How To Nail Your HBS Interview

 
This past week was a big one for MBA applicants to Harvard Business School. Chad Losee, Harvard Business School’s new admissions chief, dispatched hundreds of interview invites to round two candidates in the first of two batches. The second group of invites (and dings) will go out Feb. 1.

Losee says that interviews by the school’s admissions staff will be held from Feb. 3 through March 6. In addition to on-campus interviews in Boston, HBS’ admissions team will be interviewing in Dubai, London, Menlo Park, New Delhi, New York, Paris, Shanghai, and Tokyo. “No matter where you interview, a member of the Admissions Board will conduct your interview and the process and evaluation will be the same,” adds Losee. “If you do decide to come to campus to interview, you’ll also have a chance (if you want) to sit in on a class, meet fellow applicants, current students and faculty members.”

IF YOU’RE INVITED TO AN HBS INTERVIEW, HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT

If you get an invite, what can you expect? Poets&Quants‘ again turned to prominent MBA admissions consultant Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com, for some timely advice and counsel for those lucky enough to interview. Kreisberg did well over 100 mock interviews with HBS candidates last year so he also has both the background and the experience to know what to expect, what works and what doesn’t. He also shared with us reports filed back to him from clients who were interviewed during round one.

Sandy, you did more than 100 mock interviews for HBS applicants during this admissions season, what is really new here?

Not much in terms of what really counts. The Golden Rules remain the same.

1. The interview is meant to weed people out, not select people (see story below).

2. The interview is mostly resume based, and focused on your ability to walk through your resume, introduce yourself, and explain key transitions, why you went to School X, why you took Job 1, what you learned there, what your accomplishments were, what you would do differently, why you took Job 2, etc. For each school and job on your resume be prepared to explain what you did, what you learned, what you are proud of, what you would do differently, etc. That is the bulk, and the important bulk of the HBS interview. Although sure, there are millions of variants.

3. Smart people, who can in fact speak English, screw up the HBS interview for two reasons: They talk too much and get lost, and lose track of where they are. Or they try to give exceptional, show-off answers instead of down-to-earth obvious answers.

Can you provide some color from applicants who interviewed in Round 1.

Sure, here are some interview report excerpts written by Round One applicants right after they were interviewed. These are typical and strongly indicate that in terms of HBS interview process and and concerns, nothing much is “new” from what we have been reporting on for the last several years. To wit, they are looking for your ability to explain things you should be able to explain. They are not looking to trip you up, or ‘pressure test you,’ or make you cry or laugh. Here’s the list of questions some of my clients were asked.

Applicant One: IB & PE

1. You have a very traditional background–what do you hope to discover at HBS?
2. What is the stereotype about investment bankers you found to be true? What is one you found to be not true?
3. Who was the best leader at firm one? Why?
4. How is the culture different between IB and PE?
5. Do you need different skills to really stand out? What are they?
6. What was the recruiting process like?
7. How did you find your PE firm?
8. Why that firm?
9. Walk me through a typical day at your PE firm?
10. What other career could you see yourself being interested in, outside of finance?
11. What are two different firms you would like to work for after you graduate from HBS?
13. How did you like college?
14. What would you have changed about your experience?
15. What was your favorite course?
16. If you could talk to the president of your college, and give him advice about how to improve the experience, what would it be?