How Not To BLOW Your HBS Interview


As a major snow storm closed Harvard Business School today (Jan. 27), thousands of anxious MBA candidates were awaiting a prized invite to an admissions interview. Harvard expects to dispatch roughly 600 interview invitations to MBA applicants tomorrow and another 200 on Feb. 4th when the remaining round two candidates will be dinged. HBS says that roughly half the candidates interviewed are admitted.

Dee Leopold, managing director of admissions and financial aid, conceded that as of yesterday her admissions team still had not finished reading all the round two applications received by the school. In a blog post, however, Leopold said she did not believe the storm would delay the release of the first wave of interview decisions by noon EST on Jan. 28. All 2+2 invites, Harvard said would be sent on Feb. 4.

Round twos at Harvard and most of the other elite schools tend to be the largest single application rounds. Though HBS is among the first to notify R2 applicants of the next step, one top school after another will soon be sending invites for interviews or for admission. At Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, round two interview invites begin going out in early February and then dribble out through early March. At Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, round two interviews had to be scheduled by Jan. 14 for a final decision date of 25. Wharton has a round two decision date of March 24.

Harvard’s invites are being sent out according to when the admissions staff completed its initial review of an application and not by any other reason. “I’ve said this before, but please don’t speculate or develop theories or algorithms about first vs. second,” wrote Leopold. “It doesn’t work that way. And it has nothing to do with when you submitted, where you live, or the first letter of your last name.”

Each invite, aded Leopold, will include detail on dates and scheduling of the interview done by HBS admission staffers. “The online interview scheduler goes live the day AFTER interview invitations go out (that gives you time to think about dates/times/locations),” she said. The first of eight posted dates for on-campus interviews will be held Feb. 12 and 13. HBS also will do admission interviews in New York, Palo Alto, Dubai, London, Mumbai, Paris, Shanghai, and Tokyo (full schedule here).

The typical on-campus interview includes a full-day of activities: a presentation n the Harvard Innovation Lab, lunch with a faculty panel, a student-led campus tour, a session on career and professional development, a coffee chat with current MBA students, and finally a 45-minute “What’s Next” session with Leopold. To attend a class, prospective students must pre-register for a 9:10 or 10:50 visit. HBS also provides one-day guest passes to Shad Hall, the HBS fitness center. The admissions board interview can obviously get in the way of some of these events because they are being held on campus at 9:30 am, 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm and 3:30 pm. So it’s a great idea to set aside a couple of days to get all of it in.


With those invites just around the corner, Poets&Quants’ again turned to prominent MBA admissions consultant Sandy Kreisberg, founder of, for some timely advice and counsel for those lucky enough to interview. Kreisberg did 60 mock interviews with round one HBS candidates 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 60 mock interviews for HBS round one this fall, what is new?

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 what my clients told me.


“Just had my HBS interview in CITY with Adcom Lady 1 asking questions and Adcom Lady 2 (observing). Lady 1 had read my whole application but Lady 2 only my resume. The interview was very conversational and relaxed; we also seemed to cover a lot of different questions – either I was concisee in my answers or I just talked too quickly, probably both. Hopefully it went well but difficult to tell. Thanks very much for your help – a lot of the questions asked were covered in our mock interview.”


“I think it went well; was very conversational. Had common ground with both the interviewer and observer which made for some small talk throughout the interview. Two female interviewers on campus. Observer actually asked probably 3 or 4 questions which I wasn’t expecting. Also surprised there were probably 15 or so other people interviewing at the same time. Small talk (I was nervous but got completely passed it after the first question.

Did you go to class?

Have you been here before?

Did you get to do the activities?

Where do you want to start today?”


“Thank you for the mock interview. They touched on most of the questions that we talked about. The interviewer was Adcom Lady 1. There was no observer. She was nice. Right after the interview, I thought it was ON FIRE. I was articulate, energetic, and super confident. Then I started to think back and felt stupid at some points. [Ed note: this dude got in.]

[Here are some questions];

Tell me why and how you got into your university

1st internship: What is the takeaway?

2nd internship: What is the takeaway?

1st internship: What is the negative feedback, constructive criticism?

You said you wanted to do public policy in the future. Why not a joint degree?

What is the thing that you hope is true and not true at HBS?”

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.