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Sarah Ramsey, Director of Recruitment and Admissions of the full-time MBA program at the University of California Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business, gives a sneak peak into why the admissions committee ask the questions they do.

When it comes to MBA admissions interviews schools are not trying to trick or intimidate you but rather understand more about you, your application, and fit with the program. The most important thing to remember is be yourself.

Here are five interview questions, the reasons behind them and some tips on how to handle them:

  • Small talk – While this is not a specific interview question, the small talk at the beginning of an interview is crucial. Many times the first 10 minutes of an interview sets the tone. Small talk gives interviewers a sense of how well you interact with people, your ability to hold a conversation and how you might network – all of which are important skills in an MBA program. Do not underestimate the importance of small talk.
  • Tell me about yourself – There are multiple reasons for this question including; how you perceive yourself, what information you think is important for us to know and how your journey has led to the need for the MBA. Concentrate on your skills and experiences which directly address your path to the MBA. Keep your answers short.

Related: Online MBA Programs in Calfornia | Guide: Getting Started With Your MBA | Database: Search Top Online MBA Programs | Video: One Minute MBA


  • Example of a time you have adapted your communication style – In an MBA program you work with a variety of people from various disciplines and cultures. This type of question gauges several things including your reaction in the situation – were you professional?, how you approached the situation and found a solution. It’s important to know how to interact in a diverse community. By asking this question we’re hoping to get insight into how you would fit within our MBA culture. Think of some examples ahead of time, be prepared and be concise.
  • Why our school for your MBA? – Have you thought through how our program can help you be successful? Do we have the resources you need? And have you prepared for this interview? By knowing specifically why a school is a good fit for you and your MBA, you show your interest in the school/program and it tells us that you know we can help you reach your career goals. Additionally, it allows us to see how you might prepare for an interview with a company for an internship or full-time job. So the tip here is to prepare, prepare, prepare. Are you sensing a theme?
  • Goals (short term and long term) –The MBA is a big investment of your time, money and energy. We want to see that you’ve put appropriate thought into this path and where you want it to take you. Do your short-term and long-term goals align? Do you have a strong understanding of the industry and jobs you want to get into? It’s important to know yourself and your career goals and what resources you need to get there. Do your research on the industries and jobs that fit with your goals. Talk with people in the industry, read articles, search job postings, etc. If you don’t have a grasp of what you want to do, we’ll see that. The more you know, the more prepared you’ll be for the interview and the MBA.

–Alanna Stage, @AlannaTweets