Talk about pressure! While it’s stressful interviewing for admission at any top business school, the stress levels crank up as you near the best of the best. When it comes to Harvard Business School, the pressure on interviewees is even greater than in typical admissions interviews.
Anticipating these challenges, astute MBA applicants make it a point to diligently plan and practice in advance. Top-quality HBS interview prep consulting also doesn’t hurt – take it from the team at The MBA Exchange.
What does an HBS interview look like?
You’re competing against thousands of applicants. You can’t predict the questions asked. The interviewer never provides encouragement, suggestions or feedback. And HBS is super selective. That’s not even mentioning the unique HBS interview challenge of the “Post-Interview Reflection,” required to be submitted within 24 hours of your interview.
The HBS interview process is rigorous, fast-paced, unpredictable and challenging. You’re under evaluation potentially even before entering the interview room. You have just 30 minutes to impress the Harvard Business School Admissions Board. Buckle up!
This year, you can opt to do your interview in-person or remotely using teleconferencing technology. Both options have benefits and challenges.
What percentage of HBS applicants get an interview?
Many applicants compete each year for the coveted seats in the incoming HBS class. About 20% of that applicant pool make it to the interview stage. About half of those interviewed are finally admitted. Making it to the interview means a lot, but clearing the interview is the ultimate goal.
Your HBS interview prep plan
That means that it’s essential to score big on the interview. And that means, you better put together a great prep plan.
How do you prepare for the HBS interview?
A paradox of HBS interview prep is that overly-polished presentations can actually hurt you on the big day. You want to be ready to shift direction with ease, rather than showing up with a set of prepared answers to reel off by rote. But that’s not the easiest requirement to prep for! Here are some conceptual steps to start you off.
1. Analyze your candidacy
Make sure you know your strengths and can present yourself fluidly while still maintaining a high degree of factual detail and accuracy. When you understand the value you bring, you’re better able to express that to interviewers, even when the pressure’s on.
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 post-interview reflection component.
3. Address the gaps
Where does your candidacy diverge from the attributes that HBS prioritizes? This is ground to be seized. Confront 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 fit? How determined are you to contribute as a student and as a graduate? Make it crystal clear.
How many hours do you need to prep for the HBS interview?
Since Harvard interviews aren’t one-size-fits-all, neither is HBS interview prep. Your interviewers are going to try to stump, fluster and wrong-foot you. How much time do you need to dedicate to HBS interview prep? As much as you need to be able to stay smooth, focused, on track and confident, no matter what kind of twists and turns your interview takes.
It actually makes sense to think of HBS interviews as similar to the case interview method used at other top-of-the-top business schools like Wharton. So, instead of memorizing answers to generic questions, get ready to show off reasoning, leadership, communication and quantitative skills on the fly with focused HBS case interview prep.
Sample HBS interview questions
HBS interview questions aren’t easy to sample with any representative accuracy, because the potential range varies so widely. Your interviewer might ask about your personal background, professional goals, current business practices or even the day’s weather.
Some questions that could – and we stress, COULD – show up in the 30-40 questions you’re likely to field during your interview include:
- What would people who know you personally describe as a weakness of yours?
- What’s the Harvard application process been like for you?
- What’s your response to negative feedback from supervisors?
- What do you plan on doing with your MBA after graduation?
- Who are you looking forward to connecting with at Harvard?
Partner with the best coaches for HBS interview prep, such as the MBA consulting experts at The MBA Exchange, and you’ll get used to working with the rapid-volley HBS interview style. You don’t prepare answers for an HBS interview; you prepare yourself! Our HBS interview prep consulting services give you expert support as you tackle the HBS interview prep process.