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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.

Categories
Interview Prep Tips

STAR method for MBA interview questions

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.