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How To Prep For The HBS Interview

Don’t get frozen out: Follow these tips for your Harvard Business School interview. Photo: Harvard Crimson

How To Prep For The HBS Interview

In the coming week, a number of applicants will find out whether or not they’ll be getting an invite to interview for Harvard Business School.

In one of her latest pieces, Stacy Blackman of Stacy Blackman Consulting discusses how applicants can master the HBS interview.

“If you can successfully pass the hurdle that is the Harvard Business School interview, your chances of admission skyrocket,” Blackman writes.

What To Expect

The point of the HBS interview, according to Karla Cohen, of Fortuna Admissions, is to see if you’re the person you say you are on paper.

“The format is always 30 minutes with someone from the admissions office, either one-on-one or two-on-one with a seasoned interviewer who has read your entire file and prepared a set of questions specifically for you,” Cohen writes for P&Q. “While not always possible, they try to pair you with someone experienced in the background you’re either coming from or looking to move into. HBS knows your sector and has divided applications accordingly, ready to evaluate you against the others in your field.”

Blackman says that while it’s hard to predict the exact questions asked in the HBS interview, applicants can typically expect that questions will ask about your past, present, and future.

“The interviewer will probe in great depth about your career goals, professional choices, and interest in the MBA program,” Blackman writes. “He or she will be very familiar with your essays — so familiar, in fact, that your interviewer will seem determined to find a ‘hole’ in your story.”

How you respond, Blackman says, is what’s important.

“The anecdotes you share about your past experiences — both successes and failures — will give the interviewer some insight into your self-awareness and maturity,” she writes. “Your story should reveal how you confront life choices, the values and principles that help you negotiate complex situations, your beliefs, and your worldview.”

Common Questions

Many of the questions that will be asked in the HBS interview will be questions in relation to what the interviewer has read from your essay.

Below are a few specific questions Blackman says applicants should prepare for:

Why did you make a particular career choice?

Blackman says this question is all about your leadership potential.

“If there’s a single characteristic that summarizes what the admissions team looks for in successful candidates, it would be leadership potential,” she writes. “Provide concrete examples and tangible evidence that you achieved something important by leading others.”

Why do you want to go to HBS?

When asked this question, it’s important to demonstrate that you’ve done your research about HBS, but also that you’ve put thought into how a Harvard Law education relates to your goals.

“Show that you’ve done your homework on the program, whether you’ve interviewed students, alumni, and professors, sat in on classes, or regularly read several student and professor’s blogs,” Blackman writes. “Share how HBS can help you achieve your post-business-school goals. It is also important to give insights on your personal and unique motives for choosing HBS.”

What books are you reading?

Blackman says this question may come off as a “throw-away” question, but it’s far from it.

This question is really about digging deeper into your personality and interests.

“It offers your interviewer more insight into what you value and who you are — provided you present a thoughtful answer,” Blackman writes. “It’s OK to diverge from being all business; in fact, it’s often better to reveal some other interests.”

The Post-Interview Reflection

After the HBS interview, you will be expected to submit a “post-interview reflection” within 24 hours.

Blackman reminds applicants to not panic about this assignment, but rather, look at it as more of a follow up email.

“The admissions team wants to know how the interviewee perceives the interview experience,” she writes. “They want to see how you synthesize and digest the exchange. Additionally, the want to determine how well you can communicate without the luxury of extensive rewrites and time to polish your answer.”

Despite the time-sensitive deadline of the reflection, Blackman says, applicants should try and plan out what they might write about in advance.

“Before you go into the interview, make a list of three or four aspects of your application you either want to highlight or reinforce in this post-interview reflection,” she writes. “Don’t spend a lot of time writing. While there’s no strict word limit, resist the temptation to recap every point and question.”

It’s important to go into the HBS interview prepared. But, above all, remember that you’ve already made it this far.

Sources: Stacy Blackman Consulting, Poets & Quants