Interview Tips – Tell Me About a Time You…

Many applicants are making their way through the interviews right now. Asiangal recently reported that a Wharton interview asked a lot of traditional questions about achievement, times of failure, and included a lot of “why Wharton” throughout. Midway station to MBA’dom said the Kellogg interview was more traditional in format ,while the Haas interview felt less formal. Whether your interviewer sticks with a more traditional question and answer format, or sets a more casual tone, you need to stay organized and clear. Negativecreep Goes to School said her Chicago interviewer misunderstood her short-term plans, but she was composed enough to clarify her thoughts before moving on.

Presenting yourself clearly can be especially difficult with behavioral questions (“Tell me about a time you…”) because it is natural to launch into a story without much direction. These types of questions are increasing popular with schools such as Stanford, Harvard, and Kellogg because past behavior is a good indicator of future performance. So you have to be very focused in telling your story in order to demonstrate the qualities you wish for schools to see.

One helpful tool for organizing your thoughts is the STAR method, which we first mentioned in this blog last year:
Situation — Set up the situation, “My brand was losing market share to a new competitor”
Task — Identify the task or project performed, “I decided to revise our strategy”
Action — Describe the action you took, “I surveyed customers and implemented product changes”
Results — Summarize the outcome, “We gained 20% additional market share”

To practice this technique, compile a list of 8-10 situations that illustrate key qualities such as failure, achievement and leadership. Consider which of your personality traits each of these stories highlights. Be sure to select incidents that will further the traits you are presenting throughout your application. Then practice telling each of these stories within the STAR structure. Be sure to practice out loud. Creating and practicing these stories with the STAR method allows you to have a set of go-to stories that share your best qualities. The interviewer will most likely ask questions during or after your recounting of each incident, so be ready to roll with whatever comes up. But knowing that you have a clear structure should prevent you from rambling or getting thrown off by follow up questions. Remember your time with the interviewer is precious, so use it wisely to convey who you are.

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