How to Maximise Your Time at the MBA Fair

by mba

There’s no second chance to make a first impression

Jen Turtschanow brings diverse experience spanning student recruitment and admissions, training, sales, marketing and communications. For almost four years at ARINGO, a boutique MBA Admissions Consulting firm, she has been helping candidates get admitted to top-ranked business schools with scholarships.

Admission teams are eager to meet aspiring applicants at recruitment fairs. In today’s digital world, why and when should a candidate attend an MBA Fair?

You can learn a lot about MBA programmes via their website or other MBA industry partners. However, meeting someone from the programme face-to-face can give you better perspective on the personality of the school and allows you to ask your specific questions.

I would recommend starting to attend MBA fairs a year in advance of applications. This will provide ample time to create a strong school list, build relationships with your target schools and learn their applicant expectations.

MBA fairs are often the place to make a first impression on MBA admissions officers. What should candidates do prior to the fair to make the most of this opportunity?

Make sure to do these three things before attending. First, update your LinkedIn. Many fairs ask you to link it to your digital profile that they share with the programmes. It’s OK to bring copies of your updated CV as well to give to a recruiter if they ask for one (some of us are old-school and prefer to take handwritten notes on the back). Second, do your research. Each fair will publish a list of programmes that will be attending. Make a priority list of schools to visit. Finally, dress professionally. You are making a first impression with the admissions team, so make it memorable! As a bonus, many fairs offer free headshots, so it pays to look your best! I highly recommend bringing a padfolio to carry copies of your CV and a pen and paper to take notes.

Imagine a candidate just arrived at the fair and enters the hall full of school tables. What should they do first?

Typically, fairs will have a map of the schools so you can plan for meeting admissions teams from your target list. If you have not had time to do research, I would recommend making a scouting loop around the room. Grab some literature for a quick read before you approach for a conversation.

OK, so a candidate is ready to talk to an admissions team. What should they say?

Beyond common pleasantries, candidates should be ready to share a quick version

of their profile consisting of years of experience in a specific sector/function/industry; a condensed version of their post-MBA goals; and the type of MBA experience they are looking for.

Here is an example: “Hi, I’m Mary. I have four years of experience in accounting at Deloitte. I’m looking to get an MBA to move into a finance role in the banking industry at a company like J.P. Morgan or Credit Suisse. I’m interested in full-time MBA programmes with a close-knit community and smaller class size”.

Although meetings at the fair are not admissions interviews, what type of questions should candidates expect from recruiters?

As during the admissions interview, recruiters want to get to know you better. They also want to tell you how their programme is a good fit. They will ask questions about your application timeline (Round 1 or 2?); your qualifications (have you taken the GMAT/GRE, years of work experience?); your specialisation or concentration interest (finance/consulting/supply chain/management); and what you are looking for in an MBA programme (clubs/activities/location).

What questions should candidates ask recruiters?

Be ready with 2-3 questions that are thoughtful and cannot be found online or in the brochure. Consider these go-to questions:

  • Every school has its own personality. What would you say is the personality of your school?
  • What is one thing/event/club/class you feel like current students or alumni would say is their favourite part of the programme?
  • As a local, can you tell me about… what there is to do outside of the classroom? Go hiking/trekking? The local art/music scene? (Something that resonates with your personal interests)

After meeting several recruiters, what should a candidate do after the fair to prepare for the application process?

The first thing to do is write down notes from the interactions you had with the schools, names of the recruiter and anything you spoke about that really interested you about the programme. You can make reference to these in your application or interview later.

Most MBA programmes will send you some sort of follow-up email within 48-72 hours after the fair. You can respond to this email, sharing your interest or asking any follow up questions you may have. If you do not get an email or have specific questions, you can always email the person you met at the fair. They will be happy to hear from you!

Is there anything else you think those attending the fair should know?

MBA recruiters are excited to meet you and share information about their programmes and the region. It is easy to be nervous when speaking to them, but you should know that they understand that the school selection and application process can be intimidating. That is why they travelled hundreds or thousands of miles/kilometres to meet you! They are there to help and excited to hear your authentic story and questions. Keep an open mind as you walk around the room. You may find a school you did not know you were looking for!

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