You can network with tons of people, have the most amazing resume, and even write a world class cover letter, but at the end of the day all of those factors are just precursors to an interview. Once you step into the interview room, all of that prior recruiting investment for your dream job will go to waste unless you can nail your company interview. During your MBA career, the interviews you experience will definitely not be the same as the interview you did to get your undergrad job or the one you completed to get into business school. You’re facing a new level of competition now. Companies expecting to hire one only one or two students will have interview lists teeming with solid, experienced candidates.
Regardless of whether they admit it, most interviewers will make their decision about you within the first few minutes after shaking your hand. Your success in this capricious process will be the primary determinant of your satisfaction as an MBA student.
Have Answers Prepared for the Main Behavioral Question Types
While there are an infinite number of ways to ask them, most behavioral questions fall into twelve major categories. Behavioral questions typically start off with “Tell me about a time you…” and then continue with one of the categories below:
- Analytical Problem Solving
- Results Orientation
- Collaborative Team Skills
- Dealing with Conflict
- Dealing with Ambiguity
- Disagreement with Your Boss
- Mistake or Failure
- Greatest Weakness
- Dealing with an Ethical Issue
It’s important to develop and refine a story example for every one of these categories, as trying to come up with one during the actual interview is very risky. When coming up with examples to cover these categories, you’ll definitely have overlap as certain situations apply to more than one question type.
Use a Story Tracker to Ensure Coverage
The MBA Excel Story Tracker is a tool I built to ensure that I had stories to address all of main question categories as well as questions from specific companies. Please click here to download the tool.
Not having adequate “story coverage” is a problem that many students run into. For example, you might run into a situation where one of your favorite stories covers both “dealing with ambiguity” and “biggest mistake,” and your interviewer happens to ask both questions during the interview. Having at least two stories per core question category will greatly reduce the odds of drawing a blank.
I originally used the story tracker offered by Anderson recruiting, which is a matrix of the main question types against context. For example, “dealing with ambiguity” in a “school project.” The problem with this matrix was that I found that context specific questions during the recruiting process were actually quite rare; they don’t really care if your story is from work or school.
Go With Your Best Stories First
When thinking about story coverage, some people hold back on using their best stories because it’s the only story they have for one particular question type. For example, someone might have a story that fits really well with multiple behavioral questions, but since he has no other story that applies to the “failure example” question, he saves it just in case the interviewer asks him that question.
While it’s true that interviewers prefer that you use different examples for each question, strategically this is the wrong way to approach your interview. Your biggest fear shouldn’t be having to give a weak answer to one or two behavioral questions. What you should really be worried about is simply not being remembered.
For a first round interview, you’ll likely be competing against anywhere from 10 – 30 other candidates. If you don’t tell memorable stories that make you stand out, you’re probably not going to be asked back for the next round.
Additionally, while first round interviews last anywhere between 30 – 60 minutes, it’s surprising how fast they go. There are only so many stories you can tell before the interview is over. If you go in with the mindset of saving your big guns for the most appropriate time, you’ll likely never get to use them.
This is why you should play offense and not defense. Your best stories typically apply to the most categories so you should work to get them out as soon you have the chance. Remember that your biggest enemy in a first round interview is the memory capacity of the interviewer.