MBA Mock Interview! Live MBA Interview Prep with a Real MBA Applicant

Finally! The long-requested live mock MBA interview with Angela Guido (and plenty of MBA interview tips thrown in for good measure). This HUGE video covers how to look good on zoom, what to wear, how to establish yourself, convey enthusiasm and school fit, behavioral questions, “I” vs. “we”, and how to deal with the dreaded poker face!

Along the way, we pass a veritable smorgasbord of MBA interview questions including:

  • Hello! And, what are we doing here?
  • Walk me through your resume
  • What do you want to do after business school?
  • Why MBA?
  • Why Booth?
  • Tell me about a time you overcame a challenge with a team
  • Failure questions

As well as useful interview tips on:

  1. Framing: Speak to your interviewer at eye-level. Remove the “empty space” above you.
  2. Dress Code: Look sharp to feel more confident
  3. Establishing Yourself: Use the first general question to present yourself the way you want to be known.
  4. Passion: Make sure the interviewer can see how much you care and how driven you are.
  5. Behavioral Questions: Tell a story with a conflict that your choices overcome
  6. Grammar: Personal “I” stories are more compelling than impersonal “you”.
YouTube video

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Anthony: Hi, this is Anthony. I'm currently working at the Deloitte, Tokyo office. I'm originally from China. I’ve lived in the US and now I'm living in Tokyo. Thanks so much, Angela, I really enjoy your time and I hope everybody can sign up to your show.

Angela: Hi, I'm Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol, and today I am doing a mock interview with an applicant to the Booth School of Business. I wrote a book called Interview Hero. And if you want insights on how to master the art of storytelling and ace any interview ever, please check out my book. If you're interested in working with a Career Protocol team to prepare for your interview in the style that I'm about to do with Anthony, please sign up for what we call our Interview Excellence Package. I think that's what we call it, but it's a chance to work one on one with a Career Protocol instructor on your MBA or job interview so that you can really make a connection and put your best foot forward. Let's see how it goes with Anthony. So first thing I want to say is congratulations for getting invited to interview at Booth! I think you have a really cool profile, and I have to say, like, as a member of the Booth community, as a Booth alum, I'd be very happy, I'd be very proud to have you as a member of our community. And I'm pretty sure that the admissions committee feels that way as well, which is why you're in this position. So, you should feel very good about where you are. And really, congratulations on making it this far.

Anthony: Thank you so much.

Angela: You're welcome. Now, your interview is tomorrow. So given that we don't have a lot of time, I'm going to take a pretty light touch in this conversation. What I usually find is that there's a big range of what you can do in the interview that actually works. There's not, like, a perfect way to do it or the right way to do it. And so since you don't have so much time to change around everything, I'm not going to give you too much to worry about, but I am going to help you tweak those very most important questions that we know for sure are going to come up so that you feel confident that you're ready to put your best foot forward.

Anthony: Okay. I appreciate it.

Angela: Yeah. So before we actually get into the questions, let's do a little bit of, like, aesthetic check-in here. So is this where you're planning to be sitting during the interview?

Anthony: You mean like this background? Yes. This will be the place I'm going to be sitting for tomorrow's interview.

Angela: Okay. So this isn't terrible, but I have a video about how to set yourself up for a Zoom call. And there's a couple of things that are suboptimal here. The first thing is you're looking down. You see how you're looking down on the camera? So ideally, put your laptop on some books so that — there we go — so it's a subtle subconscious psychological difference to be looking at someone equally versus to have someone looking down or looking up. So this is already much better and your lighting now looks pretty good, actually. I can see your face and the background is dark, which is fine. You might want to tidy up. It doesn't look too bad, but you might want to move some things around.

Anthony: I have a door over there, so I can actually close it.

Angela: Perfect. Yes, perfect. But this looks good. You look friendly. Obviously, you're going to wear something a little more professional, but this looks good. Okay.

Anthony: Okay. So a t-shirt wouldn’t work?

Angela: I mean, my recommendation is to just look sharp.

Anthony: Okay.

Angela: Don't you just feel better when you look sharp?

Anthony: I think so.

Angela: I got dressed up for this, and this is just a mock because you want to really feel confident. So for some people, that's literally a suit and tie, maybe it's a jacket and a nice shirt, but at least look sharp and feel good. Feel good about how you are. And then notice how the camera is framed so when you set yourself up tomorrow, you want to have your head kind of like close to the top. It could be even closer than it is now, but definitely not less close than it is now. You want to be taking up most of the frame so that I feel like I'm talking to a person and not like all the way down here. So I've stalked your interviewer on LinkedIn, and we actually have some shared connections. So this is someone who is obviously a member of the Booth community, recent alum, and someone who works at one of the consulting firms that you want to work at post MBA. So what I usually tell people to expect with alumni, especially younger alumni, it's probably going to be a very friendly, very cordial conversation. They're probably not going to grill you. They're probably not going to go super hard on the consulting-style interview. But at the same time, because Booth interviewers are given a little bit of creative license to just do it their own way. When I see someone who works at a consulting firm, I want to make sure that you're prepared for a consulting style interview, which is going to be more behavioral type questions like “Tell me about a time you let a team.” and so forth and so on. The Booth interview is typically going to have at least one or two of those, but for someone who works at Bain, BCG, or McKenzie there might be a few more. So we'll practice at least one of those to make sure that you're ready for the behavioral questions. But in general, in a Booth interview, there's really two questions that you just want to be ready to nail out of the gate. The first is the “Walk me through your resume.”, which is where we'll start, and the second is the kind of conglomerate of “What are your goals?”, “Why an MBA?”, and in particular, “Why Booth?”. They really want to know that you are a Booth kind of guy. So we're going to do all that. That's where we'll start. Shall we just start with the walk me through your resume?

Question: Walk Me Through Your Resume.

Anthony: Sure. So thanks so much for taking the time, first of all. My name is Anthony, and I was born in China and then moved to the US ten years ago for graduate studies at USC and Columbia University. While working as an intern at the Brookings Institution, I got connected to a director from Japan and moved to Tokyo to join the consulting industry here. I stayed with the Accenture for a year while working on projects related to consumer experiences and I got connected to my former manager. He very kindly introduced me to Deloitte, and that's where I am. I've been working as an innovation strategy consultant in Deloitte for five years.

Angela: Okay. Now first question, how long do you think that was?

Anthony: I think it's 30 seconds.

Angela: It was a little more, I want to say probably close to 40 seconds. But quite short, for a walk me through resume, and I have a particular philosophy about the walk me through your resume, if you’ve watched my videos about this. Do you remember? What's my philosophy?

Anthony: For the resume I haven't watched it yet.

Angela: So that's okay. I'm going to teach you right now. So I really believe that this is in some ways the most important question because it's the first one. So your interviewer will be coming in, probably from some other meeting. They're distracted. They have to take a minute to get settled into the conversation. So they're not really running the show just yet. They're just kind of like, all right, tell me something so that I can get present. So whether they ask you to walk them through your resume or “Tell me about yourself.” or some other just general question, like “What's your chronology? or “Tell me about your career.”, some general question to ground the conversation. You don't just want to answer the question directly, you really want to take this opportunity to take complete ownership of the conversation and how you present yourself to this person. And so having read your essays and having looked at your resume, I would say that answer that you just gave me was terrible because it doesn't even come close to capturing what an interesting and amazing person you are. So, if you go back and watch my video I talk about a few different potential approaches to the walk me through your resume. I think the one you're going to want to use is some version of a thematic focus. And I'm going to take a lot of liberties here, so feel free to reject anything I say, but I think you're going to agree with what I'm saying. To me, if I think about what is the unifying theme of your career, like, what are you all about? I think you're really all about public welfare, public well-being. And I'm talking about your advocacy work against sex trafficking, your health care focus, the fact that you did public policy work already, and the fact that your goals are all like healthcare, healthcare, healthcare. Your essay was super detailed. It's like “I'm a healthcare dude. I'm going to get into the science of it. I'm going to grow this business.”. You're actually on a specific mission. You're not just some random consultant, you know what I mean?

Anthony: Yeah, that's what I want to do after the MBA.

Angela: Yeah. Well, and you've done some healthcare projects at Deloitte, no doubt.

Anthony: Yes, I did. I was leading a Covid-19 project throughout the whole year.

Angela: Yeah, exactly. So if I'm thinking about how do you want to be known to this person who's potentially going to be like a permanent member of your network if you go to Booth? And even if you don't, you're building a friendship here and this person works at a company you want to work at in the geography that you currently work in. So this is like a new friend that you're making here. So you want to think about, like how do I want this person to know me? So if I were to just quickly outline a high level answer for you, what I would say is something like this. You say: Well, I was born in China, studied in the US, now I'm working in Japan. But the most important thing to know about my career is that I've really been looking for the unique place that I'm going to make my mark on public welfare, and it started with blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And now you might talk about your personal experiences here, or you might just say it started with my work at the US State Department. It started with my master’s. You kind of want to bound it in whatever way makes the most sense to you. And actually, just a second, let me get your resume back in front of me. You go back probably it's the State Department is where you want to start and your master’s. And so: My first kind of passion was blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. This is what I did in this role. I got my master’s in this thing, and I really, really enjoyed this. I found it excellent in all these ways. But then I had the opportunity to move to consulting, where I saw the potential to have an even greater impact on a variety of different companies by serving as an advisor. And so through my career at Accenture and now at Deloitte, I've had the opportunity to be involved in ABC types of projects, but really the most meaningful ones for me have been focused on healthcare, such as, in the last year, I blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, Covid project, talk about the impact that you had and then say: And in fact, my goals, I've now kind of figured out where I want to make my mark, and it really is in the healthcare space, and so my goals are to continue on in healthcare-focused consulting, and then eventually return to run my family's healthcare business. And so that's why I'm applying to Booth and I'm just so excited to speak with you today.

Anthony: Yeah, that's brilliant.

Angela: You see what I did there? It's like you're taking a position about who you are and how you want to be known. You're not just, like, going through the motions.

Anthony: Okay, yeah. I think I was, like, doing it chronologically.

Angela: And there's nothing wrong with doing it chronologically. So your answer was what we call the “why line”. So it was where you started, and then why you made the first move and then why you made the second move. But your answer left a lot of points on the table because first of all, it didn't bring that whole, like, what you care about. None of that was in the answer at all and that's so important. So important to put your values and your passion and your sense of purpose in the front, because otherwise, how are they going to know? And that's what makes you unique. Like when I read your essays, when I look at your profile, you're an Asian dude who's a management consultant who's pretty smart. But that's not what differentiates you. What differentiates you is where you've chosen to make a mark. And in some cases, frankly, you've done it at great personal risk to you, and that may not be part of the walk me through, but that is part of who you are. So that all needs to come across.

Anthony: Okay.

Angela: Do you want to try it again? Kind of with my outline? Just give it a shot. It's okay if it's messy, but I want you to have at least one chance trying it, and then you can go back and I'll share this recording with you. You can go back and watch my outline and then practice it again. Okay. So go ahead, Anthony. Let's pretend that we're starting meeting you again. Anthony, great to speak with you. Why don't you just start by walking me through your resume?

Anthony: Yeah, sure. Thanks for your time today. So this is Anthony. I'm currently working in Japan, and I just want to share with you that one of my biggest passions is in healthcare, and the main reason why I developed such a huge passion for healthcare is because of the past projects that I did at Deloitte. And at Deloitte, I was leading a lot of projects in healthcare. For example, designing a customer strategy, built subscription businesses, and also consulting for new business development collaborating with startups. So I got exposure to many types of projects and based on those experiences, I finally found my passion in healthcare, where I believe my work can make a great social impact in the future. But before that, I was working in Accenture for a while. But before I started working, I studied in the US. I'm sorry, I studied in China and then moved to the US. So I had this global vision about how I can create social impact through many different lenses. So that's me.

Angela: Okay, so it was different from my outline, obviously but that's okay! How did it feel to you? How did that answer feel to you?

Anthony: I feel it's okay. It's not good enough.

Angela: So people always say that. Did it feel better or worse than the first one?

Anthony: Maybe better than the first one.

Angela: Why? What felt better about it?

Anthony: I was trying to give you a point. Like what I really want to talk about instead of just like presenting all the information on the table.

Angela: Yeah. I thought for me, as the receiver of that answer, it was a lot stronger. It was a lot stronger. First of all, your demeanor, like you were more relaxed, you were just talking about your life. There was more just like presence and authenticity there, which is really important. And I also got a sense of like, okay, this guy cares about stuff. He cares about healthcare, and he's done consulting. And so there's more to probe on here. You've given me much more to work with as we go forward. So I think between now and tomorrow, what you want to do is write an outline for your walk me through, and I always recommend that you use bullet points. Don't write the whole thing out. So it's like point one, trying to find a way to have an impact, if you go with my previous outline. Point two, first early stages of my career, master's degree and the State Department. And then second or third bullet is working, consulting, and exposure to different industries and trying to find your place. And then fourth is finally healthcare and loving that and what you've done there. And then fifth is your future. So I always think it's a good strategy to end the first question to walk me through with, why are we having this conversation? It just shows a kind of sensitivity to the other person where you're like, “And here's why I'm excited to be talking to you right now.” like here's why this conversation even means anything. Because our goal — and hopefully this is clear from the other videos you've watched — your goal here is to really form a relationship with this person, to make yourself known, and to just show them who you are and what you care about because you've already cleared the qualifications bar. If you've been invited to interview, it's because they think you're good enough. You have the stats, you have the resume, you have the raw material of your career to be ready for business school. So now they're just trying to understand, is this somebody that we want to have in our community? Is this somebody that we want to hang around with and have in our class? And so it's actually quite personal. It doesn't mean you have to talk about personal stuff. It just means that the decision is being made on a human basis, not on a fact-checking basis. Does that make sense?

Anthony: Yeah, of course. Because I watched your video and I think you made a really good point saying school fit is more important than any time ever. So, yeah, I’ll definitely bear that in mind.

Angela: Yeah. Good. And so you nailed the school fit part of the essays. So your first essay was exceptional, very detailed, very thorough. So they already are going to be favorably predisposed to bringing you in, and now it's really just does your interviewer feel good about you? Do they like you? Do they want you to be a part of the Booth community? Yeah. So really work on that question because you want to come out of the gate just, like feeling really good, like really being present, really showing something about who you are. Makes sense?

Anthony: Yeah. Got it. Thanks so much.

Question: What Do You Want To Do After Business School?

Angela: Good. Okay, so now let's move on to the next kind of set of questions, which is: “What are your goals?”, “Why do you want an MBA?” and “Why Booth?”. And so I'm just going to kind of go through them one at a time, recognize that they could theoretically come in any order. So you'll want to be prepared to roll with the punches but let's just start with your goals. So, Anthony, tell me what you want to do after business school.

Anthony: Sure. So in the long term, I plan to join my family business as a CEO and make my family business a global leader in the bioengineering industry. And also I want to build my own company, which may be in the form of a subsidiary of my family business, to develop cure and treatment for HIV and infectious diseases. In the short term, so in order to achieve the long term goals, I'm thinking of joining a strategy consulting firm after my MBA like BCG or McKinsey, because they have this specialized healthcare consulting for me to build that knowledge in the healthcare industry and also build a connection to the industry.

Angela: Okay. How was that for you? How did that feel?

Anthony: I think it's okay.

Angela: How would you improve it? If you feel like it was just okay, what would you do to make it better?

Anthony: Maybe build the connections between the short- and long-term goals.

Angela: So just say more. Say more about that.

Anthony: Okay. So basically, to achieve the long-term goals, I want to understand how a successful company would actually operate. So I need to know every part of the business, starting from corporate strategy, business development, finance, operations, supply chain, anything about that. But since I'm a strategy consultant right now, I have no experience in that part of the business. So I want to deepen my expertise through working on several healthcare consulting projects with my clients to really understand that industry and the business.

Angela: Okay, interesting. So that was solid. All right? That was a good — one of the things you want to notice is that you're quite good off the cuff. I've asked you two questions that you weren't prepared for, but you did really well. Okay. So you should feel quite good. A lot of MBA interviews is just like curveballs and just being able to answer a question on the fly, and that's not really a skill that I can teach you in an hour so it's good that you already have that skill. You're doing really good. Okay. The thing that confused me about that answer from a content perspective is that you're already a consultant and so you haven't gotten that experience, but now you want to become a consultant to get that experience. So that's a little bit tenuous. Is it because the current place you work doesn't do a lot of healthcare work? Is that the issue?

Anthony: Yeah so let me help you understand the context. So I'm a strategy consultant at Deloitte. We are not specialized in any industry, so we are taking in any industry projects with any teams. So currently I have experience in healthcare, but also in energy, automobile, consumer business. So very broad, but not specialized enough.

Angela: Now the thing to understand is that in your first year or two at BCG or McKinsey, you're going to be forced to be a generalist anyway. You know that, right? So it's okay to say that you hope to specialize, but just show that you understand how things work. So you say: I very quickly, after joining an elite strategy consulting firm such as BCG or McKinsey, hope to really specialize and go deep into healthcare, and in particular focus on biotech and new healthtech companies that are changing the playing field, and really just get exposure to all the different functions and sort of problems that these businesses are facing through my work as a consultant in the next several years, post MBA, and that will prepare me then to transition into a leadership role within my family business and et cetera, et cetera. Okay? So now you put the long term first, which works quite well here, because that is your driving passion. You are working towards the long term. The short term, I think, is really just your best guess about what's going to get you there most efficiently. And so the thing that you're sure of is the long term, so that's an appropriate thing to put first, I think that was a good call in the way you approach the answer. So in addition to just a little bit more connecting the dots, which you did here in that second answer, the only thing I'd love to see in this answer is just a little more passion. I know it's hard because we just started, right? It may or may not be the second question. There may be some other questions that come in between like, you might get some behavioral questions mixed in. Booth interview is a little bit wild west. They're true to the free market principles through and through, they kind of let interviewers make a lot of their own choices. So you could get any number of questions that you can't possibly prepare for and they may or may not be the first or second question. But here we are talking about what you're genuinely passionate about. I just want to see a little more of that passion come across. And you can even do it like, so you just walked me through your resume, right? And you said, healthcare. So now you can say: As I mentioned, I'm committed to healthcare. I'm incredibly passionate about this space and about using my career to advance technologies across a variety of dimensions that really improve people's lives. So in the long term, my family runs a business, it's a blah, blah, blah kind of business, and in the long term, I plan to return and be the CEO of this company and grow and expand it in a few different directions, including blah, blah, blah, HIV curable diseases, these things that you said, okay? However, given that I’ve only been a strategy consultant, I don’t feel in any way prepared to really run an operating company right now. So that’s why I’m applying to business school. First, to get this broad exposure to all the different functions of business, and then I intend to return to consulting after my MBA but I hope to join a McKenzie or BCG, where, after a year or two of being a generalist, I can really focus on healthcare and really build experience across a variety of different functional issues and go deep in the healthcare space so that after a few more years in consulting, I've really built not just the inner confidence to lead a business, but the cross-functional expertise and exposure that I'm going to need to run a large company. So that's my plan. You can just stop talking at that point. You don't have to have a coda at the end, but just make it yours. Give me a little more of the like, “Yeah! This is what I'm doing. I'm excited about it!”.

Anthony: Okay.

Angela: You don't have to force it. I'm not trying to get you to change your personality, but having read your essays, I know you're very serious about this. You're extremely passionate about it. So let your interviewer feel a little bit of that.

Anthony: Okay.

Angela: All right? But the answer was good. The content was good. Okay. So my next question for you and, now, if you had given the answer the way I just said it, it kind of preempted the question, “Why an MBA?”, because you kind of already answered it if you gave my answer. So my guess is that if you give an answer that's a little bit like the one I gave, he may not even ask “Why do you want an MBA?”, but since I'm going to go based on your answer so let's just imagine that the next question is Why an MBA?

Anthony: Sure. So first of all, I believe that I'm having this knowledge gap. So, since I want to have that expertise in healthcare and I really love consulting and I enjoy working in consulting and that's part of the reason why I'm planning to return to consulting, but since my passion is healthcare consulting, I want to have that expertise equipped when I return to the healthcare consulting practice. So that's sort of like the first and foremost reason why I need an MBA education at this moment. And the second thing is it really serves my long-term career goal. So I was telling you that in the long term, I want to run my own company. So I want to have that holistic knowledge across corporate functions, starting from corporate finance, strategy, operations, product development, so that I can really understand how healthcare is discovered and delivered to the patients, and I will also be able to understand by taking some of the professors’ curriculum, like healthcare economics, to really understand how different healthcare systems operate globally. So having those two big pieces of knowledge of how a company can really operate and also the expertise in healthcare, I believe this MBA education will help me become a successful leader in the future.

Angela: A tongue twister — successful leader. Okay! How was that? How did that answer feel to you?

Anthony: I think that answer was good.

Angela: That one was definitely an improvement. Yeah, definitely. I keep asking you how it feels because I want you to build an internal sense of confidence in your understanding of the quality of your answer. Right? So you're right. That was your best answer so far. How long was it? How long was that answer?

Anthony: 1 minute, 30 seconds, I guess?

Angela: A little more. It was a minute 50. I tend to think 2 minutes is a really good ballpark for all this type of question like “What are your goals?”, “Why an MBA?”, and all that.

Anthony: Okay, I see.

Angela: Good! So it was a great answer. It was a great answer. It was thoughtful, it was cohesive, it was coherent, it made sense to me, and I really felt like you were just talking me through it. I just felt like you were giving me your answer. It didn't feel like it was overly scripted or anything like that. So really good. And you kind of started to creep a little bit into why Booth there, which is fine. You don't have to keep it segmented. In fact, in some cases, you might even just want to go right into why Booth. So what you could have done at the end there, when you said with the healthcare, you mentioned a specific class, healthcare whatever…

Anthony: Healthcare economics.

Question: Why Booth?

Angela: Healthcare economics. What you could do there is you could say, I've kind of already rolled into why Booth so let me just keep going on why Booth and then just give your whole why Booth answer. You could totally do that right there. You know the question is coming, you know it's an important question, so I think it's totally cool to preemptively just roll right into that. But let's get right to it, shall we? So why Booth?

Anthony: Okay, so I'm going to give you three reasons. The first is the Chicago approach. I'm really a big fan of that. I know it's a very qualitative program and it's very intense, the academic experience will be very intense. And personally, I would really enjoy that education because I feel academic rigor is still something that I'm looking for through an MBA program. So, since I have this strong need for healthcare expertise and also knowledge in finance, I will be able to build or design my own curriculum throughout the two years. So that's the first thing. And the second thing is more of a professional reason. So I mentioned earlier that I want to lead my own company, so I need to understand how to make decisions, and I think actually, as a CEO or entrepreneur, I know that Chicago Booth has this amazing Polsky Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and you have these great resources such as New Venture Challenge where I can actually build the basis to create my own company and continue to work on the business idea that I mentioned. Chicago Booth also has this great lead program where I would be able to have this opportunity to work with students at the School of Social Work and also the School of Public Policy and find those people who share the same passion with me in addressing healthcare issues. And lastly, I believe I'm a good fit for the Booth culture. So my manager at Deloitte actually graduated from Booth and also I have another colleague who graduated from Booth. So we've worked across many projects and I feel they are very down to earth, they also care about people and are very collaborative, and I believe our personalities are just like each other’s’, so I really enjoy being with them. So I'm looking forward to being part of this community.

Angela: Great. How was that?

Anthony: I think it's okay. It's good. I think it's good.

Angela: It's good, right? You can be so funny. People always want to be humble at this moment. It's important to be honest with yourself. I think you pretty much nailed that one. I think that was a pretty solid answer. How long was it?

Anthony: 2 minutes, 30 seconds, I guess.

Angela: Close! Your time intuition is really good. It was 2.20.

Anthony: Okay.

Angela: Yeah. I don't really have any constructive feedback on that. I think you might get some follow up questions like “How do you plan to participate in the Booth community?”, “What clubs are you going to join?”,  “What classes are you excited about?”. They're going to probe and all that stuff but I know from having read your essays that you're ready for those questions so I don't think we necessarily need to practice any more of those. Is there anything else in the realm of goals, why Booth, why an MBA, that you feel like you want to practice? Are you concerned about any of that? You know what you need to do now, right?

Anthony: Yeah, I think we're all good. I guess what I'm worried about is the behavioral questions. I don't know what's going to come up.

Question: Tell Me About A Time You Overcame A Challenge On A Team.

Angela: So let's get right to the behavioral questions then. Now I'm going to draw from actual past Booth interviews here. And one of the things I really just love about Booth is that they give the interviewers really the chance to bring their own special socks to the conversation. So I'm going to ask a question that I think is not an unlikely question to come from a management consultant interviewing you for Booth. So, can you tell me about a time you overcame a challenge on a team?

Anthony: Sure. I guess that's pretty standard for management consulting. So, yeah, of course. Two years ago, I was working on a project with one of my German colleagues, and I think he had just graduated from college, so he was fresh off the boat and he was very excited about joining this industry. The problem was my manager was on holiday — I think he had just got married so he was in Paris for a whole month — and he very kindly asked me to give some tips or advice to this new freshman who had just joined our team. So we were actually working on a chemical project, and we were supposed to meet every day at 10:00 a.m. for a daily check in. Unfortunately, my colleague was late three times in the whole week. So actually I felt that was sort of a challenge for the entire team and also when I kindly asked the reason, he was giving me all those different excuses, which I found very unprofessional. So I very patiently asked him to sit down with me, and we had a one on one discussion about this. In my eyes, it's sort of unprofessional performance. So I shared with him about the possible outcome that he might face and also the possible delay in the project, how the negative impact was going to be, just because of his not being able to join the meetings on a daily basis. So after that meeting, he started to behave quite well and also he approached me with some questions about how to fit well in this team culture. So, I think that's sort of like the way I try to overcome a challenge coming from someone who just joined the team, even though there were some complaints within the team, but we were able to reach an agreement peacefully.

Angela: Okay. How long was that?

Anthony: I think that was too long, right? 3 minutes or even 4 minutes.

Angela: No, it was 2 minutes and 15 seconds. Your time intuition without the window on that one. So 2 minutes is perfectly fine for behavioral questions. And I think for a question of this simplicity, because this is a pretty straightforward one, 2 minutes is fine. It can be a little longer. It's okay. But 2 minutes was, I think, a good length for this. So small edit to your word choice. I don't think “fresh off the boat” is a kosher term. I think it has a connotation that you didn't intend. So I would just say he was new to the firm, new to professional life. Okay. So just use that term. Okay. Next thing is, here's what I want to say. What was hard for you about that experience, what was challenging for you?

Anthony: The challenge for me was I was not sure if I should be able to speak up because we were at the same level. He is a consultant. I'm a consultant. So I didn't feel I had the authority to tell him what to do.

Angela: Got it. But your boss had asked you to do that, right. To bring him on board?

Anthony: Yeah. And give him some tips about how to do projects or how to do his work.

Angela: Okay, good. And so you kind of found yourself almost having to, like, discipline a peer.

Anthony: Right. Because actually during the first few conversations, I was asking “Why you were late?” and he was giving me this attitude like “You're not my boss, why do I have to answer all of the questions?”.

Angela: Oh very good. Okay. Very good. So your answer was alright. It checked all the boxes. It was a complete answer. It showed me a lot about you. But since we're here, let's see if we can just make it a little bit more engaging and a little bit more revealing. Okay? So this thing about, there was like a power dynamic. That didn't come out in your answer. Do you see that?

Anthony: Yes. Because you asked me the challenge so I felt, okay, I was missing that part.

Angela: Well, it's not that, no. So the reason I ask that question is because my philosophy about behavioral questions is that you really want to tell a story, and the STAR framework is kind of, like famous for how to approach, like, situation task action results. And your STAR execution was solid, but I prefer what I call the four C's framework. This is like my framework from my book Interview Hero, and it centers around the conflict to you and the choices that you made to overcome that conflict. So the broader conflict of like, dude was coming late to meetings and it was causing a problem. The broader conflict was clear, but the conflict to you personally wasn't clear. And that's the most meaningful part. That's what makes it really interesting, because now I understand. Oh, he was navigating a politically delicate situation. It took courage, it took conviction, it took like, tact. Do you see how it casts a much more colorful picture when you show me that part? So I think what you want to do is you want to say, all right, he was new, we were at the same level, my boss kind of asked me to give him tips for success, but he's showing up late multiple days in a row, and I noticed that the team was also having a problem because it was delaying our start time and we weren’t able to create a cohesive vibe with the team. And so when he showed up late, I asked him why he was late, and I did this three times and each time he responded, he was a little bit more like defensive. And in his attitude, I could tell he was like, we're at the same level, why are you challenging me? So that put me in a difficult position because I felt the need to be responsible for our team's constructive dynamic but indeed, he didn't report to me. We were at the same level. So I really had a choice to make. Was I going to confront him or was I going to just hope that it resolved itself by the time my boss came back and I did decide to confront him, but I knew that it couldn't be like me telling him what to do. I really just had to lay out for him how the culture works and the expectations are and make him aware of the potential consequences if he continued to behave like this. And so that's what I did. I sat him down, I said, look, here's how we are, here's the impact when you show up late, and I'm really hoping you're going to be successful here, but it's going to be hard if you can't just show up to meetings on time. If you have any questions for me… And then tell us what he said. What did he say? “Okay. Yeah. Alright, thanks.”. What did he do? What did he do in that moment?

Anthony: I think he did, but he was still sort of like defending himself. Like he was saying, my girlfriend was sick and I was like, that's okay, but we all have life, but you always want to behave professionally. So put yourself in, for example, if you're late for the client meeting, what is the client is going to say to you, not just to you, but to Deloitte? So those are like the possible scenarios that I brought up to him.

Angela: Yeah. And then at the end of the conversation, was he like “Okay, thanks.” or was he like “Screw you, man.”?

Anthony: Yeah. He was like “Okay, thank you. I'm going to try to do better.”.

Angela: Perfect. So at the end, he thanked me and said he was going to try to do better. And in the end, he did. He turned his behavior around. We developed a really great collaborative relationship, and in the end, the project was a success and it all worked out. Now, bonus points here because you showed me that the challenge was, do I have the authority and do I have the courage? And then if I do — so the answer to that is yes — and then the question is, okay, how do I do this so that he can benefit from what I'm saying and not just be defensive? So then you showed how you did that, right? But you actually learned something in this story. So for bonus points, revisit the lesson that you learned at the end of the story, what did you learn? Okay, so you say it all worked out, we had a great relationship. So what's the end of the story? What did you learn? Go ahead and pretend we're finishing the answer here.

Anthony: I guess the lesson learned here is that when you deal with some junior colleagues or even if they are at the same level as you are, you don't have to be overly concerned about the career level. You just have to be aware of the business ethics at the professional workplace and make sure that those rules are clear at the first step and also make people understand their behavior will have certain consequences. So I guess because usually my personality is that I can always be okay with whatever you do. But through that situation, I understand I cannot be okay with anything. So I have to make sure that rules are rules and business ethics really matters.

Angela: Good. So I'm going to critique that part of your answer now, just that last part. So I don't know if you noticed this, but in the first half of your answer, you switched to the word “you”. So you were making the lesson generic. You have to respect ethics. You, you, you. You versus me, what I learned. So it's always much less compelling to speak in the abstract or to tell me what to do. You have to blah, blah, blah, blah. It's less compelling because don't tell me what to do, man, I got my own lessons to learn! What I want to know is what did you learn? And then the last part, the last part really worked. So here's what you said: I'm a pretty easy-going guy. I can pretty much be okay with anything. So for me to stand up in this situation was really a challenge, but I learned that it serves everybody. It's actually in the best interest of everybody if sometimes I'm firm and I stand up for what works and for the rules. So it was a really great experience for me, too. It built confidence in my own ability to lead. Is that accurate? Everything I just said?

Anthony: Yeah, I think that's perfect.

Angela: Yeah. So that's what you want to do. So you see, you always want to make it about yourself because I'm interested in you. I'm interested in what you learned. I'm interested in what you took away from that. How you lead. I don't need leadership lessons of my own. I’ve got to learn my own lessons the hard way. Right?

Anthony: Yeah.

Angela: Good. Okay. So, do you feel okay? So that's just like a behavioral question and you did a solid job. So I think you just kind of want to think through what are your favorite experiences? What are the stories that you most want to tell? So obviously the Covid project and perhaps your advocacy work, you've got a lot of different pieces of your life that you probably want to do your best to bring into the conversation where appropriate. And so then you just kind of want to practice your stories as if they are fitting with different questions. So other kind of questions that tend to come up: “Tell me about a time you failed.”, “Tell me about a time you led a team.” or “Led a team to produce results.”, “Tell me about..” things around teams, like a team experience that shows me what kind of leader you are. Another question could be “What are you most proud of on your resume?”, and that could be a behavioral question. It doesn't have to be. But tell me about let's see here, just looking at actual past questions. “Tell me about a time when you had an idea that didn't go through. How did you handle it?”, “Tell me about a time when you met a fork in the road and had to make a decision.”. And then it really could be just anything. “Tell me about a time you were strapped at work. How did you handle it?”, “Tell me about a time you had a hard time communicating with someone.”. So you know the kinds of qualities that they're looking for so you can expect questions related to leadership, teamwork, communication, and I have no doubt that you have plenty of stories that are going to fit with those questions. So you just want to practice it and then take what I said to heart, where you really want to show, like, what was challenging to you, and then what did you do to overcome it? And then what did it teach you? How did you grow through that experience? And I think it's unusual to get more than two or three behavioral questions in a Booth interview. So keep that in mind as you're meating out your favorite stories. Keep in mind that you probably only have like three stories here in this part of the interview that you're going to get to tell.

Anthony: I have a question about “Tell me about the situation when you failed.”. What do they look for in this question?

Angela: So the thing about failure is that it’s one of the best ways that we learn. So if you want to go far, and you obviously want to go far, you want to be a CEO, so I need to make sure that you're someone who knows how to fail right. And failing right means you try stuff, you fail, you confront the failure and you're honest with yourself about what you could have done differently or maybe what was even out of your control but that led to an outcome that you didn't want, and then what did you learn from that experience? So, if you think about the framework I just laid out about conflict and choices, in a failure story, the conflict is the failure itself. So I wanted this and I did all this stuff and it didn't work out and I failed. And so then I had to pick myself up and move on. And so here's what I did. I analyzed my behavior and my choices, I realized I should have done XYZ differently, I resolved to learn more about XYZ that had blindsided me, and then later — now, ideally, you'll have a story about a later time or something similar happened where you actually succeeded so you can show where you actually learned and implemented the lesson and improved, but that's not required. It's okay if you just show, like, here's what I learned, and now I'm always sure to do ABC differently so as to avoid such failures again, something like that. Do you want to try the failure question? We can do one more.

Anthony: Yeah. Actually, I never thought of a failure question. Yeah, I'm not sure.

Angela: So failure, it doesn't have to be something gargantuan, right? I'll give you an example that could work. You wouldn't want to use it now because you've already used this story, but trying to get your colleague to behave differently by just asking him why he was late. That strategy failed three times, right? But that is a failure. It's a small one, but it's a failure. And you learned, okay, that doesn't work, let me try something else, and then you tried something else and then that did work.

Anthony: I’ve got a story. Maybe you can help me figure out if this is going to be working for the interview. So it's sort of like when I just joined Deloitte and I found that our team has this amazing algorithm software, but nobody actually used it. And basically, my colleagues preferred to do all of the data analysis in Excel, which is very mechanic and very manual. And I felt like, since we have this why don't we try it? But nobody actually wants to try it because nobody knows how to do it. So I went ahead and tried everything and put all those data visualizations through that, ran all the data through the algorithm, and we got all these beautiful charts, but my manager didn't really like it. He was like, why didn't you follow the rules? Why don't you follow the proven method that we have been doing so long? So at the end, I guess I failed to convince the manager we could do this whole thing a different way, but he preferred the traditional way to do it. So I guess that's a fail story.

Angela: Very good. It's absolutely a failure story.

Anthony: Yeah. I guess what I learned is we can always try new things and talk to somebody who has authority because actually it's not a complete rejection. So he actually found that we have this thing, and he took some of the charts, he did not take everything, but he still stuck to the Excel method. But he took some charts of the data visualization part into the presentation. So I think that's a compromise of two different approaches.

Angela: Yeah, very good. So the only thing I would do is close down the anecdote for me. So you tried to get him to use it. He took a couple of charts, but he kind of schooled you for not doing it his way. That's a moment to make a choice. Are you going to fight for this algorithm that's right? Or are you going to be like, okay, I yield. I'm going to move on and fight different battles, right? Obviously you decided the latter, but now I'm kind of left — if I'm interviewing you — I'm left a little bit with a question of like, well, how is this guy going to influence people here? He tried one strategy which was show the fruits of the labor and hope that they speak for themselves, but he didn't take it all the way. He kind of stopped and was like, okay, I give up. But I happen to know that you're an influential guy. So what's your response to that? How are you going to close down the story so that I can still see that you are someone who, when the moment is right, you do fight for what you believe in and you do exert influence?

Anthony: I think what I did was I invited the manager to have a chat. Because there was a lot of manual work, I was saying if we run some of the data and to make it visualized through that algorithm software, it's going to save a lot of teamwork, it's going to save a lot of resources for the team. But he was still saying that this is going to take so much time because we don't have this software introduced to the team members and we would even need to have some training programs for the team members to use the software. I think in the end I helped manager understand the merits of using that software, but because of some maybe logistic issues that he believes is going to take so much effort to introduce the software to the entire team, I think it sort of like it didn't work out at the end.

Angela: Yeah so this is an issue of picking your battles. So I'm sure that you could have gone and done more research and proved, okay, we don't need to teach everybody this, or if we are going to teach everybody this, here's what it's going to require and here's the training — you could have said, I'm going to make this happen and then you could have figured out a way to make it happen, but you obviously decided, no, that's not worth my time. I'm going to go fight other battles, right?

Anthony: Yeah, because I was too junior at the time and he was a senior manager.

Angela: Yes, but if you really believed that that was important, I think you still would have fought for it even though he was senior. So, to me a good way to end this story is to say, so he didn't like the idea because of all the changes that we're going to require and the logistical burden on the firm to implement this new solution and even though I just thought it was so cool and I really wanted us to use it, I understood his point and rather than just like continue fighting the battle and trying to make it happen, I decided to dedicate my energies elsewhere and move on. But I'm really glad I tried it because I learned some interesting things about the algorithm and it also gave me the chance to practice challenging the status quo, which is something I hope to do much more going forward in my career.

Anthony: I guess the one good result is that he allowed me to he was okay with me using it.

Angela: So he let you use it on that project and on future projects?

Anthony: Yes, he did.

Angela: Oh good! Okay, so that’s a win. You could say look, I wanted everybody to use it. I failed. I failed to convince my manager to get everyone to use it. But a small victory was that I got to use it on all of my projects. So at least my efficiency was improved, even if I couldn’t help the rest of the team. I think that’s a good way to go.

Anthony: Okay, that's a good idea. Yeah.

Angela: Alright, very good, my friend. So look, I think you're in pretty good shape. The good news is that even if your answers had been your first answer, obviously we kind of enhanced them together here, but even if your answers had been the first answers, you're doing alright. You're presenting a professional executive presence. You've got good answers. You've thought through what matters to you. You've got a high degree of self-knowledge, and these are really the most important things in these interviews. So just take a little bit of time, practice the ones on the margin where you feel like you want to change your answer a little bit, and then there's like a whole bunch of other questions that could come at you that are like potentially curveballs. Like, you know, they might look at a bullet on your resume and say “Tell me more about this.” or “Why the US?”, “Why this degree?”, “Why Tokyo?”. So be ready with all those. Be ready with all the “Why?” questions. But I think really the biggest piece of advice I have for you is to just be in the conversation and then just think and answer the question. If you get a question that you haven't prepared for, you will know the answer because it's a question about you and your life. So don't worry about getting it right. Just be like, what's my answer? And then just answer it. And I think you're going to do fine because you're a great candidate. You have a really interesting profile and, like I said, I'd be happy to have you in the Booth community. So, yeah, I think you're going to do really well.

Anthony: Thank you. I think you really made me relax so I think it really depends on the interviewer. So if the interviewer gets me nervous, I don't know what I would say.

Angela: How does the interviewer get you nervous? How does that happen?

Anthony: Like, emotionless? I can't tell his emotion, if that's the scenario.

Angela: So there are a lot of people out there who think that that's the right way to do an interview is to play the poker face. Which is unfortunate. I can't say for sure if your interviewer will have that philosophy, I certainly hope not, but it's possible. And the thing you want to understand is that it doesn't mean anything. So, a true story from my own experience, when I was interviewing with BCG, there was one guy in the Chicago office who just was, like, famous for poker face, and he was so bad at this that while you're talking to him, he'd be like, over here on his computer doing something like not even listening to you. And so I had him in the first round of my second year, and I came out of there being like, oh, well, at least I tried. And then I made it to the next round.

Anthony: Oh, Congratulations.

Angela: Well, it just illustrates that the poker face, you can't take it personally because it's just a strategy. It doesn't mean that they're not enjoying the conversation or that they don't think you're great. It's just they have this belief that they need to pretend that they have no emotions. So, what my advice is, if that happens, is that you just stay present to what you're saying, stay present to what you're talking about. And maybe like, instead of looking right in their eyes because we're on Zoom so I can't really tell exactly what you're looking at, you just look at a point that's close to the camera so that you're not even looking at them, and you're just, like, telling your story and you're excited about your story, and then who cares what they're doing? They're just, like on the screen. But that's a way to keep your confidence and not get lost in the like, am I doing okay? I can't read this person. I don't know what's happening here. For people with a high degree of emotional intelligence, the poker face is really hard to deal with and that's why they do it because they're just trying to see what you do. So if you get a poker face, just look at the camera, don't look at the person's face and then just get lost in the story! Because you've got great stories, you've got interesting things to say. So just have fun talking about them and I think you're going to be fine.

Anthony: Thanks so much for the great advice, it really helps.

Angela: Yeah, that's an important tip. Okay. Cool. So yeah, good luck. Like I said, I think you're going to do well.

Anthon: I’ll do my best.

Angela: Keep me posted on how it goes.

Anthony: Yeah. Thank you so much, Angela. I really appreciate your time tonight.

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Angela Guido

Angela Guido

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

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