How NOT To Blow Your HBS Interview

Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School

Harvard Business School sent good news yesterday (Oct. 6) to as many as 750 round one applicants who were invited to interview with a member of the school’s admissions staff. That first wave of invites for interviews that will be conducted Oct. 26 and Nov. 20 will be followed by additional, smaller waves on Oct. 8th and Oct. 14th.

The latter date also will be the bad news day when HBS issues its first dings of the 2015-2016 admissions season. All first round applicants who have gotten rejections from the school will be notified on that single day next Wednesday. The school said that all undergraduate candidates for its 2+2 program also will be notified of either an interview invitation or a rejection on Oct. 14th.


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.