Right now I’m slowly making my way through both my nonprofit ranks of MBAs but also through my network. I’m doing informational interviews with alums and current students to get more information about the schools themselves, but also the value alums have gotten out of it. That and any application tips… never hurts to talk about your narrative 😉
I’ve done four so far, and thought my prep checklist could be helpful.
1. Do your homework
Don’t show up and ask questions that can be answered from the website. Do your background research about the school and the program. There are such things as dumb questions.
More than that, do investigation on the person you’re meeting. Linkedin, and c-suite bios are all great for this. The more you understand their career path, the less of their time you’ll make them waste repeating it.
2. Have clear purpose
This is driven by your research. Based on their experience and the school, think about what you want to get from the conversation. Is this person a career switcher into your desired post MBA field? Well, focus on the the intersection of the industry field and the business school. Is this person from a similar liberal arts school who went to HBS? Well, focus on the transition between school experiences. Having targeted questions not only helps structure the conversation, but also conveys all the research you’ve done.
3. Roll with punches.
I did journalism in college and have plenty of experience with interviews that go off track. Be reactive and roll with it. While an informational interview, it’s also a conversation and a favor from the other person. Be respectful, and listen to what they are saying. I talked to someone last week hoping to hear more about how HBS fosters social sector work, but instead got a rave review and deep analysis on the case method. You never know what you’re going to get and it very well may be a key insight you overlooked.
4. Say thank you.
Just like your mom always told you. I’m not talking about a simple “thanks for your time.” I’m talking about 2-3 sentences that not only say thanks but also say thanks for specific details. This shows that you were paying attention and is just a professional courtesy. Send these a day or two after the conversation.
5. Keep the ball rolling.
It’s easy to talk to one or two people per school and call it a day. If you are doing all of these steps, you’re probably spending at least 2.5 hours per informational interview. But like most things in life, it’s best to do a little consistently. I’m staying on track with a simple system: every time I finish an informational interview, I begin requesting a new one within the day or two. This way I have a varied flow of networking to build more connections, doing research, and talking all at the same time.
Hope this was helpful! Post in the comments if you have any more tips!