Written by Stephen J. Skripak, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, Pamplin College of Business, Virginia Tech
Open-ended questions like this one pose perhaps the greatest interview risk and opportunity to a prospective student. A weak answer could damage whatever positive impression you may have made to that point, while a strong, well-articulated response can cement positive impressions or, when needed, improve upon any weak points thus far. Probably the worst answer you could give would be along the lines of “No, I think we’ve about covered everything.” If that’s the case, your interviewer would have to rank among the most thorough in academia—for that matter, anywhere.
Even if you believe that nothing material has been left unexplored, this question presents an opportunity for you to recap positive points that you have raised throughout the interview. In a sense, your answer would be like a 30-second commercial, except that you’d be giving it as a deal-closer instead of an intro. You might begin with a statement like, “Just to reinforce why I think I would be a good fit with your program….” and then restate your main selling points.
Of course, if there are aspects of your background that have not surfaced during the earlier part of the interview, now’s your chance to get them out on the table. In this case, you’ll want to be concise, so cover your best one or two remaining points and leave it at that. A long, rambling answer could cause you to look unfocused, or, worse yet, like you just can’t stop talking about yourself. Hit your points, but be pithy and, in the process, considerate of the interviewer’s time.
This strategy will require you to be very focused while interviewing so that you are not overly repetitive or miss key points that you want to get across. For that reason, I recommend that you make a list of the five main points you want to communicate, and during the interview keep a running mental checklist of which ones you have covered. Having prepared four or five stories from your past that illustrate your strongest selling points will ensure that you are always ready to answer any question that the interviewer may ask, and in the event that those questions don’t allow you to get these points across, the final, open-ended question above will give you every opportunity to effectively close the sale on your MBA admission.