Category Archives: Interview Preparation

The Harvard Business School Admissions Interview: Details to know!

By Puja Daga (last updated: December 13, 2019)

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?

Other Questions:

  • 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?

Oddball questions:

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.

Conclusion

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.

Preparing for Top MBA Program Admissions Interviews

By Puja Daga (last updated: December 11, 2019)

The Landscape of Business School Interviews 

In recent years, business schools have introduced new interview formats to assess business school applications. Getting familiarized with the different styles of admissions interviews is an important step for any candidate applying to leading business schools.

If you have recently received an interview invite, then it is a strong signal that the school sees you as a potential fit for their program. You might also have a high chance of getting in and it is a good time to start preparations. You may be confident about acing the interview, but remember you have a short window of time to impress the interviewer. So, you need to focus on the essentials like trying to get to the point quickly and preparing yourself to various MBA interview styles.

We have seen that admissions interview methods vary greatly based on the institution and preparing for different kinds of interview formats is vital. The following sections show a few examples of different interview styles followed at some of the most elite business schools.

Interview Formats of Top MBA Programs 

In a Harvard Business School (HBS) interview, you just have 30 minutes to make a good impression. 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 application in depth – so the interviewer might ask questions focusing on “why” – for instance, why you choose economics as your majors? Why did you work/want to work with consulting firm? Your response to such questions should illustrate on your motives, values, role you have applied in your team.

Although, HBS tends to concentrate less on ‘behavioral question’, but there are chances that the interviewer may ask questions to know your motivations, decision making process and experiences. During the interview, HBS is interested in knowing your rationale for making the choices and moves. To evaluate a candidate further, HBS requires you to submit a post-interview reflection within 24 hours.

On the other hand, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) places emphasis on ‘behavioral questions’, so one has to be very clear and specific while explaining. Why you studied a specific course, what was the idea behind working on a particular issue, or the impact it had on others, are the kind of questions it prefers to ask. It is generally an hour-long blind interview with an alumnus and the interviewer has only seen your resume.

So be ready to walk them through your background and your motivation to pursue an MBA. Highlighting skills such as creative instincts, leadership potential, personal qualities and performance-oriented tasks help you increase your admission chances.

At the MIT Sloan School of Management, just like an HBS interview, the interviewer has studied your application in depth but conducts ‘behavioral based interview questions’. The concept behind this format is that the MIT Sloan believes that the past behavior is a reliable indicator of the future response in a similar situation. So while preparing for the interview, a focus on the life based events, relating to work experience or leadership examples helps. Explaining such experiences in a generic fashion doesn’t help, giving details yet keeping it concise is the key. Before the interview, MIT Sloan requests its applicants to complete a brief essay. 

Apart from these, there are other schools like Wharton and Michigan Ross which uses ‘team-based interview’ format for its MBA admissions. For instance, they assign a real-world business scenario to a group of candidates and asks them to work together. This kind of dynamic task helps interviewers to observe candidate’s behavior and how they operate in an unknown condition. For Wharton and Michigan Ross, community building is an important value, by employing ‘team-based interview’ they unearth candidate’s values on team building. Further to team-based interview, Michigan Ross also conducts a traditional interview while at Wharton a ten-minute one-on-one debrief with an admissions representative is followed.

Recently, in addition to traditional invite interview, schools like Kellogg, Yale, INSEAD and London Business School have introduced a video essay as an important part of the application. They expect candidates to answer questions spontaneously with very little preparation time. This newer trend sometimes adds pressure on the applicant, limiting the time to answer with confidence and clarity.

At the other end of this new trend, London Business School conducts five-minute impromptu presentations. This might seem unwarranted, but these exercises have a real-life application and gives you an opportunity to influence the admissions decision by sharing details about your life story.

Quick Tips for MBA Interviews

In short, to ace your business school interview:

  • keep some concrete examples ready, 
  • master the interview style and 
  • make an impact by researching important aspects about the school. 

This will help you to feel prepared, confident and the interviewer will find you more compelling and appealing. Even if there are different mechanisms for evaluating prospective students, at the end of the day, the interviewer wants to “know you” and “why you’d be a good fit” for the institutions. Being authentic, real and goal-oriented is what pays off.

Mastering Every Admissions Interview Question

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: October 15, 2019)

When I set out to write this post, my intention was to compile a list of common interview questions that spanned the spectrum of what applicants might be asked. But after gathering a handful of what I thought were good questions, it occurred to me that I never had to answer any of the ones I had compiled during my own admissions interview at HBS. Instead, I was asked 30-minutes worth of nearly impossible to predict questions — which, granted, is what HBS tells applicants they will try to do. Just as a recent Poets&Quants article (The Questions Behind MBA Interview Questions) explains, MBA interviews aren’t about questions at all.  They’re about connecting with your interviewers.

My interview began when the admissions committee member asked how my leadership role as a resident assistant compared to other leadership experiences I’d had. At one point she just said, “Recommend something to me.” I’m not sure any list of MBA interview questions, no matter how long, would have reasonably catalyzed me to prepare for such prompts. However, there is a method that will get you ready for questions like those — or whatever the admissions committee throws your way.

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HBS Round One Interview Invites

By Vincent Ho-Tin-Noe (last updated: October 2, 2019)

Round One Interview Invites for HBS Class of 2021 Applicants

The Harvard Business School Admissions Committee recently sent out interview invitations to first round applicants.

What are the odds of being admitted after receiving an interview invitation?

Our estimate is 55% to 60%. It’s high, but low enough to make a lot of applicants have regrets… Every year, brilliant candidates call us after their HBS interview wishing they had better prepared for it… Unfortunately, there is no second chance.

To help you be on the right side of the applicant pool, we wanted to put all our interview prep resources in one place. These resources should help you get ready:

Mock HBS interviews: Interviewing is a skill, and the unfortunate truth is that many of us think we are better at interviewing than we really are. It requires practice, which is why we would encourage every candidate interviewing at HBS to take advantage of our interview preparation services:

  • Email us if you are interested in a mock HBS interview.
  • One mock interview plus personalized feedback is $395, and two mock interviews plus personalized feedback is $695.
  • Kyle, Imola, Daina, or myself — all HBS alumni/students — will work with you personally during the mock interview, which will mirror the HBS admissions interview process as closely as possible: first, we will review your application prior to the interview; second, we will conduct a 30-minute mock interview with you via Skype; and finally, we will provide you personalized feedback immediately after the mock interview or at a time of your choosing.
  • Slots fill up quickly, so please email us to express your interest or get more information.

Alternatively, you can secure your spot directly by signing-up via paypal. We will get back to you within 24 hours to arrange a suitable time slot. Simply use the form at the end of this post.

What it’s like to interview at HBS: Kyle’s personal account of what it is like to interview at HBS, from receiving the email inviting him to interview to receiving the phone call congratulating him on his admittance.

Mastering Every Admissions Interview Question: Advice and tips on how to best prepare for an MBA admissions interview — at HBS or any other MBA program.

Post-Interview Reflection: Guidance on how to approach preparing for, drafting, and sending HBS’s 24-hour post-interview reflection email.

Should you have questions about our ability to help you, we’d like to invite you to visit our “client feedback” page. We have pasted a few emails from past clients at the end of this post.

If you’re looking for additional guidance on your application or have any questions about the MBA admissions process, please reach out to us via our free consultation link.

We also offer a comprehensive “HBS ding analysis” package, along with hourly consultations to discuss round two strategies for unsuccessful round one applicants.

We’re happy to help, even with last-minute questions and requests. Good luck!

Secure your spot now
To secure your mock interviews, please email us and attach this form

“Dinged by Stanford, accepted by HBS! Thank you guys SO much for all of your help. Really appreciate it. As for the service- excellent! You guys took your time answering all my questions and really grilling me hard. I loved the experience and would definitely recommend it to anyone else interviewing at HBS. Regarding [your competitor] Sandy [the hbsguru] I had a pretty good, but completely different experience. (…) But if I had to pick one I think I’d choose you guys. From you and Kyle I got the traditional mock interviews, and fantastic specific feedback on my style, tone, answers, etc. and 2 interviews was great. I had a fantastic experience.” 

“I wanted to follow up with good news: I got into HBS! The interview itself was, as everyone says, totally impossible to predict (60-70% focused entirely on me describing my current company’s technology and business model), but the practice of being nervous and answering impossible-to-predict questions with you guys was valuable and let me push past my (high) stress level.Thank you!” 

“On December 11th I found out that I was admitted to HBS. Prior to my actual HBS interview, I had conducted a mock with Vincent of MBA Admissions Advisors. Our session made a huge difference in the preparation process, but it was only after the actual interview [at HBS] that I realized how well I had been prepared. Vincent made very detailed observations about my performance, and after our debrief session I had a very clear picture of my strengths and areas for improvement. Perhaps the most important thing I worked on with MBA Admissions Advisors was how to think on my feet in order to answer any question, as opposed to preparing answers to a laundry list of publicly available questions from past HBS interviews, a much less valuable exercise. During our mock interview, although Vincent had a list of targeted questions based on my profile, he did not seem to be following a script. He built on my responses with follow-up questions to constantly challenge me. This was exactly what happened during my actual HBS interview. Last but not least, Vincent remained engaged throughout the admissions process, and he by far exceeded my expectations. He gave me access to valuable interview preparation resources, remained available to answer questions, and systematically responded to my emails promptly. I was delighted to receive ‘good luck’ messages the day before my actual HBS interview and on the school’s first round decision day. These little things made working with him a great experience. “ 

 

HBS Round Two Interview Invites

By Kyle Watkins (last updated: October 2, 2019)

Round Two Interview Invites for HBS Class of 2019 Applicants

The Harvard Business School Admissions Committee sent out interview invitations to its second round applicants in two distinct waves, at 12pm noon ET on January 25th and February 1st, 2017.

For the lucky 900-or-so applicants who received an invite (~20% of second-round applicants), the scramble to prepare will begin quickly, as interviews will be conducted from February 3rd until March 6th (HBS Second Round Decisions are expected to be released on March 22nd).

But first, the answer to your most common question:

What are the odds of being admitted after receiving an interview invitation?

Our estimate is 55% to 60%. It’s high, but low enough to make a lot of applicants have regrets. Every year, brilliant candidates call us after their HBS interview wishing they had better prepared for it… Unfortunately, there is no second chance.

To help you be on the right side of the applicant pool, we wanted to put all our interview prep resources in one place. These resources should help you get ready:

What it’s like to interview at HBS: Kyle’s personal account of what it is like to interview at HBS, from receiving the email inviting him to interview to receiving the phone call congratulating him on his admittance.

Mastering Every Admissions Interview Question: Advice and tips on how to best prepare for an MBA admissions interview — at HBS or any other MBA program.

Post-Interview Reflection: Guidance on how to approach preparing for, drafting, and sending HBS’s 24-hour post-interview reflection email.

Mock HBS interviews: Interviewing is a skill, and the unfortunate truth is that many of us think we are better at interviewing than we really are. It requires practice, which is why we would encourage every candidate interviewing at HBS to take advantage of our interview preparation services:

  • Email us if you are interested in a mock HBS interview.
  • One mock interview plus personalized feedback is $295, and two mock interviews plus personalized feedback is $495.
  • Kyle or myself — both HBS alumni — will work with you personally during the mock interview, which will mirror the HBS admissions interview process as closely as possible: first, we will review your application prior to the interview; second, we will conduct a 30-minute mock interview with you via Skype; and finally, we will provide you personalized feedback immediately after the mock interview or at a time of your choosing.
  • Slots fill up quickly, so please email us to express your interest or get more information.

Alternatively, you can secure your spot directly by signing-up via paypal. We will get back to you within 24 hours to arrange a suitable time slot. Simply use the form at the very end of this post.

If you’re looking for additional guidance on your application or have any questions about the MBA admissions process, please reach out to us via our free consultation link.

We also offer a comprehensive “HBS ding analysis” package, along with hourly consultations to discuss round three strategies for unsuccessful round two applicants. Keep in mind that HBS is a re-applicant friendly school, with up to 10% of re-applicants in each class (see an inspiring story from a successful re-applicant here).

Should you have questions about our ability to help you, we’d like to invite you to visit our “client feedback” page. We have pasted a few emails from past clients below.

We’re happy to help, even with last-minute questions and requests. Good luck!

“Dinged by Stanford, accepted by HBS! Thank you guys SO much for all of your help. Really appreciate it. As for the service- excellent! You guys took your time answering all my questions and really grilling me hard. I loved the experience and would definitely recommend it to anyone else interviewing at HBS. Regarding [your competitor] Sandy [the hbsguru] I had a pretty good, but completely different experience. (…) But if I had to pick one I think I’d choose you guys. From you and Kyle I got the traditional mock interviews, and fantastic specific feedback on my style, tone, answers, etc. and 2 interviews was great. I had a fantastic experience.” O., HBS MBA Class of 2016

“I wanted to follow up with good news: I got into HBS! The interview itself was, as everyone says, totally impossible to predict (60-70% focused entirely on me describing my current company’s technology and business model), but the practice of being nervous and answering impossible-to-predict questions with you guys was valuable and let me push past my (high) stress level.Thank you!” A., HBS MBA Class of 2016

“On December 11th I found out that I was admitted to HBS. Prior to my actual HBS interview, I had conducted a mock with Vincent of MBA Admissions Advisors. Our session made a huge difference in the preparation process, but it was only after the actual interview [at HBS] that I realized how well I had been prepared. Vincent made very detailed observations about my performance, and after our debrief session I had a very clear picture of my strengths and areas for improvement. Perhaps the most important thing I worked on with MBA Admissions Advisors was how to think on my feet in order to answer any question, as opposed to preparing answers to a laundry list of publicly available questions from past HBS interviews, a much less valuable exercise. During our mock interview, although Vincent had a list of targeted questions based on my profile, he did not seem to be following a script. He built on my responses with follow-up questions to constantly challenge me. This was exactly what happened during my actual HBS interview. Last but not least, Vincent remained engaged throughout the admissions process, and he by far exceeded my expectations. He gave me access to valuable interview preparation resources, remained available to answer questions, and systematically responded to my emails promptly. I was delighted to receive ‘good luck’ messages the day before my actual HBS interview and on the school’s first round decision day. These little things made working with him a great experience. “ I.S., HBS MBA Class of 2016

Wharton Round Two Decisions

By Vincent Ho-Tin-Noe (last updated: March 29, 2016)

Having helped a number of first round applicants prepare for their Wharton interview, we are excited about the school’s round two decision notifications on Tuesday, March 29, 2016.

Notification time Continue reading