What These Harvard Business School Interview Questions Can Teach You About Planning Your Future
Harvard Business School puts its candidates through a rigorous interview process. That’s part of the reason it has maintained one of the best reputations in the world for business education.
But you don’t have to be going for a MBA to derive value from that rigorous process. In a recent article for Business Insider, contributor Stacy Blackman ran down the three types of questions that candidates are most likely to hear when they are interviewed by the school.
Firstly, there is the ‘why’ of one’s background, which, Blackman notes, means questions like the following:
Why did you choose to major in art history?
What led you to work for your current company?
Why did you want to work in consulting?
In response, Blackman says, you should “try to include some information that illustrates your motives and values.”
“You might highlight how you enjoy working on a team and being part of a winning initiative; you could also connect your short-term goals to a longer-term vision to make a difference in a particular industry,” Blackman continues.
While that may be well and good for business school applicants, what does it mean for high school students and college students with other majors?
It means that you have to start finding reason in the academic decisions that you make. High school and college educations of today are different than they were several years ago. The job market has changed, and it’s much more competitive. Job producers don’t “award” anything anymore. They look for people with a sense of drive and purpose, and being able to explain your decisions as to the “why” will demonstrate that.
Secondly, Blackman says to watch out for situational questions based on your experiences.
As noted in the piece, this could mean one of the following:
Describe a situation where you successfully responded to change.
Describe a mistake you have made within the past three years.
Blackman also notes that you could hear one or two follow-up questions based on your initial response, and these could be something like, “How did your peers react when you initiated that?” and “Did any of them follow your lead?”
“Prepare and have several examples and types of stories ready,” Blackman writes, adding that they should be “both those used in your [application] essay as well as additional options.”
She continued: “Feel free to think outside the box; your passions make you unique, and your achievements in those areas show the interviewer what’s important to you and how you have made an impact on the issues that matter to you most.”
This question is so important, especially to the high school crowd, who may be convinced that the ability to “BS” their way through essay questions will work in the real world. It won’t. People in business can see through it, because they’ve been in your shoes before and likely done the same things for the grade. The economy of today is driven more on results than your knowledge base. How can you prove yourself? These types of questions give you a chance to showcase your best qualities in action and demonstrate leadership. Coming up with a good answer will put you ahead of 90% of the competition.
Finally, Blackman advises that Harvard Business School may ask about how others perceive you.
While not listing any specific question types, she basically sums this up with a “describe what others say about you” scenario, noting that the delivery can vary, but all of these types of questions revolve around that one crux.
“While it’s obvious that you’ll want to avoid bragging in your responses (‘They’d say I’m the smartest person they know’), you will want to consider how to paint a portrait that includes several diverse aspects of your unique personality,” Blackman writes.
She continued: “Choose a few ‘MBA-type’ qualities to describe, such as being driven and goal-oriented, as well as some more fun, informal attributes that help set you apart from other applicants, like being an adventurous rock-climber or deeply involved in volunteer work with a particular nonprofit organization.”
The phrasing of the question is not as important as the concrete examples that you have to distinguish yourself from others. While Blackman recommends “MBA-type” questions to practice on, that should not be taken to exclusively apply to MBA candidates.
If you are the average Jane or Joe looking to set yourself apart in a job interview, then you need to start being mindful of how your actions are likely to be interpreted by other people. Will they see you as a leader, a follower, or a crazy person?
Harvard Business School sets the tone for excellence in business education, and if you want to learn how to properly distinguish yourself from the competition in any field, the question types they have asked in the past are like a master’s class in how to successfully do so. What are some of the most challenging interview questions you’ve heard in either scholarship, school application, or job interview opportunities? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Image via Harvard Business School website]