Every year nearly 2000 people go through a 30 minute rigorous interview for admission to the MBA program at the prestigious Harvard Business School. While technology helps the officials to interview candidates at off campus locations, on campus interviews are conducted in the project rooms on the second floor of Spangler Hall. The questions are usually in a rapid fire mode and the interviewer in a nonchalant mood for his primary concern is to extract answers to maximum number of questions in these 30 minutes. The questions range from the mundane Why do you want to do an MBA? Why Harvard? And What are your strengths and weaknesses to the usual ones asking a candidate to talk about their undergraduate experience and leadership abilities till the exciting and the unpredictable ones come. These questions come as a surprise designed with the objective of narrowing down 2000 interviewees to about 1100 candidates for a total of 941 seats for the 2015 session. Let us look at the 10 most unexpected questions along with tips for answering the same. The questions have been chosen from the 96 questions identified by The Harbus, MBA student newspaper. Remember, irrespective of the nature of question your ability to communicate and articulate your ideas are a priority.
Explain to me something you’re working on as if I were an eight-year-old?
Ability to communicate complex information to a layman using simple language is an important skill and this question is directed towards the same. You will discuss the concept just as you would discuss something with your great grandmother. Take care not to breathe down the interviewer’s neck. Make it interesting.
Describe something that you should start doing, do more of, and do less of?
It’s time for being self aware and perform self evaluation. The idea is to identify a person who is reflective and can clearly identify what drives him or her.
What’s the one thing you’ll never be as good at as others?
A seemingly simple but a tricky question. Take care not sound unaware about self by saying ‘nothing’. Be honest and do not try to cook stories. Just say what you are lacking in.
What are the two best pieces of advice you have been given, and why?
Wondering what is the aim behind this question? Once again, something very simple to understand the influences on your personality and the reasons behind the same. Pick instances from two different aspects of your life – business, academic, personal or extracurricular. Talk about growth and augmentation, how you have incorporated it in your life and what has the impact been.
What do you want to be remembered as?
The question is an effort to understand your larger goals in life and how well you communicate the same. Remember to be honest and genuine. Let your passion towards your larger goal be reflected.
What is your definition of a leader? How do you fit that definition?
Start with a clear idea in your mind – If you perceive yourself as a leader, it is only then that others will. The question has a simple aim to understand how you perceive leadership. This would require articulating important dimensions of leadership and drawing a connection between these and your personal traits.
How do you make big decisions?
Take a deep breath. The idea behind this question is to understand your thinking and decision making process. Incorporate an example, a story to showcase a logical thought process. Do not hesitate to mention that you use a paper and pen, a spreadsheet or consult a mentor. Do not be afraid to talk about gut, intuition, instinct and heart.
How would your parents describe you when you were twelve?
This question should bring a smile on your face. Remember no one expects you to be perfect so ‘no facades’. Use this question as an opportunity to reflect self awareness. You could start by talking about a weakness and then moving on to discuss how you worked to improve on it.
What is one thing I’d never have guessed about you, even after reading your application?
This is an opportunity to talk well beyond what you have mentioned in your application. Say something that makes you sound as valuable and interesting to have at the school. You could talk about your interests, a talent or an accomplishment. Talk about things beyond your application.
What is the one thing you would like me to remember about you?
The question can come in many forms. This is an opportunity to sum up yourself and why you should be at the school. Your confidence and excitement should clearly reflect while answering this.
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