My Interview with Stanford

The Stanford interview is an alumni-run interview.  You give Stanford your current address and they reach out to alumni in your area to find one that can interview you.  Stanford introduces you to the alumnus/alumna that will interview you by means of an email, and the two of you coordinate a date/time to meet up that works best for the both of you.

Unfortunately for me, there were no alumni in Buffalo, and so I was required to head over to Toronto for my interview.

Since my interview was early in the morning at the office of my alumnus interviewer, I opted to drive to Toronto the night before.  The morning of, I drove over to his office, parked out front, and headed in.  The office was very much centered around an open floor plan, and reminded me of a Silicon Valley startup.  I was offered a water and instructed to sit on a plush leather sofa in the waiting area until my interviewer was ready.

After a few minutes, my interviewer came to grab me, we shook hands, exchanged “nice-to-meet-yous,” and headed over to a meeting room.  The room featured a large table that seated just the two of us, as well as glass walls, so everyone passing by was able to steal a curious peek at our exchange.

Though the environment was a bit foreboding, my interviewer was not.  He was dressed down and told me that, in my suit, I was probably the most dressed up person in the building.  He quickly put me at ease and we talked for a bit about him and what he’s done since Stanford, as well as the ins-and-outs of his current company.

When it finally came time to interview, he pulled out a sheet filled with questions he was allowed to choose from, complete with a scoring guide (both provided by Stanford).  He began with the basics, “What are you career goals?  Tell me about yourself” (definitely have your “tell me about yourself” response memorized–no more than 1.5 minutes and wrap it up with why an MBA is necessary for you), before moving into the more substantial part of the interviewer.

He had a quota of questions that he had to hit (I believe it was five), and they were HEAVILY, HEAVILY, HEAVILY behavioral.  If you are unfamiliar with behavioral interview questions, you really should read up on answering them by means of the STAR method.  Almost all of his questions began with a “tell me about a time when…” or a “give me an example of you showing…”.

Some specific questions that I recall being asked (though, not verbatim) were:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to lead a team of individuals
  • Tell me about when you took an initiative and how you moved it forward
  • Tell me about a time where you could’ve taken the lead but instead chose to contribute as a team member
  • Tell me about an international experience you’ve been a part of
  • Tell me about a challenging work environment you’ve been a part of

My interviewer gave me positive feedback the whole time, and even rejected potential questions that he thought might have considerable overlap with my previous answers (I’m not sure if this is required of alumni interviewers, but it was very helpful).

Towards the end of the interview, it was my turn to ask questions and he was more than happy to provide me with a wealth of information about Stanford, the school’s resources, his career path afterwards, life in Palo Alto, current business world happenings etc.  He was candid and dedicated to the interview, and we talked for well over an hour.  Overall, it was a fairly easy interview with a very laid back dialogue.

As I stated at the beginning of this post, the alumni-run interviews vary a considerable amount.  I cannot guarantee that your interview will run like mine did.  Your interview will, however, most certainly feature an alumnus/alumna holding that same question packet and scoring rubric.  Therefore, if you are interviewing for Stanford, I recommend practicing sample behavioral interview questions online, having five or six “power stories” ready to draw from, knowing the basics (“Tell me about yourself” “What are your career goals?” etc.), and knowing the answer to “Why Stanford?”  

EDIT:  For those asking, I was admitted to Stanford GSB.

For more general tips on business school interviewing, check out my How to Prepare for B-school Interviews post or read about my interviews with Yale and Cornell.

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