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January 29, 2017

Brief thoughts on recent HBS MBA admissions interviews

In this post, I discuss HBS MBA admissions interviews. My long prior post on that topic is here. This post builds on what is in that post so I suggest reviewing it first.
For my detailed suggestions on overall interview preparation, please see:
-MBA Application Interview Strategy
-Further Comments on MBA Admissions Interviews 
-General Characteristics of Admissions Officers, Students, and Alumni Interviewers
-Recovering from a bad answer during an MBA admissions interview
-10 Ways to Blow an MBA Admissions Interview
-When to start MBA interview practice? How to prepare?
You can also find my school specific interview posts in the Interview Section of my Key Posts page.

The primary focus of HBS MBA Round 1 Class of 2019 interviews has been on the applicant's professional experience. The was also true of Class of 2018 interviews (2016 entrance). While other subjects do come up, based on reports, I have seen, the vast majority of questions in almost all interviews in the last two years were on professional experience and knowledge. You still have to prep for the full range of questions, but a great deal of attention should focus on your work experience, your industry, and your company. They want to see your ability to discuss and explain your industry and company beyond your own role.  The HBS interview content is quite distinct from what you would in a typical MBA interviewer. This is an interview that is used to determine your fitness to be an effective participant in the class and hence the focus is content related to how you could contribute your experience in class discussions.
Some people will read the above and think this just means being prepared to discuss their own work but they would be missing my point.  You need to be able to do the following for all of your employers:

1. Explain the nature of the business.

2. Explain the industry overall and the competition.

3. Explain key concepts related to your industry and role/function.

In other words, you should be able to explain your work in a way that would parallel how you might use your knowledge in class at HBS.

Recent interviews do focus both the applicant's own experience as well and you have to be prepared for answering questions about anything you have done that is accounted for in the application.  So you need to be able to switch between micro/personal level and big picture questions.

Your goals are likely to be asked about but don't be surprised if you are not asked about why MBA or why HBS. You might be but there is a good chance, you will not be asked that.  So you have to prep for it.

You can expect a few questions related to your academic and personal background so you have to be prepared to handle a full range of questions. But don't be surprised if you only get a few questions in this area.

If you are a non-native English speaker, chances are high you will be an interview situation where the number of questions asked is extremely high (maybe not so much of a deep dive at all) because they are testing your English ability: In particular, your fluency. They want to make sure you can handle the HBS classroom.  Still, HBS is famous for going in relatively deep with follow-up questions, so you have to be prepared for that as well.

HBS does not seem to be asking applicants about the interview or application process in the interviews I have reports on, which is something they were doing for a while. So while I still suggest being prepared for that topic, it seems like it is not coming up, at least very much.

Finally, keep in mind that while I have just stated the above trends, they can always change. And this why it is important to prepare for the full range of questions that HBS asks.

For information about how I can help you prepare for interviews, see here. My client results and testimonials can be found here.

-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.
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