HBS Students Dish On The Interview

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.


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.


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:

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