As reports of Stanford GSB interview invitations continue on LiveWire, we’re taking the opportunity to round up useful advice from the Clear Admit Interview Guide, as passed on by interviewed candidates themselves.
Before we dig into the key takeaways from prior lucky invitees, here are a few basics about the structure of the interviews at Stanford. Most Stanford MBA interviews are conducted by trained GSB alumni, but the school says that an adcom member may also serve as an interviewer. In any case, Stanford interviews are “blind,” meaning that the interviewer will only have had access to the résumés of invited candidates, not their entire files.
Stanford admissions interviews are behavioral in nature, with the school seeking to understand applicants’ past actions and responses in certain situations. That being said, candidates should still be ready for the basic questions such as “why an MBA,” “why now,” “why Stanford,” etc., as some applicants have reported being asked about these topics.
Go With the Flow
As interviewers try to dig deeper for details, candidates can expect a particular style of interview:
“All questions were followed by a lot of in-depth questions asking for more details, like: what did I do or say at a specific moment, how did I started the conversation, step-by-step description of how I acted, etc. And after answering each question, I was asked to talk about the outcomes of my actions/decisions and if I could quantify them.”
“The whole thing was comfortable and conversational, though not informal, and the format really doesn’t let you get away with general statements. After he asked questions, a few times I had to take 15-30 seconds to think quietly before I started to answer, which was totally fine. It was better to take the time than to start an answer that I wasn’t prepared to provide specifics for, because he would definitely ask for specifics.”
“He explained that he had a certain set of questions to ask me and he had to identify certain behaviors, so not to be surprised if he needs to interrupt me while speaking.”
“The interviewer ‘interrupted’ casually many times along the way to ask for details or follow-up questions.”
“He asked behavioural questions and wanted situations where I exhibited a given behaviour (i.e., tell me a time when you look on a leadership position). He then started to deep-dive on specific moments and the actions and decisions that I made. It was very specific and detailed to uncover my motivations and underlying values.”
“After each response, my interviewer continued to probe into how I felt and what I said and did. She went into much greater depth than my previous b-school interviewers had.”
Others offered insights into the content:
“I didn’t feel like there was a structure of my interviewers’ questions, which threw me off a little bit.”
“I was surprised, though, that he didn’t ask me any questions like ‘Why MBA?’ or ‘Why Stanford?’”
“It was different from other interviews in that we barely talked about my interest in an MBA or in Stanford, really until his last question. He asked specific behavioral questions, and asked a lot of clarifying questions throughout my response.”
“Was mildly surprised that she was so strict about the time, and hadn’t asked some the typical questions like why MBA/Stanford/goals.”
“The interviewer was weaving in and out, from trying to get to know me to probing leadership examples/stories for him to get a sense of my leadership style and how I act in those roles.”
Have Your Résumé Handy
For those thinking about logistics, this candidate offered the following details:
“Stanford gives you the name and contact info to reach out and set up the interview directly, so you can research them a bit beforehand. You’re instructed to send the alum a copy of your résumé as well, which is all they have to go off of.”
While your interviewer should have your résumé ready to go, this candidate remarked on how it didn’t hurt to show up extra prepared:
“I emailed my interviewer my résumé beforehand per Stanford’s instructions. I also printed out a copy, which was much appreciated by my interviewer.”
A Common Takeaway: Be Yourself
If you received an invitation, you should view it as encouragement to show more of what you’ve already demonstrated in your application. The most common bit of advice from prior candidates came down to one thing (albeit one thing that may be easier said than done): Be yourself.
“Stanford is definitely looking for leaders and opportunity makers, so reflect back to all major leadership roles/tasks from your prior jobs and know them well before going into the interview. Be yourself for this one and don’t try to be what you think Stanford wants to hear! Authenticity is key.”
“Looking back, I would have been a little more relaxed and a little bit more myself. I think candidates probably roll their eyes when others tell them to ‘just be yourself’ when interviewing, but I think that definitely applies for Stanford interviews.”
“My advice: (1) Don’t over-prepare or over-package—these folks are wise and can sense disingenuousness from a mile away. (2) Do spend a reasonable amount of time researching GSB’s unique offerings—this helped me begin and end the interview on a strong note. (3) Have fun! Think of the interview as a preview of the amazing conversations you’ll have with future GSB classmates.”
“Prep the high-level bullet points for the questions listed above and rehearse them once or twice in your head. You can answer the 50 extra questions if you want, but the alumni are not there to stump you. Don’t put too much pressure on the interview, don’t over-prepare, and have a casual conversation with a cool alumnus.”