October 30, 20167 Tips for Writing Harvard Business School’s Post-Interview Reflection
Congratulations! You’ve just completed another step on the road to acceptance to Harvard’s MBA program – your interview. Now you have 24 hours to send HBS your Post-Interview Reflections…so let’s get started!
As soon as possible after your interview, sit down and think about the interview. Try and complete tips 1-3 immediately after the interview. You can complete 4-7 after you get home or at least back to where you’re staying in Boston.
1. Think about your responses that weren’t as clear as you wanted them to be.
Make a note of any answers where you didn’t hit the nail right on the head, or where you feel that your logic or story was a little fuzzy. How could you clarify?
2.Analyze the responses that were incomplete.
Jot down answers that you wanted to add something to later, but didn’t think of during the interview. What should you have included?
3.Take note of the responses when you did a great job.
Don’t ignore the answers that were on-point, where your thought process was organized, you were articulate, and got your point across. Give yourself a pat on the back! And also make a note.
4. Choose which elements you want to focus on in your Reflections.
Most of your Reflections should be from 1 and 2 above. Choose the points that you feel are most important for HBS to know about you. Since you don’t want your Reflections to only be about clarifications and adding things you forgot in the interview, weave in and attempt to close with a point related to the answer that you believe you aced.
5. Think of your Reflections as a one-on-one conversation with another person, or as HBS advises, “Think of it…as an email you might write to a colleague or supervisor after a meeting. “
Write to that person as you would in a business email: you can use the second person and the first person in your writing. Keep it cordial, and be sure that it is well-written, grammatically correct, and professional.
Don’t repeat information from your application or interview. They already have it on file. And don’t just repeat what you said in the interview. They heard it already.
7. Be sure to thank them for their time and continued consideration.
Remember, they are people, and like all people, they appreciate appreciation for the time that they’ve put into meeting with you.
Taking the time to consider your HBS interview will make writing your Post-Interview Reflection a much easier and meaningful experience. The result: a more effective, articulate piece of writing. Learn more about the HBS Interview Reflections here .
Alex France / Flickr
LinkedIn Influencer John A. Byrne published this post originally on LinkedIn.
When Nabil Mohamed showed up for his admissions interview at the Harvard Business School last year, he was a bundle of nerves. He had arrived on campus the day before after a 20-hour flight from Cairo.
"My heart was beating beyond my throat and into my tongue," recalls Mohamed, who was then working for Vodaphone Egypt. He thought it important to fly into campus to demonstrate his keen interest in going to the school.
At the interview, he sat opposite two HBS admission officials, one there to ask questions and the other to scribble notes. In little more than 60 seconds, says Mohamed, his jitters were gone. A steady calm had replaced all the anxiety that he had brought into the interview room.
When he left 30 minutes later, he felt as if he had made a good impression but there was one nagging concern that made him anxious. He didn't know the answer to a follow-up question that was completely unexpected. After telling his interviewers that he was interested in starting a business in Cairo that would recycle styrofoam, he was asked which company made the product.
Mohamed didn't have a clue. "I didn't feel too good about not knowing the answer," he says. A quick search on Google led him to discover that Dow Chemical is the largest producer of styrofoam in the world. He used that information to frame his post-interview reflection email to HBS, a part of the application process required within 24 hours of his meeting with admissions.
What he wrote obviously did the trick. Mohamed got into HBS and is about to start his second year of the MBA program as editor-in-chief of The Harbus, the student newspaper. Now he is overseeing the publication of the "Unofficial Harvard Business School Admissions & Interview Guide" for applicants. The newly revised guidebook, with 125 questions along with advice on how to approach each answer, was made available last night (July 8) for $65. (The money made from the guide goes to support the foundation that publishes The Harbus newspaper).
The newest edition of the guide has been revised and updated — and at 80 pages long (up from 68 pages last year and just 40 pages the year before) is the largest ever published by The Harbus. All of the questions — from the most obvious like "Why do you want an MBA?" to the rather unpredictable "What will you do if you don't get into HBS?" — come from students who successfully navigated the HBS admissions process. (See The Ten Toughest Questions HBS Asks Applicants And How To Answer Them ).
With Mohamed and Managing Editor Steve Hind leading the effort, a team of Harbus staffers worked to put the revision guide together, tweaking last year's version and adding new insights and queries. Hind says the group got about 10 to 15 new questions from members of the Class of 2016. "Our goal was to make sure the guide fits with the changes to the application these past two years," adds Hind, who has been a senior consultant for the Boston Consulting Group before going to HBS this year.
What are the most important questions HBS asks in a typical admissions interview? Hind says personal experience and his conversations with classmates lead to a list of several key queries:
Even though his own interview was more than a year ago, Mohamed can tick off the questions he was asked during his session:
And what about that one flubbed interview question on the maker of styrofoam? In the email he wrote to HBS within 24 hours of his interview, Mohamed says the question made him think differently about his idea of starting a recycling business in Egypt. If he goes forward with it, Mohamed said, he would speak to Dow Chemical about changing the chemical structure of styrofoam so that it would be less harmful when burned.
And then he noted that his insight was why he wanted to study at HBS. "It expands your horizons and makes you question your assumptions," he says. "This is exactly what I want to do at HBS."
To see the kind of unpredictable questions candidates get in a Harvard Business School admissions interview, check out PoetsandQuants.com.
More from John A. Byrne:SEE ALSO: The 17 Most Common Ways People Screw Up Tough Interviews The 7 Most Important Interview Questions Harvard Business School Asks Applicants
There’s no big secret about what HBS looks for in candidates. HBS posts its criteria right on its website. and you should take its word for it. Without clearly demonstrating all three criteria—a habit of leadership, analytical aptitude and appetite, and engaged community citizenship—you’ll be climbing up a very steep hill to be admitted. The trick is in how to demonstrate these elements in HBS’s short application.
Habit of leadership. Professional leadership experience is the most common and transferable to the business school experience, but extracurricular, personal, and community leadership accomplishments and qualities are certainly recognized as well.
Analytical aptitude and appetite. While HBS does not state a preferred major or career path, it demands a comfort with and aptitude for quantitative and analytical subjects, and strong communication skills. Intellectual capacity is best demonstrated through academic transcripts and the GMAT or GRE score. Don’t be fooled by the wide range of GMAT scores listed in HBS’s class profile each year. We estimate that nearly 90% of the admitted class has a GMAT score of 700 or higher. However, lower scores in these categories can be compensated through remarkable professional or community leadership experiences in a few rare circumstances.
Engaged community citizenship. This element is as simple as it sounds: HBS is looking for people who have shown the ability to impact their communities and who will continue to do so both as students and alumni. While this can be demonstrated in a host of settings and ways, paramount is a sincere commitment to helping others, viewed as an integral component of the responsibilities of leadership.
It is often said that HBS looks for the next generation of multinational CEOs, while Stanford looks for the next generation of world-changing entrepreneurs. We think the difference here is overstated, but this is still a good measure for the caliber of candidates both schools are seeking to admit. Most importantly, Harvard Business School is looking to build a class of 900+ students where every member will offer a different perspective to the classroom, contribute richly to the campus community, and make a distinct impact on the world as an alum.Preparing to Apply
Reading this Essential Guide is a great first step in your preparation. Hopefully, this insider’s glimpse has been helpful in understanding the most important aspects of the school. However, nothing can replace gaining firsthand knowledge and experience yourself.
Reach out to current students. Even if you don’t have any personal connections to HBS, you can reach out to current students and get their insight and advice. On the school’s Activities, Government , and Clubs page. you’ll find a list of all campus clubs. Find a few clubs that fit your interests and reach out to the officers. Remember: These are very busy MBA students so you don’t want to intrude too much on their time, but you could ask for a 10- to 15-minute conversation or elicit some advice via e-mail. If you’re planning to visit campus, perhaps you might even arrange a coffee chat or lunch, if they are available. Officers of major clubs like the Finance or Management Consulting Club have plenty of responsibilities. You might provide a quick background introduction and ask if there’s another member of their club who might be able to offer some insights and advice about his or her HBS experience.
Visit campus. If you have the means, we highly recommend you visit the Harvard Business School campus along with a handful of others to understand the significant differences in culture, teaching style, student body, recruiting opportunities, and facilities. A campus visit does not directly impact your admissions chances in any way, but you will be surprised by just how different each school can be. We encourage you to take advantage of the formal campus visit program. including a class visit, campus tour, information session, and student lunch, as available. However, we also encourage you to go to the Spangler Center. grab a bite to eat in the cafeteria, and talk to a few current students informally. The formal program gives a good surface-level experience of HBS, but impromptu conversations can be incredibly enlightening.
Other events. We know that many applicants will not be able to fly to Boston to visit campus, but you should take advantage of other admissions events. such as information sessions, webinars, and specific-audience events. Get to know the school and its culture as well as you can, because your familiarity can shine through your application and essay to help you stand out.You Oughta Know
When should I apply? HBS uses a standard three-round system for applications. This means that you may submit your application in any of its three rounds for consideration. However, 90% or more of the class will be filled with the first two rounds of applicants, so we do not encourage you to wait until the final round without compelling circumstances. Round 3 candidates will be considered alongside waitlisted candidates from the first rounds. Waitlisted candidates from Round 1 will be considered with Round 2 applicants, but we’ve seen a number of R1 waitlistees who were held on the waitlist again and admitted in Round 3.
Traditional applicants. If you are a traditional candidate from the management consulting or finance industry, we encourage you to apply in the first round (assuming you have a strong GMAT score), as you’ll be competing against many candidates with very similar profiles. In a later round, it’s possible that the school may see you as a viable candidate to the school but may have already admitted several other applicants with similar profiles, so they might pass on you to bring greater professional diversity to the class. Plus, they know you’ve been planning on an MBA since the day you graduated from undergrad, so there’s no reason to delay!
Don’t rush! Please note that even though the top schools encourage you to apply in the earliest round possible, this does not mean that you should apply with a rushed application or a mediocre GMAT score. There’s no sense in applying early if you’re just going to be denied. A GMAT score that’s above the school’s average will do more for your candidacy than applying in the first round.
Navigating deadlines. For the 2016–17 admissions season, the R1 deadline for HBS is September 7, 2016, an entire year before classes will start for the Class of 2019. To give you an idea of how much this deadline has crept up over the years, back in 2008 HBS’s Round 1 deadline came on October 15! This means that you need to really plan on having a great GMAT score under your belt by no later than early August. Why? Because very few applicants are successful when they’re writing their essays, managing their recommendation writers, and tracking down transcripts all while also trying to break 700 on the GMAT. And pulling together your applications (and doing it well) will take you at least a few weeks from start to finish.
Planning for backup schools. Many people ask us why the deadlines keep getting earlier. For admissions offices, it helps with logistics so that they can process R1 candidates before looking at R2. For applicants, there’s also a big advantage. You’ll receive an initial notification of your application by mid-October of whether you’re being invited to interview, are being “released” (HBS-speak for being denied), or will be put into a pool for further consideration with Round 2 applicants. By mid-December, you’ll receive a final decision from HBS, so you’ll still have a couple of weeks to finalize applications to other schools ahead of Round 2 deadlines.
That said, we do not recommend starting your Round 2 applications only after the notifications from your Round 1 schools. Get your applications ready to submit, just in case you get a negative decision. Then, if you are not admitted, you can put final touches on the new apps and submit with confidence!
HBS 2+2. HBS 2+2 is a deferred application for current full-time students in college or graduate school. It’s called 2+2 because you receive an automatic two-year deferral before your two-year MBA program. However, many 2+2 candidates are now choosing to defer for three years before starting school. To apply for the 2+2 program this year, you must graduate from your institution between October 1, 2016, and September 30, 2017. The eligibility of graduate students in the 2+2 program is a new addition, but grad students must have gone directly from their undergrad program into graduate school without any work experience in between. In previous years, 2+2 could apply in any round. However, this year the school decided to move the 2+2 round to align with Round 3 for other candidates. They have announced that they will not consider candidates before the round closes, so there is no advantage to applying early. We encourage 2+2 applicants to submit their applicants close to the round deadline, so they can include grades and additional information from their senior year in undergrad.The Online Application Form
As you’re about to see, we’ve dedicated a lot of space in this Essential Guide to our advice on HBS’s online application, and you should view this as an indicator of its importance. As HBS has slimmed down its essays, it has moved some information into the online application instead, so don’t treat this lightly. This form contains the most information used by the admissions board member to determine your fate! Much of the online form includes standard biographical information, so we’ll comment only on sections where we feel we can add value or provide clarification.
Family. As much as HBS is looking to diversify its class, legacy still matters. HBS has one of the few applications that asks directly whether you have family members who attended the school. Not to worry: The vast majority of admits have no family legacy, so don’t feel an obligation to spin your great-uncle’s overnight stay in Cambridge 20 years ago into a family connection. If you have a partner/spouse/significant other who is also applying, be sure to list that person here. To be honest, there’s no real advantage to applying with someone else since the applications will be considered separately, based on their individual merits. However, there’s a chance that if one of you is admitted and the other waitlisted, the admissions board might be slightly more inclined to admit you off the waitlist because they know your significant other will be headed to Boston.
Resume. Be sure that your resume highlights results and accomplishments rather than job duties. The number-one goal of your resume should be to showcase your leadership experience, so include bullet points such as “Led a team of three engineers to…, resulting in….”
Employment. The field for post-college full-time work experience means just that. Don’t try to exaggerate your months of work experience by including work before or during college, or any part-time jobs. This is for accurate reporting of statistics. Note that you should calculate the number of months of expected experience before you start school—not the number of months as of today. You only have the opportunity to list your two most recent employers in this section, so other experience should be listed on your resume. Your key accomplishments will likely repeat some information from your resume, which is perfectly fine. But you have fields here to explain your role and responsibilities, the nature of the company, and your most significant challenge, so you can utilize these fields and save space on your resume for additional results and accomplishments. Salary can be used as a proxy to see your level of responsibility in your given field, but do not exaggerate! Admissions officers know that salaries vary widely based on industry, and admissions decisions are completely need-blind.
HBS used to ask you to write an entire essay about your post-MBA career goals, but it’s been reduced to a couple of drop-down menus and a 500-character field. Honestly, that’s probably plenty of space to explain what you want to do after graduation and what drives you to want to do it. Columbia only gives you 50 characters!
Education. Admissions board members know what to look for in transcripts beyond just a GPA. They’ll be looking at the quality and reputation of your undergraduate institution, the difficulty of your major, course workload, grades in quantitative courses, and overall trends. (For example, if your grades went up after a “fun” freshman year, that’s better than crashing and burning at the end.) Note that you’ll need to upload either an official or unofficial copy of your transcript, so plan ahead of time. A high-quality JPEG can be submitted, so you can take a picture of your transcript, as long as it’s legible.
Given the nearly 10,000 applicants to HBS each year, the admissions board doesn’t need to admit applicants with questionable undergraduate records; you’re applying to Harvard, after all! However, if you had extenuating circumstances that led to underperformance in undergrad, we recommend doing three things to improve your chances: 1) Knock the GMAT out of the park and score at or above the school’s average of 727 to show that you can thrive at HBS academically; 2) take some additional coursework to shore up your weaknesses (candidates often take calculus, stats, microeconomics, accounting, or finance to hit the ground running at B-school); and 3) mention the circumstances that led to underperformance in your essay. Don’t try to blame others or offer a bunch of excuses, but concisely and unapologetically explain the circumstances and your reaction to them at the time. You might mention what you learned from the experience as well.
Extracurricular activities. Deep involvement in a few extracurriculars can show the admissions board how you are an “engaged citizen” (one of their three criteria), where your passions lie, and how you will give back to the community as an alum. They may also showcase leadership qualities that may not be apparent from your professional experience. Admissions officers know that certain professions can be extremely demanding with 100-plus-hour weeks at times, allowing for little time for additional commitments. This will be taken into consideration, but even limited involvement in an organization that benefits someone other than yourself can show that you care about more than just next quarter’s bonus. If you have been involved in many different organizations, you may want to spread these out among your resume, application, and perhaps your essay, because the online form will allow you to add only three activities.
Awards and recognition. Deciding which awards to list here may say more about you than the awards themselves. Really think about which recognitions are the most important to you and why. You can always use your resume to highlight additional accomplishments.
Test scores. The school says that there’s no minimum test score, and that’s true. We’ve seen Veritas Prep admissions consulting clients admitted with GMAT scores in the 500s, and Harvard’s released GMAT score range shows it did admit at least one candidate with a score of 510. However, let’s be honest with ourselves: Any application with a GMAT score below a 690 is a significant longshot at HBS! The school says that it has no preference between the GMAT and the GRE, but don’t try to hide an application weakness (such as questionable quant skills) behind a GRE score because you think it’s an “easier” test. It won’t work. HBS started accepting the GRE so that stellar candidates who were considering other graduate programs such as a master’s degree in public policy or public health might think about a joint degree or business school instead. If your only goal is to get an MBA, your best strategy is to do whatever it takes to score well on the GMAT. The admissions board will see through other attempts of test score trickery. In the words of Thomas Edison, “There is no substitute for hard work.”
Additional information. Use this section as you would an optional essay for other schools. If you have a real sore spot in your application, such as a low undergraduate GPA, then you should expect to devote some words to that here. Don’t dwell on it, and don’t sound like Mr. or Ms. Excuses, but do address it and move on.
In recent years we have made much of the Great Essay Slimdown, in which many business schools cut their number of required essays or reduced word counts. Harvard went down to just one essay two years ago, so there wasn’t much more slimming down the school could do, short of eliminating the essay altogether.
For years, former Dean of Admissions Dee Leopold emphasized that applying to business school is not an “essay-writing contest”; it’s simply a way for admissions officers to discover and evaluate the candidates who will contribute most as members of the school’s student body and ultimately as alums. With essays continuing to slim down over the years, the school is intentionally signaling that what you’ve accomplished and how you stand out from your peers (as shown in your resume, transcripts, online application, and recommendations) are more important than merely your essay-writing skills or storytelling abilities. However, the essay remains a vital part of the application, as it enables you to direct the admissions officer’s attention to areas of your candidacy that really shine.
Essay: 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? (no word limit)
A familiar essay prompt. Take a look at this essay prompt from HBS two years ago:
“You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your résumé, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy? (No word limit) ”
Notice anything similar? While the school chose not to list out the other application elements this year, the prompts are essentially the same. Regardless, it’s important to take some guidance from the way HBS once chose to phrase the essay question. Keep in mind that they do have your résumé, they do have your test scores, and they do have your transcripts. In other words, Harvard’s admissions committee isn’t looking for an essay answer that merely rehashes everything already noted on your application. If one or two of your accomplishments listed elsewhere organically find their way into your answer, that’s fine, but avoid the temptation to merely remind them of what they already know.
Your overall goal. We always tell every applicant that they need to do two things to get into HBS or any other top MBA program: 1) Stand out from other applicants (especially those with similar profiles), and 2) show how you fit with the school. If you come from a very common background (think management consultant, investment banker, or IT consultant from Asia), then you need to stand out even more, and this essay is your chance to do it. If your background already makes you unusual compared to the typical HBS class profile (perhaps you have more than the typical amount of work experience or have zero quantitative abilities to point to), then you need to use this essay to demonstrate that you will fit in and thrive at Harvard. Resist the urge to go for a gimmick, but don’t be afraid to let your hair down a bit. What brought you to this point in your life? What will you uniquely contribute to your MBA class? What do you want to do after HBS? What do you like to do outside of school and work? What gets you up in the morning?
Choose a theme. One approach we would recommend is to think of a key theme or differentiator that defines you. Recognizing that this kind of self-reflection can be a challenge for many applicants, Veritas Prep entered into a yearlong collaboration with the publishers of the Myers-Briggs personality type assessments to develop our Personalized MBA Game Plan™ assessment tool, available free to all GMAT Prep and Admissions Consulting customers. Using your Myers-Briggs personality type, this assessment helps you analyze your own strengths and weaknesses to determine the unique ways that you may stand out from the crowd. Whether or not you utilize this resource, be very mindful of the key takeaway that you want the admissions board member to remember about you.
Essay length. Notice that they didn’t ask, “What one thing would you like us to know about yourself?” in the prompt. You should, however, resist the temptation to tell your entire life story here. Overall, we bet that applicants will err on the side of being too formal (and too wordy!) with this essay. After each paragraph, ask yourself: “Does this speak to what makes me unique?” If not, and you feel like the paragraph diverges from your core headline, then discard it and stick to what makes you different from the other applicants. Each time you stray into the territory of rehashing accomplishments, pause and ask if this is truly new information for the admissions committee. If it’s not, then put your delete key to work. Resist the temptation to go beyond 1,000 words. (In fact, we expect that the best essays will be about 500 to 800 words.)
“Show, don’t tell.” A key strategy for MBA essay writing is “show, don’t tell.” Don’t just tell the admissions board, “I’m a results-oriented leader who communicates a clear vision and then executes it.” Anyone can make this unsubstantiated claim in an essay. Instead, use a story from your life that shows how you learned those skills, perhaps by trial and error. Be sure to use some examples that are not necessarily found in other parts of your application. If you decide to expound upon an event or accomplishment found elsewhere, don’t simply rehash the same achievements found in your resume bullet points. Instead, help the admissions board see the experience from your own perspective: what was daunting and how you overcame it, what you learned from the experience, which motivations led you to make critical decisions, with whom you consulted, who and what were critical to your success, and so forth.
Taking risks. The biggest weakness we find in MBA essays is that applicants are actually too conservative—both in writing style and in content—resulting in dry, boring treatises that sound more like book reports than honest personal reflections. Don’t be afraid to take risks such as talking about an abject failure and what you learned from it, as long as you decide it’s the best way to help the admissions board see the world through your eyes. The goal is to help the admissions board see how you’ve become the person you are today and help them understand the underlying motivations that have driven some key decisions to-date.
Personable writing style. This may be Harvard. but that doesn’t mean your tone has to be overly formal or rigid. What’s most important here is that your answer (and your tone) is personal to you. Your writing style does not need to be as formal as a college English paper, but you should maintain an appropriate level of professionalism. Note the tone of the HBS admissions website and the application itself; it’s quite warm, straightforward, and personable. If they can write this way on a boring application form, then you should feel free to mirror that tone.Recommendations
Your recommender will also be asked to answer two additional questions:
Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (250 words)
Selecting your recommenders. Harvard suggests that one of your recommendations be your current or recent supervisor. HBS also stresses that it is more important to find recommenders who know you well and can answer the essay questions with depth and detail. As stated directly on the website, “This should take priority over level of seniority or HBS alumni status.” They specifically recommend that you find someone who will speak to your leadership abilities, a statement that comes as no surprise given HBS’s strong emphasis on finding and building future leaders.
Should I draft it myself? Many applicants to business school are asked by their superiors to draft the recommendation themselves and the recommender will approve it. We strongly recommend that you do not write the recommendation yourself for several reasons. First, your writing style and choice of phrasing are unique, and admissions officers will notice if the recommendations are similar to each other and your essay. Second, you will tend to be too humble or generic. Your supervisor might use language such as “one of the top analysts I’ve seen in my entire career” that you would not dare include if writing it on their behalf. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the admissions officer is looking for a third-party perspective on your candidacy, so writing a recommendation yourself is an unethical breach of trust with the school you are looking to join.
Preparing your recommenders. Instead of writing the recommendation yourself, you should sit down and have candid conversations with your recommenders about the reasons you want to go to business school and why you’ve selected your target schools, your professional goals, and your experience together. Ask them if they would have the time to write a strong recommendation on your behalf. (This also gives them a nice “out” by telling you that they are too busy rather than saying they don’t feel comfortable giving you a positive recommendation.) Bring a copy of your resume and a bulleted list of projects that you’ve worked on together and accomplishments they have seen you achieve. Let them know that the admissions committees prefer to see specific, detailed examples in recommendations. Then, let them know that you’ll serve as a “project manager” to follow up and ensure that they are able to submit your recommendation ahead of the deadline.The Interview
Your interview invitation. At Harvard Business School, admissions interviews are by invitation only. An interview is required before an offer is extended, so all accepted students were interviewed at some point during the admissions process. Harvard likes to interview about 1,800 candidates total each year, and they’ll admit about 60% of those. So, if you get an invitation, you’re in very good shape but not completely home free yet.
If you receive an invitation, you will interview in person, either on campus or in one of the cities the admissions team travels to. Harvard says there is no advantage to interviewing at the school, though if you haven’t made it to Cambridge yet (and you’re in a position to do so), scheduling your interview at HBS would be a great opportunity to also interact with students and sit in on a class.
Your interviewer. All interviews are conducted by members of the HBS admissions board; alumni do not help with interviews at Harvard. This allows the admissions board to have a more standardized process and a better way to evaluate each person, candidate to candidate. The interviewer will have read your entire application before meeting with you (unlike some other schools, where the interview is “blind” and the interviewer only has your resume).
Anticipated questions. Because the interviewer will already be familiar with your application, he or she will dive into topics that the admissions board wants to explore more deeply. This could include potential weaknesses they see in your candidacy or experiences you didn’t have an opportunity to discuss thoroughly in other parts of your application. These behavioral interviews can go in almost any direction, but you should prepare a number of personal and professional stories that exemplify topics of leadership, decision-making, overcoming challenging situations, working on teams, dealing with difficult personalities, and other topics. Be prepared to answer questions about application weaknesses such as academics, test scores, thin work experience, and so forth. Also be advised that Admissions Director Dee Leopold likes to ask students what books they are currently reading to gauge intellectual curiosity. Other members of the admissions board may throw you a question “out of left field” like this to see your response.
The stone-faced response. HBS admissions interviewers notoriously provide almost no verbal or non-verbal feedback during or after the interview. Everyone comes away from the interview feeling like they bombed it! One woman left her on-campus interview, sat on the steps of Dillon House (the building that houses the HBS Admissions office), and cried. She thought the interview went horribly. Much to her surprise, she received an acceptance letter a few weeks later! As a first-year student, she bumped into the woman who interviewed her. The interviewer said that she not only remembered the candidate, but also how well she performed in the interview. It had been one of the best interviews she conducted all season! Please don’t let the interviewer’s reaction (or lack thereof) discourage you.
Small talk. In recent years, more applicants have told us about how the interviewer attempted to develop rapport by spending a significant amount of time (sometimes an uncomfortably long amount of time) talking about seemingly irrelevant hobbies listed on the resume or engaged in other small talk. In these circumstances, simply go with the flow and show the admissions officer that you’ll be an interesting, intelligent, and enjoyable classmate at HBS.The Post-Interview Reflection
You just had your HBS interview. Tell us about it. Did we get to know you?
24-hour deadline. Within 24 hours of the interview, candidates are required to submit a written reflection through HBS’s online application system. Detailed instructions will be provided to those applicants who are invited to the interview process. The Post-Interview Reflection gives you a chance to include anything you wish you had been able to mention in the interview, and to reframe anything that you discussed but have since thought about a bit more. You will submit this piece within 24 hours of your interview.
Keep it brief. Especially since this letter has no word limit, the temptation will be for you to cram in half a dozen additional things that you wish you had covered in the interview. However, less is always more; keep the note limited to no more than two or three core ideas that you want to highlight. Ideally you covered all of the important things in the interview already, but if not, this is a chance to hit on those. Keep in mind, though, that sharing these ideas in the interview is always going to be more effective than cramming them into this note.
Do not write beforehand. Be realistic about how much this letter will help you. Chances are that it won’t turn a dud of an interview into a terrific one in hindsight. Do not go into the interview with this note already drafted; let it truly be a reaction to the discussion, which was hopefully an interesting and provocative one. If your interviewer reads this note and it sounds like a replay of an entirely different discussion from what he or she remembers, that will only serve to hurt you come decision time.
Consistent writing style. When the Post-Interview Reflection was announced in 2012, Admissions Director Dee Leopold described the addition as “a little bit more to what you may be doing in real-life careers. Sometimes you will have months and months to write a report, but more frequently, you’ll probably have to write e-mails or memos in real time. So we like to think that this is a preview of not only what you will do in class but what we think you’ll be doing throughout your career.” She has also been pretty straightforward about her concern that candidates are not writing their own essays. She intends that the Post-Interview Reflection will provide a better picture of a candidate’s true thoughts and writing abilities through a slightly less filtered, edited, and crafted forum. Of course, Veritas Prep does not write essays on behalf of our admissions consulting clients, but our consultants will provide personalized insights and feedback for both the HBS essay and Post-Interview Reflection as part of your Comprehensive School Package .Veritas Prep and Your HBS Application
Harvard Business School receives more applications than any other MBA program in the world, so making an impression with its admissions board is a real challenge. To guide you through this challenge, Veritas Prep has developed the most qualified and diverse team of admissions consultants ever assembled. Don’t just take our word for it; check out our team yourself! If you are interested in maximizing your chances for admission, our team will help you every step of the way.Your Personalized HBS Consulting Team
MBA admissions decisions are quite subjective, and no two members of the HBS admissions board will view a candidate in exactly the same way. As a result, Veritas Prep uses a unique team-based approach in our consulting to offer multiple expert perspectives. In your Comprehensive School Package. you’ll work with a Head Consultant ™ who has admissions experience at a top-tier MBA program to guide you through the process from start to finish. Head Consultants have evaluated MBA candidates themselves, so they can provide an invaluable insider’s perspective to answer every question and help you avoid common application pitfalls.
In addition, you’ll work with a School Specialist, who has gone through the HBS MBA program and was personally immersed in the HBS culture for two years. He or she will ensure your applications are perfectly tailored based on the strengths, programs, and culture of the school. You’ll have a different School Specialist for each school in your comprehensive package.The Ultimate Admissions Committee™
In addition to your personalized consulting team, if you have all of your application materials ready at least two weeks before HBS’s application deadline, you may submit them to the Veritas Prep Ultimate Admissions Committee™. This committee is comprised of former directors and associate directors of MBA Admissions—those who have made thousands of admissions decisions on candidates just like you. The Committee will review your application and provide final feedback before you submit.How it Works
First, we’ll talk with you about your profile and understand exactly what you’re looking for in a Head Consultant. Based on your personal and professional background, goals, target schools, working style, and personal preferences, we’ll match you with the best Head Consultant for your needs.
Your Head Consultant will assist with every step as you examine your strengths and weaknesses, map out your ideal application strategy, select the best MBA programs for your unique background and goals, craft your resume, brainstorm and outline essays, exchange several essay drafts, and complete your online application form.
Your School Specialist will discuss the classes, majors, clubs, conferences, activities, and other resources available at your target school that are most relevant to your goals and interests. Your HBS School Specialist will ensure your application demonstrates fit with the school academically, professionally, and culturally. In addition, if you’re invited to interview, your HBS School Specialist will conduct a mock interview, often with the same questions you’ll face in your actual interview, and provide feedback for improvement. If you get waitlisted, we’ll provide tips and advice to move into the “admit” column. Your success is our success!Meet our Harvard consultants
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