An Interview With Chad Losee, Harvard’s New MBA Gatekeeper

The Harvard Business School campus

The Harvard Business School campus

Since you’re about to send out invitations for the interview, let me ask you a few questions about that. Consultants often say that you can easily screw up during that 30-minute session. If you screw up, is it all over for a candidate?

By the time we invite people to the interview stage, you have about a 50% or 60% chance of being admitted. The interviews for us are very different than at least other interview processes I have been a part of. They are different in the sense that we are trying to get to know someone in a really deep way and again project how they will perform in the program. Things that come up that are different in our interview process is we have an incredibly small group of people who do interviews. We do that because we want them to be very well trained and try to eliminate as many biases as we can.

But there is no stock list of questions. Each interview is tailored to each candidate, and the interviewer will have read the application in full. That’s different. The reason we like that is it allows us to get beyond the surface of the resume and go to something really interesting you might have said in your essay or something your recommender might have mentioned that you accomplished that we want to hear more about. Or you might say something really interesting in the interview and we might spend a lot of time there. So we are looking for all the same things in the interview as we are in the application. At the end, we write up notes about your interview and those notes go into your file. But it’s not that the interview is more important or less important than the application. Everything is read in full along with the interview notes before we make a decision. It’s really important for us to get to know you well, but it’s not more important than the application or any other part of the process.

If the candidate was nervous to the point of being inarticulate would it hurt you if the rest of your application was solid?

We’re human beings, too, so we know what it means to be inarticulate or nervous at times. We are rooting for the applicants to get in.

You didn’t have to do a post-reflection interview note when you applied. And that’s a part of the process you haven’t yet experiened as the head of admissions. But what is your sense of the real value of it and do you think you will continue to require it in the future?

You’re right. I haven’t been on the other side of this. We hope there is value for the candidate. We hope that you have never walked out of an interview and felt like I did that perfectly. So we give you the last word. I’ve talked to at least 1,000 prospective students over the last couple of months and when I talk about this everyone is vigorously nodding their head like ‘I have never had a perfect interview. I’d love to be able to have the last word.’ And so I think that is part of the value. If our process is to get to know you completely and to have you be in complete control of that, we want you to be able to do that.

It’s very interesting for us to hear how well we did get to know you. We certainly have our impressions from the interview and we do our best to be fair and as objective as possible, but then it’s really important for us to understand how you as the applicant have experienced that. I think it’s mutually beneficial and we’ll see how it goes.

It’s been said that a 730 GMAT score is not the new 700, given the increase in exam scores in recent years and Harvard’s median score is exactly 730. Do you agree that it’s the new 700?

Well, we’re not solving for GMAT scores. We’re solving for leaders who can make a difference in the world and a test is one tiny aspect of our application. The median means that 50% of the people are below a score and 50% are above that. There is no mission or crusade to make that higher. We are trying to find well-rounded leaders and test scores are only one part of it.

If you have a sub-650 applicant, what does it take to offset that score?

I think we just take it as one piece of information among many. Again, we’re solving for the best leaders we can get in the classroom. The case method doesn’t work if everyone comes in with the same opinion on what the business leader should do. So we are really trying to understand what kind of perspective you would bring. The test is only a measure of how well you do on a standardized test in a four-hour time period. It’s not a measure of anything else.

So Chad, we know how you found out about your acceptance to HBS. How did you find out you had the admissions job? Where you in another client meeting?

It was almost like that. Jana (Kierstead) called. I was at a hotel on assignment in Austin and she gave me a call. She cut right to the chase, and I couldn’t have been happier.


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