How to pass your Harvard Business School MBA admissions interview


You have been invited

to interview with HBS. 


Now what? 


First, please watch these short videos, where I explain how I help clients pass HBS interviews 










I asked one of my HBS admitted clients a slightly modified list of the questions he answered at his actual Harvard interview. Here are the answers that got him admitted.
In this first of three sections, he discusses his motivations for MBA and HBS.
Please note - HBS adcoms do not usually start interviews by saying, "walk me through your resume." Why? They have already read your entire application. Still, in the case of this mock interview, we decided to start that way to give viewers a general introduction to the applicant and set the context for follow-up questions and answers.
In the second of three sections, he discusses his perspectives on Japanese trading companies, his goals, his personal weakness, and his potential contributions to the HBS community. Please watch.

In this third and final section of our mock HBS interview, my client answers questions related to his plans at his company, his academic skills, and his test scores. HBS adcoms can sometimes try to make applicants defensive during interviews.

I think my client did a decent job of answering the questions without taking them personally. Finally, he answers the famous "anything else?" or "surprise me" question that often comes at the end of an HBS interview.   

We hope you find these videos useful. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel for the latest updates. 





  • I provide school-specific training for HBS interviews

  • I am receiving many inquiries from new clients who want help preparing for an HBS interview

    • First, l need to take care of my comprehensive clients

    • If time allows, I would be happy to prepare a few interview-only clients, as well

  • Please follow the six sign-up steps below if you would like to secure my time








  • Please complete my intake form

  • Let me know when you plan to interview, and when you want to practice with me

  • I will confirm if I have the capacity to help you








  • One HBS mock interview training session lasts 50 minutes

    • I ask customized questions for the first 30 minutes

      • Why 30 minutes?

        • Because that is how long your real HBS interview will last

  • We spend the last 20 minutes reviewing your answers

  • I can help you brainstorm more effective ways to answer the questions I asked

  • We can also discuss other ways that HBS admissions board members might ask you to discuss the same information (different questions that solicit the same core contents that I wanted you to discuss during our 30-minute mock interview)

  • Finally, if time permits, we can discuss other types of questions that might be of concern to you



How many sessions do you need?

  • Most of my successful clients practice HBS interviews with me for at least 3 hours (three fifty-minute sessions)

  • Some need as little as one fifty-minute mock interview session, which is my minimum charge

  • Others meet me five or even ten times 

  • Interviewing is physical

  • Just like sports, you improve with practice 





  • If I agree to help you, I will provide market rates and payment details

  • Once payment clears, we can schedule our first session 







  • Once payment clears, please email me three options for days and time you want to meet

    • I am based in Tokyo until the end of March 2015, so please convert meeting times to JST (Tokyo time)

    • I am usually at my office in Shibuya on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

    • If you are based outside Japan, I can chat with you via Skype most morning after 11am JST


  • Finally, please follow my cancelation policy

    • If necessary, requests to reschedule appointments should be made at least 24 hours in advance of the originally scheduled appointment time

    • Rescheduling requests made less than 24 hours prior to an appointment will be granted at Vince’s discretion





as a single MS Word or Google Docs file


HBS admissions board members read your entire application before interviewing you. I want to do the same. 


Once our session is scheduled, please attach and send me your 

  • resume

  • application data form short answers 

  • transcript

  • essays


Also, if you have access to your recommendation letters, please send those, as well


After reading your application, I will prepare a custom list of questions to fit your case.

  • I ask questions that test your ability to discuss issues that might be of concern to the HBS Admissions Board

  • I also assess your communication skills

  • I cannot predict what questions the Admissions Board will ask at your real interview, but I can help you boost your confidence by practicing with an expert who understands what HBS expects from admitted applicants

  • When I met with a veteran member of the HBS Admissions Board at her on-campus office in May 2011, she mentioned that HBS wants to admit applicants who will be able to participate in fast-paced classroom discussions

  • Therefore, in HBS mock interview sessions, I will check your logic and presentation style to find weak points that might be of concern to Admissions Board interviewers

  • After your interview, I will destroy all hard and soft copies to maintain client confidentiality.








How to prepare?



  • I ask questions that test your ability to discuss issues that might be of concern to the HBS Admissions Board

  • I also assess your communication skills

  • I cannot predict what questions the Admissions Board will ask at your real interview, but I can help you boost your confidence by practicing with an expert who understands what HBS expects from admitted applicants

  • When I met with a veteran member of the HBS Admissions Board at her on-campus office in May 2011, she mentioned that HBS wants to admit applicants who will be able to participate in fast-paced classroom discussions

  • Therefore, in HBS mock interview sessions, I will check your logic and presentation style to find weak points that might be of concern to Admissions Board interviewers



  • The HBS Admissions Board sometimes claims that you cannot prepare for their interviews since the questions are never the same

  • The fact is, you CAN and SHOULD prepare for your HBS interview, but not in the same way you would prepare for a blind interview like you would experience with StanfordKelloggColumbiaChicago, or Tuck



  • HBS questions are mostly "common sense"

  • HBS Admissions Board members sometimes ask MIT-style behavioral interview questions

  • Unlike MIT, HBS interviewers have also been known  to ask about your industry and other "macro" issues to check your critical thinking skills



  • HBS interviews conducted on campus often contain at least one "curve ball" question, like, "What is your favorite cartoon"

  • HBS interviewers do not usually ask McKinsey-style  "brain teaser"  questions to check your quantitative reasonaing skills, like, "How would you move Mt. Fuji?"



Step seven


  • Please note that I would appreciate hearing from you after the interview

  • I will send you a short one page feedback request form that asks if you experienced any surprise questions and/or challenging follow up questions that I could done a better job prepare your to handle with confidence

  • I will keep your replies confidential and use them to improve my service (internally, not externally on my website)

  • Finally, I expect you will tell me about their final admission result after HBS informs you

  • By knowing your result, I will know if my service was effective or not

  • I aim to provide the best HBS interview training in the world





  • I will keep the time of our mock trainings to 50 mins exactly (30 mins of questions and 20 mins of feedback / tips / next steps)

  • I will review your HBS application free of charge

  • If you are not my comprehensive client, I will not be able to engage in lengthy email exchanges with you between or after our sessions





  • If necessary, requests to reschedule appointments should be made at least 24 hours in advance of the originally scheduled appointment time

  • Rescheduling requests made less than 24 hours prior to an appointment will be granted at Vince's discretion




Other HBS interview tips

Here are some other tips that my past admitted clients have found to be helpful
  • As you listen to the question, start asking yourself, "How can I bring this back to my core message / key selling points?" 

  • Before the interview, list the key points you wish to make (key words of your main strengths / selling points, with examples/stories you want to be sure to tell them before the interview is finished)

  • Take a few slow deep breaths before you speak

  • Remember, about 93 percent of your communication in non-verbal so pay close attention to the signals you may be sending through your body language and vocal cues

  • When responding to the "loaded question," it is best not to rephrase and repeat what you heard

  • Loaded questions are often confrontational and filled with negative language

  • The worst thing you can do is get defensive or hostile in your voice or body. In your own words, relate to the issue and be concise

  • You may want to begin with something like, "I wouldn't describe the situation like that." A statement like this to begin with will also allow you to buy a little time think through your response

  • Bottom-line: Prepare yourself!

  • In any situation always remember to respond rather than react

  • Don't let your defenses get the best of you

  • Remain calm and take some slow deep breaths so you can think before you speak. How you say what you say really does matter

(modified from content found at; accessed 2010/11)


HBS Interview Reports

You are welcome to read the reports below, but PLEASE remember that HBS adcoms will prepare questions JUST FOR YOU based on what you sent them (and what you DID NOT send).


Frequency Analysis of Harvard Business School Interview Questions


Based on a sampling of interviews conducted with Japan-based applicants since 2000












Tell me briefly about your career to date.




Tell ma about your future career goal.



What motivates you?




Why do you need MBA?



Why HBS?




Why did you choose your present job?  



Tell me more about your first task.



What are your job responsibilities?



Explain your typical day.



What are good things with your work in XXXX?



Do you have any problems with your present job?



What changes would you make to your organization and why?



How do you manage a conflict?



Tell me about your recent project.



What is the difficult point in that project?



Why do you think you were chosen as a corporate-sponsored MBA candidate?




How did you lead a team to a success?  



Tell me about your leadership style.



How would people describe your leadership style?



Tell me about a leader you respect and why?



Take me through your leadership resume.




Give me 3 traits that your boss would say to describe you as.



Show me example when you grew a subordinate effectively.



How do you interact with people you do not like?



How did you cope with that situation?



Is there a misperception of you from other people?



The difference of your reputation between before and after somebody knew you.




Tell me about a failure and what you learned from it.



What is the biggest risk you have taken?



How did you become interested in… (from resume)?



What did you do most earnestly at college?



Life in HBS

Many people says that they worry about case studies. How about you?



What do you think are the challenges for you in HBS?



What contributions will you make to HBS, your classmates?  



Who would you like to sit next to during class?




How did you feel about your application process?



What was the most difficult aspect about the application process?



How did you prepare for the interview?



Why did you pick your recommenders?



Did you apply to any other school?




If you were to write a book 20 years from now, what will you write about?



How would you like to be remembered?



Finishing Q's

Any questions you wish I had asked? (what do you want to tell the interviewer that you have not already mentioned?)



Surprise me (a different on "any questions you wish I had asked you" in other words, your chance to tell something new about yourself that you hope will leave a strong final impression)



Any questions for me? (your chance to ask the interviewer some questions)









R1 applicant w/ AdCom in Tokyo 2009

Location: HBS Tokyo Research Center


  1.  Tell me about your professional experience

  2.  What did you learn from your experience in previous assignment?

  3.  Who helped you to build network with government?

  4.  Tell me about your recent projects

  5.  What is the difficult part of the project?

  6.  How do your think about your recent projects?

  7.   What is your long term goal?

  8.  Tell me more about the company you’re planning to establish.

  9.  How to you view HBS?

  10.  What are you good at (strengths)?

  11.  What are you not good at (weaknesses)?

  12.  How will you prepare for HBS case study in term of communication?

  13.  How do you think about your quantitative skill?

  14.  If you can visit a place where you’ve never visited, where do you like to go?

  15.  Will your company allow you to go there?

  16.  Is there anything you’d like to add?

  17.  What is you favorite sport?




R1 applicant w/ AdCom in Shanghai 2009

Location: Shanghai
Interviewer: AdCom

The interview was a little bit different from what I expected. Overall, I did not get stuck and I was honest (in a good way) so no matter what the outcome is, I am happy. Thank you for your support.

The interviewer had been with HBS Admissions for more than 12 years and also presented at the Reception. She first told me that the Admissions Board has read the application and has come up with some questions, and to bear with her because she might stop me during my answer or jump to random questions. 


  1. How is your work these days?

  2. What is your leadership like?

  3. As a student coming from Japan, how do you think other HBS students will view Japan and how can you contribute?

  4. Is there anything we have not touched that you need to tell me?

  5. What are your concerns if you were to attend HBS?

  6. What is the most important thing you have learned at your work?

  7. What do you like the most about your job?

  8. Which country, other than the ones you have been to, would you want to go?

  9. If you can do anything tomorrow, what do you want to do? She added that she wants to intentionally keep it broad.

  10. What are you most proud of? Again, she said that she wants to keep it broad.

Overall, she did not ask for the typical questions on achievement, failure, leadership but it seemed like she was testing my personal side.




R2 applicant w/ adcoms in Tokyo 2/27 2009

I just finished HBS R2 interview. The interviewer was adcom. She was very friendly and conversational. However, I sensed some formalness behind the nice smile. I noticed she didn't go into details on why why why, but rather a whole range of different questions. The best thing I can say is to be prepared for the basic interview questions.


  1. Tell me about your past, present, and future.

  2. Do you like your job?

  3. How do you manage a conflict?

  4. Explain your typical day.

  5. Give me 3 traits that your boss would say to describe you.

  6. What would your boss say is your weakness?

  7. Give me three traits that your friends would say to describe you.

  8. What motivates you?

  9. What is the biggest risk you have taken?

  10. What do you do in your free time?

  11. Is there a misconception of you from other people?

  12. Surprise me.

  13. Any questions you wish I had asked?

  14. Any questions for me?




R2 applicant w/ adcoms in Tokyo 2/25 2009


  1. Experience (Including why I made those choice).

  2. The things you like about your work.

  3. Why you think your company is focus on people rather than organization.

  4. Tell me more about your first task (sales activity).

  5. Tell me about the risk that you currently took.

  6. Describe your typical day.

  7. Five ways your supervisor describes you.

  8. What will you do if you have to choose another profession?

  9. The time people misperceived you

  10. The interesting conversation you had within a week.

  11. Please surprise me.

  12. Anything you would like to talk about? (I told her about my goals and also why MBA + HBS).

  13. Questions? (I could only ask one question).



R2 applicant w/ adcoms in Tokyo 2/27 2007

I had the interview with HBS admissions on Monday. Thanks to you, I think it went well. The female interviewer was kind, and the interview went in a relaxed way.

  1. Why are you interested in chemistry and why did you change your career to [a leading consulting firm]?

  2. What are good/bad things with your work in XXXX?

  3. How do you see your colleagues?

  4. How do you interact with people you do not like?

  5. Are there any areas that you would like to be asked by admissions?

  6. Who do you respect and why?

  7. Are you prepared for the interview?  How did you prepare?

  8. Why do you need MBA?

  9. What do you think are the challenges for you in HBS?

  10. Many people say that they worry about case studies. How about you?



Need more hints?


Here are some reliable sources


Be sure to read





Link highlights:




The Harvard Harbinger

Published by Vince Ricci






from Vince's Comprehensive Clients


Harvard Business School Class of 2012

Preparing admissions essays for MBA programs can be a lonely process, involving much introspection and contemplation. Throughout this process, Vince was an invaluable partner to me, providing objective and professional advice that was critical to my success; ultimately, I gained admissions to 5 top programs in the US, including HBS, Wharton and Northwestern’s JD-MBA program.

Initially, I was somewhat skeptical of receiving advice from essay counselors. I had been educated in the US through college and had confidence that I could pull it off all by myself. Yet, once I started working with Vince, my initial doubt quickly dissipated, as I realized the importance of having a good listener and thinker give objective feedback and advice. I could not have integrated my myriad of ideas into coherent essay portfolios without Vince’s support.

I was also impressed by Vince’s professionalism. He gave tremendous personal attention (almost to a fault!) and usually worked outside of designated time slots; I believe this separates him from other commercially-minded essay counselors.

Having advised many successful, top-notch Japanese clients in the past, Vince has an excellent understanding of the MBA application process and a keen insight into what admissions officers from top programs look for in candidates. Such intelligence could be hard to gather in Japan, where only several hundred people apply to MBA programs each year.

Last but not least, Vince possesses a dry sense of humor that made every one of my twice-a-week face-to-face sessions enjoyable.


Harvard Business School Class of 2012

(also admitted to Wharton)

In short, Vince Ricci:

  • knows what admission committees think and feel: he said, "Essay is an art as well as a science."

  • leverages technologies as a Stanford alum: non-Tokyo based applicants can work with him without stress.

  • is a nice guy: he has a broad network which helps applicants learn about target schools.

Overall, by working with Vince, I experienced great results, good ideas for essays and strategies for interview, and a lot of networking opportunities.



Harvard Business School MBA Class of 2009

The two greatest aspects of Vince and his counseling are his capabilities to push the client to his/her best potential and his abilities to listen and cheer for the best results.

My first confident essay draft was so easily referred to by Vince as “a mess”. This pure shock hit me hard to realize that he was not there to help and support me no matter what, but was there for me to convince him (later myself and the admissions) that I could make it into business schools. The difficulty of business school preparation is fundamentally changing the mindset to think deep in who you are and what makes you valuable to an admit, and Vince was capable to push me each time I tried to slack off the process. Not to mention that without him convincing me, I would have not applied to Harvard Business School/third round, where I am now today.

Also, business school prep move forward by multiple waves. I could not always execute what I had promised Vince the week before whether it was due to work, or emotional fluctuations. Within each one hour counseling session, I sometimes spent the time just talking with Vince about what was going on in my life in general. This helped me through the tough times and kept me from completely falling apart. Vince is truly a great listener and the best cheerleader I had during my prep period.

Vinceをカウンセラーとして起用して良かった点 は、私の魅力を最大限に引き出してくれた事と、私の話をいつも聞いてくれ、励ましてくれた点です。彼の 所に最初に持っていったエッセイは自信作であった割には「it’s a mess」とコメントされ、沈没でした。駄作であったとしても、よいものに直してくれるであろうと気楽に構えていたのですが、ビジネススクール合格はそん なに簡単ではありません。まずは、Vinceを乗り越えなければ合格にたどり着かないのだなと、その時強く思いました。ビジネススクール受験の辛さは今ま でのマインドセットを変え、自分の経験と将来像を深く考え、いかにビジネススクールに進学する事が自分にとって重要なのかを合理的に追求していく事です が、ちょっと手を抜くたびにVinceが後ろから押してくれていました。HBSへ3rdでも出したほうがよいと、彼にしつこく説得してくれなければ私は今 日HBSで勉強をする事ができなかったでしょう。

ビジネススクール受験はよく言わる通りに、マラソンであり、幾度も山や谷を経験しま す。Vinceに約束したことさえも実施できない週が続く事もめずらし くありません。そんな時に彼はセッションの時間の中で、私の悩みを辛抱強く聞き、励まし、エッセイカウンセラー以上のアドバイスを下さいました。この時間 がなければ機能低下はもちろんの事、受験もあきらめていたかもしれません。Vinceは人の話を聞いてくれますし、一緒になって受験をがんばってくれま す。




HBS Admissions Criteria


Genuine business talent cannot be narrowly defined. Instead of looking for an "ideal" candidate, HBS invites MBA applicants who exhibit a variety of skills, accomplishments, and temperaments. The true common characteristics of our students are demonstrated leadership potential and a capacity to thrive in a rigorous academic environment.


Indeed, to create the most stimulating environment possible for all students, we consciously select a diverse student body, one that not only reflects a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and nationalities, but a wide range of personal interests and professional ambitions.

A Habit of Leadership

We recognize — and welcome — leadership that may be expressed in many forms, from college extracurricular activities to academic or business achievements, from personal accomplishments to community commitments. We appreciate leadership on any scale as well, from organizing a classroom to directing a combat squad, from running an independent business to spearheading initiatives at work. In essence, we are looking for evidence of your potential - a portfolio of experiences, initiatives, and accomplishments that reflect a habit of leadership.

Capacity for Intellectual Growth

Harvard Business School is a demanding, fast-paced, and highly-verbal environment. We look for individuals who will thrive on sophisticated ideas and lively discussion. Our case-based method of learning depends upon the active participation of prepared students who can assess, analyze, and act upon complex information within often-ambiguous contexts. The MBA Admissions Board will review your prior academic performance, the results of the GMAT or GRE, and, if applicable, TOEFL IBT and/or IELTS, and the nature of your work experience. There is no particular previous course of study required to apply; you must, however, demonstrate the ability to master analytical and quantitative concepts.

Engaged Community Citizenship

So much of our MBA experience - including the case method, section life, and student-organized events - requires the active collaboration of the entire HBS community. That's why we look for students who exhibit the highest ethical standards and respect for others, and can make positive contributions to the MBA Program. The right candidates must be eager to share their experiences, support their colleagues, and teach as well as learn from their peers.


Please note that there is no minimum work experience requirement for the MBA Program. Successful candidates are able to demonstrate strength in the criteria outlined above, regardless of their number of years of work experience. They include college seniors with significant leadership experience, as well as individuals with as little as one to two years of full-time work experience. It is important for you to assess your own readiness when deciding when to apply.



- Updated by Vince on 11 Mar 2016

  • I have been a full-time international graduate admissions consultant since 2002

  • Based in Tokyo, Japan, I help clients around the world 

  • In 2007, I launched VincePrep because I wanted to help the best candidates aiming for the top schools

  • To share my insights with a talented team, I rejoined Agos as Consulting Director in 2014 

  • Now, I lead 10 professionals who deliver Japan’s best graduate admissions results

  • I also serve as president-elect of The Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC)

  • Given my ongoing professional and personal commitments, I accept very few clients

  • Usually, I refer prospects to one of my highly-experienced and successful colleagues   

  • If interested, please complete this intake form

  • Meanwhile, please explore my YouTube channel, and be sure to subscribe for the latest updates

  • Thank you for your interest, and best wishes for your success!


Vince's clients
admitted since 2007
Kellogg  24
Stanford 1
Tuck  8
Wharton  26

+8 Fulbright Scholars

Full list here




"You encouraged me to be genuine, and helped me find the right, true stories that captured who I am. In this way, you offer applicants not only an effective admissions advisory, but also a unique journey of self discovery and empowering dreams."

Harvard Business School Class of 2015, with Fulbright Scholarship (also admitted Stanford GSB)


"First, you limit the number of your clients so that you can maintain the high quality of your services while many other MBA consultants accept clients almost beyond their capacity. Second, you are really great 'catalyst.' Each question you asked me made me think and thus deepened my stories. Thanks to you, I was able to come up with excellent ideas that I could never come up with alone."

Kellogg Class of 2015 (also admitted Berkeley Haas)


More here

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