Invited To Interview By Harvard Business School? Here’s What To Expect

Starting at noon today, Harvard Business School disappointed thousands of round one MBA applicants and delighted several hundred of candidates by inviting them to an admissions interview.

Candidates in the school’s round one admissions cycle found themselves on one of three lists today: Those invited to interview will be able to choose the date and time for their sessions tomorrow, Oct. 5. Another group of applicants were put on what HBS calls “Further Consideration.” They are “a small group of strong applicants to wait until Round 2, at which point we will review your application again,” according to Harvard Business School.
And finally, the majority of Round 1 applicants were euphemistically put on “Early Release.” “Unfortunately, this means we are not able to move you to the next step in our process. Our hope is that by letting you know this news early, you can move forward with other plans,” says the admissions team.

IF YOU’RE INVITED TO AN HBS INTERVIEW, HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT

Poets&Quants’ again turned to prominent MBA admissions consultant Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com, for some timely advice and counsel for those lucky enough to interview as he has in the past. Kreisberg has done hundreds of mock interviews with HBS candidates over the years 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, what is new and different?

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 the list of questions some of my clients were asked.

Applicant One: IB & PE

1. You have a very traditional background–what do you hope to discover at HBS?

2. What is the stereotype about investment bankers you found to be true? What is one you found to be not true?

3. Who was the best leader at firm one? Why?

4. How is the culture different between IB and PE?

5. Do you need different skills to really stand out? What are they?

6. What was the recruiting process like?

7. How did you find your PE firm?

8. Why that firm?

9. Walk me through a typical day at your PE firm?

10. What other career could you see yourself being interested in, outside of finance?

11. What are two different firms you would like to work for after you graduate from HBS?

13. How did you like college?

14. What would you have changed about your experience?

15. What was your favorite course?

16. If you could talk to the president of your college, and give him advice about how to improve the experience, what would it be?

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