The Definitive Guide to the MBA Internship Interview

mba internship interview

For MBAs, an internship is everything.

It’s a real, relevant working experience where you get to put all that knowledge you’ve gained to the test. If you perform well at your internship and impress management, there’s a great chance you’ll be able to land an inside track at your first post-MBA job.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Experiential Education Survey, employers extended job offers to nearly 70 percent of their interns.

“Companies are not just looking for interns, but for potential full-time hires. So, you need to convince them that you’re a good fit, not for three months, but for three years,” Jeanne Chan, a 2008 graduate of Olin Business School, told Top MBA.

But the “convincing” part of the process starts even before your first day on the job — it starts with the internship interview.

An internship is essentially a job, and just like any other job you’ll have to go through a strenuous interview process to land the position in the first place.

How to Prepare for the MBA Internship Interview

Once you’ve tightened your resume and submitted your internship application, it’s time to start getting ready for the interview that will hopefully follow.

A good place to start is your business school’s career services office, as well as other students who have already applied and interviewed for internship positions — these are invaluable resources to help you prepare for the interview ahead.

Be sure you study all necessary and relevant information about the company you are applying to intern for, and make sure you’ve read up on the latest industry news and trends.

Take part in as many practice interviews as you can. Your peers who have already “been there, done that” and career services can also help you by keying you in on common questions that are asked during interviews. Many of these questions are “behavioral questions” — the most common type of questions presented to prospective interns, as well as a few job-specific technical questions.

Examples of Behavioral Questions

Penn State Smeal provided a list of the most common behavioral questions asked in an interview.

  1. Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  2. Describe a time when you were faced with a stressful situation that demonstrated your coping skills.
  3. Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgment and logic in solving a problem.
  4. Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
  5. Tell me about a time when you had to use your presentation skills to influence someone’s opinion.
  6. Give me a specific example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you did not agree.
  7. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  8. Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks.
  9. Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
  10. Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed.
  11. Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
  12. Give me an example of a time when you motivated others.
  13. Tell me about a time when you delegated a project effectively.
  14. Describe a time when you anticipated potential problems and developed preventive measures.
  15. Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.

Other General Questions Asked

Vault published a list of “101 Interview Questions Top Internship Programs Ask.” Here are a few examples of questions you may be asked:

  1. What are your long-term goals?
  2. Where do you see yourself in ten years? Twenty years?
  3. What makes you stand out?
  4. What’s the most important thing to you on your resume?
  5. What are you most proud of on your resume?
  6. If you had to describe yourself as a brand, which brand would you choose and why?
  7. What sort of leadership experience do you have?
  8. Talk about your leadership style in the past and how you lead now.
  9. Define the word “leader.”
  10. What does it mean to be a great leader?

A Few Tips for the Interview Itself

Now that you’ve properly and extensively prepared yourself, it’s time for the interview. But even with all this preparation, there are a number of missteps MBAs can make that can potentially ruin a good and opportunity.

In fact, it’s the little slipups that can scare recruiters and hiring managers off, or make the difference between making the right impression or the wrong one.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid a potentially catastrophic misstep during your internship interview:

  • Follow Interview Etiquette: Arrive to your interview on time, or early. Make sure you shake the recruiter’s hand before and after the interview. Turn your cell phone off before you walk in the door. These are all very easy blunders to avoid. And if the phone does go off, do not stop to answer it or check the number, simply apologize, and immediately move on.
  • Keep Your Answers Short and Sweet: When asked a question — especially about yourself or your resume — do not ramble on. Aim to keep your answers under one minute long, if possible. This is where all those practice interviews will come in handy! Give the interviewer a chance to ask you for details or elaborate, no need to talk to much and over-complicate an answer to a simple question.
  • Avoid Clichés: Do not talk about yourself in broad generalizations or clichés, and stay away from commonly used phrases like “I’m a people person” or “I’m creative.” Give examples and tell strong anecdotes that help illustrate your communication abilities or creative approach to problem solving.
  • Honesty is the Best Policy: While telling these compelling stories that express how qualified you are for the position, be sure to keep your ego in check. Be honest with yourself and the recruiter in front of you, and don’t make broad characterizations about your skill set. And if a recruiter throws you a curve ball question you didn’t expect, or have no clue how to answer properly, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.”
  • Never Bring Up Salary: This is the kiss of death: Bringing up salary during an initial meeting with a recruiter is the one mistake that can immediately take you out of the running for an internship or job.

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About the Author

Max Pulcini

Max Pulcini is a Philadelphia-based writer and reporter. He has an affinity for Philly sports teams, Super Smash Bros. and cured meats and cheeses. Max has written for Philadelphia-based publications such as Spirit News, Philadelphia City Paper, and Billy Penn, as well as national news outlets like The Daily Beast.

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