Want to know what it’s like to interview at Harvard Business School? Harbus, the HBS news organization, interviewed a Class of 2018 applicant during the Round 1 wave and graciously shared the interview with Accepted. Our anonymous interviewee (who was accepted!) is a female manufacturing engineer at a high profile global healthcare company in the U.S.
HBS is about to send out their Round 2 invites…if you’re lucky enough to get one, then you’ll want to see this first-hand advice!
What happens at an HBS interview? Can you walk us through the day?
The morning of the interview I attended a discussion group and then class. Interacting with current students, seeing the case method in action, and getting a feel for a day in the life of a student was very beneficial, especially before the interview. The admissions committee does a great job creating a comfortable environment where interviewees can get light snacks and refreshments, mingle with other prospective students, and attend events throughout the day. Applicants are taken to a separate waiting room once the interview time approaches. The 30-minute interview goes by very quickly. There is typically one interviewer and one observer, with the interview itself being very conversational.
Was there anything that took you by surprise in the interview?
Rather than generic behavioral questions, the interviewer prepares tailored questions based on your application. This can make the interview more challenging in that the questions are more difficult to predict and prepare for. However, this approach also allows the interviewer to use the time most effectively to get to know you.
What is the single worst thing one can do during the interview? And can you give some examples of unexpected ways one can impress the panel?
The easiest way to derail the interview is probably by not being authentic, either through scripted answers or lack of familiarity with one’s own application. Ways to impress the panel include knowledge of current events in your industry and in other industries, getting them excited about your professional aspirations, and being able to articulate why you chose certain paths.
What are some of the things you should do when you receive an interview invitation (on the week of the interview and on the day before the interview) in order to ensure that one is best prepared for what is to come?
In the weeks leading up to the interview, it is important to familiarize yourself with current events and monitor news for your industry. There are some great resources online with typical interview questions, however I recommend not crafting specific answers but instead focus on high level bullet points. The week of, continue your normal news routine, read your application daily, and reflect on possible questions. The day before, go over the top things you want the interviewer to remember about you, any breaking news, and try to relax as much as possible.
Can you tell us a little about your post-interview reflections?
I made some notes after the interview with key things I wanted to capture in the reflection. The reflection is a good opportunity to recap one’s strengths, clarify anything from the interview, and thank the admissions team. I was glad to have some time before my flight the following day to refine the reflection before the 24-hour deadline.
What were some of the trickiest questions you were asked?
What industry are you interested in besides your current industry? Follow-up question: What is a company you admire in that industry?
If you couldn’t work in [your target industry], what would you do instead?
Do you have any other advice for those who have gotten as far as the interview stage?
Take time to celebrate this achievement. The HBS application and interview process is intense. While it’s important to stay focused through this final hurdle, it’s also important to find outlets to relax so that you don’t burn out leading up to the interview.