Earlier this admissions season, we posted about the importance of transparency in MBA admissions – especially with today’s ‘always on, always chatting/texting/posting’ generation. In short, our point in the piece we authored was that business schools can earn a tremendous amount of goodwill with applicants by being frank and by regularly communicating as candidates enter each phase of the admissions process. As an example of transparency in action, we pointed to an email that Harvard Business School sent to all of its MBA applicants in September.
Several months later, we’re pleased to report that our article on transparency has been read hundreds of times by admissions professionals across the globe. We’re also pleased to report that Harvard’s admissions director, Dee Leopold, is back with another email we would like to share – this time it’s an email that was sent to HBS applicants who were invited to interview. While we’re reluctant to always point to the same school when illustrating instances of transparency, we felt that this example was too good to pass up.
As you will see from the email below, the letter accomplishes several key tasks:
1) It’s meaty. This doesn’t feel like a standard mail merge with purely logistical information.
2) It’s instructive. The letter gives nervous applicants some valuable information about the interview process as well as some good advice on how to prepare.
3) It’s humble. The tone is incredibly down to earth and never gives the reader the feeling that Harvard Business School takes its applicants for granted
4) It’s anticipatory. This might be one of the most ‘millenial-friendly’ aspects of the letter. By anticipatory, we mean that the letter not only offers a lot of information and advice about the stage of the application process that the candidate has entered – it goes beyond that to offer information and advice about the next stage (in HBS’s case it’s the post-interview reflection – a writing assignment). The letter then steps back from the various steps involved and offers a glimpse into the broader admissions process while pointing out how the interview fits into the bigger picture.
Read the letter below to see all of this for yourself. As always, feel free to reach out to Southwark to learn more about our work with schools in this domain.
Harvard Business School Email to R2 Applicants Interviewing Off Campus
We look forward to meeting you at your upcoming off-campus interview. I want to take a moment and share some thoughts with you.
First, thank you for being interested in Harvard Business School and engaged in this process. It means a lot to us.
Next, here’s what you can expect from your interview. Your interviewer will be a member of the Admissions Board and will be very experienced in meeting with candidates. He/she will have read your application thoroughly. There is no formula for how an interview will be conducted or list of standard questions. Your written application will be a starting point but the conversation may not stay there very long. Your interviewer is trying to understand you and assess your ability to thrive in our case method classroom. All interviews will last thirty minutes – we try to ensure that all candidates receive an equal amount of attention. We find that the thirty minutes goes by very quickly – therefore we find it difficult to allocate time in the interview for you to ask questions. If you do have questions after your interview, you can always reach me at 617.495.6220. I don’t want your questions to go unanswered.
Another thing – the Post-Interview Reflection. This is not (not! not!) another essay or something that should cause you anxiety. Don’t start multi-tasking in the interview by making a mental list of what you want to write about. My advice is to “be present” in the interview – I think you will enjoy it.
Ok, another thing… if you’re able to attend the receptions we’re doing, please do so. Learning more about HBS and meeting our staff and alumni is valuable – and fun.
Interviews are not auditions for Harvard Business School. By this I mean that this one step in our evaluation/selection process does not supersede all other elements of your application. After your interview, the interviewer will write a report for your file and the entire application will be reviewed again. The way our model works is that slightly more than half of interviewed candidates will be offered admission.
Here’s some advice:
Relax. We’ll be nervous too but we will be working hard to make sure that you are comfortable and, at the end of thirty minutes, you feel understood. That is what matters.
You really can’t prepare, although I know you will try! Try not to spend your time memorizing your written application or preparing a script for anticipated questions. Prior to your interview, listen to your music, or take a walk. These suggestions may sound corny, but they are exactly the things I would tell you if we were meeting in person.
Also, because we will not have the opportunity to meet you on the HBS campus for your interview, Professor Rawi Abdelal, Chair of the First-Year Required Curriculum, wanted a way to share his view on the distinctive HBS learning environment.
Let me close the way I began – thank you so much for applying to Harvard Business School. Our desire to meet you for an interview means that you are a strong applicant. I know how expensive and exhausting the application process can be. I hope that the opportunity to reflect and express yourself, both in writing and in the interview, will be seen as a valuable experience. I wish you well.
Managing Director, MBA Admissions & Financial Aid
Harvard Business School