>If you’re one of the lucky ones and you received an invitation to interview recently, great!
Now you have to get ready.
Preparing for a bschool interview is not as arduous a task as preparing for a case interview with an i-bank. Typically, bschool interviews are formal but friendly. Your interviewer is not generally trying to trick you; it’s unlikely you’ll get the “How many jellybeans can you fit into a VW bus?” type of question.
Interviewing at Harvard is unlike most interviews, in that it will likely be conducted by a member of the admissions committee (or Admissions Board as they call themselves, right?) — it could even be Dee Leopold herself. Your interviewer will have read your entire application. This is rare. Only NYU (and MIT, correct?) have interviews done this way.
Most other schools will do a “blind” interview, meaning it’s conducted by a new person who’s not familiar with your profile, who will only have your resume. And even if you sent that resume along a week prior to the interview, it’s unlikely that they will have even glanced at it before settling down for their chat with you.
In all cases, you need to prepare for this experience. How you perform at the interview — and most definitely how confident, or conversely, how nervous, you feel — is directly correlated to how much time you spend practicing.
When we say “practicing” we mean practicing. You need to have a buddy walk through the standard interview questions with you. Most all schools will ask the basics like “Why do you want an MBA?” and “Why do you want to come to this school?” — essentially, the same type of stuff that all schools ask in the essays. You can expect this line of questioning most anywhere you go. (Not at HBS – they already know that stuff, since they’ve read your essays – they will drill deeper on almost the very first question they serve up.)
You’ll also get what some call “behavioral questions” — “Tell me about a time when you had an interpersonal conflict at work.” These are not hypotheticals; they want to know a real instance where XYZ happened.
So you need to map out some ideas for common questions like these — focusing on where you’ve demonstrated leadership, and teamwork, you know the themes by now right? And you also need stories that highlight your particular brand of awesomeness. Did you trek through the Himalayas? Find a good way to present that, maybe as part of a teamwork story. Are you the first person in your family to go to college? Might be worth mentioning.
For a “blind” interview, then anything you’ve presented in your essays is fair game to include in the interview. And, you can introduce other topics, too. You just want to be consistent. For HBS (and NYU) you need to be prepared to dig deeper. Don’t regurgitate what you’ve already told them on paper. Look for new and exciting stories to regale them with; be prepared with further insights on the storiies you already told them.
And for all schools: PRACTICE. Have a friend go through the questions with you. Practice giving your answers. Out loud. Not just by saying them in your head or reading through some notes. You need to get comfortable with delivering your material in real time.
They can ask you anything in an interview. You need to be able to think on your feet and give them a coherent and hopefully relevant and even possibly interesting or insightful answer, regardless of what they toss at you.
Good luck Brave Supplicants! If you’ve got questions on interviewing, ask away in the comments.