Harvard University Interview Questions

Updated Apr 8, 2015
137 Interview Reviews

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  1.  

    Berktern Interview

    Anonymous Interview Candidate
    Accepted Offer
    Positive Experience
    Easy Interview
    Accepted Offer
    Positive Experience
    Easy Interview

    Application

    I applied online – interviewed at Harvard University.

    Interview

    I submitted a cover letter and filled out an online application that discussed my skills and past experience in the field, as well as willingness to work on certain projects. I also had to give contact information for references.

    After a few days I was contacted by the people running one of the projects in which I had expressed interest. I was asked to send in a number of writing samples. I was also asked to commit to a video conference interview. The interview was casual; I got the sense that the two interviewers just wanted to get a feel for my interest in the field, as well as my experience, while also gauging whether or not I'd be easy to work with over the summer.

    Interview Questions

    • Why are you interested in working on the Student Privacy Initiative?   Answer Question

    Negotiation

    There was no negotiation. Summer interns take a fixed Research Assistant salary. They were very nice about discussing hours and start and end dates.

  2.  

    Research Assistant Interview

    Anonymous Employee
    No Offer
    Neutral Experience
    Average Interview
    No Offer
    Neutral Experience
    Average Interview

    Application

    I applied online. The process took a dayinterviewed at Harvard University.

    Interview

    Current research assistants conducted screening interview for position opening. Asked standard questions regarding previous research experience, future goals, why you are interested in position, etc. Lab environment was described and interviewers (the current RAs) were friendly however they didn't appear to have experience interviewing making the situation a little awkward at times.

    Interview Questions

  3.  

    Site Reliability Engineer Interview

    Anonymous Employee in Cambridge, MA
    No Offer
    Negative Experience
    Average Interview
    No Offer
    Negative Experience
    Average Interview

    Application

    I applied online. The process took 8 weeksinterviewed at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) in February 2015.

    Interview

    Harvard is as exclusive an employer as they are an educational institution. I have applied for a few positions there at different points, and usually get no response except for a rejection after a few weeks. That is not to say that they are not on top of their stuff, just very selective.

    In this case I applied online, and got a call very quickly. We had a half hour telephone interview mainly to verify that I am conversant in all of the technologies that I have claimed. At that point we scheduled a on site interview for the next week, and we were off to the races.

    At the on site interview I met with two engineers who asked most of the questions. They filled me in in further detail about what they do, and what they need. Then they quizzed me on how to resolve certain issues that I could face in this position.

    Afterward the hiring manager took me to separately see two of his bosses. They interviewed me on much more general things that a nontechnical manager would care about. These interviews were reasonably short.

    The two technicians took me to the cafeteria for lunch, which was certainly pleasant. Then we had another interview with a technician from another department that this team works closely with. The whole process took about four hours, and then I was done.

    I followed up a week later, got my standard rejection from Harvard six weeks after that, and the position is still vacant as of this writing.

    Interview Questions

    • In your chosen language write a script to list all of the files in a directory as a web page.

      How would you resolve a server bottleneck?
       
      Answer Question
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  5.  

    PhD Graduate Student Interview

    Anonymous Interview Candidate in Boston, MA
    Accepted Offer
    Positive Experience
    Average Interview
    Accepted Offer
    Positive Experience
    Average Interview

    Application

    I applied online. The process took 2+ monthsinterviewed at Harvard University (Boston, MA) in February 2015.

    Interview

    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

  6.  

    No Offer
    Negative Experience
    No Offer
    Negative Experience

    Application

    I applied online – interviewed at Harvard University.

    Interview

    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.

  7.  

    Staff Assistant III Interview

    Anonymous Interview Candidate
    Accepted Offer
    Positive Experience
    Average Interview
    Accepted Offer
    Positive Experience
    Average Interview

    Application

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

    Interview

    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

  8.  

    Postdoctoral Fellow Interview

    Anonymous Interview Candidate
    Accepted Offer
    Accepted Offer

    Interview

    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

    Standard post-doc contract.

  9. Helpful (1)  

    Marketing Interview

    Anonymous Employee
    No Offer
    No Offer

    Interview

    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
  10.  

    Multimedia Tech Interview

    Anonymous Interview Candidate
    Accepted Offer
    Accepted Offer

    Interview

    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
  11.  

    Staff Assistant Interview

    Anonymous Employee in Cambridge, MA
    No Offer
    Negative Experience
    Difficult Interview
    No Offer
    Negative Experience
    Difficult Interview

    Application

    I applied online. The process took 6 weeksinterviewed at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) in October 2014.

    Interview

    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

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