The Magic Question

Interviewing with your target MBA program is a real privilege, so preparing adequately is critical.  When it comes time for you to ask the questions, however, will you be ready?

Most every MBA applicant spends considerable time preparing for their interview. After all, it’s the next step in the admissions process and while your decision is not solely based on the interview, your odds of admission shoot up to at least 50/50 if you are invited to an interview.  These odds obviously do not apply for schools who allow anyone to interview, but if you receive a personal invitation to do so, you are in a good spot.

While preparing for the interview is very important, I have found most people do not spend nearly enough time getting ready for that inevitable point in the interview when you are allowed to ask questions of your own. 

Having intelligent, thoughtful questions for them will demonstrate you are genuinely interested in their particular program and not just “mailing it in” by asking questions you can ask any schooll, but it actually goes even deeper than that, because there are even some questions that are specific to the school that should be avoided.

Most namely, you should never ask any questions, the answers to which you could have fairly easily obtained from the school’s website or other publically available sources. 

Asking questions they basically answer in their brochure is a bad idea---it’s like telling them, “I didn’t care enough about this interview to do some cursory research beforehand.” It’s essentially a dead giveaway that you are not as interested in the school as you should be if you’re going to wear their t-shirt for the rest of your life.

Asking questions about their own experience is always safe territory in this regard.

Certainly there will be no information on the website about your interviewer’s personal perspective on the school, whether they are a student, staff, or faculty member.  Beyond this, make your questions pertinent to your own reasons for wanting to go there, which can also give you an opportunity to unpack your case for attendance even more.

There is one question, however that is absolutely magical.

If you feel you have built a decent rapport with your interviewer, you should ask them at the end (after you have run through your other questions), “Is there anything you have learned about me today or seen in my profile that causes any concern for my potential admission?”   Of course there are several ways to rephrase this, but what you are essentially asking is, “tell me specifically about any weakness you see that might give pause to the admissions committee.”  The reason this question is so powerful, is because it’s win/win for you.  If they answer, “well, I don’t really see anything that would cause concern,” you have essentially made them admit you are admit-able.  If on the other hand, they reveal a weakness, you then have the chance to inoculate the weakness with an explanation or simply more information.  At least you will give them a reason to change their mind about your weakness, and potentially reveal an area which they may have understood about you.

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