There are several interview topics that every MBA interviewee should be prepared for such as discussions of an important professional accomplishment, a significant teamwork or leadership experience, points of learning from a mistake/failure or their strengths and weaknesses. But perhaps the most important question that is asked in 99% of MBA interviews is “Why do you need an MBA now?”.
This question is simple – right? Based on our experience MBA interviewees often struggle to provide a coherent answer to this seemingly simple question. In this article, we will help you ideate on what you should speak as an answer to this question.
1. What the Interviewers Want To Know From The “Why MBA” Question.
The “Why MBA” question is one of the most-often asked questions in interviews, yet also one of the trickiest. Not showing thoughtfulness about your reasons for an MBA can seriously hurt your admission chance. When struggling to answer this critical “Why MBA” question, you need to first focus on the purpose of the question.
For many MBA interview questions, the interviewer’s purpose is to understand how the interviewee analyzes problems and why they make key life decisions. Getting an MBA is certainly a key life decision and thus this decision should be based on a well thought out plan.
In a broader sense, the interviewers want to know what your motivation for pursuing a graduate business degree is.The reason for pursuing an MBA will not be the same for every person and there is not one right answer as to why a person might need an MBA. Thus, when answering the “Why MBA now” question, you must incorporate reasons that fit your specific situation.
Here are several acceptable reasons for pursuing an MBA:
- You need to learn more about business and develop new skills to make a career transition
- You have gained adequate work experience and it is time to get a general management perspective so that you can move up to management level within your company.
- You are at a natural break or transition point in career
- You want to start and run a business but need more skills and a strong network in order to secure funding, deal with investors, customers, etc.
- You want to learn more about international business and work outside your country
While many students generally find common answers for the “why MBA” question, it is important to craft your answer in a way that it fits your application and candidature.
A complete “Why MBA?” interview answer will:
- Provide some context about the interviewee’s past professional experience. They might briefly point out their progression and the key skills that they have developed which they can build on in the future.
- Detail their future career plans (both short term and long term), if not yet asked in previous questions.
- Explain that after evaluating the feasibility of these plans, they have come to the realization that without an MBA it will be very difficult to achieve them and that now is the best time to get this education.
A good answer should ensure that it addresses the candidate’s current work profile, their future aspirations, and how exactly getting an MBA would help them bridge the gap between the two.
While the ideas above seem to be simple enough on paper, explaining them in a coherent and easy to understand way in a high pressure interview is extremely challenging which is why a lot of advance preparation is needed.
For your goals, make sure you can identify an immediate post-MBA target role, target industry, and at least two target companies. Be prepared to explain a backup short-term goal too, and your long-term vision or ideal job (think five to 10 years out). We have discussed how to effectively craft your goals in our MBA Career Goals essay. You will likely be referring back to your Career Goals essay when this question is asked.
If you say something that is wildly ambitious – for example, that you believe the MBA will put you next in line to be CEO of Google – you will read as unserious and perhaps a little bit unqualified. Conversely, if you set your short-term and long-term goals too modestly – for example, that you think the MBA will help you get a 5% raise – the AdCom will not be sufficiently excited by the prospect of your attending the program.
The best way forward here is to show that you have a realistic idea of how the MBA might advance your career while also making it sound a little bit inspiring and value driven. You can also provide the reason for your career vision to make your response more interesting to your interviewer. Some way to frame a career goal “hook” is via a personal backstory or a huge opportunity/ problem/ staggering fact.
Next, identify two to three specific learning goals or skills you want to build during the MBA that will help you succeed along that path. These should not be generic goals like ‘learning to lead’; deeply consider, for instance, which areas of leadership you need to improve upon or how you will need to demonstrate a different kind of leadership in the future.
3. Things to keep in mind for the perfect “Why MBA” Interview Answer
- Give thoughtful and authentic answers. Remember how you answered your essays and avoid giving contradictory statements.
- Know that MBA is a management degree, so try to be clear how from your current role (especially technical ones), you intend to switch to a management/strategy/wider perspective role in the long run. MBA will give you the exposure and hence the impetus.
- If you are interested in a particular area such as finance/marketing/operations make sure you put it across, backing it up with activities you have pursued to substantiate that claim. This will help you elucidate how an MBA will help you focus your career and become a specialist from a generalist.
- Make sure you also answer “why now and why not a few years earlier/later”. It shows clarity of thought and career focus on your part and justifies fit better.
- People often make the mistake of criticizing their current job/role/industry in the process of explaining why an MBA interests them. Don’t make that mistake. Don’t make MBA look like a solution to your problems – instead, show that your inclinations lie elsewhere and MBA will help you grow in that direction.
- Don’t mention your reason for pursuing an MBA degree is monetary benefit. The interviewer might also ask you about your perspective on money and salary hike post MBA and why/why not that’s a reason to pursue it. Mull over it now so that you can give a thought through the answer.