Schools like the opportunity to meet with candidates and to get a feel for their personality and their interests in a more informal setting. That is why many top B Schools in the world come to India through events such as fairs organised by QS World MBA tour, The MBA tour, or EduCanada. This is also a great opportunity for the applicants to connect with people who form a part of the admissions committee and to perhaps even meet and talk to an alumnus or two.
These fairs afford the invaluable chance for the applicants to leave a memorable mark in the minds of the admissions directors – if you manage to impress them, they will go out of their way to help you with the admissions process and will also eagerly process your application, once submitted. There is a flip side to this too, like with everything else. If you manage to leave a negative impression, that gets noted in your record and while it may not be a sole reason for rejection, it might still end up being detrimental to your chances.
Here are some things to keep in mind to make sure you leave a positive impression on the admissions directors.
1. Dress up
The old adage “the first impression is the best impression” absolutely holds true. If you are planning to personally interact with the admissions representatives and not just sit through the presentations, it is important to make a good impression – and by ‘good’, I mean professional. You do not have to wear a blazer, but you definitely need to be in formal wear. This applies for women too. And no ladies, a saree or salwar suit does not count as ‘formal’. Trousers, formal skirt, or dress please.
Business Casuals are perfectly fine too. Make sure you understand exactly what that constitutes. Finally, it kind of should go without saying, but since I have observed otherwise, I am forced to add two points – “groom that wild mane of yours” and “make sure things match!” – the colour of your socks with that of your trousers, the colour of your shoes with that of your belt, in the case of men, or with that of your wallet / bag, in the case of women. These are really basic and fundamental rules and are easy enough to follow.
Pro tip: If you are going to a fair from work or if you are using public transport, or cannot dress up for any number of reasons, pack your “fair wear” and dress up at the venue. These fairs are typically organised in five-star hotels in the city and you can always go there and add some polish to your veneer. And reach 15 to 20 minutes before the fair opens so that you can complete the registration process and settle in at ease.
2. Prepare your elevator pitch
Imagine you are in an elevator with someone. By the time, the elevator reaches the destination, you need to introduce yourself and make an impression. What will you say? Such a quick script is referred to as the “elevator pitch”. If you are planning to approach the admissions directors at their tables, prepare a quick introduction of yourself. And always greet them with a firm handshake (Duh!). Allow room for interaction, if need be – I have seen people diligently forge ahead with the prepared pitch even though the person listening to your pitch is trying to insert a comment, question or reaction.
If you have questions specific to your profile (that is not commonly available information), then the one-on-one meets is a good place to raise them. Some people might be willing to look at your resume there or at a later date. You can leave your resume with them, in such a case. However, do not thrust your resume in front of their faces.
3. Prepare ‘talking points’
MBA fairs are a good source for collecting information on the schools of your choice. If you attend these fairs in the initial stages of your MBA research, use them as a platform to gather information. However, if you are ready to start applying, you should use the fairs as an opportunity to impress the directors of the research that you have already done. If say, you are going to submit your application in about 3 weeks, you want the directors to see your application and think “oh yeah I talked to this person at that fair! I remember him/her!”.
To be able to do that, make sure you have basic information on the programs offered by the school and create a list of ‘talking points’. A school’s website is a good way to know what the school is especially proud of – in terms of their program, facilities, and faculty. Make sure you can raise a few of those in your discussion.
4. Pick on unspoken cues
You know those memes about “what women say” and “what they actually mean”? Well, here is your list of “what the admissions directors say” and “what they actually mean”.
|What they Say||What they mean|
|I would love to discuss this in detail with you at a later time||I want to speak to the others. Your time is up. Shush now.|
|I would love to take your resume, but I have so many things with me, I might lose it.|
I would love to look at your resume, but I do not think I will have the time
|Do not give me your resume|
|You can find more details on that on our website.||You are asking fundamental questions for which the answers are readily available anyways.|
|I will need to check on that, but it is highly unlikely that situation X will be looked on favourably during the admissions process.||Situation X is highly unfavourable.|
I am not saying interpreting ‘director speak’ is difficult. Rather, I am saying that they are more often than not, very polite individuals who know that it is bad form to be rude in rejecting someone. Unfortunately, I have seen people take advantage of the politeness and bulldoze their way in a conversation – perhaps because they do not pay attention to the implied meaning behind statements such as the ones given here. Not paying attention to such nuances will guarantee a negative impression. Know when and where to end a conversation.
5. Do not ask questions about
- basic program details or any other readily available information on website
- the answers to application essay questions. While asking for broad guidelines on application requirements is acceptable, do not ask them what you should write for each of the essays. I was standing at a table next to a guy who asked the admissions director about each and every application essay. He kept asking “can I say this or should I say that?”. The directors will NOT answer such questions. What do you think the 6 to 8-week evaluation process after submitting the application is for? In fact, this particular director commented after that guy had left “Man! I need to constantly be on my feet and jump around to dodge this question or that query”. Is that the impression you want to leave?
6. Open a Path of Communication
Post the fair, send a simple and neat “thank you” mail. Opening a channel of communication is a good way to sustain the impression you make. However, do not bug them about the admission process, every step of the way.
The final analysis: Make an impression by having a crisp, precise yet educated conversation about the school but do not overdo it. Having a long conversation is not necessarily better – two smart sentences go a much longer way than 15 mundane ones.