Every interaction with a school is an opportunity to impress. We’re in the middle of info sessions and MBA tours and all sorts of bschool recruiting and outreach so it might be a good time to cover some basics.
Even though we used to advise differently, the world has changed, and these days, no, you don’t need to wear a business suit to go to a school info session (though it’s fine to come in one if a suit is your standard work attire). We previously covered some basics of hygiene and today we’ll lay out some standards of meeting etiquette so that you don’t set yourself up to be remembered by the admissions person for all the wrong reasons.
First of all, if you RSVP to a school function, then it’s expected that you will actually attend that function. If something comes up and you can’t go, then have the decency to tell them. Un-RSVP. We heard firsthand from a student admissions ambassador several years back that yes, these things are noticed. If you’re running late, then just slip unobtrusively into the room and find a seat. It’s always better to be late than not to show up at all (though obviously it’s better not to be late if you can help it!).
We said that a suit is not necessary. Instead, for most events, business casual is fine – but please remember that jeans are not actually appropriate as “business casual” attire. Khakis can work, or slacks and a sport jacket. Ladies might choose pants and a blazer, or a dress or a skirt as long as you’re not showing too much skin (no sundresses, please, and no flipflops). More conservative is typically the safer choice.
During the event, be considerate of the speakers and keep your attention focused. Your phone stays in your pocket, and your laptop in you bag. There are really no exceptions to this. In fact, it’s best if your cell phone is OFF – not just on vibrate, but OFF. If you need to take notes, do it with pen and paper. It doesn’t matter if you have the fastest thumbs in the West and you think you’re more efficient tapping your notes out on your device. When someone is staring at their phone, the speaker assumes that they’re texting. You come across as disengaged. Instead, sit up straight, keep your eyes on the presenter, and please cover your mouth when you yawn.
Stay for the full event, or at least until the formal presentations are over. It’s very disruptive to everyone when, in the middle of someone’s talk, some dude (or dudette) in the audience clambers over a full length of people with whispered “excuse mes” and goes to leave the room. If you know that you need to leave early, then find a seat in the very back, on an aisle, and when it’s time, then make your exit as unobtrusively as possible. If you decide to leave halfway through because you’re bored, well, courtesy says that you don’t. Wait till the presentations are over, or at the very least, until there is a change of speakers and then use the lull in the program to make your escape. Imagine what it would be like for you to be giving the talk, with half the room staring at their phones and people popping up like gophers right and left to bop out.
All of us can use a reminder every now and then so hopefully these few guidelines for what to do and how (not) to behave when you attend an event hosted by a business school were helpful. It does not matter if the admissions folks are able to identify you by name. You still want to present yourself to the world with good manners.
Bonus: This video from an admissions guy at The Rotman School is pretty much totally excellent: