Post-interview Reflection: Harvard MBA Applicants Have the Last Word

Harvard Business School (HBS) is unique among the world’s leading business schools. And that uniqueness goes far beyond its blue-chip brand and fabled case-study method. In fact, even before a candidate is admitted to HBS, he or she experiences a major difference in the interview process – the “Post-interview Reflection.”

In describing this distinctive component, Harvard tries to reduce the pressure that interviewees are likely to feel. HBS says to prepare the Reflection “as an email you might write to a colleague or supervisor after a meeting” and promises to be “generous in our reaction to typos and grammatical errors…” However, with only 24 hours to produce and submit this essential document, feeling some stress is inevitable.

So, as an HBS applicant facing a Post-Interview Reflection, what’s your game plan? How will you prepare a statement that bolsters your candidacy at this moment? What’s the “last word” you want to resonate with the HBS Admissions Board before they decide your fate?

Based on our experience advising thousands of Harvard interviewees over the past three decades, and the collective wisdom of our two former HBS admissions officers and 12 HBS graduates, The MBA Exchange offers you this list of 4 considerations when crafting your Post-Interview Reflection:

1. Feature a new, meaningful idea, insight or strength.

If you don’t inform HBS now about an attribute, aptitude, thought or accomplishment that distinguishes you, they will never know. So, dig deep, then even deeper, to find that gem that, for whatever reason, you didn’t share previously in your application or interview.

2. Address a lingering, relevant weakness.
No one knows better than you which past blemish, error, mistake, shortcoming or failure could raise a doubt in the mind of an HBS admissions officer when considering your candidacy. Whether or not this vulnerability was mentioned in your application or interview, taking ownership of it now could help overcome that doubt. No HBS applicant can be “perfect” but you can certainly be “real.”

3. Reveal humility and initiative to show balance.
Being perceived as either timid or arrogant is almost certain to prompt rejection by adcoms. So, thoughtfully moderate the content and tone of your Post-Interview Reflection to avoid such extremes. Presenting yourself as someone who is both a solid, team player and a confident leader is the goal here. Self-awareness!

4. Present your ultimate value proposition.
Wanting and needing an HBS MBA education is not enough to earn admission. Being qualified and competent is not going to give you a competitive edge. The Post-Interview Reflection is your last opportunity to convey what unique value you offer to classmates, alumni, the school and/or the world. With specifics and conviction, describe how those constituencies would benefit if you are admitted to HBS. And leave no doubt that you will promptly accept and proudly attend if offered admission.

Following this framework should help you get past the initial jitters and begin to build your story. However, if you feel the need for additional guidance and support, don’t hesitate to get it. Working with an established, skilled and trustworthy admissions expert — on interview preparation and/or the Post-Interview Reflection — could make all the difference in the world regarding your HBS admissions outcome.