Mission Admission is a series of MBA admission tips; a new one is posted each Tuesday.
With interview decisions continuing to arrive, we thought it might be a good idea to discuss challenging interview situations. While most interviews are straightforward opportunities for the interviewer get to know more about the candidate's personal/professional background, goals, reasons for selecting a specific school and leadership/team experiences, some interviews vary dramatically and can include some peculiarities. What constitutes a tough interview?
1) Stoic interviewer: Some interviewers can be unemotional, refusing to give any indication whether the candidate is impressing him/her or not. Of course, when a candidate is under intense pressure, the lack of approval can be misunderstood as a sign of disapproval. The key in managing a stoic interview is to tune out the interviewer's lack of emotion; the candidate should be thinking of answers and should not be distracted by the interviewer him-/herself. Read the interviewer in real time can be challenging, and candidates should instead focus on showcasing their strengths.
2) Philosophical questions: Most candidates are ready to discuss their experiences and accomplishments, but many are not prepared to discuss their values and philosophy on life. HBS in particular likes to understand candidates' motivations and will ask questions like What is your motivation to succeed? What drives you? and What gives you purpose in life? The key to answering these questions is pretty simple: prepare for them in advance (after all, you are being warned right now!). You can't assume that all questions will be experiential.
3) Persistent questioning: Sometimes a tough interviewer will continuously delve deeper into a subject, for example, by asking, Can you be more specific about your goals? two times and after the initial question. These kinds of unusual pressure tactics can be disconcerting, but the key is to simply stay on topic. The interviewer is asking you about a subject that you know quite well, and that subject is you! So, again, by avoiding the distraction of the tactic and sticking to your agenda, you should be fine.
At mbaMission, we offer more interview advice via our Interview Guide, available in our online store, and through targeted mock interview sessions.