One of the elements that gets you into the Harvard Business School MBA class is cracking the interview process right. The HBS interview consists of two stages: a 30-minute interview and a post-interview reflection essay. This article will help you understand the nature of the interview, and both parts of the interview process.
The HBS Interview Specifics
Structure and context:
Getting an invite for an HBS interview in itself is an exceptional achievement. If you have received an invite, 50-60% chances are that you may get selected. Regardless of the invite, the admissions team will be in regular touch with you for further steps.
To get ready for the interview, you need to understand the context – starting from the interview structure.
- The interview will be a strict 30-minute, rapid-fire format.
- You will be interviewed by members of the MBA Admissions Board.
- You may have a two-on-one formal interview, where one admissions officer is actively interviewing while the other is observing.
- The interviewer is already familiar with your resume and has studied your entire application in depth.
- The dress code for the interview is business formal.
- Once the interview has been completed, an email will be sent by the admissions office explaining further details.
HBS Interview location and dates
As far as interview invitations, HBS communicates his or her invite to the applicant within a month to 6 weeks time from the deadline date of the written application. Once communicated, the date of the interview varies by city, as the admissions committee team travels to places such as Burlingame, London, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Paris, Dubai, Shanghai or Tokyo. The dates to these cities are not published publicly or determined in advance. So if the applicant is unable to travel to these locations, a Skype interview can be scheduled.
Stage 1: The 30-minute HBS Interview
Just to be clear, one can’t predict any specific questions that might come up during the interview. But you can expect that the kind of interview questions you get at HBS will be according to your profile and the conversation that unfolds during the interview.
Below are sets of potential questions that you may be asked during the interview. Preparing for these questions will give a solid foundation for your real interview.
Background information: on professional, personal and reasons to do an MBA
- Introducing yourself.
- Why did you choose to join a Tech Based firm (Depends on your resume)?
- What are the best and worst things about your current job?
- What has been the most challenging aspects of your current job?
- What’s the company’s position compared to its competitors? How can your company improve this?
- If you could change anything about your current company, what would it be?
- How has your leadership evolved with your career progression?
- Who do you admire in your current industry (companies and leaders)?
- Where is the industry heading?
- Where do you want to do your summer internship? How will you market yourself to these companies?
- What do you like to do outside of work?
- What challenges do you anticipate facing in reaching your career goals? How will you overcome them?
- Why do you want an MBA?
- When did you decide to get an MBA?
- What kind of people do you look forward to meeting at HBS?
- What do you think will be most challenging for you at HBS?
- How can you contribute to case method discussions?
- What will you do if you don’t get into any business school this year?
- What makes you unique?
On leadership and teamwork:
- Tell me about a recent example where you demonstrated leadership.
- Who is a leader that you admire and why?
- Tell me about a time you dealt with conflict in the workplace.
- Tell me about a time you had to convince a superior to follow your recommendation.
Major strengths and weaknesses:
- How would your colleagues describe you?
- What would your boss say is a strength and a weakness?
- Do you need different skills to really stand out? What are they?
- Give me an example of a project you’ve had a difficult time with. What did you learn from it?
- How did you find the application process?
- Is there something about you that has not been addressed in your application?
- What is a common misperception people have about you?
- What would your five closest friends say about you? Why?
- What words would people use to describe you?
- Given what you know now, if you could go back to university and pick your subjects, would you change your choices?
- If you could talk to the president of your college, and give him advice about how to improve the experience, what would it be?
- What would be your dream job?
- How have you developed your international experience?
- What do you do for fun?
These are the type of questions one cannot predict. But below are some “sample of questions” asked recently in interviews,
- If you had 10 minutes with any of these presidents (President Obama, Hillary Clinton, President of your university or company] what would you say to them?
- If you have to recommend a book to Vladimir Putin which book it will be and why?
- What is your favorite iPhone application?
- What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you in public?
- What will you regret not doing at HBS?
- Introduce yourself to God.
- If you could have lunch with any business leader, who would it be and why?
- If you could have lunch with any political leader, who would it be and why?
Answers to these questions are not easy. And there is no straightforward response. A key to go about answering these questions is by linking it to real world examples that the interviewer can feel connected to.
Your opportunity to ask questions:
At the end of the interview, the interviewer sometimes gives you an opportunity to ask questions. This is opportunity is not given to all applicants. To utilize this to your advantage, you should come prepared with a brief set of questions focusing on your priorities and knowledge you have for the school. To utilize this to your advantage, you should come prepared with a brief set of questions focusing on your priorities and knowledge you have for the school.
Asking questions to alumni
If an alumnus is conducting your interview, then one can ask questions such as:
- How have you most benefited from attending this school?
- What was your favourite class? Who were your favourite professors?
- What’s a typical day like at HBS?
From these questions, you may gain a positive perception on the academic experience and potentially pick up some inside information about the school.
Asking questions to admissions officials
From board members and officials, one can ask questions, like:
- In your opinion, what really sets this school apart? Could you please share your thoughts and experiences with the school?
Officials know this is an important inquiry, especially if you’re choosing between multiple schools. To win points, you can say, for example “I have heard that Professor X has received a Nobel Prize” or “the school has made some new changes in their curriculum”.
- Can you talk a little about the student job search?
When you are ready to pay $100,000 plus for an MBA, you are entitled to ask about the “Career Prospects” you will have in HBS. So to impress your interviewer you can add the example of “I have heard great things about the alumni network” and so on and highlight that you are willing to be proactive.
Stage 2: The HBS Post-Interview Reflection
Having completed the interview, the final part of the interview process is to write a reflection essay. It should be written briefly and submitted within 24 hours of the interview.
The essay should ideally highlight some points which you would like to reinforce from the interview or otherwise. In case you have forgotten to mention any important attribute or accomplishment, this essay is the chance to convey it to the board. Away from a piece loaded with jargons, this essay should be as realistic as possible, reflecting on who you really are and what unique values you will offer to the school, if selected.
The two-part interview process is an attempt by the school to get to know its prospective student’s goals, aspirations and what they will offer to the cohort. While the set of questions mentioned in this article is just an indication, the takeaway point here is to be natural, realistic and well-prepared for the interview.