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Admissions Tip: Understanding the MBA Admissions Interview – Part II

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Understanding Behavioral Event Interviews (BEI)

Just as non-blind interviews can be more comprehensive and delve deeper into applicants’ candidacies than traditional blind, résumé-based interviews, they also often incorporate questions that stray more from a recap of or drill down into your résumé. These are known as behavior-based or behavioral event interviews (BEI).

Although, to be fair, many schools actually combine elements of both. Yale SOM is one such example. “Ours is a blind, résumé-based interview that covers several areas,” Yale SOM’s Delmonico says, adding that it does include a few behavioral-based questions as part of the process. “We’ve always used behavioral questions to get a sense of how an applicant would handle various situations. Those kinds of questions have been validated as being predictive of professional performance, which is why we include them,” he says.

Stanford GSB, too, views past behavior as a reliable predictor of future behavior and tailors its interviews accordingly. As Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid at Stanford GSB, Kirsten Moss shared with us, “Since our interviews are behavior-based, we focus on understanding your past behavior – both what you have done and how you have done it. To prepare for your interview, think about times in the past few years when you have been effective or proud of your efforts. What was the situation? What action did you take? What was the result?”

Perhaps nowhere is the non-blind Behavioral-Event Interview (BEI) more prominent than at MIT Sloan School of Management. At Sloan, interviewers may break the ice with a few questions about your background, but in short order they’ll get down to the business at hand: in-depth behavioral questions designed more to get at your personality and communications skills than to go over points included in your résumé or having to do with your career goals or interest in the MBA.

On its website, MIT Sloan ticks off several ways it sees the BEI interview as different from more traditional interview formats.  First, it will be a structured process concentrated on areas important to the interviewer—rather than on areas that you may feel are important. “Instead of asking how the interviewee would behave in a particular situation, the interviewer will ask how he or she did behave,” the website continues. Interviewers will question and probe your answers, ask you to provide details, and discourage you from theorizing or generalizing about multiple events. You “may not have the opportunity to deliver any prepared stories,” the school adds.

So, what’s the best way to prepare for a behavior-based interview at MIT Sloan—or for behavior-based questions at schools that may otherwise lean more toward résumé-based interviews?

Richmond offers the following tips:

  • Know the types of behavioral questions the school typically uses and be sure to select a host of stories or anecdotes to share accordingly.
  • Use the STAR or CAR method to outline your responses and stay on track (see below).
  • Listen to your interviewer’s follow-on questions and be sure to go with the flow (rather than forcing a rehearsed message).
  • Be sure to touch on what you thought, felt, said and did in key instances.clear_admit_interview_star_method


We hope this second in our series of interview pieces helps you have a better sense of what to expect on interview day and how to prepare. In our final installment, we’ll tackle some of the newer interview permutations, including the team-based exercise, pre- and post- interview essays, and some other interesting wrinkles schools have started to throw into the mix over the past handful of years. Don’t miss it!

If you’re gearing up for an interview at a leading business school, don’t miss Clear Admit’s Interview Guide Series. Featuring school-specific interview prep strategy, evaluation of how the adcom weighs the interview, in-depth analysis of the most frequently asked questions by that school and more, these are a valuable resource to help you prepare and are available for 21 different schools. There’s also our Interview Report Archive, where applicants share their personal experiences interviewing at a range of schools and learn from those of others. And don’t forget, you can share where you are in the process—and keep tabs on your peers—via MBA LiveWire

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.