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Understanding the MBA Admissions Interview, Part IV

Understanding the MBA Admissions Interview

The following is the final part of our four-part interview series, which we first published two years ago, and are reintroducing again  season. We’ve tackled open versus invitation-only, blind versus non-blind and the newer team-based discussion interview.

MBA Admissions Interviews: What’s left to discuss?

In this, our final post in our MBA admissions interview series, we’re going to take a closer look at a few of the anomalies in the interview arena—special approaches thus far embraced by just one or two schools. Of course, the team-based discussion was itself an anomaly not so many years ago, so these could also be harbingers of the next big thing.

HBS and the Post-Interview Reflection

Though it’s been a few years now since Harvard Business School (HBS) introduced its post-interview reflection, no other top school has yet followed suit. HBS first added this new twist in 2012, inviting those candidates who interviewed to follow up—in 24 hours or less—with an email answer to the following question:  “You’ve just had your HBS interview. Tell us about it. How well did we get to know you?” While the wording of the question may change this year, the intent of the question remains the same, it is a post interview reflection from the candidate.

Soon after the post-interview reflection debuted in 2012, HBS Managing Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at the time, Dee Leopold, took to her blog to elaborate on what she and her team were looking for—and what they weren’t. For starters, this was not an invitation to submit another essay. “We want your response to be much more like an email,” she wrote. She went on to say that the hope behind the new element of the HBS application process was to allow applicants to interact with the HBS admissions staff in more of a real-world scenario than traditional application elements have offered. “In the Real World, it is unlikely that you will be given months and months to craft essays of any sort. It just doesn’t happen,” Leopold wrote. “In the Real World, it is almost a sure thing that you will be asked to write emails summarizing meetings and giving your opinion in a short time frame.”

HBS has kept the format of the post-interview reflection the same each year since its debut. There is no official word limit, it is due within 24 hours of your interview’s conclusion and you are strongly discouraged from producing the reflection before the interview or soliciting or receiving outside assistance with it. Also, the admissions committee states, “We will be much more generous in our reaction to typos and grammatical errors than we will be with pre-packaged responses.”

So, knowing all of this, what’s the best approach? “Answer the prompt, and be gracious,” advises Alex Brown, a Clear Admit consultant who spent years working in MBA admissions at Wharton. “Consider the interview discussion that took place, and share your assessment in terms of how well the conversation revealed your candidacy.” Reiterating HBS’s own instructions, Brown reminded applicants that this is not the time to write an additional essay. Instead, use it to reinforce some of your messaging that was part of the interview dialog.

“Schools know that sometimes an interview does not go well from a candidate’s standpoint, so this additional prompt helps candidates level the playing field in this regard,” Brown says. “I think it is smart on the part of HBS to give its candidates the last word on their application in this way.”

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Posted in: Feature Small, Interview Tips, Interviews

Schools: Harvard Business School, HEC Paris, INSEAD, London Business School, UPenn / Wharton

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