My comprehensive service clients have been admitted to the regular HBS MBA for the Classes of 2014, 2013, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, and 2005 and one 2+2 client admitted to the Class of 2014. My clients' results and testimonials can be found here. In addition to providing comprehensive application counseling on HBS, I regularly help additional candidates with HBS interview preparation. I have worked with a large number of applicants from Canada, Europe, India, Japan, other parts of Asia, and the United States on HBS application. I think that this range of experience has helped me understand the many possible ways of making an effective application to HBS. In the posts in this series, I provide insights based on that experience.
Revised: 6/30/2012. After HBS clarified the content of the Interview Reflection.
Post Interview Reflection
If this is what Ms. Leopold wants, I am all in favor of giving it to her. She is, after all, like that illustrious HBS graduate, George W. Bush, the decider.
Tentative Suggestions for Preparing for the Post Interview Reflection
1. Make sure your schedule is clear for 24 hours after your HBS interview. If you are visiting Cambridge and not able to interview in your hometown, you should do as another consultant, Sandy Kreisberg, has suggested and book yourself into a hotel for the night after. Next, make sure you have a reliable internet connection at said hotel. If you are due back at work, be sick.
2. If you are working with a consultant make sure they know when you are interviewing and will be ready to review your essay. If you are not working with a consultant, at least have someone around who can proofread what you have written before you submit it.
3. Immediately after your interview, write up your notes on what just happened. In addition to recalling what your interviewer asked you, try to remember what you said. Next try to think about what you wish you had said but were unable to. Finally, without too much crying, vomiting, or otherwise becoming hysterical, consider any answers that you gave that were bad. Try to spend a maximum of one hour on writing these notes. If you are getting any sort of assistance on the Post Interview Reflection from a consultant or mentor, send your interview report to them. I will certainly ask my own clients for their interview reports so that I can fully understand the situation from their perspective and help them think about the proper way to respond to the interview.
4. After writing your immediate reaction notes, go take a 15 minute to 1 hour nap, do yoga, workout, eat lunch, have a beer, or whatever else would get you to relax for a bit. This is to clear your mind and get you from being merely reactive in your thinking to being more creative and calm. You want to write from a perspective wider than the 30 minutes of the interview. You need distance from it, but since you have very little time, impose a short rest on yourself to try and achieve this. In my experience, it sometimes works.
5. Here are some ideas designed to get you thinking about what you should write about:
-Assuming you completed the HBS Active Interview Preparation Chart found in my prior post , you can actually use it to analyze your answers in the interview to quickly determine which of your key stories and/or key words about yourself that you either did not cover or only partially covered. This imposes a certain ordered logic, checklist process, on your response that will help to align what you write about with your overall MBA application strategy. Hopefully you will identify 2-4 key topics for you to discuss in your Reflection.
-By reviewing your answers, you will likely immediately identify which ones YOU THINK you did not answer well. What you have to think about now is whether you are right or are being over-critical. It can often be helpful to have a consultant or mentor or at least a trusted friend discuss this with you. Sometimes we think we have given a bad answer and we have not. You don't have so much time to second guess yourself, but you try to do so from at least a position of relative calm. Either alone or with your trusted advisor (I would only pick one advisor in this situation as you really don't have time to take in that many perspectives), really determine whether you need to restate or expand on a topic or topics you handled less effectively than you wanted to.
-Don't use this space to apologize, but to sell yourself in as distinct and memorable a way as possible. My basic suggestion would be to focus on the 2-4 topics that you think will most improve your likelihood of admission. If you did not answer a question as well as you should, simply indicate that you wish you had the opportunity to discuss topic X more in detail, not how badly you discussed topic X during the interview. Be aware of your limitations, but go positive in the way you address them.
-Feel free to explain why you want to go to HBS if this topic was not addressed sufficiently in the interview. but don't provide a laundry list of courses or otherwise tell HBS about itself. Instead, explain what you need from HBS and why. If you have completed my GAP, SWOT, AND ROI MATRIX FOR FORMULATING POST-MBA GOALS found in my essay post and are well informed about HBS, this should be a relatively easy task.
-If you think that you have some particularly valuable contribution to make to HBS, the can be good way of demonstrating what makes you unique. This relates to the importance that HBS puts on diversity (See this earlier post if you don't know what I am writing about).
-While you can write at unlimited length, my suggestion is to keep it within 200-600 words, but the bigger point to keep in mind is that you don't have to have a highly polished essay which lacks any redundancy and where every word has to count, which is what HBS expects from admissions essays. Ms. Leopold has made her expectations very clear:
What the Reflection would look like for any particular interviewee will vary. Maybe someone will only want to focus on a single topic, but this could be rather narrow. Given that the longest HBS has ever given for an essay is 600 words, sending in something that much over that really seems intuitively wrong to me because HBS adcom certainly values clarity and brevity. Personally, I think short, clear, and to the point is best because that is what is best with an effective email.
What not to do. Based on what HBS has said I highly recommend not doing any of the following:
- Giving them highly redundant content would be a bad idea. They are not looking for endless examples.
- Giving them a pre-written essay like content, such as a 200 word or longer new accomplishment would be a bad idea. You may want to mention a topic you did not get a chance to present in the interview, but you should completely explain why you think it is worth mentioning.
-Providing highly detailed stories instead of focusing on clear analytical points backed up with a brief reference to a specific example.
A possible structure based on the topic,You've just had your HBS interview. Tell us about it. How well did we get to know you?, might look as follows:
Paragraph 1: Brief paragraph about how your overall feeling about how the interview went.
Paragraph 2: Discussion of one key issue where they did not get to know you well enough.
Paragraph 3: Discussion of another key issue where they did not get to know you well enough.
Paragraph 4: Discussion of one key issue where they got to know you well, but you wanted to briefly expand a specific answer you provided in the interview.
Paragraph 5: Discussion of key aspect about why you want to go to HBS that you wish you had a chance to discuss.
Paragraph 6: Brief closing paragraph.
Keep in mind that is just one possible way to write the Reflection. Of course, now that I have, don't just copy it exactly in your own response. I provide it here merely as a possible example. There would be very different and effective ways to put this together.
Well, I suspect that I will have more to write about this topic in the future. I have now fully revised this post once. I will note on the post when and if I make substantive changes to it in the future.
In my final post in this series, I discuss the 2+2 Program.
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.
I did it! Or more accurately, we did it! By we, I’m referring to every single person who has supported me directly and indirectly through this whole process. It’s a we because 1) so many people helped me in my prep and 2) so many people are happy and proud of me, and I truly want to be valuable to my community in some way.
I’m writing this post, because I want to capture my elation, but more importantly because I want to be helpful to future applicants. I’ll preface my reflections & advice by saying that I’m a non-traditional applicant, and this post is purely about the way I did MY preparation. What this means is I’ve been working in general management in an online nutrition school for the past 1.5 years, so I’m not in the i-banking or consulting industry nor do I have tons of work experience (in quantity).
1) People are important.
2) I did my research.
3) Know yourself and your application inside out.
4) Prepare for the interview itself.
5) Be honest in your post-interview reflection.
I know this post is really lengthy, but I just want to be as helpful as possible for future applicants. If you have any questions, let me know! I’ll try to answer them 🙂 Stay tuned for my first impressions of the Class of 2015!
The Harvard Business School has a brand like no other business school in the world. And it is this magnetic appeal that persuades close to 10,000 hopefuls to compete for one of the 940 places in the MBA program every year. The HBS Admissions team is made up of only five key individuals, so it is no surprise that many applicants very quickly fall by the way side, given their lack of professional credentials and academic excellence. Indeed for some the process is akin to burning a dozen or so $20 bills. Such limited staff resources may in part explain the school’s move towards a shorter, more streamlined application in recent years. HBS now only requires two recommendations, and in the past three years has moved from four essays down to just one optional essay. Your resume and recommendations have never carried so much weight. HBS has more CEOs of Fortune 500 companies than any other MBA program, a couple of former Presidents (U.S. and Mexico), and an unrivalled global network of influence. This conservative symbol of success, with its old red brick campus and the highest admissions yield, nevertheless faces a battle to win the hearts of minds of the tech industry. For many applicants the closest they will get to a Harvard MBA is a T-shirt, but for a select few it will be the experience of a lifetime.STRENGTHS AND SPECIALIZATIONS
With a world-renowned faculty, HBS can claim academic excellence in many fields. Perhaps best known for General Management and a dedication to the case method, the school can point to Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Strategy and CSR among the top areas of study.INCOMING CLASS
Number of Applicants:POST-MBA CAREERS
Sector. Financial Services 33%; Consulting 24%; Technology 20%; Starting Own Business 9%;
Top Recruiters. McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, BCG, Bain, Morgan Stanley & Co
Avg Base Salary. $131,646 Salary Increase. 97% Employment in 3 months: 91%
Sources: Harvard, BusinessWeek, Financial Times, US News, MBA50
As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA program?
There is no word limit for this question. We think you know what guidance we’re going to give here. Don’t overthink, over-craft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.POST-INTERVIEW REFLECTION
As part of the application process, HBS requires interviewees to complete a Post-Interview Reflection. This is not intended to be another formal essay. Think of it instead as an email you might write to a colleague or supervisor after a meeting. HBS will be much more generous in our reaction to typos and grammatical errors than they will be with pre-packaged responses. Reflections that give any indication that they were produced BEFORE you had the interview will raise a flag for the Admissions Committee. Your Post-Interview Reflection is due within 24 hours of the conclusion of your interview. There is no word limit for the Post-Interview Reflection.
If you would like to receive insider tips for applying to Harvard Business School click here: http://fortunaadmissions.com/contact-us/insidertips/Team Featured in
I truly felt that Fortuna went above and beyond what was promised; they were generous with their time, their network, their advice, and their experience. I would consider them more than coaches, but friends, and recommend the Fortuna team 100%, wholeheartedly!
Admitted to Stanford GSB with full scholarship, MIT Sloan with $110,000 scholarship, and Wharton with $60,000 scholarship
Still can’t believe it, I got in at INSEAD! Fortuna’s advice was invaluable in helping me craft my application. With timely and thorough feedback, I was able to draw upon the right experiences that allowed me to put my best foot forward. I would highly recommend this experience to any prospective applicants.
S.V. Ottawa – Admitted to INSEAD
You have first-hand knowledge of the admissions process (and not in a secondary role as many others) and can leverage that experience.
You are also a fun team to work with. Working for months on your applications can be stressful so this makes a difference.
J.F. Philadelphia – Admitted to Stanford GSB
Working with Fortuna is like having Warren Buffett as your personal financial advisor.
D.B. London – Admitted to HBS
I have been admitted to Stanford! This would never have been possible without your help. Beyond helping me correct the structure of the essays you helped me push my thinking especially on the ‘what matters most to me’ question.
A.B. Paris – Admitted to Stanford GSBFortuna on Twitter
By Kyle Watkins (last updated: December 17, 2013)
The HBS post-interview reflection is certainly one of the more unique application elements among MBA programs. Since HBS has decided to continue requiring the post-interview reflection from candidates 24 hours after their interview, it’s worth spending some time now considering how to approach this piece of the admissions process.
First, it’s worth noting that the post-interview reflection won’t make or break the application for many candidates. It gives HBS one more data point, but overall it is only a small piece of the equation. Your resume, essays, GMAT, GPA, recommendations, and interview (not to mention the school’s effort to admit a diverse and balanced class) will play a role in whether you are admitted. Unlike the hiring process at a job where the interview is often make-or-break, the admissions process for MBA programs is much more holistic.
With that said, the post-interview reflection provides plenty of opportunities to hurt or help your application, and in a hyper-competitive admissions environment, it’s important to never miss an opportunity to put points on the board.
Most applicants probably won’t do much, if any, prep work for HBS’s post-interview reflection. Fortunately, this is the one part of the application process where not preparing much can actually help you. After all, the exercise is — as HBS makes perfectly clear — meant to be a true reflection. It is not another essay. It is not something that should be prepared prior to your interview. However, there’s one small piece of preparation I’d recommend to every candidate.
Before you head off to your interview, write down these words: “My interview did not go as poorly as I think it did.” It sounds silly, I know. But ask almost any current or former HBS student how they thought their interview went, and they will likely tell you that they thought they bombed it. I certainly recall feeling like I bungled mine. But, as I wrote earlier on this blog, “My perspective on my performance now is much different than it was 24 hours after my initial interview…Be wary of how your perspective on your performance can be seriously skewed walking out of the interview.”
For that reason, I think candidates are much better served waiting until the next day after their interview to begin writing their post-interview reflection. Take some notes right as you are walking out of your interview so you can remember the things you and the admissions committee member discussed, but then sleep on it. Even that few hours of distance can help you gain some perspective. It’s a piece of advice that has likely served many of us well when we’ve drafted an angry email at work, only to hold it in our drafts folder overnight before hitting send. By the time we wake up the next morning, we realize how disconnected we were from the bigger picture and delete it without sending.
I’m not saying every candidate will be devastated or angry after his or her interview, but time helps us gain perspective. And ultimately this is one of the qualities HBS will be looking for in your application. Much as you’ll be expected to understand the key takeaways from an HBS case study discussions in the classroom, the HBS admissions committee wants to see that you’ve understood the key takeaways from your interview experience.
One way to help do this successfully is to talk to a friend or a family member about how the interview went. Re-live the experience a bit, and talk through your feelings about your performance. Saying it aloud will help you gain the necessary perspective.
When you finally sit down to draft your reflection, it’s critical to do two things:
First, make sure you focus on your strengths. Often candidates make the mistake in essays of spending too much time preemptively rebutting what they see as their own weaknesses. In doing so, they forget to make the argument for why an MBA program should actually admit them. Ultimately, all candidates have faults. There will be at least one question every candidate blows in each interview. But don’t focus your time on those negatives. Focus your energy instead on your best selling points — the things that set you apart as a candidate.
Second, make sure you make the reflection relevant to the discussion you and your admissions committee member had. This will help demonstrate to the admissions committee that you didn’t pre-draft the reflection (which, while small, is important). Additionally, it will demonstrate you paid attention to the interview and are capable of summarizing the important points, as any business person would be responsible for doing after a meeting. For example, I’ve described in the past my own interview experience. At one point, the admissions committee member asked me to “recommend something, anything” to her. I told her about a documentary I had seen recently called One Peace at a Time. It would have been appropriate for me to send her a quick link to the film’s website as part of my post-interview reflection. In fact, perhaps it would have been quite helpful, as I later found out that the admissions committee member went and watched the documentary based on my recommendation. Tidbits like that will help make sure your post-interview reflection is relevant and helpful for the admissions committee member that interviewed you.
While it’s important to have a few specific details like that included, in general you should keep the points high-level and relatively brief. Your reflection doesn’t have a formal word count, but HBS will be looking for candidates to demonstrate good judgment and strong communication skills. If you can’t convey the key ideas in a few short paragraphs, then you aren’t doing your best to demonstrate your strength as an MBA candidate. One of my favorite quotes, which I’ve mentioned before on this blog, summarizes the idea nicely: “I apologize for writing such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one.”
Last, but not least, it’s worth having someone else review your post-interview reflection before you send it in. If you take our advice and sleep on the interview before writing your reflection, this will require pretty quick turnaround. This is of course something we are happy to do at MBA Admissions Advisors, but obviously it’s great if you can find a friend or family member to do it as well. The extra pair of eyes will help catch typos and grammatical errors, yes, but it will also serve as a check on your judgment. It will help make sure you are keeping the interview experience in perspective.
As always, if you have questions about our own experiences, the interview process, or your own application, don’t hesitate to reach out through our free consultation service. We’re happy to serve as a resource.Post navigation