5 Cliche’ Weaknesses in MBA Interviews

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You know that moment. The one who makes the interviewer roll up her eyes takes a deep breath and sheds some tears. Okay, maybe not the last one. While most MBA applicants are just fine during the remainder of the interview, they almost inevitably make mistakes when asked about their weaknesses. Heard about the MBA applicants who looked too good, did excellent work, got promotions, got along famously with colleagues, and then regretted every one of these qualities? Neither have we! And yet, hundreds of MBA applicants will use exactly similar qualities as ‘weaknesses.’ They think they’re being humble or can fool the interviewer (yes, some of them think that way!), but they cannot. These are things you should avoid, and here’s why we’re presenting a list of cliched weaknesses for MBA interviews you should stay away from. Rather than giving cliched answers, try and make your MBA interview preparation focused and authentic to your profile.

Why should I avoid using cliches in MBA interviews?

Cliches make you sound like everyone else, making it hard for interviewers to remember who you are or why they might want to admit you into their program.

They don’t show any creativity or originality on your part — which can leave the impression that if you’re going through all this trouble of getting into business school (and paying for it), then surely there must be something special about you. And if there isn’t, then why the B-school should bother?

They can make it seem like you don’t have anything better to say — which is fine if that’s true! But we hope that’s not the case because if it is, you’re not clearing that interview anyway, baby!

Without further ado, though, here’s the list of weaknesses for MBA interviews you should avoid like the plague. NEVER use these ‘weaknesses’ to answer a question on weaknesses for MBA interviews. 5 Cliche` Weaknesses in MBA Interviews:

Cliché 1: I work too much.

This is the worst possible answer to anything, ever. It makes you sound like a workaholic who can’t have fun and doesn’t know when to stop working.

If you say this, the interviewer will immediately think, “That’s ridiculous.” They will then think of all the other people they’ve interviewed who have said the same thing and conclude that it’s an excuse to cover up some other problem.

Working hard indeed is one of your strengths. But if you say it’s a weakness, it won’t be taken seriously because everyone thinks they work hard! The trick is to come up with something different and exciting — something that shows you’re not just another candidate who has been coached by a headhunter or prep school on how to answer common questions.

Instead of saying, “I work too much,” try saying, “I need to improve my time management skills.” This gives the impression that while there may be a problem, it is not insurmountable and can be improved upon with training and practice.

Cliché 2: I’m a perfectionist.

This answer is usually given by someone who wants to seem hardworking and dedicated. Still, it can backfire because it makes people think that you are too critical of others or unwilling to delegate responsibilities. It probably also puts pressure on your colleagues when they feel they cannot make mistakes around you!

Saying this shows that you’re not aware of your strengths or weaknesses: Being a perfectionist is your most significant weakness. It shows that you don’t know where your strengths lie or what areas need improvement. This could come across as someone who doesn’t have much self-awareness or doesn’t know how to improve himself because he can’t pinpoint areas where he needs help; both are bad qualities for someone looking for an MBA program.

“We’re looking for people who will be able to collaborate and work with other people,” says the admissions director of a top-5 global MBA program. “You want people who can get along well with others.” She advises applicants not to say they’re too much of a perfectionist, as it could imply you don’t know how to compromise or work with others.

Cliché 3: I’m a terrible listener.

Business school isn’t a pub where picking up a random word, or a visual cue is enough to get the job done. If you tell your interviewer that you are a terrible listener, you are digging a (deep) hole for yourself. Here’s what it might make your interviewer assume:

  • You’ll miss important information or opportunities in B-school. If someone is telling you about their experience (how peer learning happens in an MBA program), it’s essential to listen and then ask them questions about what they said to better understand their point of view and build on it in your answer. You won’t get much from the MBA experience if you’re poor at this.
  • You’ll miss cues from other study team members about how they feel about what’s being said or what they think about the topic, which could be valuable information.
  • You won’t contribute well to class discussions and class participation – and that means your value to the class will be limited.

Cliché 4: I’m very competitive.

When you say you’re competitive, you’re saying, “I’m so competitive that I can’t take losing.” It’s a negative trait that makes you sound like a sore loser, which is not something that admissions officers want to see in an MBA student. It also makes you sound overly aggressive and lacking in humility — two qualities that are not desirable in an MBA student.

This is awful – it makes you come across as cutthroat and ruthless, qualities that may not be the best in an MBA program. True, you’re trying to say that you don’t give up and like to deliver excellent results, but it can come the wrong way.

This could be particularly problematic if the admissions committee believes that you are someone who is going to prioritize their needs over others and may chase after grades and jobs as not just the top but the only priority.

Cliché 5: I have trouble saying no.

Why it’s bad: When you tell an admissions committee that you have trouble saying no, they hear that you’re not strong enough to say no to people — and that can be a real problem if you want to make it through business school. You want to say that you’re so lovely that you can never refuse people. However, the interviewer may interpret it as that even after so many years at work, you still cannot prioritize and can be pushed into following other people’s priorities. That’s not what mature applicants do.

The interviewers want to know if you can make tough decisions and stick with them. They want to know that you won’t stay in denial about it or blame others for your mistakes (or worse, blame yourself) when something goes wrong. And they want to know that when someone asks for your help, you’ll be willing to give it — whether or not the person has been nice to you before.

What if I just don’t mention weaknesses?

Ah, burying your head in the sand. Feels nice, we’re sure.

Except, that it doesn’t work.

Here’s why.


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