Overview.
Harvard MBA Interview Experience.
Preparing for your Harvard MBA Interview.
Harvard MBA Interview Questions.


Overview.

Invitation-Only Interviews

Interviews at HBS are ‘by invitation only,’ meaning that the Admissions Office extends invitations to selected applicants after reading their application – and only those invited applicants can schedule interviews.

Application-driven Interviews.

At Harvard Business School, admissions interviews are ‘application-driven’, meaning that the interviewer will have reviewed the candidate’s entire application at least once before the interview and will use that information to customize the conversation. Therefore, the interview could include very specific questions about the applicant’s work history, target industry, educational background, or essay content. In addition to providing clarification on whatever topics the interviewer raises, applicants should seek to add new information beyond what is covered in their application, such as additional stories, recent accomplishments, or further reflections.

Where? Usually on-campus or off-campus in hub cities.

Many HBS interviews are conducted face-to-face on the school’s campus, and the school encourages all who can visit the campus to do so. Although the location of your interview has no influence on your chances for admission, in-person interviews can sometimes feel more natural, with you and your interviewer sitting down together in a quiet space at the school to have a conversation about your candidacy. On-campus interviews also allow you to interact with students and admissions representatives during your visit.

HBS offers off-campus, face-to-face interviews in hub city locations around the world, to which admissions officers travel.

HBS also offers Skype interviews. However, the school’s website states,’Neither the timing of your interview invitation nor its format, whether in-person or via Skype, implies anything about the status of your application or affects your candidacy.’ These interviews generally follow the same format as the other types of interviews the school offers, but some candidates may have difficulty establishing a connection with their interviewer when they are not physically face-to-face. If you do a Skype interview, treat it exactly as you would an in-person interview. Find a quiet place with are liable connection, remove any possible distractions, and dress the part!

With Whom? Only admissions officers.

At HBS, admissions officers are the only people who interview candidates, both on and off campus. Many past clients have reported that two admissions officers interviewed them at once.

Post Interview Reflection.

Unlike most business schools, HBS requires all interviewed students to complete a ‘Post-Interview Reflection’ within 24 hours of the interview. This component is intended to be a way for the candidate to reflect on the interview while it is still fresh in his/her mind.’It’s very interesting for us to hear how well we did get to know you. We certainly have our impressions from the interview and we do our best to be fair and as objective as possible, but then it’s really important for us to understand how you as the applicant have experienced that,’ HBS’s former managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid told Poets&Quants.

HBS’s website states,’Detailed instructions [for completing the Post-Interview Reflection] will be provided to those applicants who are invited to the interview process.’ Here the are:

As part of the application process, you will be required to complete a Post-Interview Reflection. We know that you probably have many questions about this part of the application process. Here are a few details: The Post-Interview Reflection is not intended to be another formal essay. Think of it instead as an email you might write to a colleague or supervisor after a meeting. We will be much more generous in our reaction to typos and grammatical errors than we will be with pre-packaged responses. Emails that give any indication that they were produced BEFORE you had the interview will raise a flag for us. We do not expect you to solicit or receive any outside assistance with this exercise. Your Post-Interview Reflection is due within 24 hours of the conclusion of your interview. There is no word limit for the Post-Interview Reflection.  There is a file size limit for the document you will upload, but it is quite generous.

Here are some excerpts from post-interview reflections

That question stayed with me  as I reflected  on my journey from scientist to business school applicant and the potential roles for me at HBS.  In graduate school, I was driven by a desire to take research outside the lab by developing real-world applications. I got my first taste of business by starting the Healthcare Innovation course. As I clarified with Adam, course members receive participation credit as part of the Paths career development program but do not receive a transcript grade.

Candidate clarified an answer

I’m also glad that I had the opportunity to explain the best advice I have ever received: only focus on what you can control…. Through these experiences, I learned to be more pragmatic and compassionate, qualities that I am confident will prove invaluable as I embark on my studies  at HBS. 

I also mentioned that my coworkers would describe me as inquisitive. I illustrated this point by discussing{work-related topic}. I would like to add that this trait is reflected in my love of museums, covering everything from civil rights to modern art (and my insistence on reading every  placard).

Candidate discussed her contribution and added additional information

Harvard MBA Interview Experience.

Clients who interviewed with HBS in the past few years consistently described their interview experience with the school as ‘nice, ‘friendly,’ and ‘warm.’ Many have noted how fast-paced the questions were. Yet, HBS is not interested in putting candidates on the spot or trying to stump them, but rather in making sure that applicants have a solid grasp of the ways the MBA program would benefit them and how they would fit with the school’s community. Because only admissions officers conduct interviews at HBS, the interview is also a good opportunity for the applicant to ask questions about the program and the HBS community. Here is a sample of what past clients have told us about their interview experience at HBS:

Overall, the experience was much less nerve-wracking than I would have predicted.  You sit around other interviewees both in the’greeting room’ and then again, once your time slot has been called and you have to walk upstairs.  I found it calming to talk with folks at both of those stages rather than simply be in my head about what I was going to say.  The interview itself wasn’t a’gotcha’ interview.  By that, I mean, that the questions all generally seemed to be aimed at getting to know me rather than trying to catch me up in a mistake of some sort.

The interviewer was very friendly, attempted to put me at ease at the beginning by asking softball questions like’When did you get to Boston.’  She and the observer both smiled often.  Most often she responded to my answers by asking a follow-up question, but occasionally responded with a statement agreeing with/or somehow showing support for what I had said.  I generally felt like both she and the observer were rooting for me.  The observer took copious notes and the interviewer would only jot things down occasionally.  I couldn’t assess the pattern for when the interviewer wrote down notes.   It felt much more conversational than I expected it to be because the questions all seemed to flow nicely with the previous question.

There wereabout 10 other students interviewing at the same time.  The interview took place in a smallgeneral-purpose meeting space in Spangler Hall. The interview was much moreconversational than I expected.  Theinterviewer did not rattle off rapid-fire questions.  There were short follow-ups to each question,and some small comments/feedback on many of the questions.

Preparation time is best spent thinking through your experiences and planning how to articulate key points. It’s also beneficial to think about the’story’ you want to communicate so you can direct the conversation.

Preparing for your Harvard MBA Interview.

Although the focus and style of HBS’s admissions interviews can vary, you should expect to be asked about your personal, professional, and academic experiences and could receive questions meant to reveal your knowledge about the school.

HBS interviews typically start with a career-oriented, open-ended question or prompt, such as ‘Tell me about your industry.’ or ‘Tell me about your current company.’ This is your chance to briefly introduce yourself, both personally and professionally.

HBS interviews are notoriously fast-paced and often include many questions about your professional accomplishments and leadership potential. According to past applicants, these questions – often seemingly intended to find out why applicants made the decisions they did in their career – tend to take up the majority of the interview time. Be prepared to provide detailed information and stories in these subject areas beyond what is presented in your resume and application.

The interviews at HBS sometimes include career goals questions or prompts, such as ‘What do you want to do after your MBA?’

At times, HBS interviews include school-specific questions. These could include’Why do you want to come to HBS?’ or’What are you looking forward to at HBS?’ If you are not ready to answer these types of questions in detail, you must invest the time necessary to get to know HBS thoroughly and to identify the programs, centers, clubs, classes, professors, extracurricular opportunities, and other resources it offers that relate directly to your plans and your personality.

Rarely, HBS interviews include personal questions to help the interviewer evaluate whether you would be a good match for the program.

Mock interviews can be particularly helpful way to prepare for your interview. Try using a timer to get a sense of how long you typically take to answer each question, and practice in front of a mirror. Don’t want to go it alone? Learn more about my Mock Interview Service here.

Listen to an excerpt from a mock interview. Question: Why an MBA?

Harvard MBA Interview Questions.

Although you can never be certain which questions you will receive, and questions will undoubtedly vary to some degree, these samples serve to illustrate how a Harvard interview is likely to progress.

HBS Mock Interview 1
  1. How do you want to start?
  2. Being a student athlete obviously required time management. What tips could you give someone about time management?
  3. Why did you major in economics?
  4. Tell me about (current company?
  5. Tell me about your transition between companies.
  6. How have recent changes in laws affected the credit card industry?
  7. What has been the biggest difference in the two roles?
  8. What experiences have highlighted those differences?
  9. What do you like to do for fun?
  10. How would you explain equity research to undergraduates in college?
  11. What is your dream job?
  12. Anything else you would like to add?
HBS Mock Interview 2
  1. Tell me about yourself. 
  2. Did you go to company Z because your dad worked there?
  3. Who is a leader you admire and why? What do you need to do to get to that leader’s level and how will HBS help you?
  4. What are your goals further down the road?
  5. What are you following in the news?
  6. Argue for and against Starbucks’ not paying a high tax rate.
  7. Recommend something to me.
  8. Explain something to us.
  9. What’s the hardest part of your job?
  10. What is some constructive feedback you gave recently?
  11. Is there anything else you wish we’d covered?
  12. How have you had such great experiences while traveling?
HBS Mock Interview 3
  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Tell me about the assisted living industry (Follow-up questions included: Who are the best-in-class operators? Describe the assisted living customer. How will the industry evolve over the next 5-10 years?).
  3. Drawing from your experience at PE firm X and consulting firm Y, tell me about your favorite project
  4. Given the increasing amount of capital chasing deals, what is your prognosis of the future of the PE industry?
  5. Now that you’ve experience both Consulting and PE, do you have a sense for which you prefer/where you’d like to focus in the future?
  6. What role has tennis played in your life?
  7. Which of the two businesses you founded was your favorite?
  8. Anything else you’d like to share with us?
HBS Mock Interview 4
  1. When did you get to Boston? Have you gotten to see campus yet?
  2. Pretend that I haven’t read your application – tell me about yourself.
  3. What industry do you want to learn more about? Why?
  4. What preconceptions did you have?
  5. Why did you choose to extern at company X location?
  6. What has been your favorite case thus far?
  7. How would your peers/colleagues describe you?
  8. What are your greatest faults and areas in need of improvement?
  9. Do you like New York? What would you miss about it?
  10. Tell me about specific college activity you were involved in. Are you still involved? Have you heard of similar organization?
  11. From your resume I can tell that you are interested in public policy, how do you still stay involved with that interest?
  12. What is your short-term career goal?
  13. What would your ideal summer internship be between your first and second year of business school?
  14. I know it’s still in its early stage, but if you had to start your company right now, what would it look like?
  15. What are the industries that are doing well in South America currently?
  16. How is Bolivia different from Peru and other countries in South America?
  17. If you go to HBS next year, what type of people do you want sitting next to you? Why?
  18. What do you like to do for fun? 
  19. What book are you reading currently? Tell me about it.
  20. Is there anything that I haven’t asked that you wish I had, or anything else that you would like to add?
  21. Would you be willing to move to South America to start your company?
  22. Could you run your business out of Miami?
HBS Mock Interview 5
  1. Tell me your chronology, starting with decision to go to boarding school.
  2. What did it feel like to not be challenged before transferring schools?
  3. Lots of questions about work – before and after our company was acquired
  4. Tell me about this story from your essay.
  5. Teach me something I don’t know based on what you’ve learned in your job.
  6. What do you want to do in the short-term?
  7. What are you reading right now?
  8. What are you following in the news?
  9. Tell me about a technical skill you had to learn at work, how did you learn it?
  10. I want you to argue for and against this phrase’Work Hard Play Hard’
  11. What three things differentiate you from other people?
  12. Of those three, pick one and tell me when it can be good and bad?
  13. Do you work best sharing your opinion in small groups, large groups, or on paper?
  14. Are there any questions we can answer for you?
HBS Mock Interview 6
  1. Why University X and why physics?
  2. How did NROTC add to your experience?
  3. When did you know you wanted to work at organization Y?
  4. When did you decide to pursue the masters degree?
  5. Pretend we don’t know anything about it (and we don’t), and tell us how you unload a nuclear container?
  6. Tell me about how you improved the unloading process?
  7. Why do we need to convert a submarine into a training platform?
  8. If we invited your coworkers into the room, what would they say are two of your strengths and two opportunities for improvement?
  9. Imagine HBS is a box, how do you think you would come out of here differently than when you came in?
  10. What’s a company that you admire outside of the military?
  11. What do you think worries the CEO?
  12. How do you get your news?
  13. What do you think about the situation in the Philippines?
  14. We have about a minute left, anything else you would like to say?

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