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Harvard University Interview Questions

Updated Feb 16, 2015
Updated Feb 16, 2015
129 Interview Reviews

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  1.  

    Dining Services Interview

    Anonymous Employee
    Anonymous Employee
    Application Details

    I applied online. The process took 4 weeksinterviewed at Harvard University in September 2009.

    Interview Details

    First Interview:

    I was contacted for a phone interview by an HR rep and then scheduled for a panel interview consisting of 3 department heads and 1 unit manager. Each person took a turn asking me questions as the others looked on and took notes. Interviewees: Prepare for this interview! At times this interview felt more like an interrogation. Be prepared to defend everything in your cover letter and resume (which is to be expected anywhere) and have your "Tell me about yourself" pitch ready, as well as "Why did you choose Harvard and this occupation. Expect lots of follow up questions to your answers. The interviewers were professional, BUT don't expect this to be a comfortable interview ...you will be constantly challenged.

    Second Interview:

    After feeling pretty beat up from the first interview, I was shocked I got the call to come back to spend half a day shadowing a manager on the job, for the second "interview". This was a great experience and an idea that more companies should put into practice. I "observed and followed" from 10 am to 2 pm in a dining hall, was introduced to the entire staff and had a brief interview before I left with the unit manager that I was with. This was a much more comfortable experience for me than the panel interview and I enjoyed seeing the operation and my prospective co-workers in action.

    Drawback to Interviewing or Working at Harvard:

    There is NO place on campus to park! I paid $25 to park in a garage for the first interview, and had to pay $6.00 for 2 hours of time (maximum time the meter would allow), PLUS a $7.00 taxi fare (with tip), PLUS a $35.00 parking ticket (when my 2 hour garage sticker expired). This was an expensive day!! If you are considering Harvard employment research alternative transportation, car pooling OR be prepared to spend big bucks each day to park. I was not offered the position, so I never had to face this problem beyond my 2 interview days.

    Interview Questions
    No Offer
    Positive Experience
    Difficult Interview
  2. 1 person found this helpful  

    Director Interview

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

    The process took a dayinterviewed at Harvard University in June 2011.

    Interview Details

    The individuals I met with at Harvard were pleasant enough, and in fact asked good questions, were fair and made the interview mostly enjoyable, not that I was expecting that. I met with 3 individuals for approx. 30 min each. The last interviewer was the person I would work most closely with, if I were to be offered a position. It became clear, that though this was a new position, the 3rd interviewer was passing off all the activities she did not like to the new position. Though I was warned at the beginning of the 3rd interview that I would be given a "quiz" to test my accounting skills, I certainly wasn't looking forward to this and it affected the quality of my interview. So, at the end I was given the quiz which was supposed to take 10 min. It ended up taking more than 20 min. Here is my problem: I was interviewing for a Director of Finance position, that surely had some accounting skills related to it but were not referred to in the job description. In fact, I was surprised that Harvard had the gall to pull this shenanigan for a Director level position. Nonetheless, I bombed this "quiz" and wasn't offered a follow up interview. While, I would apply for future positions at Harvard, I am glad that this particular position didn't work out considering the quality of the interview at the end, and their "screening" process.

    No Offer
    Negative Experience
    Difficult Interview
  3.  

    Marketing Interview

    Anonymous Employee
    Anonymous Employee
    Application Details

    I applied through an employee referral. The process took 2 daysinterviewed at Harvard University in December 2010.

    Interview Details

    An HR person contacted me about six weeks after I applied and asked me to come in for interviews on the day I was scheduled to leave for a 10-day vacation. She said they were in a rush to fill the position and didn't want to wait until I got back, so I postponed my departure time by several hours to do a round of interviews.

    I was told to ask for Ms. So-and-So, who would coordinate my visit. So I did that when I arrived at the building. The receptionist had never heard of Ms. So-and-So, and there was no record of her in the system. The receptionist called a couple of other people looking for Ms. So-and-So--no luck there, either. Finally, the receptionist contacted one of the execs scheduled to interview me, and that person came to the lobby to fetch me.

    I interviewed with about six people and thought the interviews went well. Then: Nothing for about two months. Ultimately, they hired someone else. A few months later, I saw what appeared to be the same job posted again. It turned out to be a new (additional) position, so I had to apply again from scratch. Again, I was asked to come in for interviews immediately because they wanted to "move very quickly" in filling this position (the estimate was 2-3 weeks).

    This time, I received a schedule saying that I would meet first an HR person in one building, who would then "walk" me to the rest of the interviews in another building nearly a mile away. The interview happened to fall on a bitterly cold winter day and I wasn't keen on walking across campus on icy pavement in a suit and dress shoes, but I figured I'd do so if necessary.

    However, after our 10-minute interview, the HR person said she was unaware that she was supposed to "walk" me anywhere--in fact, she couldn't even tell me how to get to the other building and seemed annoyed that I expected her to do so (remember, I was following the instructions that an admin had sent me). I had parked a few blocks away in the wrong direction and I was worried about being late, so I called a cab.

    I arrived on time and interviewed this time with about 10 people. The interviews went well. Then nothing for about four months (and, yes, I was checking regularly). Then I heard the job was on hold due to budgets or something, and at that point, I quietly gave up on it. Several months after that (fully eight months after those "we-want-to-move-quickly" interviews), I got a form letter saying that the job had been filled.

    I don't mind not getting the job as much as the chaos and confusion around the interview process, which was, at best, disorganized and, at worst, bordering on rude. I realize the whole university probably doesn't run like that, and I would happily consider jobs with other departments in this great organization--just not this particular department.

    My advice: Be sure your contact person is a real person reachable by e-mail or phone (I'm guessing I was dealing with a temp or contract recruiter the first time and that's why no one could find her). If something doesn't seem to make sense, ask (I'm guessing that the separate-buildings thing came up because too many people were involved in the scheduling). ate-buildings thing).

    Interview Questions
    • This job requires a lot of diplomacy. Tell me about a time that you successfully handled a problem or conflict.   Answer Question
    No Offer
    Negative Experience
    Difficult Interview
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  5.  

    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
  6.  

    Technical Writer Interview

    Anonymous Employee
    Anonymous Employee
    Application Details

    I applied online – interviewed at Harvard University in April 2014.

    Interview Details

    I applied online and received an email from HR a week later asking me to schedule a phone screening with them. I spoke with a recruiter who asked me the usual questions (why are you interested, what is your experience with X, etc) and then contacted me the next day about an in-person interview. I met about a week and a half later with six people, two of whom I had individual 30 minute interview sessions with and four with which I had two 30 minute sessions. I was asked more specific questions about my experience with digital writing, my background in writing about healthcare, and questions about international experience.

    Interview Questions
    No Offer
    Positive Experience
    Difficult Interview
  7.  

    Program Coordinator Interview

    Anonymous Employee
    Anonymous Employee
    Application Details

    I applied online. The process took 3+ monthsinterviewed at Harvard University in February 2014.

    Interview Details

    I had two interviews, one with HR and one with the group. The HR interview was very basic, asking if I had questions about the benefits of working at Harvard, briefly talked about my resume. The actual job interview was with a panel of 3 people.

    Interview Questions
    • A lot of questions about my career path and justifying my previous positions. A few behavioral/hypothetical scenarios, how would I react etc.   Answer Question
    No Offer
    Negative Experience
    Difficult Interview
  8.  

    Project Manager Interview

    Anonymous Employee
    Anonymous Employee
    Application Details

    I applied online. The process took 2 weeksinterviewed at Harvard University in July 2014.

    Interview Details

    Had an initial phone call to schedule a conference call with 2 other people at the organization. The conference call interview was my first. The lag was a bit distracting, as well as the audio quality. The interview was somewhat formulaic. They were a little resistant to divulging many details about the position. Probably because they knew already I wasn't a good fit.

    Interview Questions
    • "How would you design an educational experiment with an intervention? What if you couldn't randomize?"

      "What does the racial achievement gap in our education system look like and mean to you?"
       
      Answer Question
    No Offer
    Positive Experience
    Difficult Interview
  9.  

    Program Director Interview

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

    I applied in-person – interviewed at Harvard University in August 2010.

    Interview Details

    I was contacted by an HSPH faculty member who was interested in creating a position in the field of international public health tobacco control. We discussed the position in detail and created an opportunity that would allow me the flexibility to also pursue a mid-career program at the Harvard Kennedy School, which I completed in May 2012.

    Interview Questions
    • What is your biggest challenge and how do you address it?   View Answer
    Accepted Offer
    Positive Experience
    Difficult Interview
  10.  

    Analyst Interview

    Anonymous Interview Candidate in Bangalore (India)
    Anonymous Interview Candidate in Bangalore (India)
    Application Details

    I applied online. The process took a dayinterviewed at Harvard University in January 2013.

    Interview Details

    The interview was held timely, did not have to go through unnecessary rounds..It was perfectly timed, relevant questions asked

    Interview Questions
    • Salary is very hard to negotiate. Its like take or go way. HR will make it very clear from the beginning.   Answer Question
    Negotiation Details
    Salary is very hard to negotiate. Its like take or go way. HR will make it very clear from the beginning.
    Accepted Offer
    Positive Experience
    Difficult Interview
  11.  

    PhD Student Interview

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

    I applied online. The process took 3+ monthsinterviewed at Harvard University in December 2012.

    Interview Details

    Application through the departments. Of course you will need the GRE and good academic preparation from your undergraduate school. Letters of recommendation and some experience in research will take you far. Once submitted, each department will review the applicants and they are invited for interviews.

    Interview Questions
    Accepted Offer
    Positive Experience
    Difficult Interview

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