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留学面经:How To Nail Your Harvard Business School Interview  

2017-01-30 01:47:15|  分类: 留学面经分享 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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留学面经:How To Nail Your Harvard Business School Interview
 

BY: JOHN A. BYRNE ON JANUARY 27, 2017

 

 

This past week was a big one for MBA applicants to Harvard Business School. Chad Losee, Harvard Business School’s new admissions chief, dispatched hundreds of interview invites to round two candidates in the first of two batches. The second group of invites (and dings) will go out Feb. 1.

Losee says that interviews by the school’s admissions staff will be held from Feb. 3 through March 6. In addition to on-campus interviews in Boston, HBS’ admissions team will be interviewing in Dubai, London, Menlo Park, New Delhi, New York, Paris, Shanghai, and Tokyo. “No matter where you interview, a member of the Admissions Board will conduct your interview and the process and evaluation will be the same,” adds Losee. “If you do decide to come to campus to interview, you’ll also have a chance (if you want) to sit in on a class, meet fellow applicants, current students and faculty members.”

IF YOU’RE INVITED TO AN HBS INTERVIEW, HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT

If you get an invite, what can you expect? Poets&Quants‘ again turned to prominent MBA admissions consultant Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com, for some timely advice and counsel for those lucky enough to interview. Kreisberg did well over 100 mock interviews with HBS candidates last year so he also has both the background and the experience to know what to expect, what works and what doesn’t. He also shared with us reports filed back to him from clients who were interviewed during round one.

Sandy, you did more than 100 mock interviews for HBS applicants during this admissions season, what is really new here?

Not much in terms of what really counts. The Golden Rules remain the same.

1. The interview is meant to weed people out, not select people (see story below).

2. The interview is mostly resume based, and focused on your ability to walk through your resume, introduce yourself, and explain key transitions, why you went to School X, why you took Job 1, what you learned there, what your accomplishments were, what you would do differently, why you took Job 2, etc. For each school and job on your resume be prepared to explain what you did, what you learned, what you are proud of, what you would do differently, etc. That is the bulk, and the important bulk of the HBS interview. Although sure, there are millions of variants.

3. Smart people, who can in fact speak English, screw up the HBS interview for two reasons: They talk too much and get lost, and lose track of where they are. Or they try to give exceptional, show-off answers instead of down-to-earth obvious answers.

Can you provide some color from applicants who interviewed in Round 1.

Sure, here are some interview report excerpts written by Round One applicants right after they were interviewed. These are typical and strongly indicate that in terms of HBS interview process and and concerns, nothing much is “new” from what we have been reporting on for the last several years. To wit, they are looking for your ability to explain things you should be able to explain. They are not looking to trip you up, or ‘pressure test you,’ or make you cry or laugh. Here’s the list of questions some of my clients were asked.

Applicant One: IB & PE

1. You have a very traditional background–what do you hope to discover at HBS?
2. What is the stereotype about investment bankers you found to be true? What is one you found to be not true?
3. Who was the best leader at firm one? Why?
4. How is the culture different between IB and PE?
5. Do you need different skills to really stand out? What are they?
6. What was the recruiting process like?
7. How did you find your PE firm?
8. Why that firm?
9. Walk me through a typical day at your PE firm?
10. What other career could you see yourself being interested in, outside of finance?
11. What are two different firms you would like to work for after you graduate from HBS?
13. How did you like college?
14. What would you have changed about your experience?
15. What was your favorite course?
16. If you could talk to the president of your college, and give him advice about how to improve the experience, what would it be?

 

Applicant Two: Tech & Healthcare

1. Did you go to a class? What classes did you go to? What were the cases?
2. Why did you pick your major?
3. Why did you go into tech?
4. How did you go from your internship to your first job?
5. Tell me about the X project (on resume).
6. Did X have any competitors?
7. Did you get any negative feedback during your time at job 1?
8. What does company 2 do?
9. How big is your company? Did it grow or stay steady after you joined?
10. Who are company 2’s competitors?
11. What can you contribute to class discussions?
12. What would you do for your HBS internships?
13. Anything we didn’t cover?

Applicant Three: Finance & Non-Profit

1. The observer hasn’t read your application – Can you tell her about yourself?
2. Let’s start from the top current role) – How do you manage working in such a beauracractic organization?
3. What are the pluses and minuses of working there?
4. What do you like most? Least?
5. Who is the best leader you ever worked for?
6. Who is the worst? Why?
7. If you had to work for [the worst] again, what would you do differently in terms of managing him?
8. Seems like you are working in so many different countries and regions and projects – How do you manage that?
9. You came your [to present job] from investment banking? How come?
10. Tell me about a deal at the investment banking firm you worked at? What role did you play?
11. What advice would you give to someone leaving investment banking to join an NGO?
12. OK, so we only have time for one more question: what big problem do you want to solve?

Applicant Four: Energy

1. Country you are currently living/working in – What’s it like, how did you end up there?
2. Tell me about your current company. What advice would you give a person with your background who is just starting? What advice would you give to your CEO if he was looking for advice about your division?
3. Tell me more about your current project?
4. Specific questions about my current role – responsibilities and about my current manager — Name one thing you wish you had done differently?
5. Walk me through your career progression.
6. A previous role – What did you do well? What could you have done better?
7. Give me your sense of the challenges and strengths of other energy companies (we went thru several)
8. What was your favorite assignment, why?
9. What was favorite course in college?
10. What would you do differently if you could do college over. What about in your first job?
11. What do you think will be most challenging for you at HBS?
12. If you could have lunch with any business leader, who would it be and why?
13. If you could have lunch with any political leader, who would it be and why?
14. What do you do for fun?
15. What is your favorite alternative energy company and why?

 

Applicant Five: Consulting

1. I’ve read your application but my colleague here hasn’t. Could you introduce yourself to her?
2. Why did you choose the consulting firm you work for after college? What other ones did you interview with? What were the differences?
3. What are your strengths and development needs as a consultant?
4. You have worked in several countries on projects. What is the reputation of your firm in those countries?
7. Talk about the difficult situation you mentioned in your essay?
8. How do you forge relationships with clients?
9. What’s your current project about?
10. What are the growth areas for large consulting firms right now, and why, both in terms of industries and geography?
11. You have done lots of projects in X industry. What’s the X landscape like right now?
12. What are stereotypes about consultants that you think are true, not true?
13. A company you admire?
14. What do you think keeps their CEO up at night.

Sandy, that’s going to be really helpful to a lot of candidates. I think those questions also very predictable and in a way reassuring. But is it really fair to say the interview is meant to weed out people?

I talk to lots of people who have been interviewed and then get official feedback from HBS, which is something they offer in various formats for applicants who have been dinged after interview (but not to applicants who have not been interviewed).  By far, the biggest reason given for the ding is an interview screw up.  Here is a typical example, Dee said  that I should try to “interview in more real-time, not try and come across too polished or canned…. Here’s a quote she read me from my interview report,  ‘seemed like he was worried about getting all of his points across in 30 minutes’”.

So what is the take away from that? 

The biggest mistake people make in preparing for the HBS interview is worrying about trick questions. In fact, the Poets&Quants’ story The Most Unpredictable Questions HBS Asks is something of a disservice because those “oddball” questions get people preparing clever answers and searching for more oddball questions.

Hey, I love that story and those questions are real. So which oddball questions are you talking about?

Here are some of them:

What are the two best pieces of advice you have been given, and why?

What do you want to be remembered as?

What is your definition of a leader? How do you fit that definition?

How do you make big decisions?

How would your parents describe you when you were twelve?

What is one thing I’d never have guessed about you, even after reading your application?

What is the one thing you would like me to remember about you?

And now, John, by reprinting them we have put the elephant in the room and people reading this will do just that. Think about oddball questions and clever answers.  That was cruel fun, but my advice to applicants facing interviews is NOT to do that.

 

Those are great questions and great conversations starters at a party. So anyway what should people do? 

They should have comfortable answers to basic questions like those mentioned in the reports above.

Those are not sexy questions but they come up with great frequency and they often come up early, when the interviewer is still judging you. The oddball questions often come up in the second half of the 30-minute interivew and by that time, in the interviewer’s mind, you are either OK or not. Although you can certainly shoot yourself in the foot in the last 15 minutes, you cannot save yourself.

Are there any new questions, new oddballs, based on your experience? 

In light of what I just said, why would you want to know that?

Because those more frequently asked questions are rather boring. Besides, I am a sadist and our readers want to know.

How about these:

What would you say to [President Obama, Hillary Clinton, President of your university or company] if you had 10 minutes?

Recommend a book to Vladimir Putin, and why?

What is your favorite iPhone application?

What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you in public?

What will you regret not doing at HBS?

Introduce yourself to God.

As a lapsed Catholic, that last one could get me in trouble. Anyway, if you made it to this stage, it’s a big deal. The interview is the only thing separating you from a seat in the class, right?

Yes, but it’s like being born. It’s a special passage where awful things can happen. Tremendous damage can occur in a very short period of time. You should worry about it, and you should prepare for it.

Sandy, what’s the most common misperception about these interviews?

Some think this is like an audition for a symphony orchestra where the conductor is choosing one violinist out of ten and you have to be .001 better than nine other people. It’s not that. It’s more like an audition for a marching band. You just have to be able to bang a drum in terms of talent and not appear to be arrogant, inward, unsure of yourself, confused or most importantly, someone they do not want in the band.

At Harvard, that means if they interview ten people, they will reject one with marginal English right out of the box. If you can’t speak English, you’re done. You won’t be able to survive. Then, of the remaining nine English speakers, one to two people might have a meltdown of some kind. They have a bad hair day or a bad tongue day. So the way that smart people blow the Harvard interview is to have a bad half hour.

How else can a person blow an HBS interview?

Well, on occasion, Dee Leopold will give feedback to applicants who are rejected and her most common explanation for a ding is something along the lines of “you sounded scripted . . .you sounded like you were attempting to get all your points across rather than just answering the question in front of you.”  She might be saying the same thing I said about going down topics A, B, C and D instead of just cleanly answering the simple question being posed.

There is also a relatively new part to the interview process which actually began two years ago. It’s the so-called reflection essay in 400 words or less which applicants need to write and submit within 24 hours of the interview. What has that been like?

It’s like a pain but it does not mean much. It’s like doing all the prep and anxiety for a colonoscopy, and then having the colonoscopy, and then having the doctor tell you at the end, “OK, the colonoscopy is over, but instead of being relieved, and returning to your normal bowel habits, we’d like you to drink this pitcher of beer and not pee for 24 hours– yes, that is right, there is one more annoyance here before we are rid of you.”

And Dee Leopold is selling this annoyance as allowing the applicant to “have the last word.” I giggle. Also, I think they misjudged greatly the logistics of that 24-hour rule. A lot of applicants, especially outside the U.S., squeeze in the HBS interview by taking a day or two off from work and travelling to campus for it. So instead of hurrying back to work, they now have to find time to do that essay. Really annoying and silly, quite frankly.

 

Well, that’s what they will be required to do when they are in the real work world. You use the Wifi in the airport or you hop on a plane and get stuff done. In any case, how important do you think this essay will ultimately be in the decision to admit or deny?

They have already downgraded this exercise on Dee’s Director’s Blog last year as not really being an essay but more of an email. They don’t want it overwrought. They want it to be informal. Great, so now spend hours doing that. The prompt is sort of, “Is there anything else you’d like to say to help us get to know you?”

I have read many, many of those reflection essays, and I can barely think of one instance where it changed an outcome. If you messed up the interview, saying that in the essay and adding that it won’t happen again will not help. It’s dead men writing emails. If you have five reasons why you want to be an investment banker and you only mentioned two in the interview, well, listing the other three in the reflective email won’t help, either. As with so much about this process, the added air time can probably hurt you more than help you. Some reflective essays confirm interview takeaways, for example, ‘This kid is controlled, calculated and unpleasant.” That is actually a meme for dinging kids from Bain. Well, the bad Bain. I got lots of hommies there, too, but it applies to other kids as well.

Most people just say something like,  “Thanks, it was great talking to you about 1, 2 and 3, which are important to me, I also do A and B which did not come up, but are also important to me, and I am still really gung-ho about coming to HBS.”

Yes, and they stay up for 24 hours composing that little ditty. My guess is, not one of these “reflections” is going to make a difference, and they will barely be read. It does answer a common question, however, should you send a post-interview thank-you note? Well, the answer to that was always no, but now it is easier. You can turn some part of this reflection into a nominal thank-you note.

And what does a bad half hour look like?

The most common way that smart people blow a Harvard interview is to get lost. Talking too much. Digressing. Getting lost in the weeds. That is the most common mistake. It outweighs every other mistake. You’re asked a simple question like, ‘Why did you go to Cornell for your undergraduate degree?’ And you begin with a history of Cornell and tell the admissions person all about your family. You’re eight minutes into it and you haven’t yet answered the question. It is one of those moments where you hear yourself speaking and you cannot believe you are saying this. You just generally come off as inarticulate and struggling.

In terms of intellectual preparation, you just have to make sure you don’t get lost. Go through your resume and for every job and transition in your life be prepared to crisply explain why you did it, and your stories and explain why you did it, what it was like, what you learned, and how you would do it differently. Be able to talk about every job in 40 seconds. Don’t feel the need for completeness. If they are interested, they will ask a follow-up question.

So Harvard and other schools are looking for succinct and clear answers, not meandering detours for answers. Makes sense to me.

The answers need to be specific, crisp, and articulate. They want to see you draw a straight line from one end of the canvas to another. The way you mess up a question is to draw an squiggly line across the canvas. You need pop-up answers. Why I took this job? What my best accomplishment on this job was? What the culture of the firm was and why I took my next job and how I would improve the job looking backwards. The correct answer to the Cornell question is, ‘I lived in New York and wanted to get away from home yet not leave the East Coast. I was interested in liberal arts and not certain at the time what my major goals were. My high school guidance counselor and friends who went there suggested I look at Cornell. On my campus visit, I was excited by the enthusiasm of the students, and I immediately felt that it was a place where I could feel at home. Looking through the course catalog, I got really excited.’

The quickest way to get rejected is to answer with a ‘duh’ because you’re surprised at how simple the question is. A lot of people are thrown by this question. Kids who went to Harvard College are asked why they chose Harvard and often have to watch themselves from saying, ‘duh!’

There’s got to be more to it than that. I imagine that Harvard and other schools are looking for certain answers.

Aside from getting lost, the second way smart people flunk an interview is by being a super jerk. Super jerks come in all types: there is the Bain/McKinsey super jerk, the Goldman Sachs super jerk, and the Teach for America and World Bank super jerk, and most recently, the Google super jerk. Almost any Bain Capital or TPG guy dinged by HBS has flunked the interview on the jerk meter.

About 20% or more of Harvard admissions committee members dislike  investment bankers and private equity people. They are just looking for you to say something that is not politically correct. If you tell Harvard you are interested in opportunistic investments in distressed debts because you can make a killing, or even any nice version of that, you have just committed suicide. Instead, they want to hear you say you are interested in investing in companies that can really make a difference. ‘My greatest transaction was in supporting an orphan drug company that created a drug to help people with a rare type of diabetes.’ Or that you found a creative way to help finance a social enterprise in rural India to provide clean drinking water to people.’

 

It’s hard to believe they’ll fall for that, but I get the double bottom line emphasis, given all the accusations about greed. How should an applicant dress for the interview?

There are two mistakes you can make here. One of them is making a statement with what you wear. If you are a banker, don’t show up looking like Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street. You shouldn’t be on campus wearing a white collar on a blue shirt or a pair of gold cufflinks. Definitely no suspenders. The shoes should not scream ‘these are $1,000 shoes!’ The other mistake is more rare. Some techies often show up from work wearing chinos. You don’t need to wear a suit; you can wear a blazer, but dress in a way that shows you are taking this event seriously. For women, you should be a cross between Hilary Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg. Don’t make a statement in terms of accessories. Go light on the bling.

Are there different rules for an interview at Stanford where it’s generally more laidback?

You may be able to wear jeans to a Stanford interview if it’s pre-arranged in the back and forth with the alum who will interview you. Because alumni generally do the interviews, they sometimes set it up at Starbucks on a Saturday. You can say, ‘Is this Saturday dress or business casual?’ If the guy is nice, he’ll say, ‘Well, I’ll be wearing jeans.’

How does an applicant prep for one of these interviews?

You should know what the standard questions are. About 90% of the questions are, ‘Take me through every line of your resume.’ They say, ‘Why did you go there?’ They are obsessed with transitions. ‘What did you accomplish? How did you accomplish it? How would you do it differently?’

You also should be prepared to discuss how the economic downturn has affected you and your industry.

And then, there are frequent flyer questions like, ‘What did you think of the application? Have you attended an HBS class?’ That is an important question. Your answer should be truthful. If you haven’t, you should say so but add that you have seen a video of a class on the Harvard website. And then you should be able to do a song and dance on what you thought of a class. The big mistake is to say, ‘I went to UVA (University of Virginia) and I’ve had case study classes so it’s not going to be a problem for me.’ Harvard is looking for case method virgins. They want you not to have been to the big city. They want you to say, ‘Golly, holy smokes, the class was a mind blow. I was really impressed with the energy and with how the case study helped students bring to bear their different experiences and backgrounds in the class discussion.’ The wise guy UVA answer by inference says, ‘I have done this before and it won’t be a problem for me and I can give a better answer than the guy next to me when the time comes.’ That answer becomes the first drop of poison in the cup. If you keep answering that way, you are toast.

Another mistake people make is they think they have to deliver their whole package. They already have your package. Some people come out and say, ‘We never talked about my plans for health care reform.’ They don’t care. A large part of a Harvard interview, like 40%, can be your college experiences and internships and some jive about clubs you will join at HBS.

What’s your best advice on the famous closing question of many interviews, “Do you have any questions for me?”

Basically, the interview is over, your grade has already been faxed in. They are just trying to get you out the door. But you can screw this up at the last minute. You can pick an argument. You can say, ‘Do you really think you can teach finance through the case method?’ That is an awful question to ask because you are calling their baby ugly. They believe you can learn anything through the case method. So you don’t want to get into a debate over it. A better answer is real light. If you’re from another part of the country, you might say, ‘I’ve never experienced a New England winter. Have you got any tips?’ One of the best questions would be, ‘How hard would it be for me to organize a forum around one of my passionate interests?’ They’d love that one. If the chemistry was right between you and the interviewer, you might even ask if they could recommend an Indian restaurant in Harvard Square.

What are the basic differences between interviews at Harvard vs. Stanford, or Wharton?

Alumni do up to 90% of the interviews at Stanford and it’s well known that the interview is more of a marketing device to get alumni involved. You have to do something really dramatic to commit suicide in a Stanford interview. Basically, it does not count. The Wharton interview is now this group grope and it is easier to come off the rails, especially if the chemistry in your group is a bit toxic. But most people are hip to that. My guess is, the jerks come out in the wash at HBS and Wharton, so the process works in each case, although I prefer HBS because it is less likely to result in a false negative.

Sandy, what’s the best kind of interviewer an applicant can have?

If you can help it, you’ll always be better off with an interviewer with a lot of experience because they are less likely to make oddball judgments. You want a normative interviewer, someone who knows the standards and who has been through it a million times. Alumni often have a chip on their shoulders. They may have issues with the school that can get projected in the interview. They may want to use you to deliver a message to the school, or they could have a prejudice against people who are in Teach For America or other non-profits. That happens a lot.  And some alumni interviews can go on for more than an hour.

My guess is, not many alums who are working 24 hours a day at their start-up or doing big deals volunteer for doing interviews, so you often get the less traditional, less gung-ho, more social science types, who over invest in the process. Remember, at Stanford the interview basically does not count. So while the interview is much more unpredictable, well, thank God it almost never moves the needle.

You’re obviously doing a good number of mock interviews right now. What most bothers you about the whole process?

What upsets me is people who are good people but who have a bad hair day. The call I fear is from the person crying on Amtrak. They had their interview at HBS. They are on their way home on the train to New York, and they call in tears because they think they have blown their interview. If you think you’ve blown your interview at Harvard, you probably have blown it. Those are real sad calls, especially if you like the person, and they rehearse how they lost a step, then another and then tripped. If you could have prevented the first lost step, they would be in at Harvard. That happens, man, trust me. That happens. Years of work and hours of preparation and poof, it’s gone, because they could not explain why they went to Cornell for college in 30 concise seconds.

 

 

以上内容摘自:

http://poetsandquants.com/2017/01/27/nail-harvard-business-school-interview/ 

 

 

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