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Interviews:  What to Expect From Harvard, Kellogg and HEC Paris

There’s a reason why there’s usually a desk or table separating you from the interviewer. You’re not equals…and you’re not really even allies. You want something from the other party…and they want you to prove that you deserve it. And that’s the key word: Prove.

In business school, demand exceeds supply. And that frees adcoms to be choosy. You may think you’re the one making the $120K investment. But that slot is worth just as much to the school – and even more when you factor in reputation and future gifts. In fact, you could argue that gatekeepers are there for the students’ protection as much as anyone. If you’re a star student, wouldn’t you rather sit next to Leonard Hofstadter than Van Wilder? Their job is to elevate the talent level in the program.

But that’s not easy to accept when you don’t how you stack up against the other financial whizzes and sales stars on deck. That’s why you’re really competing with yourself in an interview. How can you best frame your talents and experiences? How will your vision ultimately make a difference in others’ lives? Most important, how does your track record prove that you can really produce what you imagine?

Sure, you can hone your talking points and sound bites until they taut and tested, but they won’t mean as much as your body language and natural conviction. Still, it is sometimes comforting to know what you might be asked to help prepare.

And that’s what Clear Admit is doing in its regular interview report series, where candidates receive a $10 gift card for sharing the questions asked during interviews. While few of these questions should surprise anyone who’s ever been interviewed, they can tip you off on a school’s values and overall culture. Here are some questions that have recently been asked by adcoms at several leading MBA programs:

 Harvard Business School:

  • What makes X person at your company such a good leader? (What could this person do better?)
  • What are some challenges your industry faces? (How is your company tackling these challenges?)
  • Why did you transition from job 1 to job 2 (both were investment banks)

MIT Sloan School of Management

  • Why Sloan?
  • Tell me about the time when you had to deal with a team member who is not pulling his/her weight.
  • What are you planning to do in [city] before you fly back?

Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management

  • Why MBA? Why now?
  • Why Johnson? (Do your research, it helps a lot to have good examples)
  • What will you contribute to Johnson?

Northwestern Kellogg School of Management (Alumni Interview)

  • What’s your leadership style?
  • If you were interviewing for your planned career switch, what would you emphasize about yourself to ‘close’ the sale?
  • Why business school? (I’m planning to change careers, so he probed about why, short term goal, long term goal, what I know about the industry I’d like to change to, what I would do if not admitted)

HEC Paris

  • What are the other schools you are applying at? Which of those would you choose?
  • What have you learned in your career experience A (e.g. first role as a manager)?
  • What do you believe you can bring to the class and community?
  • This interview also includes advice on delivering a required presentation for the school.

To read additional questions and observations, click on the Clear Admit links below.


Sources: Clear Admit (Harvard), Clear Admit (MIT Sloan), Clear Admit (Cornell), Clear Admit (HEC Paris)Clear Admit (Kellogg)

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