Category Archive 'MBA topics'

Questions I always ask job interviewers

Career, MBA topics

When I was younger, I used to have a very different approach toward job interviews. I used to see them as one-sided events where you had to prove your worthiness as a potential employee rather than as a two-way street.

As I’ve developed professionally, though, I came to realize that the point of interviewing shouldn’t just mean rote memorization, giving correct answers, and asking the right
questions. Interviews are also a rare opportunity to have a dialogue with an insider, one that should be taken advantage of to really understand whether the company you’re interviewing with is “right” for you.

Business school will teach you that you should always have questions for your interviewer in order to appear interested and enthusiastic about the company, and there are even lists of typical questions you can ask. Those are fine, but they’ll seldom get you to the crux of the matter, things like whether the company and group you’re interviewing with has good prospects, good leadership, and whether you’d enjoy working there.

I’ve found the best way to get to the heart of the matter is by asking the right probing and, yes, even atypical, daring questions. But the key to all this is that you must also have some answers to these same questions about the company that you’ve concluded yourself so that you have something to compare their responses to.

Having gone through interviews recently, here’s a list of things I did to prepare my questions and the type of questions I asked almost all my interviewers in one form or another. I happen to focus on questions related to “finance’s role in the company” because that’s my area, but you could easily customize it to whatever functional area you’re interested in:

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Best business schools: this year’s lists have arrived again

MBA topics

Businessweek just released their annual “” list, a couple of weeks ago. US News & World Report also has a top list of bschools for 2007, though its rankings tend to be more traditional and aligned with schools’ general reputations.

What tends to happen on all these lists is that the top schools almost always appear on each one in some random mix of order. Remember that each list uses a different methodology (WSJ’s emphasizes recruiters’ opinions, for example), and methodologies sometimes change from year to year.

Below are the most recent top 10 lists from Businessweek, WSJ, and US News & World Report:

Businessweek WSJ US News & World Report
1 Chicago Michigan Harvard
2 Wharton Tuck (Dartmouth) Stanford
3 Northwestern

Carnegie Mellon Wharton
4 Harvard Columbia Sloan/Kellogg
5 Michigan Haas
6 Stanford Kellogg Chicago
7 Sloan Wharton Columbia/Haas
8 Haas Kenan-Flagler (UNC)
9 Duke Yale Tuck
10 Columbia Sloan UCLA

By the way, I’m a Michigan grad from before they changed the school name to “Ross”. Hey, old habits die hard.

If you’re looking for a full-time MBA program, my advice is still the same: aim for the top schools if you can, but don’t forget to find a good fit. Remember that some programs are bigger, some programs are well-known for strengths in a particular area, some emphasize a core and some are more tailored, and some programs might fit your budget better or offer part-time options that might be worth considering. For example, I’m not knocking Chicago in any way, but for me, it wasn’t the right place when I was applying a few years ago. My undergrad education was already highly mathematical/technical, and I was looking for something that would round out my education and resume a bit more.

Believe it or not, for some people, applying to bschools is like applying to college all over again: aim for the top schools only, and if I don’t get in there, I’m somehow less worthy than someone who got in. Remember that by the time you’re applying to bschool, you’re supposed to have grown up a bit and hopefully realized that finding the right school for you is important. :)

Semco: the intriguing anti-corporate company

Business & entrepreneurship, Career, MBA topics

To lighten up my recent spate of posts, I wanted to share a case study about Semco, a Brazilian manufacturing company. Its story is actually not new, and the founder’s son, Richard Semler, wrote a book entitled Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace over a decade ago.

In many ways, Semco represents what many might consider an “ideal” working environment: transparent salaries, a completely flat or non-existent management structure, autonomous working groups, democratic decision-making, etc. Sound a bit anti-capitalistic? Probably the most surprising thing of all is that these radical-sounding ideas have made the company very successful by almost any measure you can choose.

Perhaps part of this is helped somewhat by certain Brazilian employment laws, but I’m sure Semco’s approach could still be easily adapted to other countries. The curious thing is, why aren’t there more examples of companies that run anything like this?

Sadly, we didn’t cover this case in our organizational behavior class when I was at school, but I (originally posted free-of-charge ) that’s worth reading or maybe even sharing with others at work. Who knows, maybe someone else out there might be willing to give Semco’s ideas a try!

How I learned to care about economics

MBA topics, Personal finance

Here’s a simple reason why most Americans just don’t get economics: we don’t feel its impact in our day-to-day lives. Most of us realize economics impacts us only when an economist on CNBC tells us things are getting more expensive or we actually stop and consciously analyze it.

Before the comments start coming, let me just say that I’m not talking about the price of gas rising at the pump here. Let me explain with a little. To me, there are two kinds of knowledge: the kind that comes from reading a book, and the kind that comes from first-hand experience. It’s the latter that, over time, becomes intuition.

In business school, American students (except for the few who majored in economics as undergrads) had a much harder time in our first-year core macroecon class than any of the foreign students. Most of them waived the class and took an elective instead, but for the few who stayed, the class was a joke. Whereas we struggled with grasping the , what it meant to have a , how interest rates and inflation related through equations, or the difference between , foreign students already knew this stuff from living it in their daily lives.

Instead, for the average American, daily life in the US means never having to think or convert to another currency unless you happen to be traveling, not having to care that the US dollar has slid vs. the Euro, and not paying much attention to inflation, either. For now at least, the US remains the engine that drives the rest of the world.

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Prepare for the GMAT with Princeton Review

MBA topics

A few friends are beginning their preparations to , the required entrance exam for most business schools. The GMAT differs most standardized tests out there in a few important ways:

  1. It’s entirely computer-based
  2. There are no set dates: You can schedule a time to take the GMAT at any local test center at any time
  3. The test is adaptive, meaning there’s an algorithm that will give you increasingly harder questions if you answer them correctly, or easier ones if you make errors

As if that weren’t enough, many of my close friends are already very uncomfortable with standardized tests because they think they were always bad at math, because they’re already intimidated before the test even starts, or because they approach the test the wrong way, as something that truly tests their knowledge.

I always recommend the same thing to all of them: use the Princeton Review books. Their approach toward test-taking is irreverent but effective, almost like a game. And it works. For the GMAT, I highly recommend Princeton Review’s Cracking the GMAT. The 2007 edition was just published a couple of days ago.

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