20 Harvard University Interview Questions and Answers

Prepare for the types of questions you are likely to be asked when interviewing for a position at Harvard University.

Harvard University is one of the most prestigious universities in the world, and its interview process is highly competitive. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to interview for a position at Harvard, you can expect to be asked some tough questions.

In this article, we’ll give you a taste of the kinds of questions you might be asked in a Harvard interview. We’ll also provide some guidance on how to answer them.

So, if you’re looking to ace your Harvard interview, read on!

Harvard University Interview Process

The interview process at Harvard University can vary depending on the position you are applying for. For some positions, such as a Research Assistant or Postdoctoral Fellow, you may only have one or two interviews. However, for other positions, such as a Program Coordinator or Project Coordinator, you may have up to eight interviews. Overall, the difficulty of the interviews will depend on the position you are applying for. For example, programming and biostatistics interviews may be more technical in nature, while administrative interviews may focus more on your personality and behavioral fit for the position.

1. What do you think are the most important qualities for a successful graduate student?

This question can help the interviewer get to know you better and understand what you value in a graduate program. It’s important to be honest about your own experiences, but it can also be helpful to include some of the qualities that you’ve seen in other successful students.

Example: “I think one of the most important qualities for a successful student is an open mind. I have had many professors who were experts in their fields, but they were always willing to listen to new ideas or ways of thinking. This helped me learn more about my own opinions and how to develop them further.”

2. Describe your research experience and/or interests.

Harvard University is a research institution, and your answer to this question will help the interviewer determine if you have the necessary skills and experience for their program. If you don’t have any research experience, you can talk about how you’ve used your academic knowledge in other ways.

Example: “I’m passionate about researching the effects of climate change on marine life. I volunteered at an aquarium where I helped with the care of several different species of fish and sea creatures. I also worked as a part-time researcher at my local university’s marine biology department. There, I studied the migration patterns of whales and dolphins.”

3. Provide an example of a time when you had to conduct original research. How did you go about it?

Harvard University is a research university, and they want to know that you can conduct original research. They also want to see how your research has benefited others in the past.

Example: “I once had to conduct original research for my college thesis. I was studying the effects of different types of music on productivity at work. I conducted an experiment where I asked participants to listen to classical music while working on their computer. Then, I asked them to do the same thing with pop music. Afterward, I asked them to complete a survey about their experience.”

4. Tell me about your favorite research paper, who wrote it and why is it your favorite?

This question is a great way to show your passion for research and the academic process. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention how you came across the paper or what made it so interesting to you.

Example: “My favorite research paper was written by Dr. John Smith at Harvard University. I found his work on the effects of stress on learning fascinating because he used mice as test subjects in his experiments. He also conducted multiple trials with different variables to ensure that his results were accurate. This helped me understand the importance of conducting thorough research before drawing conclusions.”

5. Are there any areas that you would like to learn more about?

This question is a great way to show your interest in the field of study you are applying for. It also shows that you have an open mind and are willing to learn more about new topics. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention something specific that you would like to learn more about or a particular aspect of the field that interests you.

Example: “I am very interested in learning more about how technology impacts education. I think there are many ways that we can use technology to make our classrooms more engaging and effective. I would love to learn more about what other educators are doing with technology and how they are integrating it into their teaching methods.”

6. What do you know about our lab’s current projects?

This question is a great way to show your interest in the position and demonstrate that you’ve done some research on the lab’s current projects. When preparing for this interview, make sure to read up on any recent publications or news releases from the lab.

Example: “I know that your lab has been working on developing new ways to treat Alzheimer’s disease. I also understand that there are many different types of Alzheimer’s, so it’s important to find treatments that work for each type. In my last role as a researcher, we were able to develop a treatment for one type of Alzheimer’s by studying mice with the disease. We found that when we treated them with certain compounds, they had improved memory function.”

7. Why do you want to work in this specific department at Harvard University?

This question can help the interviewer determine if you have done your research on the school and its departments. Show that you are familiar with the department by mentioning a few of its projects or initiatives, and explain why they interest you.

Example: “I am passionate about education reform and would love to work in this department because of all the innovative programs it has developed. I read an article recently about how Harvard University’s Department of Education is developing a new program that will allow students to take online courses for free. This really interests me because I think it could be beneficial to both students who cannot afford higher education and teachers who want to share their knowledge.”

8. Do you have any experience with teaching undergraduate students? If so, describe it.

Interviewers may ask this question to learn more about your teaching experience and how you might fit in with the Harvard community. If you have no prior teaching experience, consider describing a time when you helped someone else learn something or developed a skill.

Example: “I’ve been an adjunct professor at my local community college for three years now. I love working with undergraduate students because they’re so eager to learn new things and develop their skills. In my role as an instructor, I help students understand complex concepts by breaking them down into smaller pieces. I also encourage students to share their ideas and opinions during class discussions.”

9. What is one thing that you hope to accomplish during your time here?

This question is an opportunity to show the interviewer that you have goals and aspirations for your time at Harvard. It’s important to be realistic, but it can also be helpful to include a goal that may seem challenging.

Example: “I hope to become a published author during my time here. I know that this will take some work, but I’m excited about the challenge of researching and writing a book. I think it would be a great accomplishment to add to my resume.”

10. Which area of university research interests you most?

This question helps the interviewer determine if your interests align with those of Harvard University. It also allows you to show that you have done research on the university and are familiar with its mission, goals and objectives.

Example: “I am most interested in renewable energy sources because I believe it is important for us to find ways to power our world without harming the environment. In my last position, I worked with a team of researchers who were developing new solar panels that could be used in space exploration. This project was very exciting for me because it allowed me to use my skills as an engineer while helping to advance technology.”

11. Which courses have been your favorite so far and why?

This question is a great way to show your passion for learning and the courses you’ve taken. It also gives the interviewer insight into what type of student you are, which can be helpful when deciding if you’re a good fit for Harvard University.

Example: “My favorite course so far has been my history class. I love how it’s taught me about different cultures and eras throughout time. The professor is very passionate about his subject matter, and he makes the material interesting and relatable. He’s inspired me to pursue a career in teaching.”

12. Have you ever worked on a project that gave you unexpected results? How did you deal with it?

This question can help the interviewer get a better sense of your problem-solving skills and ability to adapt. Use examples from your experience that show you’re flexible, open-minded and willing to learn.

Example: “In my first year as an assistant professor at State University, I was teaching a class on marketing strategies for small businesses. One day, one of my students came up to me after class and said she didn’t understand what I meant when I mentioned ‘branding.’ She thought it had something to do with branding cattle. I realized then that I needed to spend more time explaining basic concepts in layman’s terms so students could grasp them before moving on to more complex ideas.”

13. Tell us what you think is the greatest challenge facing higher education today.

This question is an opportunity to show your critical thinking skills and how you can apply them to a complex issue. You may choose to focus on one particular challenge or discuss several challenges in order to demonstrate your ability to analyze problems and develop solutions.

Example: “The greatest challenge facing higher education today is the lack of diversity among faculty members, particularly at elite institutions like Harvard University. I believe that this problem has serious consequences for students because it limits their exposure to different perspectives and ideas. As a result, they are less likely to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to succeed in a global economy where diverse teams are often more effective than homogenous ones.”

14. What do you think sets you apart from other applicants?

This question can help the interviewer get to know you better and understand what makes you unique. When answering this question, it can be helpful to highlight a skill or experience that is relevant to the position.

Example: “I think my ability to work well with others sets me apart from other applicants. I have always been able to collaborate with others on projects and find solutions to problems. In my previous role as an administrative assistant, I was often tasked with helping coworkers who were having computer issues. I would troubleshoot their computers and teach them how to do certain tasks so they could perform them independently.”

15. What methods do you use to keep up-to-date with recent developments in your field?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your ability to stay current with the latest developments in your field. They want to know that you are committed to learning and growing as a professional, so it’s important to highlight any ways you’ve done this in the past.

Example: “I am passionate about my work, and I love learning new things. In my previous role, I subscribed to several newsletters and journals related to my field of study. This helped me learn about new research being conducted by other professionals in the industry. I also attend conferences and seminars where experts present their findings.”

16. What was the last conference you attended? What was it about?

Harvard University wants to know that you are actively engaged in your field and have a desire to learn more. This question is an opportunity for you to show the interviewer what you learned at the conference, how it has impacted your teaching or research and why you chose to attend this particular event.

Example: “The last conference I attended was on artificial intelligence and its applications in education. It was fascinating to see how AI can be used to help students with learning disabilities and improve retention rates among college students. I plan to incorporate some of these strategies into my own classroom.”

17. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

This question is a common one for employers to ask because it helps them understand your career goals. When answering this question, be sure to include what you hope to accomplish in the next five years and how Harvard University can help you achieve those goals.

Example: “I see myself as an accomplished professor at a university that offers online courses. I would love to have my own course on digital marketing where students learn about SEO, PPC, social media marketing and more. In five years, I hope to have published several books on digital marketing and have developed a reputation as an expert in the field.”

18. Do you have any questions for us?

This is your opportunity to show the interviewer that you have done your research on Harvard University and are genuinely interested in learning more about the school. It’s also a chance for you to ask any questions you might have about the application process, financial aid or other aspects of attending this prestigious institution.

Example: “I am very excited about the prospect of studying at Harvard University. I know it has an excellent reputation for its academics, but I was wondering if you could tell me more about the student life here? What kind of clubs and activities are available?”

19. Give an example of a time when you collaborated with someone with different skill sets than yours.

Harvard University is looking for candidates who are able to work with others and collaborate on projects. This question allows you to show your ability to work with people from different backgrounds, which can be important in a university setting.

Example: “In my last position as an English teacher, I worked with a math teacher to create a curriculum that would allow students to learn both subjects at the same time. The math teacher had more experience than me when it came to creating curriculums, so I asked her to help me develop a program that would make learning both subjects easier for our students. She was happy to help, and we were both able to see improvements in student performance.”

20. What would be your approach to writing grants?

Harvard University is a highly competitive institution that requires its faculty to be excellent grant writers. Your answer should show the interviewer your ability to write grants and how you would approach this task.

Example: “I have written several successful grants in my career, including one for $1 million dollars. I believe it’s important to understand the funder’s mission and goals before writing a proposal. I also think it’s essential to include measurable objectives and outcomes in the proposal so the funder can see the impact of their investment. Finally, I always make sure to follow up with funders after submitting proposals.”


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