Last week, an admissions consulting firm gained a fair amount of press for its piece on “weird interview questions that the admissions officers will use to trip you up.” The questions that they showcased were indeed incomprehensibly absurd, including this one: “If you could go back in time and steal Hitler’s wallet without fear of punishment, would you?”
The problem with their piece was that they passed off these questions as if admissions officers were eagerly waiting to “use (them) to trip you up,” stoking anxiety among applicants. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the top admissions officers whom we have spoken with in recent months have said quite the opposite (as you will see below). They will not use such questions.
We feel that our responsibility as an admissions consulting firm is to calm MBA candidates and keep them focused on what is truly important within the application process. Interviews are not easy, but overwhelmingly the questions are straightforward and will be about you. So, you should be able to rely on your experiences to answer the questions. By entering your interview calmly and staying in your everyday frame of mind, you will be able to thoughtfully address the questions that you are asked. If you can do that, you should perform to the best of your abilities and you may even enjoy your interview.
We are always prepared to work with candidates by conducting mock interviews and during our sessions we will use questions that you can actually expect to be asked during an interview.
The following excerpts from our interviews with top admissions officers speak for themselves:
“And it’s really, I would say, a fairly standard behavioral interview. The purpose is not to trick you or throw curveballs, but really get a sense of the applicant, get a sense of their background, their interests, why they want to get an MBA, what they want to do with their degree.”
– Bruce DelMonico, Admissions Director, Yale SOM
“Ours (interviews) are, intentionally, fairly informal. We have interviews that are conducted by our staff as well as alumni and current students, and typically, when someone comes in for an interview, a few minutes are spent just making the person feel at ease. We try to ease people into it. They’re definitely not intended to put someone on a hot seat.”
– Dawna Clarke, Admissions Director, Dartmouth-Tuck
“I advise people to put together the absolute best application you can, and I think a big part of that, as clichéd as this is going to sound, is really just being who you are. Not trying to be who you think we want to read about or who we want to hear in an interview. Just be you.”
– Beth Flye, Admissions Director, Northwestern-Kellogg
“I would say the overall perspective, and this is true for the interview, but it’s true, I think, for the whole process, is a positive perspective. So, we’re not looking for reasons to deny someone, we’re looking for reasons to admit someone.”
– JJ Cutler, Admissions Director, UPenn Wharton
“Here’s the hard part — once you’ve practiced and prepared, you need to set aside all that preparation so that you can focus on having a conversation with your interviewer. Remember, the interviewer knows Booth well, but not you. So feel free to allow the conversation to be two way. Getting to know the person sitting across the table will help you to relax and relate your stories more effectively.”
– Excerpt from the blog of Rose Martinelli, Admissions Director, Chicago Booth