How NOT To Mess Up Your HBS Interview

Harvard Business School plans to begin notifying round two applicants tomorrow (Jan. 30) whether they will be invited to admissions interviews that will begin in mid-February.

After the first batch of notifications for Harvard’s largest round of applicants goes out today, the second batch will occur on Feb. 7.

Interviews with admission officials will be held on campus as well as in London, Paris, Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai, Sao Paulo, Palo Alto, and New York. The one-on-one sessions will be conducted between Feb. 11 and March 8th, according to Dee Leopold, managing director of admissions at Harvard.

Harvard said it would get out all the bad news for round two candidates by Feb. 7. “All candidates not being invited to interview will be notified of their release” on that date, wrote Leopold in a post on her admissions blog.

The big question now: How do you not screw up your interview?

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

For some smart, tell-it-like-it-is counsel, we again turned to Sandy Kreisberg, aka HBS Guru, the rebel savant of MBA admissions consulting. The highly opinionated Kreisberg has been advising applicants to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and other elite B-schools for some 15 years. During the 2011-12 application season, Kreisberg conducted mock interviews with more than 120 applicants to Harvard alone, a service he offers for $450. (For details, see his website.

Obviously, if you made it to this stage in round one, it’s a big deal. The interview is the only thing separating you from a seat in the class, right? 

Yes, but it’s like being born. It’s a special passage where awful things can happen. Tremendous damage can occur in a very short period of time. You should worry about it, and you should prepare for it.

What have you picked up so far in your coaching of applicants who are prepping for these interviews?

Well, the big news is that Wharton has changed the format to group interviews, and the response to that has been mixed,

See the PoetsandQuants story about this written last October and the comments.

Stanford is still one-on-one and the trend there is towards more ‘behavioral interview’ questions such as

‘Tell me about a time you worked in low performing team and what you did and said?’

If you are being interviewed by Stanford, you should Google behavioral interviews and you’ll get some so-so   advice about how to answer those questions but at least it will help you get some standard questions such as,  ‘Tell me about a time you worked on a great team, or a bad team, or worked with a great leader. Tell me when you disappointed yourself and what would you do differently if you had to do it again. Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a person and how you resolved it. Tell me about a time you dealt with an ethical issue.’

HBS, at least in the first round interviews this year, stayed true to their more fact-based questions such as

‘Why did you join company X?’

‘Why did you leave company X for company Y?’

‘Looking back at your time at company X, what would you have have differently?’

‘Who is the best leader you ever worked for?’


  • hbsguru

    from her majesty, on her blog, new info about tmrw
    29 Jan 2013

    Round 2 Interview Invitations

    Greetings from snowy Boston. Here’s what is going to happen tomorrow.

    At (hopefully) noon, Boston time, we will send out the first wave of invitations to interview in Round 2.

    You’ll get an email from HBS MBA Admissions, which will give detailed instructions on the sign-up process.

    As stated before, we’ll be interviewing on campus and in the
    following hub locations: London, Paris, Shanghai, Dubai, Mumbai, Sao
    Paulo, Palo Alto and NYC.

    Heads up to 2+2 candidates: All interview invitations to this group
    will be sent in the second wave on February 6 (Note: I posted earlier
    that this would be February 7 – we’ve moved it up to February 6).

    Another heads up to those on the waitlist from Round 1 who have not
    interviewed yet: You will be included in one of the two waves if being
    invited to interview this round – if you are not invited to interview,
    you will be “released” on February 6.

    Remember, this is just the first of two invitation waves. In Round 1,
    we sent about 800 invitations in Wave 1 and about 100 in Wave 2.

    PLEASE don’t send any additional material or letters of support
    to the Admissions Board – or me or the Dean’s Office or anyone else.
    We will only consider material sent at the time of application
    submission and that means 3 recommendations for everyone (or 2 if you
    are a 2+2 applicant), not more. We do everything we can to keep this
    process fair and equitable – we hope and expect that you will support
    this effort.