With the release of first-round interview invitations and the subsequent increase in pressure on MBA candidates, we are presenting a five-part series with our friends at mbaMission to help applicants decompress and thoughtfully manage the MBA interview process. In this fourth entry, mbaMission founder Jeremy Shinewald explains how to “spin” your stories to fit different interview questions.
Many MBA candidates try to memorize their interview responses in advance and unsurprisingly find themselves fumbling as they struggle to adapt to slightly different iterations of expected questions. So, we absolutely do not recommend memorizing responses, but instead suggest that you develop a mental list of stories that you feel are important for you to tell and then try to incorporate your strongest stories/strengths into your interview. If, for example, your experience as a youth soccer coach is an important story for you, you could work it into the interview as an example of leadership, teamwork, etc. when such a question is asked or these topics are raised. Your stories are far more flexible than you might realize and can be “spun” if need be.
Think of five to six key points (activities, personality traits, etc.) you absolutely want to be sure you get across during the interview. Then think about possible prompts to which you can “hook” those points. For example, if a hypothetical applicant spends one afternoon per week tutoring inmates for their GED, you might consider adapting your response to different cues as follows:
Tell me about a time when you demonstrated initiative.
Example: “I wanted to make a difference but wanted to move beyond just helping high school students. So I researched where the biggest need was in my area, and found a program that brings volunteers to prisons to…”
Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond.
Example: “For the past few years, I have been engaged in some meaningful service—teaching GED prep in a local prison. I was surprised to find that inmates were only allowed to attend one hour of extra tutoring per week. Recognizing that my students needed additional help, I devoted extensive time and effort to develop a series of math and vocabulary flash cards for them to use in between sessions…”
Tell me about a time when you had to motivate a reluctant person.
Example: “My best example I believe occurred outside the office, as part of my volunteer work with inmates studying for their GED. Although most of the inmates I tutor are very motivated, once in a while I work with someone who…”
We must clarify that we are not suggesting that you respond to three different prompts with the same story, but are merely attempting to illustrate how one important story can be flexible. By identifying your key personal stories and examining them from several angles before your interview, you can better ensure that you will find a way to share them during your interview.
Since Ambassadorial Speechwriter and MBA Jeremy Shinewald founded mbaMission in 1999, the firm has worked closely with business school candidates from around the world, successfully guiding them through the entire MBA application process ("From Start to Finish") and ensuring that their unique attributes are showcased in a creative, compelling and focused way. mbaMission senior consultants are published authors/elite communicators with top-MBA experience, who work one-on-one with applicants to help them discover, select and articulate the unique stories that will force MBA admissions committees to take notice. mbaMission collaborates with candidates on all aspects of their application, reducing stress levels and maximizing their chances of being admitted to the business school of their dreams.
mbaMission offers mock interviews using actual questions posed to previous applicants to their specific target schools.
Read Part 1: Your Interview Actually Wants to Know About You!
Read Part 2: What is the Interviewer's Approach?
Read Part 3: What If I Am Stumped?
Read Part 5: Appropriate Interview Etiquette