How To Apply To Harvard Business School

Dillon House, the home of admissions at Harvard Business School

Dillon House, the home of admissions at Harvard Business School


At the end of the day, our job (whether via this guide, or – on a more personal level – while working with you as a client) is to help you go through the steps above in order to secure an interview to HBS.  If you have selected the school correctly, checked your candidacy against the filters, realigned your perspective, and then strategically articulated your story throughout the essays, you are very likely to receive an invitation to interview with Harvard Business School.  Once you receive such an opportunity, you obviously need to make the most of it.  We’re not breaking any new ground here, but it bears stating anyway: you can be the world’s greatest candidate on paper, but if you have a poor interview, you can throw your admit letter right out the window.  Here are some suggestions that will help you take full advantage of this opportunity.

Build Your Sales Pitch

We’re not talking about a used car salesmen’s patter here, but rather an articulate, nuanced, and developed narrative about you.  Your sales pitch can take on many layers and focus on a variety of angles, but will almost always pull from your key themes stated in the essays.  You want to avoid a disconnect between who you are on paper and what you are projecting in an interview setting.  The night before your interview is no time for an epiphany.  Even more important than linking everything together is being comfortable with what you want to say.  Look, there is no way to guarantee that you will be able to get your sales pitch perfectly articulated during the back-and-forth interview process, but at the very least, you should have a “pitch” that you can give uninterrupted for anywhere from five minutes to an hour, depending on circumstances.  If someone asks you to “tell them about your plans for an MBA,” you should be able to dazzle them for an hour.  How?  On to the next point …


Once you have a pitch, practice it.  You will be tempted to fall back on past interviewing experiences, be it for college, on-campus activities, or jobs, but this is a mistake.  For starters, if you fit the HBS model, you will be a little younger and you may not have dozens of successful interviews under your belt.  Even if you did, however, you have to understand that an MBA interview is a different setting.  Yes, your past interview opportunities will help you with body language, posture, pacing, non verbal cues, and the like, but they won’t help you deliver a powerful, consistent, and articulate message about who you are as a candidate.  You need to practice to get it down pat.  The best way to do it?  Whenever someone asks you why you are getting an MBA, lay the sales pitch on them.  You will get the practice you need and they will forever think twice about asking someone that question!


There is a ton of information out there about interviews at the top schools.  Applicants tend to get a little giddy and are infinitely more friendly once they hit the interview stage of the process, so where there is little sharing of insight and info during the application phase, there is ample sharing that goes on during interviews.  There are forums, message boards, and databases filled with interview experiences and questions.  Read them, soak them up, and start identifying trends.  With HBS, you can be sure to expect a very focused interview that will often spend far more time talking about college than any other school (again, if you have been reading this guide, that makes sense).  In fact, HBS has even been known to inquire about high school.  Be prepared and know that this interview will go differently than your other b-school interviews.   Know also that HBS is known for having “hard” interviews mixed in with “easy” interviews.  This is unusual as well and while we don’t buy the common myth on his subject (that HBS is trying to keep people on their toes), we are willing to accept that the disparity in interviewers leads to a disparity in interview styles.  In other words, alumni members don’t interview like admissions committee members and even within the alumni population there is a wide variety of styles.

It isn’t just the questions you should research though – you also want to know the format.  HBS uses both admissions committee members and alumni and will hold interviews on campus, at “hub” locations, or even over the phone.  You should be ready for all formats.

Understand the Psychology

The most overlooked part of interviews is understanding how they flow and unfold in basic human terms.  What parts usually go well?  When do they flag?  What happens to the interview subject when the host appears to be checking out (answer: usually panic)?  What can you do about these things?

We wrote all about that here and we encourage you to check it out.


It’s a brave new world out there.  Over the past eight years, we have witnessed an ever-increasing pool of qualified candidates who apply to the same top 10 MBA programs.  Considering the fact that more and more applicants are taking the GMAT, and now the GRE, the competitive applicant pool is turning into a shark tank of sorts.  Meanwhile, HBS maintains the same number of fixed seats in its incoming MBA classes – a classic squeeze play.

If you are not a member of this competitive applicant group, as defined by the above steps, then consider applying elsewhere.  It is as simple as that.  Of course there are always stories of someone getting into HBS with a sub-600 GMAT score.  However, while in the realm of probability, it is not within the realm of probability – your efforts are best spent on other applications.

If you are a member of this competitive applicant group, then you have passed the first steps in the HBS application process detailed above.  Don’t pat yourself on the back just yet.  You need to different yourself from the rest of the A-team and that is primarily done through your essays.  Of course, this is the part where I recommend reaching out to a vetted professional admissions consultant.

If you are interested in working with us on your HBS applications – or on applications to any other business schools – email us at  You can also visit us online at

About the Authors


Paul is the founder and Principal of the Amerasia Consulting Group, a boutique MBA admissions consulting firm.  Over the past eight years, Paul has worked with more than 450 clients, and has helped his clients gain entry to every one of world’s top 25 MBA programs.  Paul is a guest lecturer for UCLA Anderson’s Riordan Programs and currently manages the largest pre-MBA group in the Los Angeles area, the Los Angeles MBA Admissions Workshop.  Through these organizations, Paul brings his past experiences as a student and alumni interviewer for the UCLA Anderson admissions committee, as well as his knowledge gained as a GMAT instructor to those seeking to gain entrance to top MBA programs.

Prior to his current roles, Paul spent nine years in various finance, operational, and managerial roles at Veritas Prep, Revolution Prep, Kaplan, KPMG Consulting (BearingPoint), Northern Trust, Bear Stearns, Countrywide Financial, TRW, BASF, PBG, and the Ford Motor Company.  At Veritas Prep, Paul served as the Vice President of Operations with oversight responsibility for all GMAT prep instructors and MBA admissions consultants.  As the Director of Revolution Prep’s TutorSource division, Paul managed the launch of a new online marketplace for tutoring services.  With BearingPoint, Paul served as a Senior Consultant in the company’s Finance, Risk, Compliance and Insurance group.  Prior to business school, Paul worked as a manufacturing engineer and production manager within a plant environment.

Paul holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis on Manufacturing Process Design from Kettering University (1999), and completed his MBA at UCLA Anderson, concentrating in Operations and Entrepreneurship (2004.)  At UCLA Anderson, Paul held several leadership and volunteer roles, most notably with the Riordan Programs, Challenge for Charity and the Entrepreneurship Association.  As an alumnus, he was a board member with ASUCLA and is an alumni mentor for several UCLA undergraduate students.


Adam Hoff is a Principal of the Amerasia Consulting Group and the architect of the firm’s renowned school-specific Strategy Memos.  His approach to admissions consulting is informed by a career spent in every possible admissions capacity.  As a former Associate Director of Admissions at his alma mater, Pepperdine University, Adam came to understand the strategic, psychological, and financial pressures that admissions officers face in building a class.  In addition to running an admissions committee, managing scholarships, and organizing recruiting efforts, Adam also reviewed over 1,000 files each year and knows exactly what applicants much accomplish when they get their five minutes to shine.

Taking a brief break from the admissions world, Adam attended the University of Chicago Law School, where he graduated in 2007 after spending three years specializing in entrepreneurship law before taking an Associate Position with Sidley Austin, one of the 10 largest law firms in the world.  After working primarily with hedge funds and on M&A deals, Adam left the practice of the law once and for all and became the Director of Admissions Consulting for Veritas Prep, where he spent nearly three years rolling out services and ultimately coming to know every top MBA program intimately.

After being hired to write a feature film (Adam is a member of the WGA and has sold multiple television shows), Adam returned to the world of admissions when he joined Amerasia Consulting Group.  It was there that Adam created a unique, multi-dimensional approach to consulting that drew upon all areas of his career – admissions officer, attorney, director of admissions consulting, and screenwriter – in order to help clients produce essays that were perfectly structured and customized to the DNA of each individual program.  He has worked with over 100 clients in the past several years and, as a Principal in the business, has created seminal strategies for specific schools and essay types.

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