1st in a 5-part series on MBA interviews
‘Tell me about yourself.’
It’s a simple question, right? Yet, more often than not, several applicants trip over this interview staple. And, because it’s usually the first question asked, it sets the tone for the whole interview. In the event of fumbling the answer, it can potentially derail all your planning and preparation.
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. Instead of blinding them with a series of dazzling facts, aim to let them get a real snapshot of you. Whoever the interviewer might be, the onus is on you to present yourself efficiently, articulating cornerstones of your personality, significant events in your life and other vital pieces in a concise manner.
Here are some of the classic pitfalls of this seemingly easy interview icebreaker and how you can avoid them during your MBA interview:
- Avoid responding to the question with a chronological list detailing everything you’ve ever done academically and professionally. Beginning your response with, “Well, I was born in Delhi and I went to XX school, then I did this, then this, then this, I studied this and graduated top of my class from this prestigious college and then I did this internship…” isn’t a particularly compelling or illustrative way to present yourself. Think about it; what aspect of your unique personality does the listener really take away from this response?
- Instead of providing your interviewer with a timeline of your life, consider 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 had an idea to improve it, no matter how strong the resistance. You don’t need to start from birth to describe yourself–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 haven’t prepared an answer. So, practice with a few points you can lean on. Think about the central message you have conveyed about yourself in your essays. 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 how you negotiated with several companies to get the best sponsorship for your college festival. Or, discuss how due to your parents taking you on family vacations, travel has become a significant part of your life, leading you to push for more projects abroad with your company.
- If you are really stumped, poll a few close friends to find out how they would describe you. Ask them what stands out about you and what they feel someone must really know about you.
Remember, while the goal of this question is to break the ice, it’s also to get the ball rolling. Being able to connect with the interviewer right at the outset can improve the overall experience, not just for the interviewer, but for you as well.
While you’re preparing for your interview, read about how to approach a team-based interview here, find out the difference between admissions committee and alumni interviews here and figure out the best way to thank your interviewer here. For some general interview tips, read this blog.
If you require any more guidance, get in touch with us. Good luck preparing!