This blog post is the first in a series of articles analyzing some of the most popular MBA interview questions and how to best respond to them. In this post, we’ll address “Walk Me Through Your Resume“:
Reason for asking the question:
- This question (or some version of it) is very often the first question asked in an MBA interview, since it should be a fairly easy question to answer and provides a foundation for the rest of the interview. Can the candidate remain focused on answering the question? Is he or she especially nervous? Can the candidate summarize his or her work accomplishments succinctly while at the same time providing a narrative about career progression? All of this information is helpful to manage the interview.
- The interviewer has already had the chance to look at your resume, but wants to understand the “why” of it. The responsibility of the candidate is to highlight some career accomplishments, but primarily to explain the reasoning and motivation for the most significant career moves made.
How to prepare:
The answer to this question should be 2-3 minutes long, so once you have chosen the things you would like to highlight, practice your answer several times to make sure you can fit it into that timeframe. The point is not to summarize everything you have done at every job, but to briefly discuss accomplishments and the circumstances surrounding moves from one role to another. The logical starting point is your graduation from college. Summarize the degree you received and how it made sense to pursue the career you did based on your education. From there, look closely at your jobs. In one-two sentences, how would you discuss your time in that role? What was the motivating factor to move from that role to the next one? For your current job, lay out your current responsibilities. While it may be tempting to continue on and also answer “why an MBA” when you get there, just wait until that question is asked.
How to highlight particular circumstances:
Situation 1: Worked two years at a consulting firm, then switched to work in marketing at a pharmaceutical company.
“While at XX Consulting I had an extended engagement with a major pharma company. Working there made me realize the growth and potential of the industry, and I no longer wanted to be an outsider looking in. I wanted to XYZ.”
Situation 2: Worked in operations at a manufacturer, then switched to finance.
“During my time in operations I worked closely with the finance group in preparing our supply chain forecast. Through that experience I came to realize that I really loved numbers, and finance more closely fit with where I saw my career going. I made the case to senior management, and after recognizing my capabilities in the area they found a spot for me.”
Situation 3: Moved up in the organization from analyst to senior analyst to associate.
“I was fortunate to be involved in projects that gave me a lot of responsibility early on and had supportive mentors along the way. This allowed me to be recognized for my contributions and move up in the organization.” [In this type of situation, mentioning a few details of the projects would be appropriate.]
Important things to remember:
- Do not rehash everything on your resume. Remember, the interviewer will have already read through it, and seen several details. They want to understand WHY you have done what you have in your career thus far.
- Stay focused. Don’t get bogged down in details that the interviewer doesn’t need or want to know. HIGHLIGHT and move on.
Additional things to consider:
It’s possible the interviewer might ask “Tell me about yourself” instead. In this case, it is still appropriate to give the details about your work experience, but also to give some background on you. Possible things to share: Where you grew up, interesting information about your childhood/schooling, why you chose to go to the university you did, and why you chose to study what you did. Essentially, by wording the question this way, the interviewer is encouraging you to include more personal details about your life, both current and from the past.
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