Your interview invitation. At Harvard Business School, admissions interviews are by invitation only. An interview is required before an offer is extended, so all accepted students were interviewed at some point during the admissions process. Harvard likes to interview about 1,800 candidates total each year, and they’ll admit about 60% of those. So, if you get an invitation, you’re in very good shape but not completely home free yet.
If you receive an invitation, you will interview in person, either on campus or in one of the cities the admissions team travels to. Harvard says there is no advantage to interviewing at the school, though if you haven’t made it to Cambridge yet (and you’re in a position to do so), scheduling your interview at HBS would be a great opportunity to also interact with students and sit in on a class.
Your interviewer. All interviews are conducted by members of the HBS admissions board; alumni do not help with interviews at Harvard. This allows the admissions board to have a more standardized process and a better way to evaluate each person, candidate to candidate. The interviewer will have read your entire application before meeting with you (unlike some other schools, where the interview is “blind” and the interviewer only has your resume).
Anticipated questions. Because the interviewer will already be familiar with your application, he or she will dive into topics that the admissions board wants to explore more deeply. This could include potential weaknesses they see in your candidacy or experiences you didn’t have an opportunity to discuss thoroughly in other parts of your application. These behavioral interviews can go in almost any direction, but you should prepare a number of personal and professional stories that exemplify topics of leadership, decision-making, overcoming challenging situations, working on teams, dealing with difficult personalities, and other topics. Be prepared to answer questions about application weaknesses such as academics, test scores, thin work experience, and so forth. Also be advised that members of the admissions board may throw you a question “out of left field”, like what books are you currently reading, to see your response.
The stone-faced response. HBS admissions interviewers notoriously provide almost no verbal or non-verbal feedback during or after the interview. Everyone comes away from the interview feeling like they bombed it! One woman left her on-campus interview, sat on the steps of Dillon House (the building that houses the HBS Admissions office), and cried. She thought the interview went horribly. Much to her surprise, she received an acceptance letter a few weeks later! As a first-year student, she bumped into the woman who interviewed her. The interviewer said that she not only remembered the candidate, but also how well she performed in the interview. It had been one of the best interviews she conducted all season! Please don’t let the interviewer’s reaction (or lack thereof) discourage you.
Small talk. In recent years, more applicants have told us about how the interviewer attempted to develop rapport by spending a significant amount of time (sometimes an uncomfortably long amount of time) talking about seemingly irrelevant hobbies listed on the resume or engaged in other small talk. In these circumstances, simply go with the flow and show the admissions officer that you’ll be an interesting, intelligent, and enjoyable classmate at HBS.
The Post-Interview Reflection
You just had your HBS interview. Tell us about it. Did we get to know you?
24-hour deadline. Within 24 hours of the interview, candidates are required to submit a written reflection through HBS’s online application system. Detailed instructions will be provided to those applicants who are invited to the interview process. The Post-Interview Reflection gives you a chance to include anything you wish you had been able to mention in the interview, and to reframe anything that you discussed but have since thought about a bit more. You will submit this piece within 24 hours of your interview.
Keep it brief. Especially since this letter has no word limit, the temptation will be for you to cram in half a dozen additional things that you wish you had covered in the interview. However, less is always more; keep the note limited to no more than two or three core ideas that you want to highlight. Ideally you covered all of the important things in the interview already, but if not, this is a chance to hit on those. Keep in mind, though, that sharing these ideas in the interview is always going to be more effective than cramming them into this note.
Do not write beforehand. Be realistic about how much this letter will help you. Chances are that it won’t turn a dud of an interview into a terrific one in hindsight. Do not go into the interview with this note already drafted; let it truly be a reaction to the discussion, which was hopefully an interesting and provocative one. If your interviewer reads this note and it sounds like a replay of an entirely different discussion from what he or she remembers, that will only serve to hurt you come decision time.
Consistent writing style. When the Post-Interview Reflection was announced in 2012, Admissions Director Dee Leopold described the addition as “a little bit more to what you may be doing in real-life careers. Sometimes you will have months and months to write a report, but more frequently, you’ll probably have to write e-mails or memos in real time. So we like to think that this is a preview of not only what you will do in class but what we think you’ll be doing throughout your career.” The Post-Interview Reflection should provide a good picture of a candidate’s true thoughts and writing abilities through a slightly less filtered, edited, and crafted forum.
Veritas Prep and Your HBS Application
Harvard Business School receives more applications than any other MBA program in the world, so making an impression with its admissions board is a real challenge. To guide you through this challenge, Veritas Prep has developed the most qualified and diverse team of admissions consultants ever assembled. Don’t just take our word for it; check out our team yourself! If you are interested in maximizing your chances for admission, our team will help you every step of the way.
Your Personalized HBS Consulting Team
MBA admissions decisions are quite subjective, and no two members of the HBS admissions board will view a candidate in exactly the same way. As a result, Veritas Prep uses a unique team-based approach in our consulting to offer multiple expert perspectives. In your Comprehensive School Package, you’ll work with a Head Consultant™ who has admissions experience at a top-tier MBA program to guide you through the process from start to finish. Head Consultants have evaluated MBA candidates themselves, so they can provide an invaluable insider’s perspective to answer every question and help you avoid common application pitfalls.
In addition, you’ll work with a School Specialist, who has gone through the HBS MBA program and was personally immersed in the HBS culture for two years. He or she will ensure your applications are perfectly tailored based on the strengths, programs, and culture of the school. You’ll have a different School Specialist for each school in your comprehensive package.
The Ultimate Admissions Committee™
In addition to your personalized consulting team, if you have all of your application materials ready at least two weeks before HBS’s application deadline, you may submit them to the Veritas Prep Ultimate Admissions Committee™. This committee is comprised of former directors and associate directors of MBA Admissions—those who have made thousands of admissions decisions on candidates just like you. The Committee will review your application and provide final feedback before you submit.
How it Works
First, we’ll talk with you about your profile and understand exactly what you’re looking for in a Head Consultant. Based on your personal and professional background, goals, target schools, working style, and personal preferences, we’ll match you with the best Head Consultant for your needs.
Your Head Consultant will assist with every step as you examine your strengths and weaknesses, map out your ideal application strategy, select the best MBA programs for your unique background and goals, craft your resume, brainstorm and outline essays, exchange several essay drafts, and complete your online application form.
Your School Specialist will discuss the classes, majors, clubs, conferences, activities, and other resources available at your target school that are most relevant to your goals and interests. Your HBS School Specialist will ensure your application demonstrates fit with the school academically, professionally, and culturally. In addition, if you’re invited to interview, your HBS School Specialist will conduct a mock interview, often with the same questions you’ll face in your actual interview, and provide feedback for improvement. If you get waitlisted, we’ll provide tips and advice to move into the “admit” column. Your success is our success!