Oxford’s interview is an application-based interview, meaning that you can expect your interviewer to have read through your resume and application materials, and to have specific questions prepared to clarify aspects of your professional experience, extracurricular experience, or career plans. The interviews are conducted by those connected to Said Business School such as MBA admissions team members or staff from the careers team. The goal of the interview is to get to know more about you, your interests, and if you would be a good fit to the program. The interviews tend to be conversational but I still recommend practicing a lot, being well-prepared, and anticipating difficult questions.
As with other MBA interviews, you should be prepared to answer the question of ‘walk me through your resume’ or ‘tell me about yourself’ to start, where you would have the opportunity to give an overview about your background. This question is not meant to be followed with a regurgitation of your resume. This question provides an opportunity to provide context about why you made certain professional decisions, to highlight accomplishments, or to share any meaningful extracurricular activities that you have participated in. As you prepare, I would try to anticipate what gaps you have within your story and what follow up questions might be asked.
You can also expect to be asked the questions of ‘Why do you want to study for an MBA?’ and ‘Why do you want to study at Oxford?’. While the answers may have some overlap, they should be distinct enough that they are each standalone replies.
Why do you want to study for an MBA?
When answering this question, you should have concrete reasons that relate to your own personal or professional development. To have a really strong response and to round out the image that you have presented in your application, you can expand upon any topics that you had mentioned in your application or you can highlight reasons that will benefit you in your post-MBA career. For instance, if you want to improve in certain academic areas or if you have leadership skills that you would like to develop, these are 2 of many responses that you can give. Whatever your response, make sure that it is personal to you.
Why do you want to study at Oxford?
The most important way to prepare to answer this question is to do your research about the MBA program, Said Business School, and Oxford University (specifically any areas of the university that intersect with your interests). There are so many ways to research a program such as speaking to current students or recent alumni, communicating with your regional admissions committee representative, attending events, following the school on social media, or reviewing blog posts.
Understanding why you want to study at Oxford Said and naming related resources that the school offers that will be of benefit to you is the best way to make a positive impression with your response. You should pick resources that are well aligned with your interests and show your excitement for the business school as you are replying.
A follow up question that can come up would be ‘how will you get involved during your time at Oxford?’. This is a question that would allow you to make a connection between your current interests and how you hope to spend your time while you are an MBA student. If you shared, either on your resume or in your application, that you have been extremely involved in an activity, I recommend researching if there would be opportunities to do something similar while you are an MBA student. This is important for demonstrating that you are serious about how you allocate your time to extracurricular activities.
Another topic that is typically discussed during the Oxford interview, in some capacity, is about your post-MBA career goals. While you have already written about your post-MBA goals in the career section in the application portal, having a discussion about your goals is a way for the interviewer to gage if you have fully thought through what you want to do after your MBA and how you will achieve your goals. If you are planning to make a career change, you should feel comfortable sharing any skills that you currently have that will allow you to be successful in your post-MBA career and be able to point to examples of experiences that you have had as a way of proving the likelihood for being successful in achieving your goals. If your career change involves switching industries, take the time to research your target industry. You should know the current trends and challenges in that industry and have an idea about companies that are doing innovative things in the space or companies that you admire.
Additionally, make sure that you have thought through your backup career plan and that it is a very realistic option that you could pursue, in case your top choice post-MBA career does not work out. The admissions committee wants to make sure that you will be employed after your complete your MBA degree. The business school’s rankings are tied to their student’s post-MBA employment success so that is why there is an emphasis on an applicant’s career goals both in the written application and the interview.
There are many other types of questions that can be asked, many of which are types of behavioral questions. While it is nearly impossible to prepare for every single type of behavioral question beforehand, you can be effective in practicing response in order to cover the commonly asked behavioral topics. I recommend having examples ready about your leadership abilities, times when you have exhibited teamwork , examples when you have shown adaptability in order to solve a difficult problem or deal with a challenging team member. You should also be able to discuss positive things about yourself such as a strength or two and how that strength can help you to be successful in the MBA program. You should also be prepared to identify a weakness and how you have worked to improve it, a failure and what you have learned from it, and a piece of constructive feedback that you have received recently and how you have addressed it.
Finally, make sure to have 4-5 insightful questions prepared for your interviewer where the potential response cannot be easily found by conducting a Google search. Of the questions that you have prepared, I recommend asking 2-3 during the interview, depending on how much time is left during the interview.
Rona Aydin is a graduate of the MBA program at Oxford Said. She works with numerous applicants every year in order to complete their MBA applications to Oxford. If you are interested in getting assistance to prepare for your Oxford MBA interview, Rona offers an Interview Preparation Package, with mock interview sessions to be completed either by phone, Zoom, or similar. If you are interested in learning more about how Rona can help you to practice for your Oxford MBA interview, feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.