Behind the scenes: HBS Interview ft. MBA Edition
Are you hoping to get an interview from Harvard? We know you have dedicated months to making your application strong. But an interview decides whether you get the seat. This is the time to start your preparation for the HBS interview.
This article will serve as a complete guide for you on how to prepare for and excel at an HBS interview. We have covered everything from the interviewer to the applicant’s preparation, with some great debriefing of a successful applicant.
Interview preparation is always tricky as you are analyzed by someone else during the process. Therefore, it’s better to have experience beforehand to know your application’s strengths and weaknesses. If you’d like personalized, honest, and in-depth feedback on your application, feel free to book a 1:1 Profile evaluation with our profile experts (students and alums in the top 10 B-Schools).
HBS INTERVIEWER PREPARATION
Do you know that your interviewer prepares too? They extensively review your application and formulate the questions. This is because they want the interview to be forward-moving, not just a recap of your application. Also, your panel usually has an observer and interviewer. Observer interview, your presence, confidence in probing questions, and post-interview reflection are some factors that will demonstrate whether you are the right candidate for their future class.
You must also frame questions as the interviewer does based on your application, but the answer is NO. You can prepare to the extent, but there is always a space for random questions. The interviewer can navigate the interview in whatever direction the conversation goes. It can be an opportunity for you to shape your interview by pressing on those parts where you are confident.
We understand the challenge, tension, and stress you are facing before your interviews start, but remember that this is the moment you have waited and prepared for years. But let us break a myth here: you think your interview hasn’t started, but it often begins earlier than you even think. You need to be on your game from the moment you walk through the door. Adcoms observe little things before you even enter the room where the interview is taking place.
How are you handling your time in the waiting room?
To help you create a strong application, be a part of our coffee chat which we do every alternate week, where you can have a chance to talk to alums of top B-schools and clear all your doubts and know your future classmates!
HBS INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Like any other MBA program, HBS’s “standard” questions differ from other MBAs’. They are like Ocean, wide and deep, tailored with your application. Some sample questions are:
What kind of people do you look forward to meeting at HBS?
How did you find the Harvard MBA application process?
What might your supervisor describe as a weakness?
What’s your style of leadership? What would those you manage say about you?
Describe a time you had issues with staff that reported to you. How did you work around that?
When did you decide to get an MBA?
What would your five closest friends say about you? Why?
As we have mentioned that you can prepare some questions beforehand. Remember the three general categories where your interview questions can revolve. The first category of questions will be about YOU, which you are much more familiar with. They have already skimmed your application and want you to elaborate more about your background, achievement, interest, and why you made particular choices.
Why did you pick your college major?
Why did you leave your most recent job?
If you hadn’t picked the major you had, what other one would you have gone with?
They frame these questions to understand how motivated and dedicated you are. Be prepared to face follow-up questions as they will get into the heart of your decisions and values.
HARVARD TWIST IN A STANDARD WAY
Just like the title suggests, is the second category. They ask standard questions but have their twist that tries to catch you off-guard. A classic example would be they don’t directly ask you to describe yourself, but they’ll pose questions like, what would your five closest friends say about you? Why? This can force you to come out of your comfort zone and influence you to think differently than you have prepared for the standard questions. Similarly, instead of asking, what’s your biggest weakness? They might ask, what’s an area where you can’t seem to fill the gap, no matter how hard you work?
The third category of questions revolves around the industry you have worked in or are planning to work with. They want to test your knowledge and awareness about you and the industry. For example, if you say that you want to work in the marketing sector, they’ll ask you what the top 5 companies you want to work with are and what their recent campaigns are. The follow-up questions can be related to mergers, policy change, and their impact. They want specific answers backed up with your understanding that a working professional in the field should have.
They’ll ask you random questions not compulsorily related to your application or interest.
HOW TO PREPARE?
We understand the level of eagerness and concern while preparing for the interview. They want to see your dynamic personality and desire. The best advice is to represent yourself rather than be ideal. Being natural and less rigid will gain you a seat. Refrain from saying things that you think adcoms want to hear.
The important point to remember is to do more than mug up things or over-practice and dictate your application. They abhor comfortable and well-practiced answers. Even you can self-analyze that it seems boring and will create a negative impact.
Another tip is to bring collinearity with your application, which will require deep introspection and a strong line of questioning. Also, never take things for granted; be prepared even for a minor job or activity you have worked on. Finally, besides knowing about you, always research the school’s culture and environment to demonstrate a strong fit. It’s essential to showcase that you can understand and learn from different perspectives and cultures.
Prepare to engage naturally, and make your interview interactive. Conversations are better than scripted.
Answer the questions asked. For that, you need to listen and adapt.
Open up about growth, learning, setbacks, adapting, and other real-life experiences.
Be a part of our coffee chat which we do every alternate week, where you can have a chance to talk to alums of top B-schools and clear all your doubts related to interviews, adcoms, and culture, and know your future classmates
Avoid industry-heavy jargon.
Dress in business attire.
Don’t overthink your worries or insecurities about your candidacy for HBS. Everyone has some level of fear, especially for interview prep. Most interviewees are in the same boat.
Don’t try to be perfect. It’s not the time for a rehearsed speech but a thoughtful conversation in which you’re fully in the moment, reflective and authentic.
Don’t tell the interviewer what you think they want to hear.
Don’t have any interview prep materials with you. You don’t need any papers or your phone.
That’s it. From basics to advances, from do’s and don’ts, we have touched every corner of how to prepare for the HBS interview to make it achievable for you to crack your dream school. First, however, one must practice, and practicing with an expert is icing on the cake as they have an experience of extensive years in training the applicants.
We offer a limited number of complimentary profile evaluations each week. We match you with the students and alums of top B-Schools according to your background and target schools. In this call, the experts will try to dig out your USP for top B-schools and provide you with honest feedback on your profile and chances to your target schools.