One of the great aspects of the MBA recruiting experiences is the 360-degree approach many employers utilize to get to know candidates. Recruiting events like the 1st year presentation and interview tend to get more attention from interested candidates, but coffee chats are also an important way for recruits and recruiters to learn about each other.
So what is a coffee chat? Well it is not totally about coffee. A coffee chat in its simplest form is a planned conversation with an employee of a target firm. This conversation can be in person or remote via phone or video-conference. The firm representative of your target firm conducting the coffee chat tends to have some ties to your MBA program, in many instances, but not always. Firms that recruit at larger MBA programs with deeper alumni bases tend to utilize these alums in greater numbers for coffee chats, so there may be some familiarity with the participating representative.
From the student perspective, coffee chats provide the opportunity to learn more about what day-to-day life is like at a company. Students can use this time to ask specific questions they have about the firm, recruiting process, and the employee’s experience at the company. This knowledge can aid candidates during interview season as well as help make final decisions on whether to work at the firm or not.
From the firm side, a coffee chat is a strong sign of interest by a candidate and although these talks are informational, candidates are most certainly being judged. Conversations held during these coffee chats are documented internally and feed directly into decisions regarding the interview list and sometimes even the ultimate interview decision. How a candidate comes across during these sessions is very important and can have a long lasting effect on securing an internship or full-time offer at the target company. So these coffee chats are not just about sipping cappuccinos!
In some instances this may be a candidate’s only opportunity to connect one on one with a representative of their dream company so it is important to make this limited time count. The chat typically last between 15 minutes and 30 minutes so the impetus will be on the candidate to make the most of the time allotted.
Don’t get blindsided by coffee chats on your campus. Know what you are getting into beforehand and take advantage of this opportunity to shine!
Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here.