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Harvard MBA Interviews

As with so many other parts of the admissions process, the interview for Harvard Business School is unique – and uniquely challenging. If you’ve been dreaming about getting an MBA from HBS, it’s imperative that you understand the interview process, so you can prepare correctly and ultimately ace your Harvard MBA interview.

Understanding the style of the Harvard MBA interview

The majority of interviews are conducted by two members of the admissions committee: one who acts as the interviewer and one who acts as an observer. They are all limited to 30 minutes.

The style of a typical HBS interview tends to be very rapid-fire, even aggressive in some cases. This is intentional, because of the constrained time frame, and because the admissions committee wants to get a real sense of who you are and how well you perform under pressure.

Defending your background

At the start of the conversation, your interviewer will likely go through your application and resume, pushing you to explain and defend the choices you’ve made along the way.

You may be asked why you chose your undergraduate degree, how you went about getting your first job and why you chose certain internships.

This is not a good time to be scrambling to remember what you said in your essays, or to be blindsided by information in your recommendation letters. Before your HBS interview, you will want to review everything you submitted as a part of your MBA application.

Typical Harvard MBA interview questions

You should expect the typical admissions interview questions about your long-term goals, why you feel an MBA is the right choice for you, and why, specifically, you have applied to Harvard.

It’s not enough to be able to discuss these issues on a superficial level. As with the discussion about your background, you’ll need to be prepared to respond to rigorous questioning about your decisions, and to explain the reasoning behind the choices you’ve made.

Frequently Asked Interview Questions

We’ve selected interview questions in each category:

Past experiences

Your past experiences can tell a lot about how you’ve dealt with success and failure. When interviewing with Harvard, “expect to be asked a number of questions that will help interviewers gauge how life has tested you and how you responded to that test,” Blackman writes. Sample questions include:

  • Why did you choose to work for your current company?
  • Many people go straight from investment banking to a private equity firm. Why do you feel you need the MBA in between?
  • Describe a situation where you successfully responded to change.
  • Describe a time when you helped someone at work.
  • Describe a mistake you’ve made within the past three years.
  • Describe your greatest accomplishment.
  • How would you describe your style for teaching peers?
  • Tell me about a time you failed.

The interviewer wants to know the rationale behind all of your decisions and how you developed your areas of interest, she says. Successful responses will provide reasoning and details that were sparked by the actions you took.

Present attributes

“These questions present opportunities for you to demonstrate self-awareness and reveal your values and passions,” writes Blackman. It’s important to build off your past experiences and demonstrate your current personality and views of yourself and the world. Sample questions include:

  • What is your leadership style?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • What inspires you?
  • What book are you currently reading?
  • Name a leader that you admire.

Candidates should be prepared to elaborate and answer the question “why?” to each of the above interview questions. Successful answers will clearly demonstrate your personality, perspective, and values, Blackman says. You want to show you have the drive to learn and grow on a continual basis.

Future goals

Harvard’s mission is to “educate leaders to make a difference in the world,” and interviewers want to know about your ambitions. Sample questions include:

  • What do you expect to gain from an MBA at Harvard?
  • Where will you be five to seven years post-MBA?
  • What excites you most about your career plans?
  • How will you continue learning in your next position?
  • What are the difficulties you face in achieving your goals?
  • What will you do if you do not get into business school this year?
  • What do you think of the HBS admissions process?

Clearly describing your future goals should bring the interviewers full-circle. “When answering these questions, it is important to include tangible examples from your past and present, in order to convey that your future goals are not only logical and well-thought out but also achievable.

Harvard MBA Interview Questions – 1

My interview was very standard. It lasted for 30 minutes, I interviewed with two members of the Adcom, who were very nice and tried to make me feel comfortable during the whole process.

The questions I was asked were:
– Tell me about yourself
– You want to work in sector A , why?
– You did an internship in sector B, was it related to sector A ?
– What was your other internship about? can you explain a technical aspect of your job.
– You wrote about this story in your essay, can you give us more details about this aspect?
– What does a typical day at your current job look like?
– What does the CEO of your company worry about?
– Tell me about a time when you received a piece of constructive feedback.
– Who is a leader you admire? ( she added that it could be either a leader that I had worked with and that I know professionally or a well-known business leader)
– What are your future goals ?
– We have two minutes left, is there a question that you wished I asked?
– Recommend me something, anything. ( there was 30 seconds left in the interview)

Overall, the interview was very pleasant, and time flew by very quickly. I’d definitely recommend that you prepare using all the interview reports that you can find, and focusing on the specific questions that are related to your application.

Harvard MBA Interview Questions – 2

I enjoyed being on campus and personally meeting HBS students. I was fortunate to attend a class and man was I excited! The interview itself wasn’t the typical rapid fire experience I read about in MBA blogosphere, but it was a no-joke ordeal. Particularly, I didn’t get much affirmation from the two interviewers I had. They do a pretty good job at maintaining a blank face throughout the interview. 

From what I perceived, the adcoms who interviewed me read my app as most of the questions were tailored to my app content.

The interview was a blur, but I remember a few questions I got. I am a 2+2 student, so much of the questions was about my college and internship experiences. They are as follows:

1.) Tell me about how you choose your college.
2.) How was adapting to U.S. pop culture when you first arrived here for college (I am a foreign student).
3.) Tell me about your internship experiences.
4.) How was your experience as the class president.
5.) What is the dynamics of your family.
6.) Which country has the most malaria incidence in the world (I have a public health experience).
7.) Post-MBA plans.

Frankly, I thought I blew the interview. Right of the bat, I was edgy and was in over my head until I heard “it was nice interviewing you.” In retrospect, I felt overwhelmed because of the number of follow-up questions I got, although I think I did justice to all the questions thrown at me. And the fact that they kept a blank face only added salt to the injury. Also I was surprised by a few of the questions I got, especially the “tell me about your family dynamics” one. I felt like it was some kind of a trick question, and as I answered it, I struggled with convincing myself that it wasn’t a bait to lure me into a tangle.

If there is a piece of advice for prospective students, it will be to be yourself and tell your story in the most passionate of tone. Also chances are that you might have done better in your interview than you might have thought.

I am glad I got into my dream school. HBS is a great place to be. Judging by the quality of conversations I had with interviewees and HBS students alike, I believe I am going to enjoy my two years there.


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