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Harvard Business School Interview Questions & Report: Round 2 / Adcom / On-Campus

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I flew in the day before my interview to sit in on a class and take part in all of the on-campus activities (lunch with current student panel, campus tour, leadership activity, coffee chat with current students). All very valuable to get a better feel for campus/atmosphere. My interview was the next day at 10:30. It all happened like everyone had told me. Someone comes to the hospitality room about 15 minutes prior to your interview to get the 10 people for that slot. I guess this didn’t happen for everyone, but for us she stopped us just before the steps and gave us a pep talk. “You’ve already made it this far, and that’s a huge accomplishment…they just want to get to know you a little better…etc.” It was very nice and calmed me a little bit. When you get upstairs, there is a waiting area with leather chairs arranged in small groups, flanked on either side by the interview rooms. You wait here trying to not tense up for a few minutes, talking with other candidates who are willing to chat. Then, like clockwork, at the bottom of the hour all of the doors open in the span of about 15 seconds and someone comes out calling each name.

I had a note-taker and an interviewer. The interviewer had read my application and both had a copy of my resume in front of them. I sat more facing the interviewer, but opened my body toward the note taker as to not exclude her. The questions were all asked by my interviewer, but the note taker would smile and gesture as the conversation went in different directions. I say conversation because that’s really what it is if you do it right. Don’t pull out canned answers you think they want to hear. Just answer their question like you’re talking to a friend you haven’t seen in a while–a bit casual, but proper because you want to make a good impression. You have more control over the interview than you think! If you act calm and congenial they will follow your lead. If you tense up and stumble over yourself they might try to help you through, but it’s HBS, that’s all they need to know you might not be able to step into the case method and contribute on day 1 (just my opinion).

I was hoping they’d start off by asking what I did since arriving because I would have been able to talk about hanging out with the students the night before as I have an RC friend who invited me to attend a pizza party and social off campus. Instead they started by asking me to take them through my career path and explain the decisions I made along the way. Pretty easy. Then they go from there for some questions they clearly had identified based on reading my application. It was all kind of a blur, but some are below (each had a follow-up based on my answer):

  • How big is the team you work with?
  • What is an example during these recent jobs that you got to lead a team?
  • What would your coworkers say about you/how would they describe you?
  • Take me through your typical day at work.
  • What do you like to do outside of work?

As the 28/29 minute mark came my interviewer said they’d have to wrap up, but asked if there was anything we didn’t talk about that I would have liked to. I mentioned the tutoring I do at a local community college (on my resume), which prompted a few back and forth questions and comments before the interview was over.

They give you a card stock half sheet of HBS letterhead with next steps and instructions for the post-interview reflection (due 24 hours after) with the names of your interviewer/note taker. Shook hands with interviewer and my note-taker walked me out and down. She was extremely complimentary, asking a few clarification questions about my comments, then the conversation turned toward some personal stories on her end and then I realized we had gotten almost all the way back to the Williams Room in Spangler and were just talking there for a few minutes. She gave me a very warm goodbye and said it was so good to talk with me. I will try not to look too far into it, but needless to say I think I did very well.

You can always word things slightly differently when you reflect, but my reflection was a quick summary of my time at HBS, a thank you to the interviewer/note taker, a summary of what we discussed and what we might have discussed had we had more time, and a wrap-up with a hope the people I met will be my classmates soon. I spent only one or two sentences saying I would have clarified one part of my answers. Honestly, unless you really screwed up (in which case you won’t be able to save yourself anyways), don’t spend a lot of time trying to clear things up. You want to focus on the good and emphasis the answer to their question of “how well did we get to know you?”

At the end of the day, admissions at HBS is a black box and I know people who think they crushed the interview who end up rejected. Sometimes you just never know. Here’s to being hopeful and moving on to the next interview!

PS – Rumors are true: HBS interviewers can write down notes feverishly while looking you straight in the eyes. Don’t let it bother you, just part of doing that for a living for many years.

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