How to Prepare for MBA Interviews – Expecting the Unexpected

Prepare for MBA interviews with this list of unexpected MBA interview questions.


Preparing for MBA interviews can seem fairly straightforward at first. All you need to do is bullet out and practice your answers to the standard MBA interview questions and you should be good to go, right? Hopefully so, but not always.

Why Preparing for MBA Interviews Is Not as Straightforward as it Seems

While interviews with members of the adcom may entail a certain level of consistency between candidates, this is by no means the rule (especially for places like HBS where interviews are highly personalized). It is less likely to be true if you are interviewing with an alum or current student, as they are generally given latitude to ask what they like so long as they can assess you according to the school’s designated criteria afterwards.  

So, how do you prepare for MBA interviews, including oddball MBA interview questions you never thought you’d be asked? At the end of the day, you can’t prepare for everything and that’s exactly why the interview is informative to assess your candidacy. Great leaders shine in the real world because they can think on their feet and respond well to an unexpected challenge. Reacting well to an unanticipated interview question is one small way you can demonstrate your potential to be a great leader.

That’s not to say that your MBA interviewer is trying to stump you, as nine times out of ten they aren’t. It might just be that they phrase a question in an unexpected way or ask for an example of a time that you have a perfect story for…if you hadn’t used it for your last answer (argh!).

As we said earlier, you can’t prepare for everything but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do what you can. Absolutely spend the bulk of your time on the most common MBA interview questions like your resume walk through, post-MBA goals, etc., but it’s also helpful to scan a list of the less common questions you might be asked and think about how you would answer them. In our experience, even 30 seconds of thought can result in a stronger answer than having to come up with something on the spot.

Unexpected MBA Interview Questions to Practice

With that in mind, here is a list of somewhat surprising MBA interview questions compiled from past clients and publicly available sources like ClearAdmit to help as you prepare for your MBA interviews:

  • What are some challenges you would face in your MBA?
  • Who are your firm’s biggest competitors and what is its competitive advantage?
  • What do you not like about your current company?
  • What’s your plan B if you can’t get the role you want after graduation?
  • What if, in five years, your target industry doesn’t end up as you expect it will. What will you do, and will that change your plans?
  • What are the three attributes a good team needs?
  • Tell me about a time you showed resilience.
  • What does equality and diversity in the workplace mean to you? (Note: we’re finding that nearly every program now includes a diversity-related question in its interview. Be prepared!)
  • Share your proudest accomplishment, either personal or professional.
  • What are the top three factors that led to your success?
  • What would you like your legacy to be at [X school]?
  • What is trust and how important is trust in our society?
  • Please tell me about three failures you have had.
  • If you could change one thing about your current company, what would it be?
  • Do you read for fun? What was the last book you read?
  • What was the most interesting conversation you’ve had recently?
  • What other schools did you apply to and why?

Another Type of MBA Interview Question to Consider

Clearly this list is far from comprehensive, but it is a start. Another place to focus as you prepare for MBA interviews is on any school-specific principles, concepts, etc. For instance, Fuqua is known to ask about ‘DQ’ or ‘decency quotient’, Haas may question how you’ve demonstrated its four ‘leadership principles’, and Tuck may ask whether you exhibit the ‘four characteristics’ that form the basis of its admissions criteria. These programs will expect you to be familiar with these concepts if you have done an appropriate amount of research.

Final Thoughts and What to Do if You Get Stumped

At the end of the day, please don’t stress if you get stumped. You’re human and your interviewer knows this – and has likely been in your same shoes! It is totally fine to take a pause to gather your thoughts, even if it means an uncomfortably long silence. Worst case, if you end up blurting out a jumbled answer, you can always address the situation in your thank you note and offer more cohesive thoughts (briefly, of course). 

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like some help to prepare for MBA interviews or with anything else related to your MBA admissions journey.

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