MBA Interviews, Part 5: “Why Do You Want An MBA?”

“Why do you want an MBA” and “why our school?” Simple enough questions, but they're one of the most important parts of the MBA interview. This is your moment to share your motivation and prove fit with the school. 

Check out the 25 MBA interview questions you need to prepare for on our website.

This is where it all comes together: your MBA personal statement, career game plan and all your research to this point come together for this make-or-break moment.

We're here all week with a video a day on how to ace your MBA interviews (and get over the terror of doing them). Angela has a whole bestselling book on interviews you can find here.

If you missed the beginning of our interview mini-series, find it here.

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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.

Welcome to the last video in our MBA Interview Questions and Answers miniseries. I'm now going to tackle the second most important question in your MBA interview, and that is, “Why do you want an MBA?”. But it's actually a bit more than just “Why do you want it MBA?”. I think of this question as a set of three questions.

  1. What are your post-MBA goals?
  2. Why do you want to need an MBA?
  3. And then finally, why do you want an MBA from our school?

Those three questions really work as a set. And if you think about how the essays are structured, those are the same underlying questions that appear in the personal statement. When the school is asking you to tell them what your future is and why their program is going to benefit you, it's the same basic idea you're looking ahead to your future career. You see what it is that you want. You see that the MBA is going to help you get there. And even more importantly, this school specifically and uniquely, is going to contribute to your success in the career and the future that you're creating. Remember I talked about having your goals for each question. Your goal for this question is to inspire them with the future that you're creating.

Post-MBA Goals

When Harvard accepts its applicants, in the email the first sentence is “We see in you a leader who will make a difference in the world.”. That is the impression that you want to create in each interview when asked “What are your goals? Why do you want an MBA? And why do you want to go to our school?”. That means that you need to have a very clear and compelling career game plan. If you've made it to the interview stage, chances are you presented a pretty solid career game plan already within the application itself. So you're going to want to build on what you said in the application and paint a more vivid and clear picture of the future you see for yourself. That means that your career game plan needs to have a few different components. It needs to have a vision. There needs to be some value, some community, and some method by which you intend to make a difference in the world. It's perfectly fine if your plan is to go into corporate finance, or investment banking, or into one of the industries that you or others might think is not the most impact-focused. This is not about having social impact, nonprofit, or those types of specific goals. Rather, it's about having a vision for the way in which doing what you want to do is going to contribute in some way to humanity. So, you need to figure out what is the pathway for you to make the contribution that you want to make. So, for example, if you want to become an investor, don't just talk about asset classes and the role you want to play within the firm. Think about what is your investment thesis? Vis-à-vis, the kinds of human outcomes that you want to create? Do you want to invest in companies that empower technology to aid efficiency and comfort in human lives? Do you want to invest in big corporations that are improving health care at the levels of populations? Do you want to invest in really small companies that have just an innovative and collaborative spirit? So that through the seeding of these new companies, you're helping create more newness and more fun and collaboration in the world. And this is just the angle that you need to consider if you're planning to become an investor of some kind. But each and every career path has its own version of how you're going to improve the lives of your fellow human beings. And you really need to think about that. You need to think about how does the work I want to do and that I'm going to do impact a specific community in what way and through what tools and vehicles. So, think about all of that, ideally, before you even submit your application. But leading up to the interview, you really want to make sure that this vision part of your career game plan is clear. Then you also need to have some tactical goals, the specifics of what you're going to do for your internship, post-MBA and beyond, to pursue this path towards impact. If the question is “What are your goals?”, then you're probably going to lay out your entire career game plan as part of a response to that question.

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Why Do You Want An MBA?

The next piece of the question is “Why do you want an MBA?”. And for most people, the answer to why they want an MBA is implicit in the discussion of their career path, because for a lot of people, you can't get there without an MBA. Or having an MBA is going to enable a pivot that wouldn't be possible otherwise. Or having an MBA will allow you to advance more rapidly, through the course of leadership that you want to pursue, than you otherwise could without an MBA. So the “Why an MBA?” question should ideally be implicit in the discussion of your goals, but it's worthwhile to expand a bit more on that in your thinking, and decide what are the three to four major areas of myself that I want to develop during my MBA? And when you're talking about why you want an MBA, it's really about the skills, the abilities, the experiences, and the network that you're going to develop to help you en route to your goals. So if I ask “Why do you want an MBA?”, you might have an answer that focuses just on those three or four ways in which you want to develop during your MBA as a response to that question.

Why Do You Want This MBA?

But if you think about it, you don't just want any MBA. You actually want this specific MBA. You want to go to this specific program. So I always think it's a great idea when you're answering the “Why an MBA?” question, that you include a discussion of why you want an MBA from that specific program. You can do both. You can talk about why you want an MBA generally, but then you can also just kind of roll into why you're most excited about this school. But you can also just take a step back and say “You know, let me tell you why I'm so excited about this program.”, and then just get right into what it is about that program that's going to help you achieve your inspiring vision for the future. And when you're talking about the school, you want to include a lot of dimensions of the program. You don't just want to say “Oh, it's going to help me build a network and it's got the best reputation in Silicon Valley”, for, say, Stanford. Because that's the shallow response. You're not engendering any connection between yourself and the member of the Stanford community with whom you're speaking. You want to show them that you've done your research, that you've processed all the different ways in which Stanford contributes to the lives of its students and its community, and then play back for them the pieces that are the most inspiring and relevant to you. So it's not like you're going to laundry list classes and clubs that you want to participate in, but you do want to show them that your insights into what the program offers go well beneath the surface.

Provide 3-In-1 Answer

And so if you put all three of these questions together, you might decide that you want to answer them all at once. If the question that comes at you is “What are your goals?”, you might lay out your career game plan and then say “And this is really why I need an MBA because…”, and then lay out your rationale for the MBA and how you want to grow in that program and then go right into why you want to go to that school, because that school is uniquely positioned to set you up for success in your goals in the following two, three, four ways. In addition to the “Walk me through your resume.”, which is the first question and therefore the most important, because it really sets the stage for the entire conversation, this is the second most important question because it really gets at the concerns and motivations of the interviewer. They're looking for people who really fit with their community. And it's in this set of responses – to the goals and why you want to go to this program questions – that you can really show them that you fully understand school fit, the culture, and that you're going to be a contributing member of that community. So be sure to do a lot of research in preparation for this question. I recommend that you structure a response that is logical and easy to follow. This is the one question where you're gonna be the most tempted to ramble, because once you start talking about the school, you're going to remember all these things that are exciting to you, and then you'll just go on and on and on and before you know it five minutes have passed and you have no idea where you started and the interviewer is completely lost. So the best thing you can do in preparation for this set of questions is to: outline your responses, think about what are the three ways in which I want to grow, and what are the few things I'm going to say about each one, and what are the three or four key areas of this community and school that I'm attracted to, and here are the few things that I'm gonna say about each one. Structure your responses in a logical way, and then deliver your response in a way that allows the interviewer to follow the answer to understand where they're at in the organizational timeline of the response, but that also makes them feel inspired by who you are, the future that you're creating and the opportunity that this school has to be a part of that success.

That's it for the MBA Interview Questions and Answers miniseries. I hope this was enlightening. I hope you got some new perspective in these videos that's going to allow you to really be yourself and shine in your MBA interviews. If you want more advice on how to prepare for any interview, so that you can really be yourself, please check out Interview Hero: How to Ace Your Interviews, Find Your Voice and Shape the Narrative of Your Life. It's almost 300 pages of tactical guidance, but also inspiration and framing, to enable you to tell any story about yourself and your life in the most inspiring way possible. Because the one thing that you can't fake in any conversation is enthusiasm and inspiration. If you're excited about who you are and about what you're creating in your life, the interviewer will be too. And that's the most that you can do to engender a sense of affinity and trust in you, so that the person who's having that conversation with you will leave the room and advocate for your success, for your admission into their program, and for you to be the person who gets the job you're applying for. If you’d like to partner with us in learning how to tell your story in any format, including the resume, the essays, the recommendations, and the interviews, please sign up for a free MBA strategy call with me or a member of my team. Once again, I'm Angela Guido with Career Protocol. Now go out and ace that MBA interview. I'm rooting for you.

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Angela Guido

Angela Guido

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

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