Congratulations on receiving your HBS interview invitation! (Or, on being organized enough to start thinking about an interview anyway.) Staying organized and practicing will be critical to your success during this phase. Have no fear, The Harbus is here to help you best prepare and position yourself for this coveted interview. Since The Harbus is the student news organization of HBS, this article contains real advice from real, current Harvard Business School students.
The best place to start preparing is by reading the below step-by-step walkthrough from our updated MBA Admissions & Interview Guide. If you’re left craving more advice, insight, and pointers from HBS students, including:
- Over 150 questions asked in HBS interviews
- Analysis and commentary on how to approach each question
- Admissions advice from current HBS students
- Actual ‘Post-Interview Reflections’
- A comprehensive admissions timeline
- And many more resources to set you on the right path…
then get a full copy of our popular MBA Admissions & Interview Guide delivered to your inbox today.
You received an interview invitation for
Harvard Business School’s Class of 2018!
Your first step is to schedule your interview, something you’ll want to do ASAP because all the best slots will begin filling up as soon as
invites go out. If at all possible, shoot for the beginning or end of the business week so you can make a weekend out of your interview visit. You’ll benefit both from a fuller HBS experience and from the chance to get out and explore beyond the campus, to Cambridge and the greater Boston area. If work just won’t permit you to miss that sort of time, do the best you can, but keep in mind that the more time you set aside, the less stressful and more rewarding your visit will prove.
Ultimately, try to choose the time of day which you’re most likely to perform your best, and try not to veer too far from your comfort zone if at all possible. This should go without saying, but if you’re not a morning person, do NOT schedule a 9 a.m. interview! Also, be wary of an early afternoon interview, as you don’t want to have to hurry from lunch to your interview without even the chance to stop by the bathroom, brush your teeth, check yourself out, etc.
Once you’ve scheduled your interview, make any necessary travel and lodging arrangements. Be sure to give yourself a large cushion on the front end to ensure there’s no possible way any sort of delay could make you miss your interview.
After you’ve securing your interview date and time, you should begin your new morning routine, which you should follow right up until the day prior to your interview. Browse all the headlines of all the major business news sites (e.g. wsj.com, economist.com, etc.), read any stories that seem particularly pertinent, and be sure to hit up any sites that cover your industry and employer in particular (you don’t want to get broadsided during your interview!). For example, if you work for a large company with many different divisions, be prepared to speak to the latest developments, even if you don’t work for that division at all.
This advice is not meant to suggest that you will be asked about generic business topics that have no relevance to you (i.e., if you work in retail, you won’t be asked about Treasury bond movements). One thing to constantly remember is that this interview will be tailored to you and your unique background. That said, anything that might come in a ‘Google News Alert’ for your company is fair game. For example, one interviewee was asked about her employer’s recent acquisition of a local Massachusetts company, even though she worked in a completely different department. Of course, to come across as well-informed, you actually have to be over-informed. And you can always take the initiative and refer to current events yourself
The Weeks Leading Up To Your Interview
Keep up with your morning news routine, and read through your application until you know it inside and out. The interviewer will refer to specifics from your application, and the quickest and easiest way to blow your shot at HBS (besides being late to your interview!) is to appear unfamiliar with – or worse yet, to actually contradict – your application. “Reviewing your application” means you can speak to any part of it: your essay, resume, transcripts, etc. Consider showing your application to people who haven’t seen it before, for them to uncover perspectives or questions you hadn’t considered in regards to familiarity you’re your application.
In addition to being able to answer any question about your application, also take some time to think about why you are right for HBS and HBS in particular. At a high level, think about the ‘why’ for why you have chosen certain paths because HBS will certainly want to know what makes you tick. Ultimately, the best possible way to prepare for the interview is to practice answering the sorts of questions you’re likely to face on the big day. Conveniently enough, we’ve compiled a list of real questions from real interviews of real (and current, at that!) HBS students to facilitate this practice.
Now let’s be clear here. It would NOT be worth your valuable time to carefully craft eloquent responses to each of these questions and then memorize those responses so you’re ready to regurgitate them come interview time? Do that and we guarantee your interview will be a disaster! Rather, take rough notes as to how you’d answer each question should you be asked something similar. Ideally, you’ll be asked at least some similar questions to the ones you will have prepared for during your actual interview.
Preparing for these questions will force you to think critically about the sorts of topics your interviewer is most definitely going to touch upon (your strengths, weaknesses, leadership style, career choice(s), future goals, reasons for an MBA, and why HBS, etc.). That’s why we’ve gathered all those real questions for you, and that’s how you should spend the bulk of your time preparing between now and interview day – that and rereading your application…did we mention that?
The Week Of
Get your suit dry-cleaned (and try it on if you haven’t had to wear it in a while), your shoes polished and your hair cut (if you haven’t already done so!), make any last-minute travel arrangements, and tie up any loose ends at work.
Two Nights Before
If you’re the kind of person who gets so nervous about a high- impact and high-pressure event that you can hardly sleep at all the night before, how do you ensure you’re not delirious sleep-deprived come interview time? Simple, just get TONS of sleep two (and even three) nights before your interview. That way, if you toss and turn the night before your interview, you will have stored up sufficient energy.
The Day Before
Do a last-minute read of the news sites and blogs (especially those pertaining to your industry) to make sure nothing big breaks without you knowing. For example, let’s say you’re in the technology sector and talk about wanting to launch an eBook-selling startup all throughout your application – you’d look like an idiot if your interview were the day after Amazon launched a new Kindle device, your interviewer asked you for your thoughts, and you had no clue. A bit of an extreme example, but you get the idea. You want to have a strong grasp of what’s going on throughout the world, in the business world and, most importantly, within your particular sector.
Do what will relax you most. Prep is important, but make sure to be in as calm of a mental place as possible before the big day. This means different things for different people – it could be an early night spent reading over your application again, or it could mean a casual dinner and a couple of glasses of wine with friends.