The MIT Sloan Interview: Questions + Preparation Strategies

MIT Sloan School of Management

MIT Sloan’s admissions interview is a Behavioral Event-Based Interview (BEI), and for the lucky ones who have already received an interview invitation from MIT Sloan, we’d like to share some advice regarding this interview. While perhaps not as radically different from the traditional MBA admissions interview as Wharton’s Team-Based Discussion, MIT Sloan’s behavioral interview requires a healthy amount of respect and a unique style of preparation.

How is MIT Sloan’s Behavioral Interview Different?

Unlike most MBA admissions committees, MIT Sloan focuses its interview exclusively on a candidate’s past actions. As the AdCom writes in its interview preparation guide, “Instead of asking how you would behave in a particular situation, the interviewer will ask you how you did behave.”

This means two things:

As a result, you’ll spend a lot longer answering every question than you would during most MBA admissions interviews. Consider that MIT Sloan candidates are typically asked around 6-9 questions; in comparison, HBS candidates are usually asked at least 10-15 questions, and sometimes more.

These two differences are important, and they should drive most of your preparation strategy for MIT Sloan’s behavioral interview.

Typical MIT Sloan Behavioral Interview Format and Questions

Perhaps one benefit of Sloan’s behavioral interview is that it follows a seemingly predictable format. Although there’s no guarantee, most MIT Sloan interviews will likely be structured along these lines:

How to Successfully Prepare for MIT Sloan’s Behavioral Interview

Pick the Topic Areas for Your Answers Wisely

This is perhaps the most important advice any applicant can heed headed into a behavioral interview. As mentioned previously, behavioral interviews lend themselves to prolonged focus on a small handful of situations that you choose, and each situation will require you to elaborate at length and in detail. Therefore, your success during MIT Sloan’s behavioral interview hinges on your ability to pick topic areas for your answers that you can talk in detail about.

After the interviewer asks you a behavioral question, take a moment to consider how you want to answer it. Studies on human interaction have shown that pauses of between four and seven seconds are perfectly normal; any longer, and the break starts to become a bit uncomfortable. So, take the full four to seven seconds (which sounds shorter than it really is!) before launching into your answer to make sure its a topic you’re eager to talk about at length.

If that time isn’t enough, ask for more. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to do during an interview, and in fact it is a near-mandatory part of any interview for one of the major consulting firms (which obviously recruit heavily form MBA programs like Sloan). Simply say, “That’s a really great question, and I haven’t thought about it before. Do you mind if I take a few seconds to consider it?” While the break may feel unnatural at the time, it demonstrates professionalism and poise; more importantly, it is far better than jumping into a question with a poorly thought out answer.

Understand the STAR Framework

The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) framework doesn’t work for everyone, but it is the gold standard for answering behavioral questions, and there is a reason for that. It’s worth practicing using the STAR framework during mock interviews so it becomes second nature during the real thing.

If you aren’t familiar with the STAR framework, this excerpt from Wikipedia is as good a place as any to start reading up on it, and there are dozens more resources out there that elaborate on it further:

Practice With Someone Who is Willing to Grill You

As with any type of interview, practice is critical. For MIT Sloan in particular, make sure you practice with someone that is willing to (if not eager to) grill you. The more detail-oriented they are, the better. And, because it will prompt them to ask more clarifying questions about your resume and essays, it’s helpful if they don’t know you particularly well personally or professionally. (This is a service we provide to many candidates: Interview Prep).

Prepare Smart Questions to Ask

Succeeding at MIT Sloan’s behavioral interview is not only about the questions you answer but also about the questions you ask. Admissions committees want to admit candidates that will say yes, and one really good barometer of a candidate’s intent to do so is the questions they ask at the end of the interview. (You’d be surprised how easy it is to separate out the candidates who aren’t really sold on a particular school or program; they often do little to no research, or they limit their research to reading a school’s website or watching online videos).

Make sure the questions you ask reflect your own personal application. That is, the questions should be ones that make sense for you in particular to ask. They shouldn’t be generic questions that any candidate could ask, and they shouldn’t be questions with answers easily accessible through Sloan’s website or admissions material.

Send a Thank You Note

At the bottom of MIT Sloan’s interview preparation guide, the admissions committee clearly states that candidates “may send a thank-you through email or postal mail.” Don’t miss the opportunity!

…and it should go without saying, but in case you haven’t already: read MIT Sloan’s interview preparation guide.  

Finally, Prepare Your Best Stories

You won’t have a chance to talk about all (or even most) of the stories or examples you prepare, but it’s worth having a handful of situations and stories (use the STAR framework if helpful in preparing them) that you can talk about in the behavioral interview.

We estimate that the post-interview admissions rate at MIT Sloan stands at around 60%, although precise numbers don’t exist. So taking the extra time to prepare for and practice your behavioral interview is critical.