews and it is as important in a video interview.  However, many people forget that your camera and your screen are in different locations – so while you look at your screen, you are no longer making eye contact with the interviewer.  You don’t need to look at the camera during the entire interview, but make sure to do so when mentioning something particularly important.

Expensive solution: There really isn’t a fancy solution to this problem!  Take a look at the solution below that solves the eye contact issue.

Free solution: If you don’t know where the camera on your computer is located, the first step is to find out where is the camera lens.  That can be easily accomplished by opening the camera app and running your fingers around the edge of your laptop’s screen until you can see your fingers.  After that, one of the most effective hacks we’ve seen is to simply stick an arrow pointing to the camera – or if you want to be less dramatic – eyes!

Audio quality – quiet, no echos, mic

Last but not least, audio quality.  If everything I’ve listed above is set up properly, but your audio quality is sub-par, the person interviewing
you will still have a hard time engaging with your responses.  This is probably the easiest item on the list that you can fix, but most people overlook it.

Expensive solution: Dedicated external microphones will make you sound far better – sometimes even better than in real life!  Spending around $150 on a dedicated, external microphone from a well known brand will guarantee that you will sound great on calls for many years and therefore might we worth the investment.  

Free or inexpensive solution: The first step is to make sure everyone in the place you are recording is quiet!  Even low quality microphones can pic up the sounds of someone in the kitchen washing the dishes, or listening to music in the adjacent room.  The second step is buying a cheap microphone, a $15 or $20 lapel microphone will improve how you sound dramatically versus your camera’s or laptop’s integrated microphone.  Like I mention with the expensive solution above, that microphone can be used and re-used over many years, so it is definitively worth the investment.

Avoid distracting your interviewer by being in a quiet environment.
We know it is tough, but try and get those around you to be quiet when you’re on a video interview.

Conclusion

Your surroundings and the way you come across are as important as the content of your answers on a video interview.  Make sure to be aware of the different ways an interviewer may be assessing you and think of ways to present yourself in a manner that increases engagement with the interviewer as much as possible.

Voomer is an AI-powered interview platform built by AI researchers from the MIT Media lab that allows you to prep for your interview on your own time, as many times as you like.

Check out Voomer and start prepping for free today!