How to Conduct an MBA Informational Interview

Have you ever wanted to know more about a particular MBA program without getting the typical tour during an on-campus visit? The Informational Interview is becoming more and more popular for candidates to gain an in-depth and personal look at their chosen MBA program. Setting aside time for this type of interview allows you to ask questions specific to your goals, needs, and wants while getting a less guarded glimpse of the program as a whole.

What are the benefits of an Informational Interview?

There are enumerable benefits to conducting an informational interview. We spoke with Dawn Brewer, Assistant Director of Graduate Business Programs at Chapman University’s Argyros School. “An informational interview is an opportunity for individuals to ask questions that are specific to their circumstances,” she revealed. “Applicants might ask about which program is a good fit (full-time or part-time), or whether or not it’s feasible to work while a student. They might ask about how the MBA degree might help one’s career or the best time in life to begin a program.”

An informational interview can help you focus deeper into the MBA program and discover what you can expect to get out of it. It’s also an excellent opportunity to get to know the personality of the program by speaking with someone who works with and in the program day-in and day-out. Whether you talk to a student, faculty, or staff member, an informational interview lets you discover how and if you fit.

Who should you interview?

If you want to get the greatest benefit from your informational interview, then it’s important to interview the right individual. Stacey Dorang Peeler, MBA Admissions Director at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business, recommends starting with the admissions’ office. “If an applicant has questions and wants to get more information about the program, we advise they start with Admissions by emailing our account,” she said. “From there, the applicant can request connections with the admissions team, faculty, current students, alumni, etc. They can also request a time to visit campus and meet with our students and staff.”

Then, from the admissions team, MBA candidates can gain access to alumni and staff who can provide a wealth of information. “Often when applicants contact us for information about our programs, we put them in touch with current students or alumni who act as ambassadors for our program and are a wealth of information,” said Dawn. “And although faculty are typically quite busy, they are a great resource for prospective students and offer a unique insight into their expectations of students in the classroom.”

“We advise starting with the admissions team,” said Stacey. “We have alumni waiting to help with such requests and are glad to connect prospective students with program alumni for a conversation. If someone is connected through admissions, the alumni know it’s a legitimate request (vs. a cold connection on LinkedIn or via another platform).”

What questions should you ask?

There are many questions that can and should be brought up in an information interview. Stacey at the Smeal College of Business recommends the following questions:

  1. Why did you choose this program? (For students, alumni—and even staff and faculty. While staff/faculty may not have made the choice to be an MBA student at the school, they certainly chose to work there).
  2. What do you perceive to be the biggest strengths and challenges for the program/school?
  3. If you could give me one piece of advice as an applicant (or future MBA student) what would it be?
  4. Are there additional resources I can consult for more information?
  5. Tell me about what a “day in the life” of an MBA student is like at your school.

“Questions should be those that seek answers at the ‘next level,’” said Stacey. “Applicants shouldn’t be using this time to ask questions about basics easily found on a website.”

Other questions to consider are those that have to do with the skillsets and knowledge that you most want to improve, and how those are handled by the school. You can and should also ask your interviewee:

  • How would you describe the school?
  • How often do you interact with faculty outside the classroom?
  • Have you developed relationships with alumni and faculty during your time here?
  • What resources does the school offer MBA students for future career and venture opportunities?

What is the best informational interview advice?

“Most people are eager to help and share their experiences,” said Dawn. “I would recommend being prepared with questions whose answers can’t be found on a school website but are very specific to the experience of being in the MBA program.”

“Do basic research first,” reveals Stacey. “Find out all you can on the web, via social media, and through other sources that are readily available (ie: perhaps you could view a pre-recorded webcast if this is something a school provides). Use the time you have with staff, students and alumni thoughtfully, asking questions that you can’t find answers to anywhere else. This is a golden opportunity to ask specific questions, dig deep, and get detailed personal perspectives.”

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About the Author

Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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