MBA Interviews, Part 2: How To Answer MBA Interview Questions

“Walk me through your resume” and “tell me about yourself” may seem like throwaway questions to get you warmed up in your MBA interview, but they're also your first impression to the interviewer. And first impressions are really, REALLY important!

This is your chance to frame yourself and your MBA candidacy in the best possible light for building a strong connection with the interviewer and making sure they'll go to bat for you when it comes to deciding who gets in to business school. How do you do that? Watch the video! 

We're releasing a video every day this week on MBA interviews, based on Angela Guido's bestselling book Interview Hero. Check it out!

YouTube video

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Hi, I'm Angel Guido. A career coach, an MBA coach, a former recruiter at the Boston Consulting Group, and a trainer and developer of MBAs worldwide to ace their interviews. I've got a bestselling book on interviews, and I'm here to walk you through the key MBA interview questions and answers that you're going to face on your MBA journey. Welcome to the Interview Hero MBA interview miniseries. Please subscribe to our channel. We have new videos every Monday to help you achieve your MBA dreams.

The Most Important Question!

I hope you watched the last video, which is perhaps the most important of the series, which is about MBA interview mindsets. Now I'm going to get into the most important question in any interview you're going to encounter. It's a little bit counterintuitive because most people think of this question as a throwaway. They think it's just something to get out of the way so that you can get into the meat of the interview. But it's the most important question because it's almost always the first question. And you know what they say about first impressions: you only get to make one. So now I'm going to talk you through how to answer the “Walk me through your resume.” question.

So in most interviews, job interviews and MBA interviews, the first question is a broad opening question to give both you and the interviewer the chance to get comfortable in the conversation, to get oriented to each other, and to begin moving the conversation towards your personal and professional experiences. So most interviewers will open with a question like “Walk me through your resume.”, “Tell me about yourself.”, “Walk me through your timeline.”, “Explain your chronology.”, “Tell me your story.” – questions like this. Broad questions that give you the opportunity to more or less summarize all your experiences and what you're doing in this room today, interviewing for this MBA program or – as the case may be – for this job. First and foremost, your goal in this question is to set the stage for your relationship with this person. It's the first interaction you're having with someone who, ideally, is going to become a friend. They're going to be a member of your same alumni community if you get into this program. They're going to be a professional friend, if you do this right. Many of my clients have gotten job offers after MBA interviews for precisely this reason. Because they build a connection with the interviewer and they do it from the first moment. So don't throw this question away. When someone asks you to walk them through your resume or to tell them about yourself, you want to have an answer prepared that really allows you to fully show them who you are and to do so through what's important, meaningful, and valuable to you. In the book Interview Hero, I have an entire chapter dedicated to this question because it's that important. And in the book, I lay out seven or eight different frameworks that you could choose from to walk someone through your resume, depending on where you want to put the focus. I'm not going to go through all those frameworks in this video, but the fact that there are seven or eight of them should be an indicator to you that there are a lot of different ways to approach this question, and you need to find the one that's exactly right for you.

This is how most MBAs walk someone through their resume:

  • They start with a little bit about their choices in college, maybe where they went to school, what they majored in.
  • Then they explain their first job and why they chose it
  • Then they explain a little bit about what happened in their first job, maybe what they learned, maybe one big thing they contributed.
  • Then they move on and say why they moved into their second job.
  • Then they explain a little bit about their second job and maybe what they learned, what they contributed, and then they move on if there’s a third job.
  • Similarly, why they chose the third job and what they learned, what they did in that job.
  • And then they usually, typically will end it right there.

Now what works really well about this framework is that it does give the listener, the interviewer, a very clear chronological layout of your career to date. So I probably don't need to say that you're not going to literally pick up your resume and walk the person through each thing on there. But part of the intention of this question is to give the interviewer the lay of the land in terms of all the different things that are going to come up in this conversation so that you're introducing your background in a structured and clearer way so that the interviewer can follow it.

The Why Line – How Most MBAs Respond

This response, which I call the “why line”, starting with your choices, why you made them, and then what happened afterwards, is actually a pretty good framework for an MBA interview “Walk me through your resume.”.  The problem is that it centers on making big choices and making big changes, and the vast majority of MBA applicants haven't really done that. You've had one job or maybe two jobs, and the transition between those two jobs was actually really obvious. So there's not even that much to say about why you went from one place to the next. And maybe you've seen you've had seven different jobs and you've made seven different choices. That's not going to work because you don't have time to talk through all of those different choices. Not only that, but it's sort of the most mundane way to explain your background is to explain the different changes and the different choices that you made. And even if you have had three jobs – so this structure could technically work for you – it may not be the best way to highlight what you most want the interviewer to focus on.

What Do I Want This Person To Know Really?

So when you're starting to approach the walk me through your resume the thing you want to ask yourself is, what do I most want this person to know? This is going to be a new friend of mine. How do I want to be known to this person who potentially is going to become an important person in my network? And for many people, it has nothing to do with the job titles and companies they've worked for. The thing you want the interviewer to know is that you're passionate about mentoring and educating others, or you want them to know that no matter where you go, you try to improve processes both big and small. Or maybe you want them to know that the core value that you've held in everything that you've done throughout your career is about the planet, it's about making the world more sustainable. Perhaps you've lived parallel lives. You've had a really robust career in your day job. But on the side, you've done a lot of interesting things that are just as, if not potentially even more, important to you. How does all of that fit in to the line where you're just describing your choices? You need to choose a framework for the “Walk me through your resume.” that allows you to showcase the most meaningful and important things about yourself.

Construct Your Answer

Once you've decided the most important thing that you want your new friend to know about you, then construct a “Walk me through your resume” that allows you to accentuate that thing. Or maybe those two or three things. At most, it's gonna be two or three things. It won't be more than three things. The “Walk me through your resume.” should be anywhere between two to five minutes. If it's a 30 minutes interview, ideally, you're going to want to stick closer to two minutes. If it's an hour-long interview, taking four or five minutes to walk someone through your resume is no big deal. But here's another secret of interviews. The interviewer is not a timekeeper. They're not timing your answers. So while you'll hear the advice that you want to stick to two minutes on every answer, this is only loosely a useful guideline. The truth is, if the conversation is interesting and the interviewer is engaged in what you're saying, it doesn't really matter how long you talk for. Now, this advice varies school to school. So when we talk about the Harvard interview, which is only 30 minutes, confined to a very narrow space and where you need to be very concise and direct in your responses, the shorter the answer, the better. We'll talk all about that when I get into point blank questions, because usually the Harvard interviewer doesn't even ask you to walk them through your resume because they've already read the whole thing. So when you're walking someone through your resume, you want to make sure that you're really telling the story of how you came to be sitting in this chair today applying to business school. So to the framework that gives you the best opportunity to do that.

Interview book

Interview Hero: How to Ace Your Interviews, Find Your Voice, and Direct the Narrative of Your Life

This book is your guide to crushing interviews of any kind and to inspiring yourself with your own story.

Download two free chapters here.

If you want to read more about frameworks to walk someone through your resume, check out the book Interview Hero. And here's one last tip that I usually recommend to most people: end the “Walk me through…” with the present moment. The present moment is you're sitting here interviewing for Kellogg, for Boothe, for Dartmouth Tuck. You're in conversation to enter the MBA, so end the conversation with why you're so excited to be there and perhaps even give them a little bit of foreshadowing about why you're pursuing an MBA in the first place. That question is coming soon and you need to have a really robust answer to why you want an MBA and why you want to go to this school, but alluding to it at the end of the “Walk me through…” is a really great way to connect with the interviewer. Because what are they for? They're here to decide if you belong in this MBA program or not. So your answer will inherently be relevant to them if you end it with why you're here, why you're excited to be here, and why you are eager to be a member of their community. Next up is in this interview miniseries: Behavioral Interview questions.

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Angela Guido

Angela Guido

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

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