HBS Students Dish On The Interview

by John A. Byrne on

If you’re a male applicant to the Harvard Business School and about to be interviewed by admissions, you should wear a well-fitting black, grey or navy blue suit with a non-distracting shirt and tie. Deodorant is a must but cologne is a no-no.

If you’re a woman, the length of your skirt should be at least at the knee. Your suit color and style should be simple and classic, with closed toed pumps with a heel height of between one and three inches. The flashy baubles are best left at home along with any strong fragrance.

You should make sure you’ve eaten a “substantial breakfast” and arrive at Dillon House, where the admissions staff is located on campus, at least 20 minutes early.

FIRST-HAND INSIGHT, ADVICE AND ANALYSIS’ FROM CURRENT STUDENTS

That’s the advice from the just-published “Unofficial Harvard Business School Interview Guide,” put together annually by the staff of The Harbus, the school’s MBA student newspaper. The 43-page guide is based on “first-hand insight, advice and analysis” from current HBS students as well as “real interview questions from real interviews of real students,” according to Editors Bart Clareman and Kate Lewis as well as Publisher Alex Pak.

“We worked hard to get the first-hand advice not only from past interviewees but from students who successfully navigated in the process and enrolled at HBS,” says Co-Editor Clareman.  ”Applicants know that HBS puts a lot of importance on the interview, and we believe this source is the most accurate and the most helpful for prospective students who want to know what to expect on the big day.”

The editors organize the questions they received from a survey of the first-year class upon their arrival on campus into six main categories: experience, leadership, career, current events, curriculum, and situational.  The experience, leadership, and career buckets prompt interviewees to tell “their story” by reflecting on past challenges and achievements. The questions on current global events or the HBS curriculum allow admissions to assess an applicant’s perspective. The situational bucket helps candidates prepare for the occasional “off-the-wall” ask that requires on-the-spot resourcefulness.

SOME 79 INTERVIEW QUESTIONS ASKED OF CANDIDATES

In any case, this year’s edition of the Harbus guide includes 20 pages of interview questions, 79 questions in all, each with a couple of paragraphs of advice analysis. There’s a step-by-step walkthrough to help applicants prep for the interview, along with suggested weekday and weekend add-ons for your trip to Harvard, and advice on how to compose a follow-up thank you note (crafting a handwritten note, the students say, “can help you stand out in the eyes of the interviewer.”

Given some of the oddball questions you might get, the guide is definitely worth the $50—which goes to support the non-profit student newspaper. It can be downloaded as a PDF file here. At the very least, it will give you the basics, however obvious, and prepare you for the off-the-wall question that may very well come your way. And while the questions are from actual Harvard admission interviews, they’re pretty much what you could expect at any top business school. So even if you’re bound for Stanford, Wharton, Chicago or Kellogg, you’ll find plenty of value in Harvard’s interview guide.

Examples of some of those curve ball questions:

1 2 Next
  • hsbguru

    HBS MOCK INTERVIEWS
    I DO A LOT OF THEM
    I CAN HELP YOU (I CAN ALSO HELP WITH STANFORD AND WHARTON)
    http://www.hbsguru.com/prices.html#4

    I did over 100 mock interviews for HBS in Rounds 1 and 2 and 3 last year. Over the past 10 years, I have probably done over 800-1000 HBS mock interviews. My knowledge of how to prepare you for an HBS mock interview is based on those experiences.

    I know typical HBS questions, including questions often asked of investment bankers, private equity, venture capital and hedge fund associates, and questions asked to those employed in non-profits, the military, manufacturing, and technology.
    I know how to help you formulate your core story in ways which can be applied to many questions.
    I can predict trouble areas in your application and help you come up with talking points to deal with them.
    I can sense what your particular needs are in terms of presentation, for example, if you don’t get to the point soon enough (a possibly fatal habit) or if you appear too aggressive or too arrogant or confident in the wrong way for often thin-skinned (and just plain thin) HBS interviewers (some of whom are predisposed not to like bankers).
    I can help you create a back story for your goals which creates a solid platform for Why MBA, Why HBS?
    I can help you prepare a strong answer to the question “Why should we take you?” This questions is often asked in several forms:
    “What can YOU contribute to case method discussion based on background and experience?”
    “How will your classmates remember you?”
    “How have you grown as a leader?”
    I can calm you down, although that will not be the first thing that happens.
    I can help you formulate answers to ‘ice-breaker’ questions such as:
    “I already know you from your application, just tell me what you think the three defining moments in your life are?”
    “Pretend I have not read your application and I just met you. Tell me who you are, what you’ve done, and where you want to be 15 years?”
    I can help prepare you to face such recently popular questions as:
    “What is one thing that is not immediately apparent about you to others?”
    “How would your friends describe you?”
    “How has the financial crisis impacted you, your friends, your industry and your goals?”
    THE PROCESS:THE MOCK INTERVIEW IS DONE BY PHONE.
    If you want a mock HBS interview, send me an email to hbsguru@gmail.com, telling me when your interview is, what time zone you are in, what days and times are good for you, and attaching a resume. I will reply back w. dates and times, etc. Then you send me a pdf of your application. Mock interviews take about 60-70 minutes. The price is $400.00 dollars USD. You pay me when we speak and do the interview.

    Some quick testimonials here, others are at the link below
    Sandy was just an unbelievable resource for me in my preparation for the interview. In one 90 minute conversation, Sandy helped me figure out my pitch, told me exactly what mistakes I would be prone to making, and got me very comfortable with the universe of questions that I would be facing. It was terrific preparation for the interview, but the session has changed how I approach interviews in general. Sandy’s candid insights about how I come across have helped me develop my sense of self-awareness, and genuinely were a great contributor to being accepted to Harvard Business School.

    ***

    Sandy was great help in prepping me for my interview at HBS. I decided to use Sandy’s services after a ding (w/ interview) from Sloan … and knew that I didn’t want to make the same mistakes. Sandy and I discussed what I did wrong in my Sloan interview, and then he coached me through common questions in the HBS interview.

    It was a fairly interactive process. After I answered each question, he gave his reaction on what was working and what wasn’t. He was professional, but didn’t pull any punches … and it was exactly that kind of critical feedback that I needed! By the end of the session, I felt I had learned some concrete tips for how to crystallize my story, and I knew what I needed to think about / work on as my interview approached.

    Additionally, Sandy sent me an extensive list of commonly asked questions in HBS interviews. This was EXTREMELY helpful in my prep. When my actual interview happened, there were no curveballs, as I felt prepared to answer each question that my interviewer asked.

    In the end … success!! I was admitted to HBS, and I’m SO excited to start next year. Thanks, Sandy!

    ***

    Sandy pretty much tore me a new ***hole during the first ten minutes of our mock interview. And not just on the content, but on the delivery. Initially, I’d ramble with my answers. But Sandy doesn’t mess around. “Skip anything extraneous to the answer. Just answer
    the fucking question,” he told me bluntly. Each interview question with Sandy is followed up with how he might answer the question in my shoes. Of course, he helped me with the wording of my responses, but more importantly, helped generate realistic answers using my background and my application. This was invaluable, as he often came up with more impressive ways to say essentially the same stuff. When it came time for the HBS interview, I had practiced what Sandy had taught me, and the answers flowed out smoothly. It worked — I’m off to HBS.

    ***

    I’m the gal from [ASIA] who rambled a lot during our mock interview ;-p
    I wanted to share this great news with you. As you might have already assumed from the title, yes, I got in!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was two in the morning here . . .and I was up till then, waiting for the result nervously. And…you can imagine my joy and excitement to get the admission note!

    Thank you so much for your support during the interview preparation. You did help me a lot and gave me a lot of great tips even after we finished our mock interview. Now I can really meet you in Boston ‘-p

    ***

    $300 and 90 minutes of interview prep with Sandy made the difference between an acceptance letter and a ding at HBS. Prospective applicants will not find a consultant with more insight into the admissions process, nor one with the interview coaching skills that Sandy commands. (I commented during my session that he should be a press secretary; turns out he was the Director of Communications at Sloan.) Admissions interviews only vaguely resemble typical job interviews, and Sandy prepped me for questions that I received but would have never considered pertinent. Prior to my session with Sandy, I had read stacks of MBA admissions books and read interview guides. Good enough? Hardly. Don’t try to skimp or take chances on some Johnny-come-lately imitator.

    ***

    I felt like I was going to my HBS interview unprepared and disinterested. Sandy straightened me up and got me to focus. He also gave me detailed and honest feedback which I used to better convey what I wanted to get across in my interview. I walked in confident and composed, breezed through the interview, and got into HBS thanks to Sandy s interview prep.

    ***

    Sandy’s guidance in my preparation for the HBS interview was simply amazing – I mean it fully. Sandy gave me some really useful pieces of advice which enabled me to present a very distinct picture of myself in the 30 minute interview. The other thing that I liked about Sandy was his continuous support even after we finished the mock interview session. I think that without Sandy’s support, I would not have been able to make it through the interview. Thanks a ton, Sandy! To all the future HBS aspirants – “If you really want to get a mock interview session, start with Sandy’s

    ***

    Sandy,

    With tonnes of help from three of my best friends who are at HBS already, I felt that I had received all the prep I needed in order to ace my application and interview. But to be on the “safe side”, I decided $300 was a small price to pay for fresh eyes and a fresh grilling – and I’m glad I did. You helped me frame my answers in ways that impressed even me! And your help and mock questions made me super relaxed during my interview – I didn’t get a single question I was not prepared for!

    Still buzzing from the high of receiving my offer – will have to buy you that beer in October!

    ***

    “Sandy was an invaluable resource during MBA interview prep. My first mock interview for HBS was with him, and later I had a bunch of mock interviews with some other MBA prep companies and friends – and Sandy’s was way more hard-hitting and dug into my application and really asked a bunch of tough questions. The feedback I received from Sandy was also very detailed. If you appreciate blunt, honest and straightforward advice, then you’ll work well with him. Sandy, thanks for helping me get into HBS and Wharton!”

    ***

    Sandy,

    As predicted in your email below, I have been admitted to HBS!!

    Thank you very much for your help. The advice you provided definitely gave me the edge I needed to be more confident and sharp during the interview.

    I will be recommending your service to a lot of my friends!

    [the two emails below are typical post-interview back-and-forth between me and the above candiddate]

    From: Sanford Kreisberg [ mailto:hbsguru@gmail.com]

    Subject: Re: HBS Interview Debrief
    haha, sounds real good, dude, you cert passed the interview and may have added some cred to your story.
    Sounds good in the most impt ways–sure, you can always replay the thing 20 times, and come up w. better answers but that is not what it is about–it is about not screwing up and you did not.
    this was good.
    sk

    At 09:45 PM 11/19/2009, you wrote:
    I think I did well. I didn’t stumble on anything and got my main points across. She was able to ask me all the questions she had prepared without rushing, which is always a good thing.
    The one positive feedback I got was in relation to the last question (the one we prepared).
    INT: “Is there anything else you wish I would’ve asked?”.
    ME: “I’m sure you see a lot of candidates from developing countries who say they’re going to go back to change things there and never actually do. You might want me to tell you why you should believe me.”
    INT: “That’s a very good question to which I’d love to know the answer.”
    ME: I said something along the lines of what we had prepared, i,e. I was not just born in _____, it’s also my one and only citizenship, all my family still lives there, I go back as often as I can (once a year), and I am already involved in several social enterprise projects there.
    INT: “I’m very glad you asked and answered that question. Thank you very much.”

    I’m now in over-analysis mode, i.e. replaying all my answers in my mind and thinking about what I should / shouldn’t have said….

    After I was invited for an Interview I decided to use Sandy’s interview prep. Overall it was great in helping me prepare. It helped me focus on the right things and helped me figure out the best way to express the message I was trying to convey. Sandy was key in my acceptance to HBS!

    Sandy,
    Mark one up for the mysterious black box of HBS admissions – I got in!
    Thank you for your help with interview prep. Your feedback and prep strategies were incredible and it was great chatting with you as well.
    Your forum and blog helped me through 8 long dark months of waitlist and re-app process. Please keep up the amazing work. Best of luck to you!

    If you are interviewing with HBS, you should definitely consider getting Sandy to coach you.

    Here are the reasons.

    1. He knows the questions asked in the past few years – he will share those with you so you can prepare better by yourself.
    2. He knows the ‘model’ answers, and how to best present them – he will share those answers and coach you to present them well
    3. After the interview, he will give you a candid assessment of how he thinks it went – his feedback will be useful for the next time (although hopefully you get in and do not need to reapply)

    I felt that I received the best interview preparation from Sandy, and I highly recommend him.

    HBS class of 2012″

    ***

  • Nick

    Anyone else looking at buying this guide?

  • Standard Oil

    Just bought one last night

Partner Sites: C-Change Media | Poets & Quants for Execs | Tipping the Scales | Poets & Quants for Undergrads