Ace your MBA interview — the 7 ways to impress your interviewer

If you’re applying for senior leadership positions, it's not unusual to go through a more detailed interview as well as recruitment procedures.

To help you succeed, we've put together some practical advice on how to navigate specific questions and key preparation considerations. As an MBA graduate, you’ll be ready to ace your next interview with our helpful guide on MBA interview questions and executive correspondence.

Common interview questions for MBA graduates

Often, when preparing for executive interviews, many people focus on how they should best answer common questions. These can include variations on the following: 

  • How do you see yourself as a leader?
  • Can you provide an example of a situation where you had to motivate your team?
  • How do you approach conflict management?
  • Is there a time when you faced a stressful business situation? How did you respond?
  • What motivates you to be a leader?
  • How would you convince your team to adopt a certain idea?
  • What is the toughest decision you have ever had to make?

Instead of memorising responses to these interview questions, the founder and CEO of C-suite headhunting agency Arete Executive, Richard Triggs, recommends taking a different approach.

Don’t be afraid to ask your own interview questions

The key to Triggs’ method is to first build some rapport with the interviewer. To do this, he recommends saying something along the lines of: “I really appreciate you taking the time to interview me today, and I'm very excited about this opportunity.”

At this point, the interviewer may start with some common interview questions, such as “Why do you want the job?”

Triggs suggests using this answer:

“Let’s imagine it’s 12 months from now, and you are sitting down to my performance review. What are the things that I would actually have to have delivered for you within that 12-month period for you to be delighted that you employed me?”

By asking the interviewer what success looks like in the role, you'll effectively demonstrate your experience, accomplishments and transferable skills by tailoring your answers to exactly what they're looking for.

According to Triggs, the benefits of this approach are that:

  • You’ve understood exactly what the interviewing company needs first so that you can then give them examples of when you’ve done it before.
  • It’s an easy way to assess, as a candidate, whether you actually want the job.

Show confidence in your interview by engaging in active communication, always ensuring that you’re showing as much interest in them as they are you. 

“You need to talk about some actual real experience in an interview,” Triggs says. “People and organisations want to hire people who’ve done it before, done it well and are motivated to do it again.”

He says that this approach is simple and effective. “It’s quite easy to do, and 95 out of 100 of the other candidates won’t do it. So you'll immediately stand out from the crowd because you've listened to what they want, and you've responded with your experience as it directly relates to what they need. You’ll kill it.”

Essentially, it’s how to impress a CEO in an interview, make a positive lasting impression and, hopefully, get the job.

Other ways to prepare and impress

As an executive search consultant for over 12 years, Triggs definitely knows a thing or two about how to prepare for an executive interview. Here are six of his other top tips to ace your next interview.

1. Do your homework

Thoroughly researching the company or organisation you are interviewing for is essential. Not only can it help you impress your interviewer, but it can also boost your confidence.

To prepare, Triggs recommends reading the organisation’s website and any other available materials you can find. He also says to read the LinkedIn profiles of the people interviewing you.

This can help you show your research and how invested you are in the role.

2. Overdress rather than underdress

Triggs says you should always overdress rather than underdress for an interview.

“Of course, you should always dress professionally, and you should always overdress if you're not sure. For example, if you're going for an interview in a corporate environment and you’re not sure of the dress code, wear a suit and tie or a pantsuit or skirt and blouse.”

If you’re still unsure, Triggs says to ask the recruiter what the expected dress code is for the particular organisation and industry you are interviewing for. For example, creative industries may have different dress styles compared to financial roles.

3. Use the STAR method to answer questions

An effective way to demonstrate your experience and skills in an interview is to frame your answers using the STAR method.

“STAR stands for situation, task, actions, results. Explain what the situation was, what you were tasked to do, the actions you took and what the end results were.”

Here’s how to answer conflict management interview questions using the STAR method: 

  • S - “During my time at Business X, my team and I needed to work together to brainstorm new recruiting ideas for a client who was struggling to source talent.”
  • T - “Our task was to meet daily, brainstorm together and settle on an initiative to pitch to the client. These sessions produced some ideas, but none that hit the mark. We were running out of time, and tensions were high as the team kept shutting down any new ideas.” 
  • A - “I realised we were at a stalemate, so we decided to introduce an unbiased third party who could weigh in objectively. With the mediator present, we went through each idea and when someone was pitching, they had to back it up with as many facts as possible.” 
  • R - “This approach really helped to change the energy of the situation, and we were able to sort through the ideas with a fresh perspective. By the end, we had a solid idea that everyone agreed upon. We met the deadline with time to spare and so were able to pitch the initiative more effectively to our client. Our strategy was implemented and eventually resulted in 5 new hires for their company.”

4. Practise telling your proudest moments

To help boost your confidence, Triggs says to practise telling the stories of your proudest working moments.

“I think there are probably three or four key achievements in somebody’s career that they're most proud of. Before your interview, think about your proudest moments and practise telling them using the STAR method. You could write out your story and then practise it in the mirror or practise it with someone you trust.”

5. Never disparage a former employer

Triggs says you should never disparage your current or former employer. Instead, you should frame your answers more positively.

“For example, when asked why you are looking to leave your current employer, you could say something like, ‘I just feel that I’m not getting the opportunity to grow to my full potential there.’”

Send a thank you email after the interview

One final way to impress your interviewer is to send them a thank you email.

“In the thank you email, remember to give some positive feedback. And if you are going through a third-party recruiter, always keep them informed about how the interview went.”


 What you’ll need as a future leader and how an MBA can get you there

Triggs says the key ingredient to interview success is confidence. “To do anything well and be successful, you've got to be confident.”

But even once you have the job, confidence will still be a vital trait, as executive leaders must have the nerve to know when and how to embrace change. According to Dr Kevin Argus, the program manager for RMIT Online’s MBA, an MBA can equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge so that you are able to approach the future with this very confidence.

“It’s about knowing that you have the capability to work with a team of people. You won’t have all the skills, but you understand how these skills combine, and you can collaborate with people to design effective systems,” Dr Argus says.

“This gives you preparedness for the future, the understanding that your role will change and the ability to be on top of that rather than feeling that you're playing catch-up."

An MBA degree will also teach you how to communicate well to inspire teams, strengthen company culture and achieve strategic goals. It’s one of the many reasons why an MBA is worth doing.

RMIT Online’s globally recognised MBA can teach you how to communicate authentically and establish vision, build credibility and trust across teams and develop networks founded on ethics.

Gain the confidence to advance your career

With a focus on industry-based, practical learning, RMIT Online’s MBA can give you the confidence to become the C-suite executive you want to be.

Learn more about RMIT Online’s Master of Business Administration. Visit the website or call 1300 701 171.