How to Ace Your HBS MBA Interview

Interviewing for the deferred program at Harvard Business School? Ace your interview with these helpful tips and tricks, including sample questions from actual interviews—only on Leland.

Posted January 10, 2024

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Harvard Business School is one of the most competitive and sought-after MBA programs out there. If you’re lucky enough to land an interview, you’re in rarified air: only 20% of applicants make it to where you are!

To help you ace this MBA interview, here are some tips, insights, and practice questions, compiled from our own in-depth research, and from our Leland coaches, many of whom have successfully navigated the HBSVinterview themselves. Leland is here to provide you with the expertise and opportunity you need to succeed as an MBA applicant, and beyond.

The Most Common Interview Questions of the Top 10 MBA Programs

Every MBA program looks for different qualities and characteristics when interviewing applicants. To help you prepare for each individual interview, we've compiled all the most frequently asked questions for the top business schools. Drop your email below and we'll send it straight to your inbox.

Before we start, some quick facts:

  • Interviewer: Trained MBA admissions staff member
  • Length: 30 minutes
  • Location: Virtual (when things are back to normal, you’ll be able to choose in-person)
  • Context: Not blind (your interviewer will have read through your full application)

Interview Tips

1. Be Yourself

This sounds obvious, but it’s probably the most important piece of advice you’ll hear. MBA admissions committees are trying to confirm that the person they’re speaking with is the same person whose application materials they’ve poured over, so make sure you’re not misrepresenting yourself. More importantly, though, the admissions committee wants to know who you are as a human being. If you’ve gotten to the interview phase, it’s a signal that Harvard Business School thinks you have the intelligence and acumen to thrive in their MBA program. The interview is all about determining whether or not you’re a fit, character-wise, so be yourself, and let your personality shine through!

2. Know Your Story, and Be Able to Explain It

All interviews will be conducted by a member of the AdCom, who will have reviewed your resume and MBA application materials beforehand. They’ll want to know about the professional choices you’ve made, so make sure you know all your own facts and figures, but they’ll also want to know why you made these choices. If the AdCom’s line of questioning could be boiled down to a single word, it would be that: Why? Come prepared to talk about your professional roles and the projects you worked on, and why you chose those roles and projects.

3. Tell Them “Why HBS”

The next thing AdCom wants to know is how HBS fits into your career plan. They’re looking for candidates who have seriously envisioned themselves at HBS, understand the curriculum and experience of attending, and can concisely articulate why an MBA from Harvard will put them on the path to success. To nail this part, do your research ahead of time, so you can speak about Harvard’s classes, professors, and extracurriculars, and ensure that you can explain how those fit into your pre and post-MBA journey. (It’s helpful to set up a call with HBS alumni in advance of your interview, to get an even more in-depth view of the school.)

4. Know Your Industry

To have a successful interview, you’ll need to come prepared to speak intelligently about your chosen path or industry, be it healthcare, tech, entrepreneurship, or anything else. Know your career vision front and back, and be able to explain ways in which the healthcare industry might change, what exciting new opportunities are popping up in the tech sector, and the challenges you might face as a startup founder. Show the AdCom that you have well-considered opinions and that you’re able to defend them.

5. Be Confident, Yet Humble

State your impressive accomplishments and stand up for your opinions, but of course, with a healthy dose of humility. Don’t exaggerate your experiences, be candid and direct, and you’ll do great. Say “thank you” after the interview, express gratitude for the opportunity to simply be there, and reiterate your interest in HBS. The AdCom wants to admit people who actually want to be there.

6. Prepare for Video

Set yourself up for success in your video interview. Make sure you’re in a clean, well-lit room with a strong internet connection. If you can place your desk in front of a plain, white wall, even better. Have any bullets or notes you’d like to refer to on-screen next to your Zoom app, in case you forget something. But, maintain eye contact with your interviewer and keep things conversational, or you’ll come across as robotic and over-rehearsed. For more tips, check out our full article on How to Nail Your Virtual MBA Interview.

7. Own the Post-Interview Reflection

After your MBA interview, you’ll be invited to share a post-interview reflection, a unique part of Harvard Business School’s application process. The reflection is due 24 hours after your interview and is designed to gauge how self-aware you are, and how well you respond on your feet. Don’t bring any prepared statements: that’s a big no-no. Instead, think about what you didn’t say in the interview that you wanted to touch on, what you might have done differently, and how you felt about the process. The best responses are authentic and sincere. Start off by thanking your interviewer, and offering a high-level reflection on how things went. Then touch on a few specific points of conversation, before sharing your overall reflection on the interview, and anything you learned during the process.

MBA Interview Prep Questions

Here are a few MBA interview questions pulled directly from HBS interviews:

  • Why did you decide to go to X college? Why did you decide to study X in that college?
  • Why did you choose to work at your current company?
  • What are your long-term goals?
  • Give me an example of when you successfully responded to change.
  • Why are you applying to Harvard?
  • What is your greatest accomplishment?
  • What is your style for teaching peers?
  • Give me an example of a time when you failed.
  • How would your closest friends describe you? Why?
  • What do you think of the HBS admissions process?

Now you’re ready to tackle the HBS interview.

Where Can I Start?

One last note: everything we’ve shared here will give you a great start, but nothing can replace old-fashioned practice—and practicing with someone who’s been through the process is the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success. We have dozens of coaches on Leland with HBS 2+2 experience, and they’re ready to help you prepare.

Below are some of our top HBS interview coaches who can conduct mock interviews, help you craft the right answers, and provide personalized guidance. Browse all of our world-class MBA admissions coaches here.

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