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Harvard’s “Post-interview Reflection”: Obstacle or Opportunity?

October 3 2017 By The MBA Exchange
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Interviewing for admission to any top business school is stressful. You’re competing against thousands of applicants who may be more qualified than you. You can’t predict precisely which questions you’ll be asked. And the interviewer never provides encouragement, suggestions or feedback.

Anticipating these challenges, astute MBA applicants make it a point to diligently plan and practice in advance through mock interviews. This regimen helps them perform during the actual interview with consistency, clarity and confidence.

However, when it comes to Harvard Business School, the pressure on interviewees is even greater. Not only is HBS one of the world’s most selective b-schools (e.g., ~12% acceptance rate), but they have an added component that begins immediately after you shake hands, say thanks to the interviewer and leave the room. As part of the HBS application process, interviewees are also required to write and submit – within just 24 hours – a “Post-Interview Reflection.”

Official guidance from HBS is to prepare this document “as an email you might write to a colleague or supervisor after a meeting.” Fortunately, there’s no official word-count limit. And the school indicates they will be liberal regarding any typos and grammatical errors. However, HBS strongly cautions against “pre-packaged responses” that have been “produced before the interview.”

So, are HBS interviewees stuck between a rock and hard place? Eager to succeed but constrained in their preparation? We answer with an emphatic “no.” Based on our success with HBS interviewees over the past three decades, The MBA Exchange views the HBS Post-Interview Reflection as a bonus — a rare opportunity for MBA applicants to have the “final word” in presenting themselves for consideration. In fact, this is such an important aspect of an HBS admissions campaign that we offer real-time consulting for applicants during the 24-hour window following the interview. By taking a thoughtful, strategic and proven approach, Harvard Business School applicants can utilize their Post-Interview Reflection to convey a superior value proposition that gives them a competitive edge in the pursuit of admission.

How can an HBS interviewee make the most of this extra element in the interview process? Here are 4 steps to consider:

1. Analyze the interview.
Which aspects of your candidacy did the interviewer probe most? Which aspects did he or she ignore? These answers reveal what’s most important to the Admissions Board and thus can help you identify the topics to be revisited and reinforced in the reflection.

2. Review your application.
Which of the strengths you presented are most beneficial to your candidacy? Which of the vulnerabilities you listed are most harmful? These answers identify aspects of your “story” to be further examined, explained and explored in the reflection.

3. Address the gaps.
Where does your candidacy diverge most from the attributes that HBS prioritizes and emphasizes? This is “ground” to be seized through the reflection. Confront the disconnects with fresh content backed by hard facts and conveyed with confidence.

4. Close the sale.
How passionate are you about attending HBS? How certain are you about the fit? How determined are you to learn, grow and contribute as a student and later as a graduate? This is the time and place – and the final opportunity – to make that crystal clear to HBS, with no doubts or regrets about what you include or exclude.