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The Skinny on Stanford GSB Interviews

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We know from MBA LiveWire that some of you have already received invitations to interview at Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB). A hearty congratulations for a significant achievement. Stanford revealed this past fall that it will interview roughly 1,000 applicants this year. Considering that the school last year had 8,116 people throw their hat in the ring, if you got an invitation to interview, you’ve already claimed a spot among a very select group.

For those invited—and those still hoping to hear—we thought we’d share what we know about the interview process at the GSB as you prepare. As you likely already know, there’s no getting into Stanford without an interview. That said, some candidates may be “offered a place in the waitpool,” as the school’s website quaintly puts it, without an interview during the round in which they applied. Those who accept a place on the waitlist may then be invited to interview in a later round.

Unlike some schools, whose interviews ask candidates to explain how they would act in a hypothetical situation, Stanford GSB’s interview focuses on past actions. “The primary questions revolve around attitudes, behaviors, and skills that we believe are key to good citizenship in the Stanford community and vital to high-impact leadership post-MBA,” wrote former Assistant Dean for MBA Admissions Derrick Bolton before leaving to head admissions for Stanford’s new Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program this past fall. (The search for his replacement is still ongoing, and Margaret Hayes, assistant dean of the MBA program, has been overseeing admissions on an interim basis since his departure.)

“There are no trick questions. The interviews are intended to be conversational. We ask you to reflect on your personal and professional experiences, what you’ve learned about yourself, and how best to lead people and manage situations,” he continued.

Stanford interviews are conducted by alumni around the globe, typically near where a candidate lives or works. In fact, the school does not accept requests to interview on campus. Phone interviews are granted to those in especially remote locations where no interviewer is available. All interviews—whether in person or by phone—are weighted equally.

What Will Your Interviewer Know About You in Advance?
Stanford uses what are called blind interviews, which is to say that the alumni who conduct them will not have seen your application in advance. “The only information about you that your alumni interviewer will have is your resume, which you will send directly to her/him,” according to Bolton.

There are occasional exceptions to this rule, though. “On rare occasions, an alumni interview is impractical,” wrote Bolton. “In this case, you may be interviewed by a member of the MBA Admissions staff. If you are interviewed by a staff member, the staff member will have access to your application.”

How Important Is the Interview?
No specific weight is given to the interview—it is no more or less important than any other part of the application, according to Bolton. “We use the information derived from the interview in context—just as we use all other information in the application process,” he wrote. “A positive interview does not guarantee admission. A poor interview does not, by itself, preclude admission. No single factor is decisive.”

Also, don’t expect your interviewer to let you know how things went. “We do not provide feedback during, or after, the interview,” the school’s website states.

Approach It as a Conversation
Like many schools, Stanford stresses that the interview is designed to be a two-way street—helping the school get to know more about applicants while also enabling applicants to learn more about the school. Come prepared to ask your alumni interview questions about his or her experiences at the GSB. “If you have specific concerns, raise them,” Bolton encouraged. “If you don’t understand some aspect of the MBA Program or the culture, ask the alumna/us to explain it.”

What to ask? “Ask about whatever matters most to you in choosing the place that you will spend two years of your life—and in choosing the community with which you will be associated for your lifetime,” Bolton wrote.

For those who haven’t yet received an invitation to interview, don’t despair. “For Rounds 1 and 2, we distribute interview invitations in a four- to five-week window,” the school website states. For Round 2, that means you could be invited to interview anytime between early February and mid-March.

Good luck to those preparing and those still waiting hopefully for an invitation. Don’t forget to take advantage of Clear Admit’s additional interview resources—including our Stanford GSB Interview Guide and our crowd-sourced Interview Archive—to help you be as prepared as possible.