The following Oxford Saïd interview questions & report was submitted to Clear Admit by a Round 3 applicant who was admitted. Congratulations to them!
I was interviewed by a Saïd career consultant who also consults for students of other prestigious schools across UK and mainland Europe. He was very kind and welcoming, always smiling and looking to the camera. He was dressed in suit and tie. And I tried to smile, look at the camera while I was speaking and I wore suit and tie. Also, I tried to sound casual and be sympathetic without crossing the line. Practice until you feel comfortable expressing yourself like this too!! After my report, I tell you how I prepared.
His questions were more or less like these:
1) “Have you read my profile online? This way, we can skip that part and go straight to the interview, where we have many things to talk about.”
Answer: Yes, I had. No problem. — I advise others to always check the interviewer’s profile Doing your research is really an easy-win because in the end you’ll likely be prompted with an opportunity to ask him/her questions (as you’ll read below)
Afterwards, he told me that he had read my résumé and had prepared some questions to better understand my profile. The flow of the interview was very natural, as he seemed to take notes down on my printed résumé.
2) As I was a general manager, and argued that it was a CEO-like position because of the freedom to decide and direct subordination to the board) with a wide range of activities, which role I enjoyed most and why?
* Answer: I preferred sales because of the sensation of closing deal and following up with the client.
3) As I have led 7 people on my team (thus a small business) how was the task division?
* Answer: As my team was small, I often had to engage in operational tasks in addition to supervising employees. I was the only under no direct supervision, however I praised their suggestions, and asked their opinion on strategic matters to foster critical capacity and ownership. Also, as employees were mostly on their 50’s, even though I’m 27, I often had to teach them several computer tools. He seemed surprised and took a lot of notes and I was concerned that he may have been disappointed at the answer. (But it may well be just an impression of mine).
He praised my scholarships and awards so far, as well as my high Quant score on the GMAT even though I was previously a lawyer. My GMAT was 680 (Q48, V35)
5) Which were the results I received from my applications to LBS, Cambridge Judge and Imperial?
* Answer: I failed after interview at LBS, was waitlisted then failed at Cambridge and were accepted with 15% scholarship at Imperial. As to Imperial, I told him I had already paid my 10% commitment fee. I told him that it was a huge expense for me but I was willing to lose it if I were accepted at Oxford, reinforcing that both Oxford is my first option and “I’m here even though I’m already guaranteed at a great MBA”.
7) Why Oxford?
* Answer: two components:
(i) I visited the campus and talked to 8 or 9 Brazilian alumni and could see how welcoming and collaborative the Oxford community can be; and
(ii) Though at first I wasn’t impressed by the schools website signing its commitment to social change, my visit to campus showed me how it was at the core of the school. As I’m pursuing career on education technology and willing to keep in the social sector, Oxford really resonated with what I wanted and is the most prestigious school to put hardcore business knowledge into world-scale social challenges.
I finished my answer exemplifying why GO TO is a flagship of the programme, trying to show how deeply I understood the programme.
8) Why an MBA?
* Answer: In the short business courses I had previously taken, I saw how hard skills gave me more confidence to make decisions at work. For someone with no management background, that was very important for my career. An MBA is a logical progression on my career on business when I look forward to complement my soft skills with additional hard skills like statistics and finance.
9) Why now?
* Answer: I have completed a cycle in my career. The first one was my legal experience, then my general management position and now it’s time to move on. Plus, my girlfriend is also coming to England for her Master at UCL in London.
10) Acknowledging my efforts engaging with the school (visiting the campus and talking to alumni), he asked me what have one particular alumnus told me about the school.
* Answer: I found this alumnus through Linkedin (I became a Premium Account then left before being charged). Although he had a different background than myself (came from computing to finance, both in Brazil), he was enthusiastic about my application because the school was indeed focused on (and gave real opportunities to) what I wanted to get involved with: socially motivated businesses. Additionally, he was very supportive so we talked more than once, including few days before the interview to encourage me to be genuine (Saïd appreciates that). Also he advised me to try rowing at 5 am in the winter, even though I live in a sunny place and like sports from warm weather. This last part (rowing) I said while laughing, and he laughed to. 🙂
11) He had read that I wanted to pursue a position in education technology in UK and had used my visit to Oxford’s campus to prospect future events, companies, and opportunities in London. He asked me how did I saw this market there (because he didn’t know)?
Answer: I said that this is a growing market. While there is curiosity in people, there will be market for learning. And London is a government incentivised ed-tech hub, with many companies establishing and venture capital firms investing in them. Moreover, I had already made some contacts with some of them that I currently use at my current work (I could only recall one’s name). However, although going to UK is my priority, I was open to pursue that position in Brazil and had in fact already built a strong network and market research in Brazil. I did that because I heard that b-schools prefer candidates that are more easily recruitable by companies and UK was a hard market for foreigners. So I wanted to avoid criticism on whether I would be a competitive candidate in the job market and thus weakening my application.
12) Questions I had for him (only 2 minutes left to 30 minutes) – I used 2 questions to either showcase more about my key selling points (see video …) and to show him how much he could help me with his answers:
(i) “You have headed campus recruitment for a large investment bank for years and today is career advisor at many prestigious schools, including Oxford Saïd. Question: Do you see any particularity of candidates from Oxford when compared to those from other schools? In your opinion, what makes the Oxford Saïd student unique?”
Answer: Yes. Those schools are great so the candidates are equally briliant. However, Oxford is different in the wide range of professional possibilities that it provides to its students. Some schools are more or less tailored to consulting or financial services, or entrepreneurship. Oxford Saïd offer those in equivalent conditions, but it presents students with a wider array of career options. And that is what makes students at Saïd unique.
(ii) “I am mentoring two youngsters that asked me to do it after we met at a leadership programme last October. I am a huge fan of class discussions and group studies and small study groups, having even introduced those on the courses we provide at my current job. Question: do you think, as an infinitely more experienced mentor than I am, that this experience would be of particular help on class discussions and group studies?”
Answer: (he commented a lot on this but all I can recall is this) Absolutely. (…) I, for instance, left my 30-year finance career to feel that I was making better contribution again to younger people. After all, the whole purpose of being alive is to share experience and knowledge, so that’s a great feature to have.
(End, at precisely 34 minutes)
My interview was on February 20 and my offer came on March 3. 😉
I used 2 main tools (and a third minor one) to prepare for this interview. Unfortunately, I couldn’t present all of my 5 key selling points, but I recommend that you practice devising yours and inserting them into the interview as a whole:
(1) Excellent, brief video explaining which info you have to showcase, one way or another — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEPQVXUpAkA
(2)MirrorPrep, but instead of using mirror, use your webcam to record yourself in very similar conditions to the actual interview. During my practice in front of my notebook, I positioned post-its containing my key selling points on top of the screen and wrote the questions.
(3) I paid a mock interview with an experienced Brazilian consultant. He advised me about how to avoid traps and better navigate the interview. It was great to give me confidence, as I had already faced many rejections, but apart from that it wasn’t essential to my actual answers.
Just remember of why you are a great candidate (key selling points), and practice until you seem/sound relaxed, casual and genuine posing them while answering mixed questions. This way you will be as charming as one can be.