Harvard's unofficial guide to the MBA interview

October 27, 2011: 2:59 PM ET

As business schools begin to invite candidates for admissions interviews, HBS's newspaper has published its unofficial guide to the process. What questions should you expect?

By John A. Byrne, contributor


Harvard Business School

(Poets&Quants) -- When Jehan deFonseka did his Harvard Business School admissions interview two years ago, there was one question that surprised him.

"What's the last book you've read?" an admissions staffer asked him during his session at Dillon House, where Harvard's admissions office is located.

Luckily for deFonseka, now a 26-year-old, second-year student at Harvard, he had a ready answer, and a good one. He had just completed reading a substantive book and one that reflected his career interests and direction -- Sustainability Without the Hot Air.

Now editor-in-chief of The Harbus, HBS' weekly newspaper, he's put that question and others to good use in the newly updated Fall 2011 Unofficial Harvard Business School Interview Guide, which was published yesterday as Harvard has begun to invite hundreds of round-one applicants to yet another cycle of stressful interviews.

The new guide contains about 50 questions, and as many as 20 of them are new this year, culled from actual HBS interviews with current students and recent grads. Each question includes an analysis of what exactly Harvard is looking for and how an applicant might best answer the query. The commentary comes from a group of seven current students who, perhaps obviously, overcame the interview hurdle in previous rounds. Another 50 to 70 MBA candidates responded to a Harbus survey, providing questions they were asked in their session.

"These are well-practiced interviews," says deFonseka. "They can tell when someone is faking it. At HBS, applicants are not interviewing with students. You are interviewing with pretty seasoned professionals." More

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