HBS Invites Out Oct. 1, Sandy’s Golden Advice

The Harvard Business School campus Photo by John A. Byrne

Harvard Business School will begin to invite round one applicants to admission interviews on Oct. 1, next Monday. Three days later, on Thursday, Oct. 4th, the school will then release its bad news for the majority of round one candidates, with a second wave of interview invites but also dings. The notices will come out by noon eastern time. The school said that about 75% of its round one invites will go out Oct. 1, with the remaining 25% to follow in the second wave on Oct. 4.

The actual sign-ups for interview slots won’t go live until Oct. 2 at noon EST, though you will be able to see interview times and locations if you were among the lucky on Oct. 1. If you failed to get an invite today, your chances narrow considerably given the odds here. There is, of course, another alternative for hope, however slim it may be, something that HBS called “further consideration.” Translation: Harvard will hold off making a final decision and consider your application alongside their Round 2 applications in January.

On Thursday, Oct. 4, again at noon Eastern time, Harvard plans to send out the rest of the interview invitations. Invited applicants will then be able to sign up for interview slots right away. “Don’t worry, we hold back plenty of interview spots for the second wave,” says Chad Losee, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid. “The process and the evaluation is the same for all on and off-campus interviews, so please sign up for an interview where it is most convenient for you.”


This year, the first in which HBS eliminted its round three deadlines for MBA applicants, round one was expected to be heavier than usual. The result: Candidates can expect more of everything, including how many get interviewed, how many get rejected, and how many wind up on the waitlist.

In typical year, fewer than two of every ten applicants are interviewed by an HBS admissions staffer. Overall, those interviews account for roughly twice the number of applicants Harvard will eventully admit into its MBA program. “Of course we wish we could move more people forward,” wrote Chad Losee, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid, in blog post. “Our hope is that this earlier timing is helpful to you, even if it’s not the hoped for outcome.”


We spoke to HBSGuru Sandy Kreisberg yet again about how not to blow your HBS interview.

JB: Sandy, we’re highlighting your perennially popular PQ article about this process and our video interview:

How NOT To Blow Your HBS Interview

The Inside Skinny on Harvard Business School’s Admission Interviews

We suggest that our readers dive into those, which offer advice, frequently asked questions in general (“walk me through your resume”) and by career (“explain Private Equity to the guy sitting next to you from West Point . . .”) and suggested answers.

The article and the video also lists the most famous screwball questions (“Introduce yourself to God . . .” etc) even though we know your advice is NOT to worry about screwballs but focus your preparation about explaining all the transitions in your resume, why you went to your college, why you chose your first job, why you want an MBA degree. We’re also including links to a half dozen of Sandy’s actual mock interviews done earlier this year via webinar. They are all at the end of this article.

Get Sandy Kriesberg's advice to make handicapping your odds of getting in possible

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

John: Sandy, it’s HBS interview time, the dean’s blog has announced that interview invites will go out on October 1st and a second wave of invites will go out on October 4th. Break that down.

Sandy: If the past is any guide, that means that about 80 percent of the invites will go out on October 1st, the final 20 percent and ALL the dings will go out on October 4th.

John: So they like to torture that last 20 percent with some slim hope.

Sandy: Haha, at HBS they don’t call that torture, they call in leadership training.

John: Is anything going to be new in the interview process this year?

Sandy: I don’t think so, it will still be, in most cases, the candidate in a room with an interviewer and an observer. We can talk about the infinite ways to play that later, let’s get to the meat.

John: Ready!

Sandy: The most important part of the interview comes first. The interview is 30 minutes, they often keep to that time, and the first 10 minutes is often where your fate is decided.

In general and of super importance, the interview FLUNKS people, it does not ADMIT people. HBS is nominally  looking to filter out people who are not good candidates for the “cold-call” case method. All that said, many, many otherwise articulate people FLUNK the interview because they sound, in HBS’ catchall phrase, “scripted.” Scripted means a lot of things, including stiff, hesitant, disgressive (which is different than scripted, but to them still scripted), annoying (scripted), braggy, and just not in the groove.

Hence, the important part of the interview is at the beginning where they decide if you are “scripted” and hence the type of questions they often ask in the beginning, are very important.

John: Like what??

Sandy: People focus on oddball questions like “What kind of animal would you be?” Or, “What do you want written on your grave?” or  “What do you think would be different about you if you were a woman instead of a man?”

John: Those are great?

Sandy: But they very rarely ask questions like that, the most important question is “Walk me through your resume.” That often happens immediately, and you can really screw it up.

John: What is your advice to handle that?

Sandy: Many ways to skin that cat, but a good one is, “Let me give you the big picture, I went to Cornell for college because I fell in love with setting, I majored in Engineering because I love applied math and was good at it, after college I joined McKinsey for a lot of reasons, but mostly I loved the people I met in the recruiting process, and wanted a general introduction to business. After a great two years, I joined Google because they offered me a job that combined business and engineering.”

They almost never let you get through that and interrupt, but it’s a good card and approach to have in your pocket.

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