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.
Who will interview you, and how long will the interview last?
The Harvard MBA program interview is usually conducted by one of the panel members. The interview typically lasts for 25-30 minutes or may extend to 35-40 minutes in some instances.
Will the interviewer have read my application?
The Panel member has access to your complete application. In most instances, they would have read it completely.
How can you prepare for your interview?
Like most MBA Interviews, your interview will mainly revolve around a pretty similar set of MBA interview questions. You can never predict what questions will be asked, but with enough research, you can predict what are the most commonly asked questions in these interviews. We have created a short FAQ list below to get you a jump start, and we also have a free guide linked below to help you prepare for these commonly asked interview questions.
Harvard MBA Frequently Asked Interview Questions
We’ve selected interview questions in each category:
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.
“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.
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.
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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.
Harvard MBA Interview Questions – 3
An online interview was conducted on February 15, 2023 for the Harvard MBA Program. The interviewer, a distinguished member of the admissions committee who also holds a degree from Harvard Business School, exhibited a cordial and hospitable demeanor, which contributed to a relaxed and enjoyable interview experience. The duration of 30 minutes elapsed expeditiously, and the exchange of questions and answers did not give the impression of being hastily conducted. I was taken aback by the number of inquiries pertaining to my former employer.
Right from the outset, the interview had a relaxed and informal atmosphere. The following questions were asked:
1. What is the rationale behind selecting the Harvard MBA program?
2. In what ways has my tenure of six years within the same organization contributed to my personal growth and development?
3. What were the reasons behind my promotion amidst the layoffs of others?
4. Which country presents the greatest challenges for working professionals and what are the reasons behind these challenges?
5. I have authored 10 publications in international conferences. She asked me which was most important to me?
6. What are my future goals?
7. Do I believe that providing subsidies for renewable energy sources is beneficial?
8. What are my personal interests?
In general, the process was characterized by a high level of intensity, yet maintained a friendly atmosphere. There will be no opportunity for inquiries during the concluding portion of the interview process. Best wishes to all participants. It is anticipated that a few inquiries may be retained intermittently, prompting the submission of additional queries once a sufficient accumulation has been achieved. However, it should be noted that said questions were rather implausible and lacked relevance to my occupational field.
Harvard MBA Interview Questions – 4
I was interviewed online on February 15, 2021, and subsequently received notification of my admission.
Greetings, everyone. In Round 1, I received a waitlist decision without a chance for an interview. However, in Round 2, I was extended an invitation for an interview.
I was afforded the opportunity to provide supplementary details, wherein I referenced my marital status, professional advancement, global publications, and personal interest in culinary pursuits. This correspondence, in my opinion, facilitated my advancement from the waitlist to the interview stage.
The interview was conducted remotely and exhibited a relaxed atmosphere. During the interview, Sarah Lucas, the sole panellist from Harvard MBA Program, commenced the conversation by extending her well wishes for the interviewee’s first anniversary.
Here is the list of questions:
May I inquire as to the reasons behind your decision-making process in selecting the Harvard MBA Program?
What was the structure of the exchange programme during your high school years?
What was the process behind selecting your previous employer and relocating to a new geographical location?
What is the overarching perspective of the organisational framework of your former employer?
What was your position or job title at your previous place of employment? In what ways did your responsibilities and duties evolve as you transitioned to a higher-level position?
Based on my prior employer, which division would generate the highest revenue and which division would yield the greatest profit?
Can the division of a former employer into distinct product-oriented entities be considered a sound strategic decision?
What could be the rationale behind a private equity firm’s decision to partition the company?
Kindly elaborate on the cognitive framework that led you to repatriate and join your present startup from your previous employer, and expound on the process of transitioning.
What is the mission statement of the present startup, and what is its origin story? I provided a response to the inquiry and appended a discussion on the enduring civic objective.
A subsequent inquiry regarding the manner in which the users utilised the product developed by the startup.
What is the current status of the startup in question? Has it maintained its 10-person team size and what is its prevailing business model?
What were the identified customer segments and were there any alterations in their composition as the present startup underwent expansion?
Who served as the primary investor in the present startup venture?
Have you engaged in any fundraising activities?
Did inquiries made by investors contribute to the success of the present startup?
What is the experience of working under the Chief Executive Officer?
What leisure activities do you engage in outside of your professional obligations?
These were all the questions that were asked to me during the Harvard MBA Program interview. The interview went smoothly. The interviewer made me feel very comfortable. Overall, it was a pleasant experience.
Harvard MBA Interview Questions – 5
The interview was conducted on November 5th, 2020 and the final outcome was that I got admitted.
The interviewer exhibited amicable behaviour, however, the interview was characterised by a rigorous and fast-paced format, frequent shifts in topic, a significant emphasis on industry-specific inquiries, and a notable absence of questions pertaining to my curriculum vitae. In general, I would categorise all the questions that I have received into the following groups:
What motivated me to pursue my initial employment opportunity at a big firm and how did it align with my career aspirations?
How did I cope with the realisation that my college education did not equip me with the fundamental skills necessary to engage in audit and valuation?
How does my involvement in an Innovation and Entrepreneurship programme relate to my career transition towards a startup?
May I inquire about your current professional occupation subsequent to your recent job transition? Additionally, could you kindly provide further elucidation on the nature of the company you are currently employed by? Lastly, would you be able to expound upon the meaning of X in greater detail?
Could you provide further elaboration on the challenges encountered by the industry?
May I inquire about your post-college volunteer experiences? Have you engaged in any volunteer work since then? What criteria should be considered when selecting the institutions to collaborate with or contribute funds to?
In the event that you were not employed in Industry Y, which alternative industry would you pursue? In the event that the Harvard MBA program includes an internship, what would be the location of said internship?
Is there anything you would have liked me to inquire about?
That’s all. These were mostly all the questions asked to me for the Harvard MBA Program. Hope it helps.
Harvard MBA Interview Questions – 6
The interview for the Harvard MBA Program was conducted on October 24, 2019 and it was an on campus interview.
The interviewer exhibited a cordial demeanour and we conducted a comprehensive review of my curriculum vitae. Typically, each subject matter was accompanied by some common inquiries, namely: what do you do, how did you get involved, and why did you do it.
Following are the asked questions:
Please elaborate on your professional activities and responsibilities.
What are the current actions being taken by your competitors?
What is the latest regulation that has been implemented? It appears that the interviewer had prior knowledge, which made me feel somewhat inadequate.
May I know the specific reasons for choosing the Harvard MBA Program?
What strategies did you employ to convince your management?
Kindly elaborate on the prevailing industry landscape during the project’s inception.
What was the rationale behind selecting that particular moment to make the transition?
May I inquire as to your activities during the previous two months?
May I inquire about your leisure activities?
What activities are you engaging in during the COVID-19 pandemic?
In general, the process was defined by a high level of intensity, yet remained amicable in nature. There will be no opportunity for inquiries during the concluding phase. Best wishes to all participants. It is anticipated that a few inquiries may be retained intermittently, prompting the submission of additional queries at a later time. However, it should be noted that the questions in question were rather unlikely and lacked relevance to my profession.
Harvard MBA Interview Questions – 7
The Harvard MBA Program interview was conducted on November 16, 2015 and it was held on campus. The result was that I was admitted to Harvard Business School.
The interview experience was characterised by a sense of rapidity and indistinctness. Here are a few things that I recall:
Inquired about the status of my day and the quality of my academic session.
When queried regarding a distinctive internship experience mentioned in my application during my collegiate years, I emphasised its significance.
Inquired about a collegiate athletic pursuit and the experience of serving as a team captain.
Inquired about my present involvement in an extracurricular activity. What were the factors that led to my involvement, what are my current responsibilities, and what motivated me to become involved?
When prompted to provide additional information, I was asked if there was anything else I wished to share.
That’s all that I can recall. The interview was pleasant and very smooth. All the best.
Harvard MBA Interview Questions – 8
My interview for the Harvard MBA Program was conducted on February 21, 2017, and I was admitted thereafter at HBS.
The encounter was a complete haze, however, the interviewer maintained a relaxed dialogue and established a sense of ease for me. It is imperative to be adequately prepared and maintain complete concentration. The interviewer poses a series of rapid-fire questions and subsequent inquiries, necessitating the provision of well-considered and brief replies in order to maintain the momentum of the interview. The structure of the interview proceeded in the following manner:
Tell us about your prior experiences.
In what capacity do you envision yourself in three decades?
What is your perspective on the current state of the mergers and acquisitions market? I blanked out for a while.
Does your occupation adhere to logical principles? To what extent can one argue for or against a given proposition?
Why do you want to join the Harvard MBA Program?
That’s all the questions asked. Hope it helps you as well. Best of luck.
Harvard MBA Interview Questions – 9
The interview for Harvard MBA Program was held on November 02, 2020. I was selected thereafter for the program.
The interview went extremely well; the interviewer created a friendly, inviting environment that helped me feel much more at ease. I also appreciated that almost all of the questions related to particular details from my application, so I generally knew how to respond.
Why do you want to join the Harvard MBA Program?
What were the challenges I faced at my first ever job?
What were the challenges I faced at my second job?
How has responsibility increased in my current job? (Since I’ve been employed by the same employer for five years, the entire interview focused on how I’ve grown and benefited from opportunities in development programs.)
I was questioned about my sources for news. What topics are of interest to me in both my own and other industries? What businesses do I follow, etc.
Although I don’t completely recall all of the questions, I’ve tried to recall as much as I can. I hope this is helpful.
Harvard MBA Interview Questions – 10
I was interviewed for the Harvard MBA Program on November 13, 2020 and the final result was that I got accepted. It was an Off Campus with Adcom.
The interviewer was kind, and the entire process was really customised to my application. The interview was extremely intensive, so I’m not sure I remember all the questions, but these are the ones I do:
He asked me why I thought I failed after I stated a failure in my essay. – Describe your sector and your current employment.
What difficulties I faced at my present job?
What did I understand about Harvard MBA Program?
What challenges I would face at the Harvard Business School?
What are my hobbies?
What would I want him to ask?
He was quite soft spoken and let me do most of the talking. He was also very chatty and kept adding his opinions to what I had to say. An excellent experience all around, I don’t think I could have done much better.