Very annoying interview question about your education

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blackomen
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17 Sep 2009, 9:43 pm

Suppose you went to Harvard for college and upon graduation, you applied for their MBA program even though you knew your chances were very slim. You receive your rejection letter and are not surprised.. but you get into an MBA program at a lower tier school and did well.

When you interview for jobs, they keep ask you "Why did you choose not to get your MBA at Harvard?" The answer is quite obvious: you didn't get in to Harvard's MBA program but stating that isn't gonna score you points in your interview. What might be an acceptable answer to this sort of question? What sort of answers are they sorta expecting? And what's the purpose of asking this type of question in the first place?

Although I didn't go to Harvard, I've faced a similar problem since my undergraduate university has a very prestigious graduate program in Finance but I didn't get in but settled for a similar program at a lesser known school. Interviewers very frequently ask me why I didn't "choose" my undergraduate institution to continue my graduate studies when in fact, it's likely that the interviewer knows that this graduate program is very difficult to be admitted to.

(Substitute "MBA" and "Harvard" for any combination of a top-notch but extremely selective professional program and its corresponding school.)



michillimackinac
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17 Sep 2009, 11:02 pm

"Well, Mr./Mrs./Ms. (Interviewer's name), I did apply to Harvard but did not meet their stringent requirements. After making inquiries about my shortcomings, I paid specific attention to those shortcomings in business school, and I believe I will be a better employee because of that experience."



zer0netgain
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18 Sep 2009, 6:42 am

Interviewers who ask such pointless questions should be castrated.

Really. You don't realize that a graduate program at your university DOES NOT have to accept applicants from the same university if they don't want to? :roll:



seaequalsdancer
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18 Sep 2009, 2:04 pm

I find it odd that interviewers would even ask that question. It seems very tactless. I know the business world is all about connections, especially alumni connections, so maybe this question is more commonly asked in interviews for those types of jobs but it still seems really odd to me. Most people actually don't go to their undergraduate university for a graduate degree unless you are doing a combined bachelor's-master's program. You are kind of supposed to go somewhere else to experience new professors and situations.

I would just say you thought the other university was a good fit/choice for you personally and give some examples as to why, like smaller class sizes, more individual attention, a certain professor you wanted to study with, less student loan debt, etc etc. I would not mention applying there but not getting in because it doesn't seem like something they need to know. A lot of getting into those top programs is pure chance. I mean yeah there are handful of top-notch candidates that there is no question about them getting in and then some with connections like legacies and such, but otherwise it is kind of a game of chance because they only have so few seats and many applicants who are similarly qualified. But anyway, emphasize what you gained from your graduate school experience and how you benefited from their program.



Ravenchild
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25 Sep 2009, 3:59 am

When I was applying for post-grad study, we were actually told that studying at the same institution could get you "marked down" in interviews.
The way to spin it is that whole "working with different people in a new and challenging environment" thing that employers seem to like so much.
I am staying at the same institution only because it is the best in the country for what I want to study - but was strongly advised to go elsewhere by certain members of staff for the reason stated above.
Although I can get away with staying where I am because of what I am studying, choosing to go elsewhere for post-grad study seems to be an accepted convention, and is actively encouraged in many fields.
Don't know if that helps at all...


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