How Not to Bomb Your Harvard MBA Interview


If you were one of the lucky ones today to receive an invitation to interview with Harvard Business School Admissions Officers, you will want to take advantage of this invitation smartly. After all, you came so close to a confession, it would be a tragedy to be among the 40% to 50% to only get a rejection.

Those invited to an interview will be able to register for an interview slot this Thursday, February 3. All interviews this year will be conducted via Zoom and will take place between mid-February and early March.

How not to bomb your shot?

We once again turned to Sandy Kreisberg, Founder of HBSGuru.com and Harvard Business School Admissions Tea Leaf Reader, for his best advice. In any given year, Sandy will do mock interviews with up to 100 or more HBS candidates who have been invited to attend. This gives him an unusual level of insight into who receives and invites and who doesn’t, as well as who is ultimately admitted after an interview and who is turned down.

Several of his first-round clients handed in their detailed questions after being interviewed by HBS, and Sandy shares them here:

The first series is of an investment banker who got an R1 interview:

What impact has COVID had on your business (lots of tracking on impact on deals, customers, colleagues, etc.)?
Tell me about your favorite offer, your most difficult offer and an offer that you missed, and why?
How do you market yourself to investors?
What is your company’s “secret sauce”?
What types of investors are attracted to your business and why?
What has been the biggest challenge in fundraising?
Tell me about a time you influenced someone else
Thinking about the roles you’ve held – dealmaker, working with your portfolio companies, team leader, and fundraising – which have been the most challenging for you and why?
Would you ever want to run a business full time?
How would your impact be different as an investor versus a CEO?
How did you discover HBS?
What would you like me to ask you?

And from a candidate who works in private equity:

Can you talk about the recent deal on your resume (Lots of follow-up questions)
What are you doing in your current role?
I see that you have worked in different offices and on different continents of your Bank, what are some of the cultural and operational differences. Which office did you like the most.
How would your supervisor describe you?
What constructive feedback have you received in the past?
What did you learn in JOB 2?
Tell me about your goals? Where do you want to work? What could you see yourself doing if those goals don’t materialize?
What will you get from an MBA?
What did you think of doing your exchange semester in D? 1
Can you tell us more about life in A and B?
Can you tell us about extracurricular A?
Is there anything else you would like us to know? __________________________________________________

From a military veterinarian candidate:

What made you decide to join the army?
Tell me about the team you are currently working with. Lots of follow-up: what is the team culture, who is the “leader”, how do we make decisions,
Give me two words your teammates would use to describe you?
What constructive feedback have you received from your teammates?
What were the goals you set for yourself in the army?
When did you decide to pursue an MBA and why?
What interests you in the industry?
Which company would you be interested in working with and why?
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru

Sandy, is there anything different about this year’s interview series at Harvard?

Not much in terms of what really matters. The golden rules remain the same.

1. Interviewing is about weeding out people, not selecting them (see story below).

2. The interview is primarily CV-based and focused on your ability to go through your CV, introduce yourself and explain key transitions, why you went to school X, why you accepted position 1, what what you learned there, what were your achievements. , 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. is the essential, and essential of the HBS maintenance. Of course, there are millions of variations.

3. Smart people, who can actually speak English, screw up the HBS interview for two reasons: they talk too much and get lost, and don’t know where they stand. Or they try to give exceptional and ostentatious answers instead of obvious down-to-earth answers.

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