Getting an Interview
Getting an Interview
Interviews for Top Jobs at Harvard University
- Postdoctoral Fellow (16)
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- Staff Assistant (6)
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Staff Assistant Interview
I applied online. The process took 6 weeks – interviewed at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) in October 2014.
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!
- 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
Other Interview Reviews for Harvard University
Staff Assistant InterviewDeclined OfferAverage Interview
I applied online. The process took 4+ weeks – interviewed at Harvard University.
I applied online through Harvard's online application system. I received a phone call one week after application submission, from the position recruiter, asking to schedule an initial 30-minute phone interview. The recruiter scheduled the interview to occur exactly one week from the time of this scheduling conversation (i.e. two weeks after application submission). While I declined to continue after the first round phone call, the recruiter had indicated subsequent steps would involve a phone or in-person interview with management and then a phone interview with HR.
- All questions were quite standard: Tell me about your education and experience; Describe a difficult situation you've encountered in the workplace; How do you handle change in the workplace, i.e. staffing changes?; etc. Answer Question
Reasons for Declining
I was offered an opportunity to interview in the second round, but I declined due to salary needs.
Staff Assistant InterviewNo OfferPositive ExperienceEasy Interview
I applied online. The process took 2+ weeks – interviewed at Harvard University (Boston, MA) in July 2013.
Initial contact was through an email inviting me to a group interview. There were two interviewers (senior staff administrators) and four interviewees. We were given impromptu questions about our previous experience, inquiries about particular instances of success and failure, and then given a critical thinking exercise.
- Give an example of how in a difficult situation you came up with an innovative problem-solving technique. Answer Question
Staff Assistant InterviewNo OfferNeutral ExperienceDifficult Interview
I applied through a staffing agency. The process took 1 day – interviewed at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) in March 2012.
First off, I was not given a job description by the staffing agency. So I was given the job description only 10 minutes before the interview. The person interviewing me had been at this particular office for 16 years. She wanted to know primarily when you would ask for help. I would advise other candidates for this type of position to ask lots of questions about the position and culture of the office.
- You have several people waiting for you, how would you respond to people waiting in line? Answer Question
Staff Assistant InterviewNo OfferPositive ExperienceDifficult Interview
Phone interview with HR, Interview with two potential bosses, then interviews with a few other team members.
- None, really Answer Question
Staff Assistant InterviewAccepted OfferPositive ExperienceAverage Interview
I applied online. The process took 1 day – interviewed at Harvard University in August 2008.
I was contacted by an HR woman who said they had an interest in bringing me in. I went in and first met with her, then with the two people I would be supporting. They asked pretty basic general questions, why Harvard, why this job, what my career aspirations are. They described the job, asked if I had any questions. I also met with the person whose job I would be taking over and was able to talk about what the job really entailed. I think it was two days later that they called me and offered me the job.
- Tell me about yourself and why you want to work at Harvard at this job? Answer Question
No room for negotiation except for start date
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