MBA Interview Prep 1: ‘Tell Me About Yourself’
1st in a 4-part series on MBA interviews
Tell me about yourself. It’s a simple question, right? Yet we find several applicants tripping over this interview staple more often than not. And, because it’s usually the first question presented to them by their interviewer, it can set the tone for the whole interview and derail all the planning and preparation you’ve done.
Overall the goal of any interview is to present the best possible version of yourself in a way that is appealing and engaging, not just impressive. It’s important to try and connect with your interviewer, so instead of blinding them with a series of dazzling facts, the aim is for them to get a real snapshot of what kind of person you are. Whoever the interviewer might be, the onus is on you to present yourself quickly, stressing some of the aspects you feel are cornerstones of your personality, events that have been significant in your life, and other vital pieces of yourself, in an articulate and concise way.
So let’s talk about some of the classic pitfalls of this seemingly easy interview ice-breaker and how you can avoid them when you find yourself in an MBA interview.
- Responding to the question in a chronological list detailing everything you’ve ever done academically and professionally may not be the ideal way to begin. Starting your response with, “Well, I was born in Delhi and I went to XX school, and then I did this, and then this, and then this, and I studied this and graduated top of my class from this prestigious college, and then I did this internship…” isn’t a compelling or illustrative way to describe yourself. Think about it – What about your personality does the listener really get from this response?
- Instead of giving your interviewer a timeline of your life, think about a few key events that are really important to you. Is your identity as a Delhi native vital to your sense of self? If so, talking about growing up there should be coupled with an explanation of how that has affected your character. Maybe growing up in a city has gotten you addicted to the fast-paced hustle, or growing up in a quiet village has given you a sense of zen. Maybe you’ve always had the drive to create social change, or decided to take over your family business because you knew you had an idea to improve it, no matter the resistance. You don’t need to start from birth to describe yourself, you should in fact start with what you feel is the best way for someone to get to know you.
- Part of what throws people off about this question is that they don’t have a prepared answer for it. So practice this one, and have a few points you can lean on to use. Think about your essays and the central message you are trying to convey. Are you a problem-solver? A community builder? Have you taken the lead on a lot of projects? Do you prefer to support others and create a strong team? Now, think about your life outside of work. How have you displayed those qualities? Have a few examples on hand, so you can comfortably talk about how you are a great communicator, highlighting your time negotiating with several companies to get the best sponsorship for your college festival. Or discuss how because your parents took you on family vacations, travel has become a significant part of your life and led you to push for more projects abroad with your company.
- If you really get stumped, try asking a few close friends how they would describe you. Ask them what about you stands out, and what they feel someone must really know about you.
Remember, the goal of this question is to break the ice, but it’s also to get the ball rolling. Being able to connect from the beginning of the interview can make the rest of the experience better, not just for the interviewer, but for you as well.
Good luck preparing!