Harvard University Interview Questions

Updated Mar 20, 2015
Updated Mar 20, 2015
132 Interview Reviews

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  1.  

    PhD Graduate Student Interview

    Anonymous Interview Candidate in Boston, MA
    Anonymous Interview Candidate in Boston, MA
    Application Details

    I applied online. The process took 2+ monthsinterviewed at Harvard University in February 2015.

    Interview Details

    I had 3 thirty minute interviews and 1 forty-five minute interview on one day. They also had presentations to introduce you to the program, the current graduate students, and the faculty at Harvard. Most of them were more informal than interviews I have had at other graduate schools. They were very open to answering my questions about the BBS program and Harvard in general. There was also two faculty dinners. One with everyone in the Prudential Center the night after interviews. The second one is at a faculty members house with a small group of fellow students interviewing for the same program. Harvard's overall pitch was that we are Harvard and this is the best place for you to be trained. They also made a major effort to assure recruits about how Harvard's negative work environment and poor collaboration reputation is not universal across all labs at Harvard. I estimate that there were 60+ people interviewing for the same program, the same weekend as me and there was one later interview weekend with supposedly the same number of people interviewing. Overall, the weekend was very professional and organized. The faculty appeared to be very genuine and candid about their interest in graduate students and were very honest in sharing their perspectives of Harvard. They did a very good job at recruiting you to Harvard.

    Interview Questions
    Accepted Offer
    Positive Experience
    Average Interview
  2.  

    Director of Finance, School of Engineering Interview

    Anonymous Employee
    Anonymous Employee
    Application Details

    I applied online – interviewed at Harvard University.

    Interview Details

    Phone screen with HR Generalist:

    The HR representative admitted upfront that she had no experience with hiring Financial professionals and her prepared questions reflected this. She didn't understand the key functions performed in Finance and Accounting and was unfamiliar with the differences between (for example) a budget vs. a forecast. By not really understanding what a business planning function does she was unable to ask questions that got at a candidates depth of experience and the level of difficulty of what they had accomplished. Some of her questions were just unusual. For example, do you have more than 10 years of experience (please see my resume) or describe the personnel evaluation system you've been most successful using in the past. Also, she didn't ask important questions upfront...what is your expected comp...the make sure that expectations were aligned before diving into her prepared questions.

    Harvard is very silo based by school, so even though you apply through a common database (ASPIRE) the recruiters don't check to see where else you've interviewed or with whom you've met. In my case, the HR rep. was surprised to hear that I had interviewed with the university's CFO, Controller, and others recently as part of another search. Strong candidates who advanced in earlier searches and may have been finalists need to start over from scratch. It's very inefficient.

    Harvard is upfront that their searches take a long time and typically involve multiple visits with many interested parties. This is typical of a not for profit. However, it places them at a disadvantage when hiring individuals who are also interviewing for opportunities with commercial companies. In my case I had accepted another offer although was yet to start when invited to this screening call (I had applied online several weeks earlier). The HR rep actually reduced my interest in the position and I declined to proceed further during the call.

    No Offer
    Negative Experience
  3.  

    Staff Assistant III Interview

    Anonymous Interview Candidate
    Anonymous Interview Candidate
    Application Details

    I applied through a staffing agency. The process took 3 daysinterviewed at Harvard University in January 2015.

    Interview Details

    I was contacted by a recruiter at a staffing agency I met with a month prior. They noticed that my resume fell in line with the job description and asked me if I would be interested in going in for an interview. Of course, I was ecstatic! They sent over my resume and the next week I was in for an interview.

    It was really laid back and everyone was extremely welcoming. They asked me a list of basic questions, and a 25 minute test which tested how well I worked under a time constraint. I was offered the position the same day.

    I understand that my situation is not the norm.

    I suggest going with a recruiter who has a direct connection with the University. And ask as many questions as possible.

    Interview Questions
    Accepted Offer
    Positive Experience
    Average Interview
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  5.  

    Postdoctoral Fellow Interview

    Anonymous Interview Candidate
    Anonymous Interview Candidate
    Interview Details

    Long day. Meet with some faculty individually and some lab members through out the day. Gave a department seminar on my research work. Afternoon was filled with more meetings and introductions to different lab members. Was shown around the lab and learned about the research focus and priorities prior to meeting with the Primary Investigator.

    Interview Questions
    • How did you choose your graduate projects to put into your thesis?   Answer Question
    Negotiation Details
    Standard post-doc contract.
    Accepted Offer
  6. 1 person found this helpful  

    Marketing Interview

    Anonymous Employee
    Anonymous Employee
    Interview Details

    It was a very involved interview process. Excellent information given, but not coordinated therefore a great deal of repetition. Human resources was last interview scheduled so important benefit information was also last.

    Interview Questions
    • Give me a brief overview of your experience and how it would relate to position.   Answer Question
    No Offer
  7.  

    Multimedia Tech Interview

    Anonymous Interview Candidate
    Anonymous Interview Candidate
    Interview Details

    Responded to an ad on Craigslist. Received a phone call about a week later asking when I could come in for an interview. I met my future supervisor at the main office in Harvard and we discussed aspects of the job that were particular to Harvard (the class nature, how audio systems are integrated into classrooms, the resources we have for rooms, speaker systems). We talked extensively about our pasts; my boss very much appreciated that I came from an A/V background. After the discussion we shook hands and she let me know I would receive an email in a week letting me know if I had the job. I got that email two days later, and I got the job.

    Interview Questions
    • Explain (in detail) your past experience and how you would fit in with Harvard and the community here.   Answer Question
    Accepted Offer
  8.  

    Staff Assistant Interview

    Anonymous Employee in Cambridge, MA
    Anonymous Employee in Cambridge, MA
    Application Details

    I applied online. The process took 6 weeksinterviewed at Harvard University in October 2014.

    Interview Details

    It is way too confusing the way that Harvard runs its HR to coordinate all of the interview processes. Be prepared to interact and communicate with a minimum of 10+ people per every position you interview for at Harvard. It is one thing to have a candidate professionally meet other members of the team they would be working with, but it is another to have candidates sit down with nearly every team member, when the majority of team members do not have enough substantial experience conducting interviews.
    It seems contradictory that Harvard is so stern about its HR/screening interview process, yet when it comes time to interview rounds, the University has no qualms about throwing candidates in to interview sessions with quasi-important team members that ask ridiculous questions because they are not yet well-seasoned enough to know how to conduct an interview in a light that best represents the University.
    There seems to be a huge lapse in the interview process at Harvard. The first phone interview was conducted with an HR rep over the phone, the initial phone screening (this applies to any job) is really just about verifying if the candidate sounds like an educated, respectable person. At Harvard, the issue arrives during the in-person interviews. The first meeting is segregated to meet 1 on 1 with several different people. After the first session, the next time Harvard has you in it will be to meet with other members of the team- be prepared for a variety of meetings during the second round as you may meet 1 on 1 and then 2 on 1, etc. The issue in this specific department is that all of the members are not qualified to conduct interviews. The style of every interview with this (rather small) team was inconsistent and it gave me a red flag- it felt like the team has low energy and that there is no cohesive personae to this team. I felt a huge shift in personality, interests, and experience from person to person. The sense of humor was lacking in some and present with others. Some of the interviewers for this position were gracious, others were distant, some followed up in emails, some ignored them, and some even acted like I was about to get hired, then shifty answers with HR followed next, and some shifty moves by HR/the hiring manager quickly let me know that the position was going to be given to the other candidate.
    Total bag of mixed messages, ups and downs, and dragging along for well over a month. For about two solid weeks I was lead to believe that I was going to be offered the position and then all of a sudden I got a very rude vibe from the people that I was been dealing with. It is HR on Hiring Managers on Chaos. Also, last note- their "reference" background check is literally the most impersonal process in existence. They ask for reference information and they send your references an email from a "do not reply" address. In the body of the email, the third party (the company that conducts the electronic reference checks) drafts the emails for you and sends it out to five professional references that you provide Harvard with. Case in point, Harvard- if you are going to do reference checks, have the decency to make HR pick up the phone. Seriously, get rid of this third party reference check computer system. I value the relationships that I have with my references and did not appreciate the HR banging out automated emails asking all of my references to conduct a survey. Sneaky language in the email too! Harvard, pick up the phone and call references. This is so inefficient, impersonal, fake, worthless, useless. What does this third party system remotely provide you with? I find it implausible to see how you gather useful, candid, meaningful information about candidates by dealing with references this way. It seems like a lazy HR move. Make your HR employees have actual conversations, this is not remotely professional!

    Interview Questions
    • I literally was asked by a staff member "What is your favorite color?" as well as "What can you tell us about yourself that we can't tell by looking at you?" My answer to the first question about my favorite color was "White" because when sunlight passes through a spectrum the white light represents all colors, therefore by having white as my favorite color, it actually makes all colors my favorite color. I got a blank stare and then was asked by the two (very young) interviewer some other questions that were completely irrelevant. It was clear they were just asking the first things that came to mind. It felt like they were trying to make me feel like an idiot. These two interviewers seemed lethargic, burnt out, dry, and snobby, it was draining to be in the room with them. A word of advice would be to get rid of the aloof, empty presence and adapt a more warm, gracious manner that is full of class like the rest of the university.   Answer Question
    No Offer
    Negative Experience
    Difficult Interview
  9.  

    Facilities Manager Interview

    Anonymous Employee
    Anonymous Employee
    Application Details

    I applied through a recruiter. The process took 2 weeksinterviewed at Harvard University in October 2014.

    Interview Details

    I was initially contacted by a recruiter through LinkedIn. The recruiter did a phone screening then I was interviewed in person by the hiring manager. The third round of interviews was by a group of employees. Everyone I met with was very professional and made me feel comfortable. The only negative comment is that I had to pay for parking.

    Interview Questions
    No Offer
    Positive Experience
    Average Interview
  10.  

    Coordinator Interview

    Anonymous Employee in Cambridge, MA
    Anonymous Employee in Cambridge, MA
    Application Details

    I applied online. The process took 6 weeksinterviewed at Harvard University in September 2014.

    Interview Details

    I was contacted a month or so after applying online. Had a phone screen, 1st and 2nd interviews. They asked for references at the 2nd interview (but never called them as they went with another candidate) and also asked me to take a writing test. This all happened within 3 weeks. Then I didn't hear a word for almost 3 weeks... finally decided to email manager. She replied within a day saying they offered the position to someone else. My only beef (other than not being hired) was the length of time between final interview and notification. If you are not choosing me, let me know sooner.

    Interview Questions
    No Offer
    Neutral Experience
    Average Interview
  11.  

    Coordinator Interview

    Anonymous Interview Candidate
    Anonymous Interview Candidate
    Application Details

    I applied online. The process took 4+ weeksinterviewed at Harvard University.

    Interview Details

    So I interviewed for 2 different Coordinator positions. I did not get the first one, but then I got the 2nd position years down the line. Be prepared to possibly be interviewed by people do not necessarily know how to interview. In order to try to see if someone is a good "fit" for the org, it is not uncommon to have the entire dept. in a meeting room with an applicant to just basically meet you and not even really engage/interact with you.

    Interview Questions
    • Standard ones seem to apply, your greatest weakness, experiential ones.   Answer Question
    Accepted Offer

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