An integral part of the full-time MBA program is networking – this entails strengthening professional relationships, gaining the perspectives of experienced mentors, and of course, improving the chances of successful interviews. Interviewing is a skill developed through both preparation and practice. In my experience at the Wisconsin School of Business (WSB), three actions that help prepare candidates are pre-interview research/practice, networking, and having a personable approach during the interview.
Good preparation entails researching the organization for which you have applied and building a story as to how this role fits with your background, interests, and education. A thorough understanding of the industry demonstrates interest not only in the role, but the type of work that the company is directly involved in. The job description is a great place to start building awareness and intuition for the work that you have applied for. Practice is also important to help build a natural flow of how you want to answer questions with STAR (situation, task, action, result) stories and have a meaningful conversation with your interviewer. WSB provides students with an array of services to accomplish this including career coaching, practice sessions, and case interview materials, to name a few.
Secondly, networking is a great opportunity to build awareness and interest, and to demonstrate sincerity in applying for the role. While not always completely feasible, an ideal strategy includes coffee chats and conversations with several individuals within the organization before ever starting the official interview. The intent of these conversations is to further discuss the role, the company, and experiences of the connections. This allows the interview to flow more naturally and demonstrates further commitment to pursuing the role. Recruiters, alumni, and other mentors are great connections to cultivate during the recruiting process.
Lastly, having a personable approach helps establish a positive connection with your interviewer, and by extension, indicates an ability to get along with other team members in the organization. Treat the interview like a conversation between professionals at different stages in careers and with someone who could become a mentor in your future roles. Time is usually allotted for interviewee questions, and it is a great practice to have them prepared ahead of time – asking about the interviewer’s own experience, significant work projects, or other details about the role are great conversation starters. A thank you note sent post-interview also helps promote a positive overall interaction. The interviewing process can be a daunting experience, but with preparation and intentional networking, it can be used for making positive connections, having beneficial conversations, and of course, obtaining job offers.