ColumbiaBelow 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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?
I submitted my application about a week before the Early Decision deadline. I was notified I was selected for an interview about two weeks later, and was able to set up the interview within four days. From the list of available interviewers, it took three tries before someone was able to conduct it. While the instructions for arranging the interview said to give people two business days to respond, everyone got back to me within a few hours and was very gracious. My interviewer graduated in May, so she had a lot of recent experience with CBS. She came up to where I lived, even though I offered to go to a location most convenient for her. She did that because in her interview, she went to an office and was very uncomfortable the whole time since she said she felt like she was on someone else’s turf. She didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable, so she came to me.
We had the interview at a bench in a park. It lasted almost exactly 45 minutes and followed the same basic script as most on here. She had a copy of my resume, but that’s all she knew about me before the interview. Questions I was asked in include tell me about yourself, what is your leadership style, how do you work in a team, what will you do if you don’t get into business school, along with a few others and then finished up with my questions for her. After the interview, she submitted her feedback within a few hours, and less than three days later I got the phone call with my acceptance.
From start to finish, the interview process was painless and very pleasant. There were no surprises during the interview. You get asked questions from a fairly standard list.
My interviewer was a recent graduate. We met at a Starbucks near where she lives on a Friday afternoon. She told me from the outset that she thought the whole process would take about 45 minutes with 30 minutes of her asking me questions and 15 minutes for my questions to her (more time than I had planned questions for, so take note of that). The interview stuck to that schedule pretty much to the minute.
- Walk through resume
- Why business school
- Why Columbia
- Short term goal
- Long term goal
- Talk about a time you had difficulty working with a team member
- What club would you start at Columbia
- What would you do if you didn’t get the summer job you want
- What would you do if you didn’t get into business school
- Anything else I should know about you (phrased open-endedly – could talk about extracurriculars or things to be sure the adcom heard)
The two big questions I expected based on other reports but didn’t actually get:
1. Adversity – Though I suppose the difficult time with a team member question was just a narrowed version.
2. Ethical dilemma
The interview did not seem to be tailored toward ED at all. Showing that I had done my homework on Columbia was definitely important. I think they are looking to weed out casual applicants and really just want to hear that you are a serious person with a solid direction to your career.
The interview was at the alum’s place of employment. I was dressed formally and prepared fairly diligently by using personal resources as well as some of the posts found here. When I was given my choice of interviewers, I found that all of the alum offered were recent graduates. My alum was more or less of my age. We ran through some of the typical talking points:
- Walk me through your resume.
- Why B-school.
- Why Columbia.
- What I will add to Columbia.
- Backup plan if I don’t get in (I’m an entrepreneur and this question was stressed big time).
- Am I applying to other schools, and specifically, to what other schools am I applying?
I went through each of the questions and felt fairly prepared for each response. I felt comfortable, but tried to not let my guard down too much. I think that balance is key in these “casual” interview situations.
I would advise candidates to be on guard for alum interviews with a hyper-competitive tone. Although the interview was supposed to be “pretty casual” and indeed my interviewer seemed nice at the outset, the conversation quickly turned into a constant comparison of my profile with that of my interviewer and her friends. As an example, after asking which schools I had applied to, I was given a comparison of some higher-ranked schools that she considered and where her friends had attended. My interviewer proceeded to implicitly justify her decision to go to CBS by saying that since she was staying in NY, she just wanted to go to the “best school in New York”. (She seemed to imply that otherwise, she would have attended schools with her “friends in Massachusetts and California”). Kind of interesting to see an alum put their school below H/S but I played it cool thinking she was just trying to ruffle my feathers and/or gauge my response.
Professional goals were also on the table. As an entrepreneur, I was asked about back-up plans and “why an MBA”, especially given that my interviewer’s friends/contacts did not need an MBA to pursue their entrepreneurial goals. Again, I tried to calmly re-state my case for CBS by emphasizing courses, profs and resources that would accelerate goals. Also mentioned that CBS was a real dream school for me and I mentioned ways in which I was committed to contributing to the community.
One last thing: about 40 minutes into the interview, I felt my throat getting dry while speaking. Although I wasn’t offered water at the beginning of the interview, I felt it might be a little strange to ask my interviewer to get me some water. Eventually I did so (as politely as possible), but on a very basic level, I still find it pretty odd.
We closed by talking about how CBS helped her in her field and how it was necessary to achieve her goals. She seemed to think that although the skills gained didn’t apply directly to what she was doing, they did help to give her more insight into the managerial process. At this time, she had an upbeat tone when talking about the school.
Post-interview summary: I’m not really sure what to make of the interview/interviewer. I have friends currently in CBS and who’ve graduated and all of them are pretty cool and friendly. Maybe the school asked her to be tough? I think the interview went well in the sense that I smoothly handled perhaps one of the more awkward, if not competitive, interview experiences I’ve ever had. I’ll keep my fingers crossed!
Interview was concise and conversational – 45 minutes in total. I met with my interviewer at his office. Be advised, you should put in the zip code in the area you want to interview (I’m in NYC and I put my home address – Astoria, but I work downtown – so I had to trek back to LIC in the middle of a workday) – obviously this is only applicable for people in big cities.
We started by walking through my resume starting with college and going through extra-curriculars and work experience. I tried to create a narrative that would lead into why I want to do what I want to do. He asked about why an MBA and why now. Apparently I succeeded in creating the narrative because after that response, he was able to state my career goals without my explicitly having said what I wanted to do – I had talked about the industry, but had not mentioned the role I saw myself in.
He asked about a time I’ve experienced adversity, but I didn’t get the ethical issue question, which I was sad about because I had a better answer for that than for adversity. He also asked about my back-up plan, and that was pretty much it, aside from questions.
He was very positive and told me he thought I’d be a good fit and would be recommending me, but now I’m seeing that other people have been told that by interviewers and have gotten wait listed, so now I’m hyper-ventillating.
Applied 1/8, interview invitation 2/1, interview 2/7, interview information was submit same day and application status was updated. Over a week in and still no news.
First, Columbia allows you to enter your zip code to find an alumni near you. Then you are shortly thereafter emailed three alumni interviewers in the area. You are instructed to contact them going down the list. Mine was a female who graduated 4 years ago. She was very pleasant but abrupt and got right to her questions. It seems that Columbia has some standard questions each year and then the interviewer is free to add on. We met at Starbucks which has a good energy but can get loud. And tables are small so there isn’t always the most privacy. I’d advise a roomier location.
- Long term/Short term goals
- Why an MBA?
- Why Columbia?
- How will you contribute to Columbia?
- Tell me about a time you experienced a challenge and your reaction.
- Where else did you apply to and why?
- What will you do if you don’t get in? Reapply next year, etc.?
Lastly, she gave me an opportunity to ask questions. It seems they really really want to know why Columbia, so I highly recommend being prepared as far as that’s concerned. Also, have your longterm/shortterm/whyMBA story really tight. I got the impression that there’s a lot of diversity at Columbia and that there is often an overwhelming amount of things to do there, so prepare well ahead of time and know what you’ll be involved in!