My Duke Fuqua MBA Interview: Pharmacist’s Tale

I had been working as a pharma manager at a reasonably popular firm. I was really looking for a change and applied to several MBA programs in the US. I got invited to interviews at several programs, and was fortunately able to convert all these schools. However I chose to matriculate at Fuqua (Duke) since I was really impressed with the school.

My Background: I had about 3 years of work experience prior to my application, and had a promotion in my kitty. Got an undergrad in the sciences from a well-known, but non-Ivy US university. Had a GMAT of 740 and my GPA was hovering above 3.8 at that time. As my post-MBA goal I stated that I wanted to transition into top managerial positions within pharma.

Fuqua Duke Difficult MBA interview Questions

My Interview Prep: Did the usual drill: went through past questions and rehearsed the interview process. I was not at all nervous since I already had an admit from other schools in the first round. Though its considered best to apply earlier, based on my own experiences I would strongly recommend applying to your favorite MBA program in the second round. That way, if you do get invited for an interview with your favorite program you have the experience you get from round 1 interviews as well as confidence if you are able to convert round 1 interviews. I preferred to interview off-campus. I chose to interview with an alum instead interviewing with a second-year student over-skype.

The Actual Interview: Meeting the Duke alum was absolutely delightful. We met at an informal location and the interviewer was very kind and polite. He made sure that I was comfortable and begun the interview with a joke. The tone remained in the rest of the interview: friendly yet sometimes challenging. It was the perfect mix of getting to know Fuqua better and deciding if I was good enough to join Fuqua. If there’s one suggestion I’d like to make: stay relaxed and positive. Sometimes there’s no correct answer to the questions that are asked. The more (politely) firm you are as you speak the more confidence you emanate and hence greater your chances of getting through. The questions asked were:

  1. Tell me about yourself? What’s the most interesting aspect of your work life?
  2. Tell me of an instance where you disagreed with your manager. How did you resolve the contention?
  3. What is your management style?
  4. Why is managing pharma different from managing any other industry?
  5. Why is Fuqua an ideal school to help you achieve you post-MBA goal?
  6. Narrate an instance where you had to go out of your way to deliver a project. What are the challenges you faced and how did you react to these challenges?
  7. If granted admission at Fuqua, what clubs will you join and why?
  8. What are the ethical conflicts that are unique to pharma? What are the ethical qualities that you possess to successfully operate in this industry?


Author: Homer

Homer has an MBA from a top-three US B-School. An Indian engineering graduate from a non-IIT (IITs are Indian equivalents of our tech schools such as Caltech and MIT), Homer is hope for all non-IITians looking to get into Harvard/Wharton/Stan. Homer has a BE degree in mechanical engineering from a college in the south Indian city of Bangalore. Homer says that he was never a great student in his earlier days or at engineering school. What then worked in his favor? Well he founded a mechanical engineering startup after working for a couple of years at a renowned German automobile company. Homer has the longest pre-MBA work experience in our family - 4 yrs at his first job in a no-name mechanical engineering firm + 2 yrs at the German automobile maker + 3 yrs at his startup. Homer sold his startup back to his former employer and is now a top consultant (MBB consulting). Watch out for posts by Homer (to avoid them, of course!).

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