MBA Interviews | Acing the Mind Benders

image: Standing Squirrel posted on flickr.com by Darragh Sherwin

by: Grayson Leverenz

Mind benders are fairly new on the MBA interviewing scene. Supposedly, the tech industry started the trend, which I can totally believe; they wanted to make sure they were hiring fun, creative people that can think on their feet. What better way to discover that than by asking, “What type of animal would you be if you could be any animal?”

In reality, mind bender interview questions fall into two categories: mini-case and what if. Mini-case questions follow the same pattern of a traditional case question, but on a smaller scale, typically 5-10 minutes instead of 30. What if questions seek your response to a hypothetical, often impossible, scenario (e.g. the animal question).

Both types of mind benders test your ability to think on your feet since the Recruiter strives to come up with something original every time. They test your basic analytical skills with mini-cases, and your creativity with what if’s. Although you can’t prepare for every contingency, here are some strategies to ace the mind benders.

1. Know basic demographics.
The size of the global population, the size of the US population and a couple of major age breaks in the US will all come in handy during the mind bender portion of an interview. Having these facts in your back pocket will allow you to impress the interviewer with quick calculations in answer to their question. For example, you would be able to determine the quantity of American flags needed if an incredibly rich donor decided to purchase a flag for every American under the age of 18 to wave on Independence Day. Click here for a link to US demographics.

2. Be aware of trends.
Familiarity with overarching cultural and industry trends will help tremendously when facing many mind bender interview questions. I was once asked how I would double McDonald’s revenues in one year, and answered with a combination of emerging market growth (e.g. BRIC countries) combined with cultural awareness (e.g. beef isn’t going to go over well in most of India) and the shift toward healthier eating (e.g. acquiring or creating a healthier brand). It worked. Click here for a link to TrendsSpotting, a good place to start researching trends.

3. Stay true to yourself.
As you’re thinking through the possible mind bender questions, think about what you actually believe, not what you think the interviewer wants to hear. If you would want to be a squirrel, say it, and know why. “I’d want to be a squirrel because they are independent, curious and resourceful.” Or whatever. Go back to the attributes you want the interviewer to know about you, and pick from there.

And, as always, try to have fun with these questions. The more original you are, the more likely the interviewer is to remember you well!

Click here to purchase the MBA in the USA™ complete interview guide “MBA Interviews: How to Shine in Every Interview Situation.”

Author: Grayson Leverenz

Grayson Leverenz founded MBA in the USA® to help international students build networks, find jobs, and have fun in the USA. Hundreds of global professionals have benefited from Grayson’s intercultural workshops, and she has worked with people from Brazil, China, India, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the USA to build effective virtual teams and craft brilliant careers.

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