5 Questions You Might Get Asked in Your ‘HBS Interview’

Interview between businessmen

Harbus-LogoIt’s fall, and New England is full of quintessential charm with ideal weather, apple picking, hayrides, and a rush of  ‘leaf peepers’ who are here for the beautiful foliage. Although many would call autumn Boston’s most fun and spirited time of year, it’s also an intense and pivotal season for those hoping to score a coveted ‘interview invitation’ for a spot in Harvard Business School’s upcoming Class of 2018. And now that it’s October, time is really of the essence.Interview Guide Cover

No need to panic just yet, would-be students, The Harbus, Harvard Business School’s student-run news corporation is here to help. We interviewed HBS’s current first year students – the members of the Class of 2017 – to find out what it’s actually like to interview for a seat. They generously shared detailed accounts and valuable insights. We put this thorough and structured advice together in our updated Harbus MBA Admissions & Interview Guide which has over 150 actual questions that current HBS students were asked in their admissions interviews, accompanied by expanded analysis and commentary on how to approach the questions, and the broader application and interview process.

You’ll also find examples of accepted students’ ‘Post-Interview Reflections’ included, providing bigger insight into what actually goes on during what might be considered the most important interview of your life. You don’t want to miss out on this authentic feedback from real HBS students.

Round 1 interview invites for the Class of 2018 will be extended October 6, 8, and 14, with interviews taking place from October 26 – November 20. Here are 5 examples, with Harbus student analysis, of actual questions asked in real Harvard Business School application ‘Interviews’.

The below are just a few examples of what you’ll find in our comprehensive guide, so be sure to get a full copy of our Harbus MBA Admissions & Interview Guide today!

#1: Walk me through your resume.

Make your resume a narrative rather than merely relating a series of unconnected events. Focus on upward progression. If there’s a gap in your resume – perhaps from a period of unemployment– don’t shy away from that but also don’t dwell on it. Mention it, own it, and move on. Turn it into a period of personal development by sharing what you did to keep busy. Also be sure to cap your time. Keep your “walk” to 5 minutes, and don’t spend all your time in one area versus another. For example, don’t go on and on about your college experience to the detriment of your more relevant work experience.

#2: What is one thing I’d never have guessed about you, even after reading your application?

Here is an opportunity to go beyond your achievements – or at least your business-related achievements – and tell your interviewers about something that really makes you tick. Try to think of some missing piece of you that, for whatever reason, you didn’t write about in your application. Think about what would make you an interesting or valuable section mate to have at HBS. If you can relate your answer back to your application, that’s great, but don’t worry if you have a separate interest, an unusual hobby, an exciting travel story, a peculiar talent, or a childhood accomplishment that’s unrelated. Do not use an example from your application materials! Show layers to your character.

#3: What is the most interesting conversation you have had this week?

Keep this professional, worldly and, most likely, news-related. This is actually kind of a softball question if you consider all the conversations you have each week. Before you head to your interview, just jot some recent conversations down as examples of what you spend your time thinking about. Also use this as an opportunity to showcase your preparation, especially your morning news routine. Along similar lines, give a look through your last week’s schedule to remind yourself of things that have happened recently to you.

#4: How do you make big decisions?

This question addresses two unknowns for the interviewer. First, how do you think? And second, do you exercise rigor and structure in the process? This is another perfect question for examples. Tell a story, but make sure the actual decision has a logical, step-by-step process behind it. Show your personality in the answer too. If you are the write-the-pros-and-cons into a spreadsheet type, show that. If you reach out to your family or loved ones, it’s perfectly reasonable (and right!) to bring those elements of your style into the fold. Finally, in addition to the analytical stage of your decision-making, don’t be afraid to talk about your gut. Most big decisions are ones that reasonable people will disagree on; what’s left is your intuition, instinct, and heart – don’t be afraid to talk about this.

#5: Describe an ethical grey area you had to navigate.

In the Required Curriculum, students take a class called Leadership and Corporate Accountability, also known as Ethics. Students are asked to take a three-pronged approach to decisions, considering the ethical, economic, and moral lenses. (There’s a pretty neat Venn diagram that goes along with that, though that’s beside the point.)Ultimately, it is being able to navigate ethical grey areas that make leaders. The hardest, most complicated, problems and questions often result in the best leadership development. Don’t try to whitewash the situation; acknowledge how hard the choice was and walk the interviewer through the process you went through to come to your final outcome. If there is time, explain what you would have done differently.