How to answer behavioral questions on an MBA video interview with the CAR method

How to use the CAR method to nail your behavioral interview questions.

How to answer behavioral questions on an MBA video interview with the CAR method

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.

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.

Personally, I prefer the CAR method - simply because I only have to remember three things instead of four.  So lets dive into that.

Answering an MBA interview question using the CAR method

"Context" 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.

"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 CAR, there is one word in the above paragraph which is extremely important - "you".  We've seen this mistake being make 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.

If we go back to the STAR method - where does the "T" for "task" go?  Well, you were given a task, by either your manager or yourself.  That is broadly covered by the "context" category in CAR.

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 its so important to keep around 5 to 7 examples interesting things that happened in your career or personal life top of mind.  A truly interesting example is also versatile, and can be adapted to answer a broad range of behavioral MBA interview questions.

Conclusion

First, make sure you are clear on the CAR 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 the 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.