The HBS Post-Interview Reflection is a distinctive element of the Harvard MBA evaluation process, and you’ll have just 24 hours to submit it the Admissions Committee after your interview.
At first blush, this might feel like a timed test version of the HBS essay (‘what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy?’). Instead, think of it as a final opportunity to set yourself apart as the thoughtful, incisive human that you are.
As I wrote earlier this week in my post, Ace the HBS Interview: An Insider’s Advice, I can affirm that no one gets an invitation to interview that doesn’t have a really solid chance of being admitted. Yet the reality at ultra-competitive HBS is that you can have a flawless interview and still not land a place in its incoming class. That’s why leveraging its “Post-Interview Reflection” to your advantage is imperative.
The interview is your opportunity to let your personality and charisma shine through – traits which are difficult if not impossible to correctly discern from an application form or essay. It is also the opportunity for the committee to see how you handle pressure, and being put on the spot, which is something that will happen in case discussions in the HBS classroom. But your work isn’t over when you walk out the door.
Here’s the upshot: HBS, in effect, is giving you the chance to have the last word before making a final decision. This is a rare gift and you’ll want to set yourself up for success to make the most of it.
First, do not approach this as another formal essay, which is the first official caution noted on the HBS website about the Post-Interview Reflection. Don’t even think about writing it until you’ve distanced yourself from the interview experience by at least a few hours. For one, it’s positively essential that your response not be pre-prepared (your savvy admissions committee members can usually sniff this out immediately, which will be a red flag.) The purpose of this exercise is to see how candidates think on their feet. Most of all, the interview will go so quickly, you may be surprised how much ground you won’t cover that you would have expected to discuss.
You’ll want to craft your reflection within the context of the actual conversation. Demonstrating your depth of insight, and ability to cross-correlate, is vital. Consider carefully: What else did you want to say? What would you like to develop, or correct? Keep in mind that HBS is looking for authenticity and sincere introspection.
Think of this exercise as a post-meeting memo thanking key participants for their input and reiterating the key selling points you want them to remember.
Top Tips for Writing Your Post-Interview Reflection
1. Take notes about your conversation.
It’s best to find a quiet place to take notes immediately following the interview. Consider:
- What your interviewer asked you
- What you said
- What you didn’t get to say but wished you had
- Answers you gave you are unhappy with
- Did you hit all your key selling points?
2. Next, do some further introspection.
These steps you can do a little later as you will likely need a mental break. Think of:
- The key selling points that you may not have fully covered or could expand on more
- Two key selling points that will be important factors in your admission
- What makes you unique and how you can apply that uniqueness to benefit HBS
3. Craft your reflection, keeping your thoughts to roughly three-quarters to one page in length.
A potential flow might look like this:
First paragraph: Thank the interviewer(s) and recap, at a high level, what you enjoyed about your dialogue. (You need to show you did not write this reflection before the interview and mentioning specific interview talking points will help establish that.)
Second paragraph: Go deeper on topics delved into during the interview, taking the opportunity to add texture and dimension to what was discussed. This is an important way of showing them the depth of intellectual curiosity you have. (This is also your opportunity to course-correct if you felt you could’ve taken an answer in a better direction.)
Closing paragraph: Pull back to offer a 30,000-foot reflection on what the entire process has meant to you, sharing any deep insights you’ve had as a result, and what lies ahead for you. (Remember to keep the memo positive and concise.)
As your interviewers reflect on their experience with you during the brief (believe me, it goes by quickly) 30-minutes you have together, your Post-Interview Reflection will leave the interviewer (or interviewers) with a core impression of who you are. Delivering one that’s both thoughtful and self-aware can tip the balance in your favor at decision-time.
Looking for HBS interview prep?
Our Fortuna Admissions team also offers dedicated HBS Interview Prep sessions. In our HBS-specific prep package, you’ll learn the key differentiators that make the HBS interview distinctive, what its Admissions Committee is looking for, and how to make the best possible impression with your limited time. We’ll put you through the paces with a mock interview, facilitate a post-interview debrief and brainstorm ideas with you for the written reflection.
Updated Sept. 22, 2021.
Fortuna Admissions Expert Coach Karla Cohen was Associate Director of Doctoral Programs at HBS and served on the MBA interview board for the Harvard MBA program. Fortuna Admissions is composed of former admissions directors and business school insiders from 18 of the top 20 business schools. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at HBS and other top MBA programs, sign up for a free consultation.