How To Nail Your HBS Interview

Applicant Five: Consulting

1. I’ve read your application but my colleague here hasn’t. Could you introduce yourself to her?

2. Why did you choose the consulting firm you work for after college? What other ones did you interview with? What were the differences?

3. What are your strengths and development needs as a consultant?

4. You have worked in several countries on projects. What is the reputation of your firm in those countries?

7. Talk about the difficult situation you mentioned in your essay?

8. How do you forge relationships with clients?

9. What’s your current project about?

10. What are the growth areas for large consulting firms right now, and why, both in terms of industries and geography?

11. You have done lots of projects in X industry. What’s the X landscape like right now?

12. What are stereotypes about consultants that you think are true, not true?

13. A company you admire?

14. What do you think keeps their CEO up at night.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy, that’s going to be really helpful to a lot of candidates. I think those questions also very predictable and in a way reassuring. But is it really fair to say the interview is meant to weed out people?

I talk to lots of people who have been interviewed and then get official feedback from HBS, which is something they offer in various formats for applicants who have been dinged after interview (but not to applicants who have not been interviewed).  By far, the biggest reason given for the ding is an interview screw up.  Here is a typical example, Dee said  that I should try to “interview in more real-time, not try and come across too polished or canned…. Here’s a quote she read me from my interview report,  ‘seemed like he was worried about getting all of his points across in 30 minutes’”.

So what is the take away from that? 

The biggest mistake people make in preparing for the HBS interview is worrying about trick questions. In fact, the Poets&Quants’ story The Most Unpredictable Questions HBS Asks is something of a disservice because those “oddball” questions get people preparing clever answers and searching for more oddball questions.

Hey, I love that story and those questions are real. So which oddball questions are you talking about?

Here are some of them:

What are the two best pieces of advice you have been given, and why?

What do you want to be remembered as?

What is your definition of a leader? How do you fit that definition?

How do you make big decisions?

How would your parents describe you when you were twelve?

What is one thing I’d never have guessed about you, even after reading your application?

What is the one thing you would like me to remember about you?

And now, John, by reprinting them we have put the elephant in the room and people reading this will do just that. Think about oddball questions and clever answers.  That was cruel fun, but my advice to applicants facing interviews is NOT to do that.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.