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

October 29, 2011

Kellogg MBA Admissions Interviews

This post has been updated for admission to the Kellogg MBA Class of 2014. 

Just as with essays, interviews for the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management MBA applicant interviews are all about fit.

My comments below are based on reviewing reports from my clients as well as those found at accepted.com and clearadmit.com (As I have mentioned previously, both companies should be praised for collecting these reports for all to see. I should state as a matter of disclosure that I am a member of AIGAC, a professional organization, with consultants from both organizations). These reports reveal that there are five key things to consider when preparing for Kellogg interviews:

1. You need to know your resume completely as you will most likely be asked about content in it. Review it carefully and consider what your interviewer might ask you to explain more thoroughly. If it is on your resume, it is fair game. Kellogg interviews are conducted blind, so your interview will not have read your application. The only thing they will have is your resume. Most interview reports indicate extensive questions about the contents of the resume. As such it serves form main functions:
A First Impression: Most interviewers will have your resume even before they meet you. For resume-only interviews, it really is their first impression of you.  Make sure your resume is really designed for ease of use by the interviewer.  One of my objectives when helping a client with a resume is always to focus on how effective the resume is for this purpose.
Agenda Setting Device: To a greater or lesser extent, a resume has an agenda setting function in many interviews.  While schools will provide interviewers with varying levels of guidance about what questions to ask, the resume may very well form the basis for some of the questions that you receive. 
Booby Trap:  The resume can blow-up in your face if you are not careful.  Failure to review your own resume closely prior to interviewing can put you in an awkward position if you are not fully prepared to discuss everything on it.
Your Main Depository of Past Experience Answers: Since you have presumably highlighted many of the key things you would actually want to discuss on your resume, it is in essence, a primary source for your answers to past experience questions. Especially when I working with a client with limited English ability, I will tell them to practice explaining “Who What Why How When” questions related to their resume.
In addition, since you might get asked to “Tell me something about yourself that is not covered on your resume,” you can use the resume to figure out what that would be.

2. You need to be prepared to answer routine MBA questions. Most reported interviews simply consist of them. See my previous post on MBA Application Interview Strategy as well the list of questions below. You should expect to have to answer questions regarding teamwork (Examples where you demonstrated it, how you handled problems on teams, and how you would handle a low-performing team member in group work at Kellogg are common examples).  Be absolutely comfortable explaining core questions regarding fit (Why Kellogg? Why the Kellogg community is right for you?  Contributions?) as these always come up.   Be ready to ask questions and obviously make those questions fit to the person you are talking (admissions officer, student, or alumni).

3. Kellogg interviewers do not really ask any unexpected hypothetical and/or critical thinking questions,instead, as previously stated, you can expect more standard questions. My colleague, Steve Green, has collected the following common questions:

RESUME: Career
  • Tell me about yourself. / Walk me through your resume. PROBE ANSWERS
    • Tell me about [particular accomplishment]
    • Tell me about [particular promotion or change]
    • What is missing from your resume that you’d like to tell me about?
  • What led you to your first job?
  • What made you change careers? (+ Follow-up)
  • Why did you decide to switch into the field that you chose?
  • How have you grown over the years?
  • Tell me about what's challenging in your current role. (+ Follow-up)
  • Why did you choose ________________ for your career?
  • What are your current responsibilities?
  • What do you clients say about you?
  • What do you outside of work?
RESUME: Education
  • Why did you choose your undergraduate school?
  • Why did you choose your major?
  • Tell me something about your undergraduate experience?
  • What was your legacy at your undergrad school?
  • Why did you choose ________________ for your career?
  • What are your current responsibilities?
  • What do you clients say about you?
  • What do you outside of work?
  • Tell me about your teamwork experience.
  • Describe a difficult team situation you have had to deal with in the past?
  • Tell me about another teamwork experience.
  • What would you do when a team member wasn’t pulling his own weight?
  • What would your teammates say about you?
  • Discuss a team failure you were part of.


  • Who do you admire as a leader?
  • Have you held leadership positions at work?
  • Tell me something about your leadership experience?
  • Have you faced any challenges as a leader? How did you deal with them?
  • How has your leadership style evolved since college?
  • What kind of leader are you?


  • Why do you want an MBA?  
  • Why now?
  • Why Kellogg?
  • Are you good with numbers?
  • What are your goals?
  • How will Kellogg help you achieve those goals?
  • How do you envision yourself being involved in the Kellogg community?
  • What clubs will you participate in?
  • How will you enhance the diversity of the Kellogg class?
  • What unique contribution do you bring to Kellogg?
  • What other schools did you apply to?
  • If you got into all of them, which would you attend?


  • If you could hit the reset button, what would you do differently?
  • Anything that may be considered a weakness in your application you would like to explain or expand on?
  • How have you grown over the years?
  • What are your two main strengths?
  • What are your two main weaknesses?
  • If time and money were not an issue, what would you do?
  • What three words would you use to describe yourself?
  • Who is a good negotiator?
  • Have you ever been in a negotiation where it wasn't win - win, rather, win-lose or lose-lose.
  • What do people misperceive about you in first meeting?
  • If I asked your colleagues about you, what would they say? What feedback have you used to do better?
  • What questions do you have for me? / Do you have any questions for me?

4. Interviewers (adcom, students, or alumni) usually try to create a very relaxed interview atmosphere. As some adcom interviewers are 2nd year students, be aware that a campus interview might not be with an admissions officer. I know of a few instances when student interviewers were not necessarily that friendly to the applicant. In any case, this is an interview about fit (just like Kellogg Essay 3), so make sure you can explain in depth why you want to become a part of the Kellogg community and how you will contribute to it. Previous contact with alum, visits to campus, and/or intensive school research are all great ways to prepare. If you have not previously read my Kellogg essay analysis, I suggest doing so as it contains my analysis of Kellogg's culture.

5. Reported interview length could be from 30 to 60 minutes, with most reported interviews taking 30-45 minutes.

Best of luck with admission to Kellogg for Fall 2012!

-Adam Markus

I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.
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