How to Stand Out in Your MBA Interview at Berkeley Haas

Plus Example Questions from Past Interviews

Congratulations! Getting an interview invitation from Berkeley Haas is STELLAR news. Pulling off a successful interview is crucial if you want to stand out from the applicant pool, and in order to do that you need show them that you know (and love) what Berkeley Haas stands for.

Nailing the Berkeley Haas MBA interview goes beyond interview format and behavioral interview questions. You need to understand what their admissions committee is looking for in an MBA student. Haas puts a strong emphasis on diversity and conscientious leadership, so your responses should connect the dots between your leadership style, career goals, and the impact you want to have on campus and beyond.

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Wondering about the Stanford GSB interview instead? We put together everything you need to know about the MBA program at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business

Here are our key insights about the Berkeley Haas interview – including interview questions shared by past clients – so you can ace it on the big day and join Haas’s MBA community.

Note: This year, due to the ongoing pandemic, Haas is inviting applicants to complete a video interview/pre-recorded interview in lieu of campus interviews. Find out how to crush your Zoom interview.

1. Haas Leadership Principles

Know the four Defining Leadership Principles of Berkeley Haas.

The MBA interview process isn’t just about testing your emotional intelligence and verbal communication skills. Another main goal of the Haas interview is to help the Admissions Team get to know you better and determine whether you’re a good fit for its community.

Haas culture is strongly principles-driven. If you want to demonstrate your cultural fit with their program, be prepared to talk about the four Defining Leadership Principles of Haas in your MBA interview. Your interviewer might ask you, “What is your favorite Haas principle?” or “Can you tell me how you connect with Haas’s Defining Principles?” and you should be ready to knock that answer out of the park.

You can read about the four principles on Haas’s website, but we’ve also copied them for you below. As you review them, think about stories from your personal or professional life where you demonstrated these values:

  • Question the Status Quo – We thrive at the epicenter of innovation. We make progress by speaking our minds even when it challenges convention. We lead by championing bold ideas and taking intelligent risks.
  • Confidence Without Attitude – We make decisions based on evidence and analysis, giving us the confidence to act with humility. We foster collaboration by building a foundation of empathy, inclusion, and trust.
  • Student Always – We are a community designed to support curiosity. We actively seek out diverse perspectives as part of our lifelong pursuit of personal and intellectual growth. There is always more to learn.
  • Beyond Yourself – We shape our world by leading ethically and responsibly. As stewards of our enterprises, we take the longer view in our decisions and actions. This often means putting the collective good above our own interests.

2. Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Be ready to talk about your experiences with diversity, equity, & inclusion (DEI)

Haas is very committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus and in the community, so it’s almost guaranteed that your interviewer will ask you a question related to diversity and inclusion. Past questions reported by our clients include:

  • Tell me about a time you had to work in a team of people of diverse backgrounds.
  • Tell me about a time when you promoted diversity & inclusion, whether at work or through volunteering.
  • Haas values diversity and inclusion. Tell me about a time in your professional life when you think you showed a similar commitment.

When preparing the stories that you’ll draw from to answer diversity questions, consider how your inclusive actions also demonstrate fit with the Haas Principles.

Why? Check out how closely Haas’s statement about its DEI commitment aligns with its four leadership principles:

“We question the status quo, challenging the convention of who has been historically excluded in business and higher education. By increasing access to opportunities to thrive and feel valued, we are expanding what leadership has historically looked like, globally. Confidence without attitude allows us to seek out diverse perspectives, using a comprehensive approach to data and evidence, while fostering collaboration and trust. As students always, we recognize that we will always have more to learn about others’ lived experiences and group histories, but endeavor to continue on this journey in order to be more inclusive leaders. We acknowledge our positional power and leverage our influence to address barriers and drive change for positive impact.” 

If you really want to do your homework for this interview, read the school’s DEI Strategic Plan and close your response with an informed and thoughtful take on how you hope to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Haas community as an MBA student.

3. Behavioral Style Questions

Remember that conflict drives a good story, especially when you’re preparing for those behavioral questions.

You’re likely to get a couple of behavioral questions in your Haas interview, so brainstorm professional and personal experiences that reveal challenges you faced or conflicts you’ve dealt with.

Past behavioral questions include:

  • Tell me about a time you had to manage conflict in a team.
  • Tell me about a risk that you took and how you overcame any obstacles.
  • Tell me about a time when you disagreed with someone and what you did to address the problem.
  • Tell me about the most difficult period in your life (personal or professional).

When you’re answering behavioral questions, remember that conflict drives a good story. One of the most popular structures for answering behavioral questions is the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action, Result. It provides a decent structure for outlining the beginning, middle, and end of your story.

At Career Protocol, we encourage clients to use a slightly different framework called the 4 Cs: Context, Conflict, Choices, Change. With this method, you dig deeper into your story to bring out the more human elements – the heart of your story – and that pathos helps you build a better connection with your interviewer.

4. Teamwork Experiences

Reflect on your most impactful teamwork experiences and examples.

Teamwork makes the dream work at Berkeley Haas. The Haas MBA program is known for its close-knit and collaborative community, so you’ll likely get a question about your teamwork experience. In the past, clients have received questions like:

  • Tell me about a time you had to work in a team of people of diverse backgrounds.
  • Tell me about a time you had to manage conflict in a team.
  • Talk about a time when you had to inspire a team.
  • Tell me about a time when you led a team through uncertainty and kept up their morale. What was the situation and what were the outcomes?
  • Tell me about a time you drove change on a team when you weren’t the formal leader.

To prepare for these types of questions, brainstorm at least two good teamwork stories and another two stories highlighting your leadership experience or growth into a successful leader (the more the better, so you don’t burn through them too early in the interview and run out of examples). Then outline your talking points using the 4 Cs method.

Ideally, you’ll find a way to end your story on a lesson that you learned from the experience and how you grew into a better leader and teammate as a result.

5. The Weakness Question

Know your weakness.

Haas values self-aware leaders who know and are comfortable discussing their weaknesses as well as their strengths. Reflect carefully on what skills you’d like to improve on through your MBA education (e.g., strategic influencing, giving or receiving constructive criticism, zooming out to the bigger picture, delegating tasks as a leader instead of doing all the work, identifying and optimizing the strengths of teammates).

The Haas interview question about weaknesses could look something like this:

  • Share a weakness.
  • What is one personal trait or quality that you'd like to improve?
  • What's a weakness that you have and how have you mitigated it?

The best response to this kind of question frames weakness not as a personal flaw, but rather as a growth area, and demonstrates your willingness to embrace the Haas principle of “Student Always.”  

6. Confidence Without Attitude

Inspire them with confidence, and check your attitude at the door.

Another goal of the Berkeley Haas interviewer is to learn more about your ability to influence, persuade, and strategically influence your team, managers, and organization with Confidence, but Without Attitude (remember that principle?).

Brainstorm a few good workplace stories, and use the 4 Cs method to outline your responses to questions like:

  • Tell me about a time when you had an innovative idea and received pushback. How did you convince others to adopt your idea?
  • Tell me about a time when you had to influence a decision which was based on a foundation of trust.
  • Talk about a time when your ideas weren't accepted and how you handled it.
  • Tell me about a time when you disagreed with someone and what you did.

7. Risk & Innovation

Show them you’re a creative risktaker and innovative leader who isn’t afraid to question the status quo.

As we learned in their Defining Leadership Principles, the Berkeley Haas MBA program seeks to attract and shape innovative leaders: 

“At Berkeley Haas, we believe in developing a different kind of leader. Leaders who aren't afraid to think in new ways. Who champion bold ideas while taking intelligent risks. Who speak their minds and are not afraid to challenge convention. Who make decisions based on evidence and rigorous analysis along with an understanding of human needs and behaviors, and whose deep knowledge allows them to lead with confidence and without arrogance.”

So you could get a question about a time when you took a creative risk or Questioned the Status Quo. For example:

  • Tell me about a risk that you took and how you overcame any obstacles.
  • Tell me about a professional accomplishment that you achieved that was celebrated. How did you feel?
  • Tell me about a time when you had an innovative idea and received pushback. How did you convince others to adopt your idea?

To ace these questions about innovation, focus on the choices that you made in a given situation and be sure to describe your rationale for why you took the actions you did in response to a challenge.

8. Career Goal

Have concrete, detailed, and attainable career aspirations that you’re ready to share.

One topic that is guaranteed to come up in every MBA interview – including Haas – is your post-MBA career goals (think both industry and function) in the short and long term.

A strong and compelling career game plan has four elements:

  1. Long-Term Vision
  2. Medium-Term Targets
  3. Short-Term Tactics
  4. MBA Needs

Learn all about these four crucial elements:

YouTube video

In addition to your professional goals, other MBA interview questions you’ll likely encounter at Haas are:

  • Walk me through your resume.
  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why business school?
  • Why an MBA?
  • What do you hope to gain from an MBA?
  • How do you intend to grow through your MBA education?

9. School Fit & Impact

Have a strong answer for why you want to join the Berkeley Haas MBA community and how you will contribute to it.

If Berkeley Haas admits you to their MBA program, they are investing in your leadership potential to contribute to the collective good. Beyond gauging whether you’ll succeed in their program and achieve your career goals, they want to know that their program is your TOP choice and also that you:

  1. Are pursuing an MBA for the right reasons
  2. Have done your research about their program
  3. Will make a positive contribution to the Haas community, leaving it a better place 

In order to help admissions evaluate these aspects of your candidacy, the interviewer might ask you:

  • Why Haas? or
  • How do you intend to contribute to Haas?

These types of questions help them assess school fit, bringing us pretty much full circle! (Remember my opening tip about Haas culture and those four principles you should know?)

If you want to show Haas that they’re your top choice – and for good reason! – watch these videos on how to evaluate and communicate MBA readiness and school fit:

YouTube video
YouTube video

10. The Friendship Mindset

Finally, approach your interview with the Friendship Mindset.

While an MBA admission interview can feel intimidating, the best strategy is to forget about being perfect. You’re human, so be human! One of the best things about life is being able to connect with other humans, and interviews provide a great opportunity for that.

Instead of thinking of your interviewer as a scary gatekeeper to your desired goal, adopt the Friendship Mindset. The Friendship Mindset is simply this:

  • Imagine that you are already friends with your interviewer, and you are about to have one of many future conversations. Your only job in this conversation is to help your friend get to know you and your experiences a little better.

If you aim to create a valuable relationship with your interviewer by being your authentic self, you’ll reveal your personality, genuineness, and vulnerabilities.

For more on the Friendship Mindset (and other helpful admissions interview tips), check out my bestselling book, Interview Hero! It has helped awesome humans all around the world transform the interview experience from painful interrogation to enjoyable conversation.

Our final words? You’ve got this!! Be prepared. Be yourself. Get excited.

For weekly insights into the MBA application process, subscribe to the Career Protocol YouTube channel new MBA videos every Monday!

Picture of Angela Guido

Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder and
Chief Education Officer of Career Protocol

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