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You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

January 23, 2009

HBS MBA Interviews

You can find my essay analysis for Fall 2009 Admission here.


In my experience, my clients who succeed at HBS interviews go to their interview with a sense of confidence based on having done careful preparation. My clients who have failed the interview stage have generally done so because of related reasons: lack of confidence and/or preparation. While these issues could be the same for any interview, the reality is that HBS admissions interviews are simply more thorough than that of most other schools. Failure to take this interview sufficiently seriously is a recipe for disaster.

In addition to my own knowledge, I have reviewed reports of Harvard Business School interviews found at accepted.com and clearadmit.com. These reports reveal that there are five key things to consider when preparing for HBS interviews:

1. You need to know your application very completely as you will be asked by adcom about its content. Review your entire application (not just resume and essays, but everything including the transcript) very carefully and consider what your interviewer might ask you to explain more thoroughly. Remember: Anything is fair game. Assume that the weakest parts of your application will be topics in the interview. Assume the worst-case scenario and be very prepared to address their concerns. Given the annual failure rate at HBS, if you have any academic weaknesses (low GPA, a relatively weak TOEFL, insufficient proof of a quantitative background), be ready to address those issues. Be prepared to tell new stories and alternative versions of the stories you told in your essays.

2. The questions you get will be specific to you. Most questions will not be odd, but they may be unexpected. On the other hand, a number of reports indicate that the majority of questions are actually common ones. See my previous post on interviewing. Be able to articulate clearly what you want to learn at HBS and what you can contribute. While it is important to be able to discuss leadership, don't assume the interview will be entirely focused on it. The interviewer will come in knowing what they want to ask you.

3. Assume there will be at least one question for which you might not be ready for. Don't panic. Take a deep breath. Answer the question and do not become flustered. Be ready to answer questions about a hypothetical case study, conflict with colleagues, and the latest book you read as these have all been reported frequently.

4. Adcom interviewers are friendly, but to the point. They don't do stress interviewing exactly, but they will question you intensely. They will be taking notes. Anything you say can be subject to inquiry, so speak concisely, answer questions precisely, and try to avoid voluntarily bringing up any topics that you really don't want to talk about. Assume the you will be asking follow-up questions, so expect to be able to analyze/explain in a great deal of depth. Your interviewer will know exactly what he/she wants to ask you because the purpose of the interview is (1) to see if you look as good in reality as you did in paper and (2) to address any concerns that they have about your suitability for HBS.

5. Reported interview length for interviews is 30 minutes.

For more about this interview, please see my more recent post on it.

If you are interested in my interview preparation or other graduate admission consulting services, please click here.

Questions? Write comments, but do not send me emails asking me to advise you on your application strategy unless you are interested in my consulting services. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to. Before emailing me questions about your chances for admission or personal profile, please see my post on "Why I don't analyze profiles without consulting with the applicant."
-Adam Markus
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