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The 4 Questions a Columbia Business School Interviewer will Ask You

A Columbia Business School alumni interviewer shares the secrets to answering some of those tough business school entry-interview questions.
BY Kavita Singh |   03-07-2014
Kavita Singh, Columbia Business School alumni Interviewer
As a graduate of Columbia Business School, an alumni interviewer for Columbia Business School and the CEO, of FutureWorks Consulting, an admissions consulting firm that works with students applying to top tier universities abroad, I can share multiple perspectives on the type of questions MBA applicants are asked during an interview.

We will look at two of the most common questions students are asked as well as two more quirky ones!

Why an MBA? Why now? Why this school?

Having already answered this question in the application, this should be a relatively easy question for you to answer. So, why do they ask this question again in the interview?

If the interview isn’t blind, which means that the interviewer has read your application, then expect to be asked more detailed, probing questions about your reasons for applying to an MBA program at this time. You need to go beyond your scripted answer and be prepared to get into details and depth about your reasons and rationale.

If the interview is blind, which means that the interviewer hasn’t read your application, then they will be focusing more on whether your reasoning is valid, and whether you really have done your homework about the school in question.

They may also ask you about what other schools you are applying to, in order to gauge where their school figures in the list.

Columbia University's Library; photo courtesy: www8.gsb.columbia.edu

In some cases, though very few, you may even be matched with an interviewer who works in the industry you come from. In such a case, the interviewer will want to see if you have really thought about how your past experiences, along with the MBA, will enable you to achieve your post MBA goals.

What would you contribute to our school?

While not every business school asks this question in the application, it is one that is very commonly asked in interviews. It is important that you think about how you can add to the business school community – from experiences or perspectives you have gained professionally or personally. You can’t stop there though – you need to think about how you will share this in the classroom and beyond. Could you propose a new class, a new club, a new conference or introduce a platform within an existing class/club/conference to bring in an additional perspective? If you haven’t done your research on the school, it will be immediately apparent to the interviewer. Your research doesn’t need to be limited to the web – often the best insights and ideas are gained by talking to current students and recent graduates.

Why shouldn’t we admit you?

There isn’t a single applicant I know who doesn’t dread being asked this question! Why wouldn’t they dread it – they just spent months crafting a bullet proof application. Luckily, it’s not asked that often. However, should you be faced with this question you really do need to answer it; you can’t simply get away with “I can’t think of any reasons”.

Columbia Business School; photo courtesy: www8.gsb.columbia.edu

Every applicant, even the best ones, have weaknesses and gaps. In answering this question, you need to demonstrate that you are aware of what those are, can fearlessly admit them, and have a plan for addressing them. For example, you could talk about how the MBA program will help to address these weaknesses or gaps.

Business schools want students who can learn and grow, not those who will be stunted by their inability to admit their failures.

What would you do on a free Sunday afternoon?

Most applicants tend to find this question stressful. Sometimes it is because the honest answer is that they would sleep or watch TV! So, how do you approach this? Well, it is being asked to better understand you as a person – what quirky interest do you have, what would you explore, what makes you interesting as a person and a future classmate. Ultimately they want a diverse student body, and that diversity can come from your personality and interests as well.
 

Kavita Singh holds an MBA degree from Columbia Business School and has a BA Honours degree from Oxford University. She has over 13 years of experience working in the United States and India, and is the CEO of FutureWorks Consulting (www.futureworks.co.in).

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