The interview questions HBS is asking so far

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Perhaps the most feared and intimidating interview in MBA admissions is the one at Harvard Business School. That’s true for several reasons.

First, unlike student or alumni-led interviews, where the interviewer reviews your resume as you hand it to them, the HBS Admissions Committee comes dangerously prepared. The night before they carefully review each resume, looking for inconsistent themes, odd career transitions, vaguery to clear up, and anything they happen to find interesting. They then write up a list of pointed questions and prepare to deliver them rapid fire over the course of their 30 minutes with you.

Second, the entire time the interviewer and their scribe will be evaluating your communication skills to see if you’d crack under the pressure of the case classroom. They will want to see that you are able to clearly articulate your thoughts with logical structure and that your answers are persuasive. They will also probe to test the depth of your professional knowledge to see if you will be able to serve as an appropriate representative for your industry to the rest of your section.

Third, HBS’s admissions department is a well-oiled machine, and many find the incredible professionalism of its staff to be intimidating. There is a dedicated check-in center where Admissions Director Chad Losee can often be seek taking applicant’s coats. At the appointed time, an admissions staffer walks all the interviewees up to their “green room” to wait for their individual interviewers to be ready. Precisely at the appointed hour, the interview room doors open, and the names of each applicant are read out. Exactly 30 minutes later, the interviews end and the applicants are led back downstairs and on their way. For some, this is too much and we often receive reports that when clients visit the bathroom before and after the interviews, they can hear other applicants vomiting.

The questions HBS has already asked this year:

In general we are finding that HBS is much more interested in measuring each candidate’s industry knowledge and ability to represent their industry in section. We recommend that candidates prepare by researching the latest trends in their industry and be able to speak to the recent performance of their own company.

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    • Explain to me why you studied [foreign language on resume].

    • Explain how the [foreign language listed on resume] alphabet works.

    • Why did you study [undergraduate major]?

    • What is your criteria for turning down investments?

    • Compare and contrast [your sector] with [another adjacent sector].

    • Why did you choose to work abroad? Why that city?

    • Tell me about your most interesting consulting project.

    • What about your background led management to choose you for this project?

    • What are the challenges that the company you are working with right now is facing?

    • How have you tried to [solve problem mentioned in your application] through your professional work?

    • Tell me more about [the start-up you interned at]. What is the next big thing for it?

    • Which competitors should [start-up company] worry about? Do you think [company] will ever be profitable?

    • How would you evaluate [your undergraduate college’s] recent endowment investments in your industry?

    • What do you read, what news?

    • What do you do for fun?

    • Was your military service mandatory? If not, why did you do it?

    • Why do you want to move to [country]?

    • Evaluate the value of [your industry].

    • Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?