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Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

February 02, 2009

Stanford GSB MBA Interviews

Stanford interviews, while so hard to get, are not necessarily that hard in any obvious way. This is interview about fit as determined by an alumni "gatekeeper." Chances are good that this gatekeeper might be in your industry or in some manner have a complementary background for assessing you. While I imagine in some places with few alumni, a high level of complementary assessment (e.g., McKinsey applicant interviewed by Boston Consulting Group alum) would be less likely, I can say that it is the rule rather the exception in Japan. Expect a lively exchange and whatever you do, don't make any plans for it to end on time as Stanford interviews are well known for going long. Based on my experience, I can say that every client who had a long interview got in. This might be coincidence, but I doubt it.

My analysis of Stanford is based on my own personal knowledge as well as reviewing the reports of Stanford University GSB interviews found at accepted.com and clearadmit.com.

Some key things to consider when preparing for Stanford GSB interviews:

1. My colleague, H. Steven Green, has put the following together by reviewing interview reports (I have reviewed Steve's list which he prepared in March 2008, but the questions for Fall 2009 1st Round interviews have not changed):
-Why do you need an MBA?
-What are your career goals?
-When did you realize that you wanted to go to business school, and why?
-Why do you need an MBA now?
-Why Stanford?
-What has been your most important accomplishment?
-Please tell me about a time when you received criticism? How did you respond to it? Did your relationship change with the person who made it ?
-What do you do outside of work?
-Who is your role model?
-What book are you reading currently that is not related to your profession? ADAM'S NOTE: THIS QUESTION IS VERY COMMON!
-Describe a time when you had to choose between two good options.
-Describe a failure. -Please tell me about a time when you let down your team.
-Tell me about a time when you let your team down as a leader?
-Why do you think you are successful?
-Tell me about a time when you had to interact with people in a difficult situation.
-Tell me about a time when you had a bad leader.
-Tell me about a time when you led people?
-What was your favorite class in college?
-Describe a tough manager.
-Describe an easy manager.
-What would you get involved with at Stanford?
-Describe a bad leader.
-How do your prioritize?
As you can see, the questions are pretty standard. Expect some behavioral style questions and prepare accordingly.

2. You need to be able to explain in-depth why you should be admitted to Stanford, what you can contribute, and what you want to learn. Be willing to openly discuss what soft and hard skills you need to improve/acquire. Show yourself to be open, dynamic, change oriented, and a highly motivated person because the alum will be.

3. Since there is supposed to be time for you to ask questions to the alum, you need to give some significant thought to formulating those. Consider what year the alum graduated and any other background information if you can determine that through Linkedin or other sources of information. Develop four or more questions to ask.

4. Whoever you interview with, they are likely to be quite friendly and the style of the interview is conversational. Stanford alums are provided with very clear guidelines for how to conduct interviews. Just because your interviewer is friendly, it does not mean that you are doing well. Don't assume a friendly interviewer is not actually a super critical one. Alums are the gatekeepers and Stanford can afford to reject anyone. Take nothing for granted. Also keep in mind that the admissions process at Stanford is holistic and a great interview is no absolute guarantee of success.

5. Reported interview length for interviews is official 45 minutes, but can go on for longer than that. It usually consists of 30-40 minutes of questions from the alum followed by 5-15 minutes of question to the alum, but often the interviews go longer, an hour or more is not uncommon. In my own experience with clients, I would say that if the interview goes for an hour or more, that is a good sign, but a 45 minute interview is not necessarily a bad sign. Interviews that last 75 minutes to 120 minutes are not uncommon.

If you are interested in my interview preparation or other graduate admission consulting services, please click here.

Questions? Write comments, but do not send me emails asking me to advise you on your application strategy unless you are interested in my consulting services. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to. Before emailing me questions about your chances for admission or personal profile, please see my recent post on "Why I don't analyze profiles without consulting with the applicant."
-Adam Markus
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