Thursday, February 6, 2014

Preparing for the MBA Informational Interview

Some MBA programs offer informational interviews to allow prospective applicants to learn a bit more about their program. The school, in turn, gets to learn a bit more about the motivations and interests of prospective applicants, while also pointing out specific elements of their program that may be attractive to the applicant.

Here are some of the typical components of an MBA admissions informational interview.

1. resume-based discussion

These types of interviews are typically driven by the resume. So, when finalizing yours, ensure that you are comfortable talking about every line included within it.

To prepare for your informational interview, brainstorm and practice approaches to these topics:
- an explanation of the business model of each company you've worked for (if not obvious)
- an explanation of each role you've had
- an explanation of your role in any particular accomplishment on the resume (I usually encourage people to describe what they did, the result, and what they learned)
- explanation of choices you've made (why xx university, xx major, xx company)
- explanation of extra-curricular activities and accomplishments (the best way to do this is to explain WHAT you do and WHY you do it)

I understand that this approach may seem overly comprehensive, but the practice will be valuable as you (eventually) prepare for real interviews, and even as you evaluate you current skill-set and strengths when determining post-MBA goals. 

2. academic interests and goals

This to me should be pretty straight forward. What do you want to learn in the MBA, and do you have some idea as to your direction post-MBA? The concept of an informational interview is that you share information about your motivations and interests, and the interviewer shares information about their program that match your motivations and interests.

The first question is crucial, as without an understanding of what you want to learn at business school it'll be hard for you and your interviewer to talk about the program in any kind of a focused way. 

Clear post-MBA goals are less crucial but definitely helpful - if you know that you want to become an investment banker post-MBA for instance, then this kind of information can help your interviewer select elements of the MBA program that are related to this career path. 

3. your questions

Don't expect your entire informational interview to be driven by the interviewer. There is usually time for you to ask questions, and in some cases perhaps a significant number of questions. As a rough estimate, have 5 ready. Also, for each, listen carefully to the answer and ask a follow-up that takes that mini-conversation to a deeper level. Good questions start fruitful conversations. 

As a final word, BE CAREFUL. Are you being assessed? Yes, of course you are. If you show that you cannot handle even a simple conversation in English, this will most certainly be remembered. So practice! 

John Couke