IESE MBA Assessment Day & Interview: Format, Tips & Sample Questions

By Arvind Kumar

After you submit your application online for the IESE MBA and if you are shortlisted, the next steps involve an Assessment Day and a 1-hour interview. Both the Assessment Day and interviews are in English.

In this article, we will cover the formats and some key tips on how you can best prepare for the Assessment Day and interview. 

We will also look at the IESE MBA interview timelines for 2023-24 and share some past/ sample interview questions.

IESE MBA Assessment Day: Format & Duration

If you are located near an IESE campus, you may be invited to attend the Assessment Day in-person, otherwise it will be held online. The Assessment Day lasts for 2.5 – 3 hours, while the in-person event may be scheduled for longer. 

There are two formats which are typically followed for the Assessment Day.

First, there’s the case method. Here, it is all about teamwork and lively discussions. You will be given a case to study in advance (usually a week before), and you should really dig into it, thinking of yourself as the central character in the story. 

The event begins with an introductory discussion facilitated by an IESE Admissions Committee member or alumni. Applicants are then sent to smaller groups (of 5-6 members each) to discuss the case and make a decision as a team. Following this, applicants return to the bigger group for the final case discussion and to present their recommendations.

The second format skips the case study altogether. Here, you don’t need to do any prep work beforehand. Just show up on time, and you’ll be given all the instructions you need right there. It should still involve teamwork, but IESE likes to keep things fresh and innovative, so this part can be a bit less predictable and more spontaneous. 

It’s important to note that not all applicants will be invited to the Assessment Day. However, this invitation (or lack thereof) is not a judgment of your overall suitability. It simply means the Admissions Committee wants to learn more about certain candidates.

Tips for IESE MBA Assessment Day

Analyze the case inside out

The case study typically consists of a 12-15 page document with details about a company, the market they operate in, the challenge(s) they are facing and a bunch of supporting data e.g. charts, graphs, tables, survey results etc.

Firstly, understand who the key stakeholders and decision-maker(s) are, their challenges, and key questions to consider. When analyzing data, following a hypothesis-based approach can help. For example, if your hypothesis is “Company X’s profits are low because their marketing costs are high”, look for supporting data to ascertain (or dispute) this hypothesis. And balance both quantitative and qualitative data.

Remember to make notes of your key insights, and the rationale behind them.

Structure, structure, structure!

Case studies are all about structure. Condensing large information into a digestible format, while filtering unnecessary noise, is critical to ensure that your analysis is efficient. Remember the Pareto Principle (“80% of outcomes result from 20% of causes”) i.e. prioritize the most impactful areas.

Familiarize yourself with commonly used business frameworks e.g. Porter’s 5 forces, BCG matrix, 4Ps of marketing, Value Chain Analysis, SWOT, etc. Make sure to combine and adapt these to your case. 

The “So-What” is key to crafting actionable recommendations e.g. for a profitability case, what are the actionable steps to increase revenue and/ or reduce costs. 

Prioritizing the most critical steps, and highlighting the benefits/ risks of each can help present a balanced perspective that’s beyond the numbers.

Speak less, say more

When discussing your insights in your group or presenting your recommendations, aim to strike a balance between being a good speaker and a great listener. While some candidates mistakenly think speaking more indicates you know more, that’s rarely true.

Building up on points from other participants is great. Similarly, if someone in your group isn’t speaking up, encourage them to share their views – this is another great way to demonstrate your empathy and collaborative skills.

Be prepared for curveballs

You could be asked to share something unique about yourself in the introductory discussion. Or asked to justify your case study recommendations. Or? Ofcourse, there’s no way to predict a curveball, but there are ways to prepare. Firstly, be calm. Ask for a moment if needed. Then structure your thoughts as best as you can. 

Know that the evaluator isn’t expecting a masterpiece within a minute. It’s more about your resilience and how you didn’t mess it up. 

Check out insider insights on IESE MBA admissions from Tomofumi Nishida, Deputy Director, MBA Admissions at IESE Business School

IESE MBA Interview: Format & Duration

Following the Assessment Day, the one-hour 1:1 interview is typically conducted by an IESE MBA alumni, covering an in-depth discussion of your application. Alumni are mapped based on factors such as your location, career path and availability. The interview is typically held online.

There are also some cases where AdCom conducts the 1:1 interviews, and in-person, especially if you are located near an IESE campus or when they visit your city for an event.

The key factors that IESE looks for in the interviews are your:

  • Authenticity
  • Personal drive
  • Communication skills
  • Confidence
  • Team player mentality
  • Leadership potential
  • International outlook
  • Career goals
  • Values 
  • Knowledge of IESE and their offerings 

Tips for IESE MBA Interview

Have your Narrative Intact

Your story is your anchor. Be prepared to talk about your career, what led you to pursue an MBA and what your short-term and long-term career goals are.

Highlight the turning points, challenges you’ve overcome, and skills you’ve developed. The more authentically and confidently you shape your narrative, the more memorable you’ll be.

Research the School Thoroughly

Familiarize yourself with the IESE MBA curriculum, professors, treks, unique opportunities, and even the school’s culture. Align your goals with what IESE offers, and weave these connections organically into your answers.

Diving deep into the specifics of the IESE MBA shows genuine interest, and this is a great way to stand out.

Be Ready for Behavioral Questions

Expect questions that assess your skills, leadership, teamwork, and adaptability. 

Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your responses. Provide specific examples from your experiences to illustrate your abilities, and try to align them to the key factors IESE looks for (listed above). Having a repository of anecdotes helps, so you can tailor your responses.

Practice, but not too much!

The more you practice interviewing, either by yourself or with a seasoned mentor/ coach, the better you’ll be able to rectify your mistakes, and fine-tune your content and delivery. Practice will also help you feel more confident to face questions, including those curveballs. 

Don’t over-practice either, to the extent that you sound overly scripted and robotic. 

Engage in a Two-Way Conversation

Remember, your interviewer (Alumni) has been in your shoes and is happy to share their insights. Prepare questions for the interviewer that go beyond basic information found on the school’s website. 

Ask about opportunities, experiences, or aspects of the program that genuinely interest you. This demonstrates your curiosity and engagement. A clearly bad answer to “Do you have any questions for me?” is “No”.

IESE MBA Interview Timelines 2023-2024

Interview Decision ByFinal
Decision By
R1September 19, 2023October 3, 2023November 20, 2023
R2January 9, 2024January 26, 2024March 18, 2024
R3March 21, 2024April 8, 2024May 20, 2024
R4May 13-31, 2024May 21-June 5, 2024June 3-17, 2024

Check out Jegyasa’s success story on IESE and Oxford MBA interviews, with tips and insights

IESE MBA Interview Questions Compilation

Please consider the list indicative and not exhaustive. As each alumni interviewer has their own style, the questions you would face may be different. Broadly though, IESE MBA interviews tend to cover these themes.

  1. Walk me through your resume.
  2. What were the rationales behind each of your career moves? 
  3. Why MBA? Why MBA now?
  4. Why IESE?
  5. Which other programs are you applying to and why?
  6. If admission is granted in all the programs you have applied to, why would you choose IESE over others? Why would you not choose IESE?
  7. What research have you done to gauge your career options post-MBA, and why is the IESE MBA important in that context?
  8. Tell me about a time when you showed integrity.
  9. In your opinion, why is diversity an important factor in a classroom?
  10. Do you have any questions for me?

Final Thoughts

We hope this article provides you with some insights on the IESE MBA Assessment Day and Interview. For more guidelines, best practices to follow and mistakes to avoid in MBA interviews, check out here

If you’d like our support with mock interviews, please write to us at consultingteam[at]admitstreet[dot]com or fill in the form here and we’ll get back

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