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by Vault Education Editors | February 23, 2011


You will be interviewing at Harvard Business School. Remember that. Harvard. Privilege. Glory. The crème de la crème. Not just another Crimson brick in the wall. Yes, that Harvard Business School. So, before you sit down for your MBA interview, make sure to heed some guidelines, dispensed by current HBS students themselves.

The HBS paper of record, The Harbus, published the 2011 Unofficial Harvard Business School Interview Guide, a 40-page offering of insider perspective into the HBS interview process. It includes grooming and style advice, rules of general comportment, not to mention an actual, and recent, interview questions complete with response advice and analysis.

Let's begin. First, to fashion and style becoming for a Harvard MBA—not matters of either comfort or personal preference. Ladies, the Harbus editors say, should keep the ladies covered; when it comes to cleavage, "just don't do it." But should any avail itself between widely spaced shirt buttons, there are two ways out: "buy a safety pin or wear a camisole." Now, as for the hemline, the proper placement lies at the upper region of the knee, keeping the thighs out of sight ("anything longer than the bottom of your knee looks matronly"). For matters below the hemline, consult a razor, suggest the editors.

Men, it's easier: Don't be boys. No oversized suits. Remember: "Baggy = sloppy;" sack of potatoes, not a flattering look. In matters of shirt selection, proceed to Brooks Brothers. While there, select an appropriate tie which creates an accent without employing "cartoons, golf balls, or impressionist paintings."

On the matter of hygiene, a simple rule: Take a shower, but don't appear as if you just took a shower. Unruly strands of hair should be tamed, pulled back or knotted atop your dome. Keep the split ends in check. The rules of proper hair removal and grooming apply to all parts of the body.

The above might be some form of silly seriousness or unironic irony, or, perhaps, just a modest attempt at humor. What's more likely is that it's a kind of padding or filler ("…And now what you’ve all been waiting for") for being able to charge 35 bucks for the real meat of the document: "real questions from real interviews of real HBS students, along with real analysis from…you guessed it…real HBS students."

The Harbus has posted a small portion of the questions and analysis, which I'll post below. Take a look and judge yourself whether you think the advice is worth the cost. As the editors write, "It doesn't take a Harvard MBA to recognize how great a deal this is!"

From the guide's sneak preview:

Walk me though your resume.

Make your resume tell a story rather than merely relate a series of unconnected events. Focus on upward progression. If there’s a gap in your resume – perhaps from a period of unemployment –don’t shy away from that but also don’t dwell on it. Just mention it and move on. Now more than ever, the Admissions team will understand – even expect – brief periods of unemployment. Also be sure to cap your time. Keep your “walk” to 5 minutes, and don’t spend all your time in one area versus another. For example, don’t dwell on your college experience to the detriment of your actual relevant work experience.

Forget that I read your application, and tell me about yourself.

You should have a prepared story that you rehearse over and over throughout the coming weeks.You know you’re going to get some kind of intro question that’s specific to you and specific to your story, so practice it like an elevator pitch. If you’ve got one minute, what are you going to tell people about yourself?

How did you decide to attend your undergraduate college?

Business school is a situation in which you’re constantly making big decisions, and you need to be able to convey what your assumptions were and what your thought process was in three bullet points. Likewise, that’s how you should attack any question asking why you made a big decision.Say this is what I was looking for in my undergraduate college, and this is what my college of choice offered. Be rational, be honest and be professional.

How would your friends (or boss, or network, etc.) describe you, in three words?

First off, you can certainly be more eloquent than others would be if tasked with describing you! This is your chance to show how you want to be portrayed. Use this question as an opportunity to showcase your strengths, especially those you feel may not have come across in your application. Though relatively exhaustive, the HBS application is by no means a complete representation of anyone. That’s why you’re interviewing in the first place!

[Poets & Quants]

[The Harbus]


Related: Recruiters Have Grooming Tips for Columbia MBA First Years: Brush Your Teeth!


Filed Under: Education|Grad School