Talking to business school reps at an MBA fair is a bit like a job interview. Former admissions expert Jonathan Khayat, currently Managing Director and Head of Sales and Business Development for North America for Advent Group – the organiser of the Access MBA One-to-One Tour, gives tips in a Clear Admit podcast on how to prepare for one of these events and increase your chances for admission.

[0:47] Q: You have not been working on this side of the table forever – you actually have a background in MBA admissions, isn’t that right?

Before joining Access MBA four and a half years ago, I worked at McGill University – I’m based in Montreal, Canada. I was in charge of recruitment and admissions for the MBA program at McGill. So, definitely, I’m very much aware of what’s going on the other side. And also, that’s one of the reasons why I was recruited at Access – because of my knowledge of the school side, as well.

[01:50] Q: What is an MBA fair and what happens at these events?

Well, an MBA event is your first contact, sometimes, with the business schools. You usually have 25-30 schools in the room – some are local schools, some are international schools. And this is your opportunity, really, to gather information about programmes – different programmes, different options. Whether you’re not sure if you want to do a full-time MBA or a part-time MBA, or maybe even you qualify for an executive MBA.

Read: Connect with Your MBA Match at the Access MBA Spring Tour

So you have a unique opportunity to speak to 30 recruiters or directors of admissions from business schools, asking questions that are related to you, to your case personally, and get answers from them. So I would say, if you’re looking for an MBA program, if you’re asking yourself if the MBA is the right thing for you, definitely take the 2-3 hours of your time – I think it’s a very important step in going into the right direction. Not only to know which school to apply to, but even to know if an MBA is right for you.

[03:24] Q: Does the number of schools attending an event vary from city to city?

I would say it varies from city to city. Of course, it varies also depending on the size of the market. We make sure that everyone gets visibility. Not only for the schools, but also we make sure that for the candidates, they’re able to meet with the schools. So that’s why we always limit the number of schools per event.

What we also do is that we limit the number of schools per country. So, for example, we know that candidates who are coming to MBA events are usually interested in several regions of the world in doing their MBA. So we make sure that we provide those opportunities as well – not only schools from North America, for example, but also schools from Europe, from Asia, because we also have interest there.

Read: 15 Tips to Secure Personal Meetings with Top Business Schools

[04:19] I’m going to have to ask you the elephant in the room question, which is: why should candidates bother with these kinds of events? What’s the benefit of coming to an event and talking to schools in person?

I’ve been in this industry for many years, in higher education, and it’s true that 20 years ago, you had to go to those fairs because not everything was on the internet. And nowadays, everything is on the internet. But this is very broad information. Now, I think that the advantages of coming to those events are, first of all, you can ask questions that are specific to you. For example, if you have a specific background and are not sure – let’s say I’m a musician – should I do an MBA or not? What is it going to bring to my career? This is not an answer you will find on the internet.

Second of all, sometimes people have personal questions. Especially international candidates saying, oh, I have a wife, I have a kid – what happens if I bring my wife and kid to the program? So I think that those events will give you a unique opportunity to ask questions specific to you.

We see that sometimes, candidates come to our event with a specific list of schools that they want to meet. And then we encourage them to go and speak to more schools. And then they come back to us and say, wow, that was great, because I went to speak to that specific school that you mentioned. It was never on my list, but it was an awesome conversation and I think I’m going to apply. So sometimes what we do is, we try to expand the horizon of those candidates to go and speak to as many schools as possible.

Find out more tips on how to prepare for an MBA fair and how to make the most of it once you’re there.

Listen to the full podcast here.


[06:40] Q: Is there a benefit to candidates if they get a chance to talk to graduates of a certain program?

[07:33] Q: How do you think someone should prepare to attend this kind of event? What questions should they ask there?

[09:47] Q: Are there things other than a resume that someone should bring to these events?

[11:30] Q: How much do you need to know in advance about why you want an MBA and your career plan?

[13:55] Q: What’s the dress code for these events?

[16:24] Q: What are some mistakes you see applicants making at these events?

[20:42] Q: What should people be doing after a fair?

[22:43] Q: Can you elaborate on what Access MBA does?

[25:39] Q: What is the timeframe for Access MBA events around the world?