The Finer Points of MBA Etiquette

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on July 7, 2011

While there are exceptions, after a few months in b-school, most MBA students know how to behave with recruiters, at least in the context of interviews and information sessions. But what about social events? That’s where it gets a little murky.

The career services office at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School (Goizueta Full-Time MBA Profile) hosts themed events such as bowling or a Monte Carlo casino, renting a venue for 300 students plus company officials. Representatives pick a lane or blackjack table and students rotate through. There’s bite-sized food, music and alcohol.

The University of Michigan Ross School of Business (Ross Full-Time MBA Profile) has all that and football. The Ross Student Association (RSA) works with companies to sponsor game day tailgates on the golf course near the stadium. Kraft sponsored one last year and brought the Wienermobile.

“Companies love coming to the tailgate,” said Jonathan Krasnov, a dual degree student at the Ross school and member of the RSA. “For companies, it’s something different to do.”

The student organization also organizes the MBA Games, where cohorts play kickball, ultimate Frisbee, football and soccer against each other. Recruiters mingle with students during downtime, substitutions or timeouts.

These events may sound like fun and games - and they are - but that's not all there is to them. The primary thing for students not to forget is that this is a recruiting interaction, said Wendy Tsung, associate dean of the MBA Career Services at Emory.

"It's not a party," she said.

She said students should do their research, drink moderately and not check their phone while talking to recruiters. Etiquette expert Anna Post, author and spokeswoman for the Emily Post Institute, echoed her advice.

"It's stressful because one of the things about business etiquette is it tells you what's expected in any given situation. How do you mingle when you're being thrown out of your element on purpose?" she said. "They've put a really big twist on something you used to understand really well."

Post said students should make sure they make an impression with the recruiter without monopolizing the recruiter's attention. She advised them to dress conservatively "a notch" above what is called for, always keep the right hand free of food or drink, always stand up for a handshake and keep a one-drink maximum. A follow-up email or note is still required.

At the Ross School, Krasnov maintained these events are fun and not stressful.
"I don't think you should worry about embarrassing yourself," he said. "The most important thing is to be yourself and let your personality shine through."

--Kiah Lau Haslett

Reader Comments

Master B Artist

July 7, 2011 1:33 PM

Oh the trials and tribulations of MBA students!

Than Nguyen

July 8, 2011 4:01 PM

As a Dallas IT recruiter, I expect candidates to be able to make an immediate, positive impact for companies. Looking for a new IT job is tedious work and not always very easy to do on your own. Having technical recruiters working at different IT staffing agencies will help you get started, but don’t forget to look for positions on your own as well. If you find an opportunity that interests you, try contacting the IT recruiters you have spoken with and see if they have any connections at the company. Here's a list of Dallas jobs if anyone is looking: http://www.insourcegroup.com/dallas-it-jobs

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Read daily reports from BusinessWeek editors and reporters Louis Lavelle, Geoff Gloeckler, Alison Damast and Francesca Di Meglio and boost your chances of getting into your best-fit B-school.

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