If you have been invited to interview with Oxford or Cambridge, congratulations! You may now be wondering what to expect from your interview and how best to prepare.
Interviews are typically conducted by an admissions committee member or a member of the careers team and last 30 minutes. They are conducted either over Skype, in person and off campus, or in person at the business school.
When preparing for the interview, make sure that you have practiced replies to the following questions.
Walk the interviewer through your resume.
Use this as an opportunity to give more context to your background and your choices instead of just repeating your roles. For example, why did you chose to follow a certain career path? Why is there a three month gap between two different jobs? Or Why did you change roles? You should try to tell a logical story that explains your choices to date.
Do not spend too much time repeating the information that is already written on your resume. Instead, you can share one or two sentences about the main responsibilities of each role and highlight one key accomplishment in each role. The accomplishment does not have to be a promotion, it can also be a project that you initiated or an opportunity that you had to make an impact.
When practicing, keep your response to this question to 3-4 minutes. If it is longer when you are practicing, then you should consolidate your explanations of each of your roles. Also be prepared for your interviewer to interject with follow up questions if they want more information.
These questions can come in different formats such as:
What are your short term and long term career goals?
Why do you want to do an MBA?
Why do you want to do an MBA now?
Why do you want to do an MBA at the specific school?
Why should the school admit you?
What will you contribute to the program?
When preparing your answers, I recommend having three reasons in your answer. Three is usually a good number to have, two feels too short and four too long. You should make sure to state your reasons very clearly for the interviewer.
Be prepared to answer 2-4 behavioral questions using the STAR method: situation, task, action, result. You should have several stories prepared that can work for different types of questions.
Common categories for behavioral questions are leadership, teamwork, communication, creativity, adaptability, and failure/weakness questions. It is very likely that you will be asked a leadership and teamwork behavioral question.
When asked a question, make sure to pause and understand exactly what the interviewer is asking of you. It is easy to immediately begin telling a story that you have already rehearsed; however, you may have to adjust your answer to address the specifics of their question.
If you wish to make a career change after the MBA, the interviewer may ask questions to test your knowledge and passion for the industry that you are interested in. It is important to demonstrate an understanding of that sector. You should know the trends and challenges of the industry, be able to mention publications that you read about the sector, and talk about a current event or interesting piece of news. It is important to show that you already have a general interest in business. Reading a few articles from the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times before your interview is a good idea.
Specific questions related to Oxford and Cambridge
Questions for the interviewer
I recommend having 3 or 4 questions ready and asking 2 or 3 questions depending on how talkative the interviewer is and how much time you have left. You should ask questions about the program that genuinely interest you. For instance, you could say that you have read about the newly opened Oxford Foundry, and ask about the ways that MBA students can get involved at the Foundry. Or for Cambridge, that you are interested in learning more about the Global Consulting Project and ask about the types of projects that students have worked on in the past.
My final piece of advice is to relax and to be yourself. If you have been invited to interview, this means that the school already believes that you will be a good fit. Therefore, view the interview as an opportunity to share more about yourself and your interests as well as a chance to learn new things about the school.
Rona is an Oxford MBA graduate and she has successfully assisted clients in applying to Said and Judge as well as other top programs both in the US and internationally. I also offer mock interview sessions to applicants in the interview stage. I can share commonly asked questions, experiences of successful applicants and provide feedback on your answers to make sure that you are fully prepared for the interview. If you want to learn more, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.