Career Fair Prep 101

By Dan Jackson, MBA '12

Fall is upon us, and MBA students across the country are already putting in long, hard hours of studying to obtain the best grades so that they will be able to get their ideal job upon graduation.  But with all of the studying and other activities that surround MBA life, it can be difficult to focus on what activities an MBA student needs to do to land that dream position.  As a student, what do you do to ensure employers that you are truly the best candidate?  MBA students should be putting an equal amount of time into their career search as they are into their academic studies.

There are many opportunities to get in front of recruiters from some of the top companies around the country.  The National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) and the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA) host  annual conferences with major career fairs -- open to all MBA students -- at their that allow you to get in front of a variety of companies.

In preparation for the upcoming National Black MBA Association Conference, we are hosting a Twitter chat today at noon with Minnesota Boulevard, a collection of top MN employers seeking diverse talent for their businesses. You can join in by following #MNBlvdChat.

Black MBA magazine has highlighted 10 ways to make a trip to the Career Expo a success (PDF).  The article is filled with excellent points for attendees of the conference, but also contains relevant information for any student planning to attend a career fair.  I have expanded on two points from the article that I feel should not be missed and can be completed by a student at any time during the academic year.

Do your research (#1)

This is an important point, that's often overlooked by many MBA students.  Before meeting with a company recruiter, it is important to get as much information as possible on the background of the company and what they do.  This information should not just be surface level knowledge that most consumers can easily gather.

Begin to dig a little deeper: in what city is the company headquarters located?  Are there regional offices around the country?  How many regional offices?  Where are they located?  Questions like these are good after your initial search of a company and will most likely help you to expand your search process, but even after you find answers to these questions, you will need to get even more in depth with what the company is all about.

Do you have access to the company’s Form 10-K?  Has the company been in the news recently?  Are there news headlines that talk about the company and what they have been doing?  What open positions are currently being advertised on its website?  How did the company start?  What is the mission and vision of the company and in which direction to they see themselves headed for the future?  Knowing the answers to questions of this nature will really make you standout to recruiters because you will then be able to ask questions that do more than scratch the surface and will show you are a candidate who is really vested in the company and its growth.

Know your value and how to best communicate it (#6)

This point pairs well with the previous one.  By doing your research you will know enough about the company to observe their strengths and potential areas of improvement.  What better way to interact with a recruiter (after formal introductions of course) than to say, “I recently read a news article that spoke about [potential issues within the company].  As an MBA candidate, I am skilled in these areas and would be an excellent person to help with company growth in these ways…”

The two points above also help with addressing the overall fit of both an individual and a company.   As an MBA student, doing your research on a company will allow you to see if the company’s environment and mission is right for you.  If you conclude through research that a particular company is right for you, you will be able to communicate more effectively to a recruiter about how you can best fit into the organization.

Read the complete lise in Black MBA Magazine: 10 ways to make a trip to the Career Expo a success (PDF)