News, advice and resources for business school applicants

Interview Reports


Below are MBA admissions interview questions and experiences submitted by CBS MBA applicants. If you interviewed at Columbia, we encourage you to submit a report detailing your experience!

Columbia Business School MBA Admissions Interview Questions: Round 1 / Alumnus / Off-Campus

interview 3I applied for the J-term and got the interview call within 2 weeks of applying.  I scheduled the interview with an alum-most of them did not have a similar background as mine. He called me to his office so it was a formal setting.

The interview started off by him discussing about my current work. We got into the details of my profile, the product, and the difficulties my sector is facing. There were a few standard questions as have been listed out in almost all other posts.

1. Why MBA?
2. Why Columbia?
3. What value can you add to Columbia?
4. Describe an ethical dilemma you have faced.

In every answer, he would pick up one thing and switch to that topic to see how comfortable I was with what I was saying.

After 40 minutes, he asked me if I had any questions for him which went on for about 5 minutes and that was it.

Overall, a very relaxed interview, even after it being a formal setting. He made me feel very comfortable since the interview went on in more of a chatty fashion rather than it being question-answer session. I hope to hear from them in about 2 weeks as the website suggests. Fingers crossed.

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Columbia MBA Admissions Interview Questions: Early Decision / Alumnus / Off-campus

From the list of Ambassadors that the school provided, I chose an alum that had a similar background to mine (finance/M&A in the infrastructure sector).
We met at a local coffee shop (São Paulo, Brazil) and the interview was very informal. This environment was crucial to break the ice. He was more concerned if I was comfortable and enjoying the conversation rather than testing me.

The interview went as follows:

1. Give me your 5-minute pitch (another version of the “walk me through your resume” question).
2. Why MBA?
3. Tell me more about your latest project and your role in it.
4. Why Columbia? How will your Columbia experience look like?
5. What do you want to do post-MBA?
6. What is your plan B career? – He asked me that since my goal is to return to Private Equity, and it is a very selective field, even for MBA students.
7. Tell me about an ethical dilema you faced at work.
8. Do you have any questions?

In every question he wanted to make sure to get into details. He said he was more curious than testing if I was consistent with my speech.

Interview 2

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Columbia MBA Admissions Interview Questions: Round 1 / Alumnus / Off-Campus

The interview was at a coffee shop. It was casual and conversational, though the interviewer really focused on my previous experiences.

The questions asked were:

1. Tell me about yourself.
2. Why MBA?
3. Why Columbia?
4. Why xyz industry?
5. What would you do if your industry was gone?
6. Would you go back to your previous job function?
7. Do you have questions for me?

All in all – very simple. 1.5 hour interview. Good luck all.

Interview 4

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Columbia MBA Admissions Interview Questions: Round 2 / Alumnus / Off-Campus

The interview was at a coffee shop and revolved around a few basic questions. It was a blind interview, although I provided my resume in advance, and it lasted 45 minutes.  I had the opportunity to ask questions throughout the conversation.

1. Walk me through the last three years of your resume.
2. Why are you interested in going to business school?
3. What specific courses are you interested in?
4. Have you visited campus? Why Columbia? Why NYC?
5. What are your near-term career goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
6. What else would you like me to tell the admissions committee?

Interview 4

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Columbia MBA Admissions Interview Questions: Round 2 / Alumnus / Off-campus

I interviewed with an older alumna with an investment banking background. Similar to other interviews on Clear Admit, my interview questions focused on:

1) Walk me through your resume
2) Why MBA?
3) Why Columbia?
4) What other schools are you applying to?

The interview was conversational though I would advise not getting too relaxed. Stay on your game. I found out 10 days later that I was accepted!

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Columbia MBA Admissions Interview Questions: Round 1 / Alumnus / Off-campus

I had a great interview with an advertising director in NYC. I arrived at his office 15 minutes early and he offered me a coffee. He started by asking Why Columbia and Why MBA now. I talked a bit about my resume, then he asked me what role I usually play on teams. The conversation was very relaxed and free flowing from there. We talked about his background and interest in the advertising industry. I asked about the Columbia network post-graduation. He was visiting LA during the holidays, and since I’m from there I gave him a few suggestions. Overall great interview process!

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Columbia MBA Admissions Interview Questions: Rolling admission / Alumnus / Off-campus

The interview was conducted by an alum and took place in a conference room in his office. It was a blind interview, but I sent him my CV in advance.

- Walk me through your resume
- Why Columbia/ why MBA?
- What other schools I’d applied to
- My current role
- What I had to bring to the table in the classroom setting

He was a young and friendly interviewer. He gave me his background too. It felt fairly informal. There was time at the end to pose questions. He had a report to fill out afterwards, so he apologised if the questions seemed trite, and because he’d be writing comments based on my responses as I spoke. The interviewer felt a strong affinity to the school and conducts many interviews.

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Columbia MBA Admissions Interview Questions: Round 1 (ED) / Alumnus / Off-campus

As other people have stated, spend some time to choose your interviewer. Also remember a recent graduate is not necessarily going be easier to interview with… senior alumni can make sometimes better interviewers as they have done hundreds of them and it will be just one more for them and are a lot more confident.

Interview was exactly as described here by everyone else. We held the interview at his office in a meeting room. It started off as a normal job interview and slowly changed into a conversation. I also felt that he placed a lot of weight on the time that he gave me to ask questions (remember to tailor your questions to the interviewer – no point asking a interviewer who graduated 20 years ago which class to take or how was his time at CBS).

Questions that he asked me:
1. Why an MBA (he asked me to use the opportunity as well to walk him through my CV)
2. Why Columbia and why New York
4. Do I have any particular classes or professors in mind
5. As I am in investment banking he asked me to detail a recent deal that I worked on (he went into technical questions – not valuations but rather what is the driver for the industry, how would x, y and z impact valuation, etc – but they were basic questions nothing compared to a real banking interview)
6. Give me a situation where you worked in a team
7. Give me a situation where you had difficulty in concluding a deal
6. Give me a situation where you had difficulty with a team member
8. How many people have worked for you (juniors), in what capacity and how did you manage them
9. What are you future plans; both short term and long term
9.1 What would you do if your plans failed? I told him that I would like to return to my home country post MBA to which he responded if this was absolute or if I am flexible and willing to relocate and why
10. Have I spoken to alumni and / or current students and who are they – he didn’t care about names rather how do I know them etc.

After about an hour he gave me about 15 min to ask questions. The interview did not seem tailored to ED applications.

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Columbia MBA Admissions Interview Questions: Early Decision / Alumnus / Off-campus

Applied: 9/30, Interview Notification: 10/15, Interview Scheduled: 10/17, Interview On: 10/21, Report Complete: 10/26, Admission Decision: 11/04 (Denied)

I want to take the time to write this report even though I got denied admission to Columbia. This site has been very helpful in my preparation for interviews with MBA schools and I want to give back to the community.
*The most important step* in your interview process with Columbia is selecting your interviewer. I made the mistake of choosing an alumnus (’06 grad) that was not able to relate to my goals or my background. I chose him because he used to work in the company I work for and graduated the same year and cluster as a colleague of mine (extra points right? Wrong!).

The interviewer was very hostile and doubtful of my goals/achievements. Apart from working in the top investment bank, I started my own business and the main reason I want to get an MBA is to expand this business outside of my home country. The interview took more of a focus on the difficulty in achieving my goals and how the interviewer has failed as an entrepreneur. Our conversation lasted for an hour and a half and we covered the basic interview questions (why your undergrad school?, your career, time showing leadership, etc ) in the first fifteen minutes. The next hour and change was all about the feasibility of my business model.

I hope you learn from mistakes and know that 90% of the interview is dependent on whether you can get the alumnus to relate to your story. Do your research on the candidates and choose someone that sees themselves in you.

Best of luck! And on to the next MBA interview for me.

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Columbia MBA Admissions Interview Questions: ED / Alum / Off-campus

Interview went well overall. There were a few questions worded in a new way or ones I didn’t necessarily expect:

1. “I’m wondering if you ever ran into a conflict with a coworker and how you resolved it.”
2. “If you could only pick one thing from your Columbia experience, what would it be and why?”
3. “Describe a day in the life of your Columbia experience”
4. “If you don’t get into the firms you want for your internship or short term goals, what will you do? Ok, if that also doesn’t work out, what about plan C?”
5. “Have you ever lived in NY? How do you envision that experience?”

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Columbia MBA Admissions Interview Questions: ED / CBS Alumni Interviewer

My interviewer was a 2007 CBS Alum. He was friendly and cordial via email, and very flexible when setting the time and location. Ultimately, we decided on this past Friday, October 25th, at 5:30pm. He thought of a few different places to have the interview and then he asked if we could do it in his home for a quieter setting.

Given the location and his vibe thus far, it did end up being as I expected – conversational and less formal. He asked the following questions:

- Tell me about yourself/what are your interests and hobbies
- What do you think of the application process so far? Anything CBS does well or could do to improve?
- Walk me through your resume (here, he jumped in whenever he found something interesting or wanted elaboration)
- Why do you want to make the transition to business school? Why do you think you are ready for business school? Why now? Why Columbia?
- What is your immediate post-MBA goal and long term goal?
- Any questions for me?

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