Are you looking for the tools and tactics required to survive your Harvard MBA interview? If so, you’ve come to the right place! It can be to navigate this critical step in your business school journey. From preparing concise answers that showcase why an MBA is the best way for you to achieve your career goals, to feeling confident as you face off with admissions officers- the challenges of any kind of admissions interview are daunting at best. That’s why we put together this comprehensive guide on what it takes to stand out among other candidates and prove you have what it takes for a spot in Harvard Business School’s class. Continue reading for our proven tips and strategies, specifically designed to showcase why choosing Harvard is the right decision for you!

Harvard MBA Interview: The Basics

The interview for Harvard Business School is unlike any other part of the admissions process – it presents its own set of unique and challenging circumstances. If you aspire to earn an MBA from HBS, it is crucial to comprehend the interview procedure to adequately prepare and ultimately excel in your Harvard MBA interview.

Once your written application has been submitted and thoroughly reviewed, you may receive an invitation to interview. The interviews, which last for approximately 30 minutes, are conducted by a member of the MBA Admissions Board who has already examined your application. Rest assured that your interview will be personalized and designed to delve deeper into your background through a meaningful conversation.

While the interview is a positive sign of interest, it does not guarantee admission. It is just one aspect that we consider during the final review of your candidacy. Please note that all interviews are conducted by invitation only, at the discretion of the Admissions Board. If you receive an invitation, participation is mandatory to complete the application process.

Interviews can be arranged either on campus, in domestic or international hub cities, or through Zoom. It’s important to note that the timing or format of your interview invitation, whether in person or via Zoom, does not reflect anything about the status of your application or impact your candidacy.

Picture of a Harvard building with columns related to Havard MBA interview

Candidates must submit a written reflection through our online application system within 24 hours of the interview. Detailed instructions will be provided to those applicants who are selected for an interview.

The typical HBS interview style can be described as fast-paced and, at times, even assertive. This deliberate approach is aimed at assessing your true character and how you handle pressure within the given time constraints.

How to Adequately Prepare for The Interview

Understand the HBS Method:

Harvard Business School uses the case method for teaching. Being familiar with this approach will help you understand what they expect from MBA candidates.

Having a deep understanding of the HBS Method will provide a significant advantage in preparing for your Harvard MBA interview. This case-method teaching style encourages active participation, critical thinking, and the ability to articulate and defend your perspectives.

By mastering this approach, you can demonstrate your readiness to contribute meaningfully to classroom discussions, showing your potential as a future Harvard MBA candidate.

This knowledge will not only help you provide thoughtful, well-articulated responses in your interview but also showcase your ability to thrive in Harvard Business School’s dynamic, discussion-based learning environment.

Review your Application:

Go over your application carefully; your interviewer will likely ask you questions based on what you’ve written. Be ready to elaborate on your experiences, goals, and why HBS is an ideal fit for you. Reviewing your application is a critical step in preparing for your Harvard MBA interview for several reasons.

First, it allows you to refresh your memory on all the details you included, which you may be asked to elaborate on during the interview.

Second, it prepares you to confidently communicate and align your experiences and goals with what HBS offers.

Third, it provides an opportunity to identify any inconsistencies or weak areas in your application that you may need to address or explain.

Fourth, it gives context to your willingness to grow and learn, which is crucial for a case-method learning environment like HBS.

Lastly, it serves as a tool for self-reflection, which can give you a clearer sense of purpose and direction, making you more appealing to the interviewer.

Preparing for the HBS MBA interview requires studying

Stay Informed:

Keep abreast of current events, especially those related to your field. HBS values applicants who can link their understanding of broader societal issues to business and leadership. Staying informed is a critical aspect when preparing for your Harvard MBA interview. It demonstrates your ability to understand and articulate complex issues and relate them to business and leadership – skills highly valued at HBS.

Consider subscribing to reputable news outlets, reading business-related publications, and following thought leaders in your area of interest. Having a strong grasp of current affairs allows you to engage in substantive discourse during your interview.

By drawing insightful connections between global happenings and business, you exhibit intellectual vitality, a keen understanding of the business landscape, and a leadership mindset. This not only helps you stand out as a well-rounded, informed candidate but also signifies your readiness to contribute to Harvard’s case-method discussion-based classes effectively.

Be Authentic:

Lastly, be yourself. HBS isn’t looking for a specific type of applicant – they value diversity. Show them who you really are, how you think, and what you can bring to the HBS community.

Candidates often tend to present what they believe the interviewer wants to hear, inadvertently creating a homogeneous pool of applicants. Authenticity, however, introduces a unique flavor to your candidacy. It provides the interviewer with an insight into how you would contribute to the diversity of perspectives in Harvard’s case-method discussions.

Moreover, it showcases your approach to problem-solving, decision-making, and leadership – all of which are critical in the dynamic and collaborative learning environment of HBS. Authenticity, therefore, serves as your distinct imprint, highlighting your individuality amidst the pool of highly accomplished candidates.

Crafting a Compelling and Concise Story

Crafting a compelling and concise story during your Harvard MBA interview involves more than simply recounting your accomplishments. It’s about connecting your experiences in a way that clearly shows your journey, your motivations, and your vision for the future.

Start by identifying key moments or decisions that have shaped your career path, and articulate why they were significant.

Be honest and authentic, as admissions interviewers appreciate sincerity over a rehearsed narrative. Remember, it’s not just about what you’ve achieved, but also about how you’ve grown and what you’ve learned along the way.

Try to communicate your story with enthusiasm and confidence, but steer clear of verbosity. Your goal is to leave a memorable impression that distinguishes you from other candidates, yet remains within the time constraints of the interview.

Harvard Building on a sunny day might inspire you for the Harvard MBA interview

Making an Impression with Your Responses

Making an impression with your responses during the Harvard MBA interview involves a blend of preparation, authenticity, and reflection.

Begin by thoroughly researching Harvard’s mission, culture, and core values to align your responses with what the institution values. Remember, your responses should not merely reiterate what’s on your resume – instead, they should provide new insights about your personality, character, and values.

Be specific and detailed in your responses to showcase your clarity of thought and strong understanding of your career trajectory. It is also important to demonstrate your ability to reflect on experiences and learn from them, as this indicates a growth mindset.

Lastly, maintain a balanced and respectful tone in your responses, avoiding any form of criticism or negativity. This not only shows your maturity but also displays your ability to maintain composure under pressure.

Answering Questions About Your Work Experience

To effectively answer questions about your work experience in a Harvard MBA interview, it’s essential to be concise, impactful, and honest.

Start by briefly outlining your roles and the organizations you’ve been a part of, focusing on the high-impact projects you’ve led or been engaged in, and clearly articulating the results achieved.

Instead of presenting a laundry list of duties, concentrate on your unique contributions, the challenges you overcame, and the skills you developed. Illustrating your points with specific anecdotes will help you establish credibility and memorability.

However, remember not to delve too much into industry jargon or technical details; the aim is to demonstrate your leadership potential, problem-solving skills, and your ability to thrive in diverse team environments.

Lastly, reflect on your professional journey and share your learnings, portraying a continuous pursuit of growth and improvement.

Harvard MBA Interview Common Questions

Your previous experiences can reveal valuable insights into how you have navigated both success and failure. During the Harvard interview, be prepared to answer a range of questions that probe into the challenges you have faced and your subsequent responses. As Blackman suggests, this line of questioning aims to assess how life has tested you and how you have risen to the occasion. Some sample questions may include:

  • What motivated your decision to join your current company?
  • While many individuals transition directly from investment banking to private equity firms, what is the rationale behind pursuing an MBA in between?
  • Narrate an instance where you effectively adapted to change.
  • Share a scenario where you assisted a colleague at work.
  • Reflect upon a mistake you made within the past three years.
  • Discuss your most significant achievement.
  • How would you characterize your approach to teaching peers?
  • Tell me about a time when you encountered failure.

The interviewer is interested in understanding the reasoning behind your decisions and the development of your areas of interest. According to her, effective responses should include detailed explanations that stem from the actions you have taken.

It is crucial to leverage your previous experiences while showcasing your present personality and perspectives on yourself and the world. Some example questions to consider are:

  • How would you describe your leadership style?
  • How do your friends perceive you?
  • What fuels your inspiration?
  • Which book are you currently engrossed in?
  • Who is a leader you deeply admire?

When responding to the aforementioned interview questions, you should be ready to provide detailed explanations and address the underlying “why” behind each inquiry. Your responses should vividly showcase your unique personality, perspective, and values. It is crucial to demonstrate your commitment to continuous learning and personal development.

Harvard University is driven by a mission to educate future leaders who will create a positive impact on the world. During interviews, it is crucial to convey your ambitions effectively. Some example questions that may be asked include:

  • What are your expectations of pursuing an MBA at Harvard?
  • How do you envision your career trajectory five to seven years after completing your MBA?
  • What aspect of your career plans excites you the most?
  • How do you plan to continue your professional development in your next role?
  • What challenges do you anticipate in achieving your goals?
  • If you are not accepted into business school this year, how do you plan to proceed?
  • What are your thoughts on the HBS admissions process?

Articulating your future goals effectively will complete the interviewer’s understanding. When responding to these inquiries, it is crucial to incorporate concrete examples from your past and present. This will demonstrate that your future aspirations are not only logical and well-planned, but also attainable.

Strategies for Handling Difficult Questions

When faced with difficult questions during the Harvard MBA interview, it’s essential to remain composed and thoughtful.

Rather than rushing to respond, take a moment to consider the question and gather your thoughts. Ensure your responses are well-structured, concise, and relevant to the question.

Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to provide a comprehensive answer. If a question catches you off guard, it’s perfectly acceptable to request a moment to think before responding.

Remember, the aim of these challenging questions is to examine your problem-solving skills, adaptability, and resilience. Thus, your approach to answering the question can often be as revealing as the answer itself.

Maximizing Your Chances of Getting Accepted into HBS

To maximize your chances of acing the Harvard MBA interview, it is crucial to understand what matters most to the admissions committee.

Primarily, they are interested in assessing your leadership potential, your ability to contribute to the HBS community, and your career vision. Exhibit your leadership skills by sharing experiences where you made a significant impact and led teams effectively.

Show your willingness to participate and contribute to the vibrant HBS community by highlighting past examples of collaboration and teamwork.

Moreover, demonstrates a clear, realistic, and ambitious career vision. Keep in mind that the committee seeks candidates who will make the most of the HBS experience and contribute positively to the business world post-graduation.

Harvard green

The Most Important Part of the Harvard MBA Interview: Practice

Based on our extensive experience working with dozens of candidates preparing for their interviews, we’ve found that the most effective way to nail the Harvard MBA interview is by dedicating a substantial amount of time to preparation. More so than for any other MBA program, investing significant time in preparing for the HBS interview is critically important, given the unique and challenging nature of this particular process. Here’s why.

Firstly, practice enables you to articulate your thoughts coherently and confidently. The nature of the interview questions often requires weaving intricate narratives about your experiences, skills, and aspirations. With practice, you can refine these narratives, ensuring they are compelling and impactful.

Secondly, the unpredictable nature of the MBA interview demands adaptability. With sufficient practice, particularly with mock interviews, you can learn to think on your feet and respond effectively to a wide range of questions.

Lastly, practice allows you to get comfortable with the interview format and environment. The more familiar you are with the process, the less anxiety you will experience on the day of your MBA interview.

Remember, confidence and clarity in your responses can make a significant difference, and practice is the key to achieving both. So, make sure to dedicate enough time for practice before your Harvard MBA interview.


Congratulations on taking the first step towards one of the most prestigious business degrees in the world. Harvard Business School’s admissions office is highly selective, and that means you’ll need to use every tool available to stand out from other applicants. The strategies we’ve outlined here in this guide are designed to help you put your best foot forward and make sure that the only thing close attention to when it comes time for your admission interview is the amazing passion and drive behind why you want a Harvard MBA.

Additionally, if you’re feeling unsure about how well-prepared you are going into your admissions interview or if you’re looking for an honest opinion on how effectively you answer questions during a pending rehearsals, don’t forget to check out our MBA mock interview service which can give helpful feedback as well as helpful tips tailored specifically for your situation. One way or another, we wish you all the best in becoming part of such a great university – whether with us or through self-study and preparation!

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Dr. Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Dr. Barr spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Dr. Barr has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

Subscribe to The Admit Lab’s YouTube channel for tips and tricks on navigating the grad school application process and weekly live Q&A sessions!

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