Stanford GSB Interview
Checked into the alum's company, sporting my "guest" nametag. Was in the process of blowing my nose, when I turned around and discovered the alum was standing right there, waiting for me! Wow - talk about punctual. (Yes, I tucked the tissue away.)
We spun a couple circles locating our meeting room, chatting about her Stanford experience. I entered the room and found myself staring at smiley faces and pillows dotting the walls. What a way to set the mood. :-) No doubt, she works for a very friendly company indeed.
We casually eased into our seats, and then came her list of prepared "Stanford recommended" questions.
1) What was the point/situation that made you realize you wanted an MBA?
2) Why Stanford?
3) Tell me about a challenging time for you.
At this point she said, "I will give you a minute, because honestly, I don't even know how I would answer this question." My mind almost blanked, but then I really dug into myself and answered from the heart - something family related.
4) Tell me a time where you failed as a leader. What was the reaction of those under you?
5) What do you believe to be your greatest achievement?
After my answer, she stared at me wide-eyed. I almost panicked thinking, "Oh no! Did I just say something wrong?!?!" She stunned me by saying, "You're a walking case-study for a book I just read! What you just talked about - there was an entire chapter on it. When you mentioned your X experience earlier, it also fit what this book is teaching as well!"
Whew! I let out my breath. We launched into a discussion about women in business. Many women seem to be ripping each other's hair out as they fight for top spots. Why? Perhaps we assume there are only those "few spots" for women on top? But that's not right. Women should be collectively working towards the top together in a mutual support. Shouldn't we? We chatted animatedly about career women, work-life balance, stepping beyond your comfort zone to make things happen, and through it all, being driven by your passion and interests to reach your goals.
Oh, and I discovered that the GSB has a "Books for Break" reading list! (Aha! Thus, the infamous book question.) She Wins, You Win was the latest and greatest book from the reading list. I'm definitely picking up a copy. (Thanks also to Anuj for an enlightening ongoing discussion of Freakonomics.)
6) Tell me about a great leader you had and what you learned from this person.
7) What was the best college course you took?
8) And the question of multiple school apps came up, as MBA Jackass pondered over, but I was instead asked: Why aren't you applying to Harvard and Wharton? I gave her my 10-second spiel and we moved on.
9) What is the best constructive criticism you've received?
10) Finally, there it was: What is a non-business book you've read and what did you learn from it?
Through the entire 45 minutes, we had collectively recommended 5 different books and 2 different community service orgs to each other. However, my biggest take away from this interview was how much I was able to reflect on myself and what I've learned in life - and speak to it from the heart. Sure, we wrote about it in our essays, but our conversation challenged me to step beyond my own answer to the "what matters most to me and why" question. The light bulb flashed even brighter, reaffirming for myself who I was, what I was there for, and how we are a part of each other's lives (perhaps in ways unknown).
Even if I don't get an admit, I will always thank Stanford for the 45 minutes of pure, honest self-reflection. For now, I will remain hopeful. Good luck to all fellow '08-ers and your upcoming interviews!