Top 10 Do's To Crack a Personal Interview
Once you submit your application to the business school, the admissions committee will conduct a preliminary screening based upon your undergraduate GPA and CAT/ MAT/ XAT/ IIFT/ SNAP scores. If you meet a pre-determined "academic cut off," you will likely be invited for a personal interview to further probe your suitability for that particular business school.
Critical Step in the Admissions Process!
The personal interview is a critical step in the admissions process and should not be taken lightly; most MBA programs will not accept a candidate without meeting him/her in person. A personal interview is aimed at knowing a candidate more intimately - assessing the clarity of thinking process, future goals and the 'fit' with the B-school. It provides the admission committee of a b-school to evaluate your interpersonal and soft skills.
It provides the admission committee of a b-school to evaluate your interpersonal and soft skills.
It is an Opportunity to 'sell' yourself
Personal Interview can also turn out to be an Opportunity to 'sell' yourself. While intimidating for some MBA-hopefuls, the personal interview represents a prime opportunity. Personal Interview allows you the chance not only to put a face and personality to the name and credentials on your application file, but also to express your academic, personal, and professional accomplishments, experiences, and intentions.
The focus of a B-school interview can range from specific questions about your job to broad discussions on life. Approach the Personal interview as a conversation to be enjoyed, not as a question-and-answer ordeal. It may be about your hobbies - your recent cross-country trip. This doesn't mean that the interviewers are not serious. It just means that you're being sized up as a person and a future professional in all your dimensions.
On the other hand, the Personal Interview (PI) is an opportunity for the b-school to question you about your application, your autobiographical sketch or any issues on your transcripts or entrance test scores.
Your interviewer wants to learn what you are like as a person and how well you respond and communicate. We want to understand your values, how you think and how well you handle yourself under pressure.
One and all b-school is committed to admitting students who are able to handle the rigors of business school on an academic, personal, physical and psychological basis. Your interview is your opportunity to convince the admission committee that you are up to the challenge you are expected to face in future
Personal Interview - an integral part of the B-School admissions process
The admissions process of some business schools requires that the MBA applicant attends a mandatory interview. These mandatory interviews are usually conducted as in-person ones. If you are an international applicant and the business school has not been able to either send its representative or identify any alumni in your country to conduct the interview in person, the Personal interview is conducted over the phone or through web conference. Again, an in-person interview is generally recommended as you can build rapport and use it to get feedback to determine your fit for the particular program.
Questions and answer for Personal Interview (PI)
Justify your decision to pursue the MBA program?
Don't tell the panel that you are looking for a "challenging job in a good firm with lots of money, status and glamour". Instead, you must convey to the interview panel that you have made a rational and informed decision about your career choice and your intended course of higher study. There are broadly four areas which your answer could touch upon:
- Career Objectives: You could talk about your career objectives and how the two-year MBA program will help you achieve them.
- Value Addition: Value addition will essentially be in two forms knowledge and skills.
- Background: This is where you connect your past to your future. If you are an engineer, try and say that the MBA course and your engineering degree will help you do your job better in the company that you will join. You should be able to convincingly justify how your engineering qualification will help.
- Opportunities and Rewards: You could also at this stage mention the opportunities that are opening up in organizations for management graduates. At this stage mentioning superior monetary rewards for management graduates may not be a bad idea.
Why do you think you would enjoy your chosen area of study (Eg: Marketing)?
Marketing is key to the success of any organization and the function has always appealed to me, because it requires a combination of creativity, strategic and analytic ability - all qualities that I feel I possess. Through discussions with some of my seniors, I have a pretty good idea of what it's like to work toward taking up a marketing job, and I know I will enjoy the work.
How do you spend your spare time?
I have a good collection of books of different genre and enjoy reading. In addition, I love driving during late evenings or on rainy weekend afternoons. Also, for the last two years I've been volunteering at the local children's hospital on Saturday mornings.
Best Tips for Persona Interview (PI)
- Prepare for the Personal interview extensively: review your application, learn about the school, and prepare answers for the typical questions
- Practice answering questions aloud before the interview until you can handle all types of questions confidently
- Walk into the interview with an air of confidence and professionalism. Offer a firm handshake and a professional demeanor
- Listen carefully to the interviewer's questions and answer accordingly. Don't babble incessantly about a related topic or answer the question you wish he had asked
- Be yourself. If your answers are ambiguous or inconsistent, the interviewer will likely consider you a poor candidate. Don't send out any unnecessary warning signs.
Your success will ultimately depend on your ability to sell yourself to the interviewer. (S)he is seeking the following traits:
- Communication Skills
- High Energy Level
- Sense of Humour
- Analytical Skills
- Leadership Potential
Qualities tested in Personal Interview (PI)
The personal interview process aim to test the 'views' expressed by a candidate during submission of the application or through a free-wheeling discussion around one's bio-data given in the application form."
A few 'knowledge-dipstick' questions on one's basic academic background might also be fielded to assess the depth and accuracy of existing knowledge. A few basic General Knowledge questions may also be asked. B-Schools also give importance to consistent academic performance as it is indicative of academic discipline and ethos one is required to have to survive in the rigorous competition.
According to experts, Personal Interview stresses on the following areas:
- Goal Clarity
- Communication Skills
- Personality traits
"Why do want to do an MBA? How does it fit into your career goals? What do you wish to do after your MBA?" - These are some hard questions that you will have to answer almost invariably in all Interviews. These questions search the 'inner motivations' of a candidate, and there are no 'right answers'. The only way to answer these questions is to introspect: what excites and motivates you; what makes you perform your best; what would you really like to do in your life, and how do you genuinely see an MBA helping. Tough questions, but answering them honestly is critical for your success!
'Why MBA?' is the most important question that MBA aspirants need to answer. There is no "good answer" for this. The answer needs to be your answer. In other words, you need to think deeply, introspect and find out what it is that really drives you, that really sends a shiver of excitement down your spine when you think of achieving it. It is only this excitement and this drive that can convince the interview panel about your answer rather than any 'manufactured' answer by any test prep faculty.
Also "Why do you think now is the right time to pursue an MBA?", "How will you fit into our program?" And "What will you do after you graduate?" are the key questions for every interview candidate. Interviewers are looking for responses incorporating specific examples from your academic, personal, and professional experiences. Further, they want to know the reasons behind your major life decisions.
So put on your thinking cap, do some soul searching and then jot down the answers to 'what's your goal' questions.
Tips for Answering Questions Effectively
- Keep your answers short, but informative. Be prepared to offer a 4 to 6 line answer to every question. This is enough to share a few thoughts and to stimulate further discussion if the interviewer desires. Try to avoid simple 'yes' and 'no' answers or responding in monosyllables. Show interest in the questions and sincere thought in your responses.
- Avoid sounding self-centred. Cite your achievements, but demonstrate an appropriate level of humility. When discussing professional accomplishments, acknowledge the help and support of your teammates, mentors, teachers and role models.
- Don't reveal insecurities. Accentuate the positive and don't dwell on the weaknesses in your background or application. Don't give any indication that you aren't willing and able to meet the rigors of business school. Your job on the interview is to convince them you are the right candidate: they won't believe it if you don't sound sure of yourself.
- Watch your tone. You'll certainly be asked a few stressor questions that are designed to test your ability to handle conflict. Don't get defensive. Your tone can be revealed in both the words you choose and your voice. Practice responding to difficult questions with a friend before the big day. It will help.
- Listen carefully to the interviewer, no matter how nervous you are. Although you'll be stressed during the interview, this isn't acceptable that you ask the panel to repeat their question every now and then. It simply confirms that you weren't listening, which is the kiss of death for a business school applicant.
Top 10 Don't's To Avoid In a Personal Interview For MBA !
Interview DOs and DON'Ts
Personal Interview Do's
- Dress appropriately for the institute; err on the side of being conservative to show you take the interview seriously. Your personal grooming and cleanliness should be impeccable.
- Know the exact time and location of your interview; know how long it takes to get there, park, find a rest room to freshen up, etc.
- Arrive early; 10 minutes prior to the interview start time.
- Treat other people you encounter with courtesy and respect. Their opinions of you might be solicited during admission decisions.
- Offer a firm handshake, make eye contact, and have a friendly expression when you are greeted by your interviewer.
- Listen to be sure you understand your interviewer's name and the correct pronunciation.
- Even when your interviewer gives you a first and last name, address your interviewer by title Sir or Madam, until invited to do otherwise.
- Maintain good eye contact during the interview.
- Sit still in your seat; avoid fidgeting and slouching.
- Respond to questions and back up your statements about yourself with specific examples whenever possible.
- Ask for clarification if you don't understand a question.
- Be thorough in your responses, while being concise in your wording.
- Be honest and be yourself - your best professional self. Dishonesty gets discovered and is grounds for withdrawing admission offers and for rejection. You want a good match between yourself and your future college. If you get admitted by acting like someone other than yourself, you and your institute will both be unhappy.
How to approach a Personal interview?
1.Do your homework
Have well thought out answers for questions such as "What are your strengths? Why are you right for that particular business school? Why is that particular program right for you?" It shows organization and forethought if you know some specifics about the program to which you are applying and can explain why those features fit well with your career goals.
For example, if you are applying to the Xavier Labour Relation Institute (XLRI), through some simple research you will discover that they are strong in Human Resource Development. Perhaps, you have worked with a recruitment company or have been a trainer in an institute. Relate these in the interview.
2.Don't Waste Time
Don't waste time discussing things that are already indicated on your application. You can elaborate if the topic illustrates something about your character and preparedness for the b-school experience, but do not be redundant.
Remember that the first impression you create is very important. When asked to say "something about yourself", most candidates just blurt out their schooling, college, marks and qualifications. All this is already there in the application. Why tell the interviewer something he/she already knows. Ideally, you would want to use this opportunity to show how you are different from the thousands of other applicants, not to blend in to the crowd.
A final word on approaching this question. After you have said what you have to say - don't venture any further. Don't drone. You just might say something foolish. Sometimes interviewers don't interrupt in order to give the candidate the impression that he has not spoken enough. This is just a stress/error inducing tactic. Don't fall for it. If the pause gets too awkward for your liking, just add something very politely like, "Is there something specific that you would like to know about me?"
Sample Questions for Personal Interview
You should be prepared for these potential areas of questioning:
- Your childhood, personality, family, college life, hobbies, sports and outside interests
- Your professional and leadership experience
- Your career goals, political views and breadth of business knowledge
- Your motivation to obtain an MBA; why now, why our school
Be prepared for a wide range of questions, from casual inquiries about your family to probing questions about ethical/legal issues. Also be prepared for general questions about current events and items of interest in popular culture. Nothing is more disheartening than interviewing an "academic genius" who doesn't know who is the Deputy Prime Minister or Vice -President of the Country.
1.How an interview commences?
A typical interview covers more than one theme. You are generally asked to first introduce yourself to the panel members. Remember that this is your opportunity to 'lead' the interview into areas that you are comfortable with or to topics that you wish to discuss.
It is quite important to highlight your achievements, whether academic or extra-curricular, in your introduction itself. Don't wait for the panel members to specifically ask you about them. Other things that you could mention in your introduction are your family and academic background, hobbies and interests, goals and aims in life, your strengths and weaknesses etc.
In fact, you could say almost anything as long as it is relevant, in the sense, that it reveals something about you as a person.
2.Academics/ Work experience
Interviews also centre on questions pertaining to academics, especially for all the freshers. Once again, it is hardly a good strategy to open your books just a few days before the interview and try to mug up whatever you think is important for the interview.
Try to ensure instead that you are keeping up with the subjects in your undergraduate course, are comfortable with the basics of the course and ready to answer application-based questions on these subjects.
If you appear to be the kind of person who picks up his books just to pass your examinations, the interviewers are likely to probe you further to check your genuine interest in the course you are currently pursuing and whether you, as a student, have really taken in something.
Remember that the people who are interviewing you are professors; they are unlikely to be too impressed if you seem to forget everything that you are supposed to have learnt just a few weeks/ months back!
If you have work experience, you can expect some questions around that. Besides your role in your current organisation, be ready for questions about latest developments in the industry/ sector that you are working in.
For example, if you work in an IT firm, you could expect questions relating to significant developments or news pertaining to that sector, any major acquisition that has taken place, questions like which are the four or five largest firms in the IT sector, what different software products or solutions they offer etc. Hence, it is necessary to know your industry/ sector well and keep yourself up-to-date with the latest developments.
3.Current awareness/ Business awareness
You could be asked questions pertaining to the world of business and important developments. The more you read the more confident and comfortable you will be and ready to answer any question that is thrown at you.
Importantly, here too, you may be able to come up with a unique insight or logic that impresses the interviewer and wins the day for you. The candidate who has prepared for just a few days is likely to be unable to go beyond the basic view or opinion which the tired interviewer has already heard from other candidates s/he has interviewed during the day.
So make sure you read the newspaper, including the business section, every day. In addition, reading a general magazine will also help. But, more importantly, it is crucial for you to try and analyze developments and develop your point of view regarding these.
Make sure that your opinion is backed with strong logic and is not just an opinion without any substance.
- In summary, make sure you do the following while preparing for interviews:
- Read extensively and widely; and do not keep your focus or sphere of knowledge too narrow.
- Keep up-to-date with all the latest important developments, especially the ones pertaining to the world of business
- Make sure that you keep up with your academic course as it is taught at your colleges; do not try to mug up things at the last moment. Questions in your interviews may not be limited to what you are studying in your final year only.
- Think about what all you could state in response to standard interview questions.
Questions You Should Ask the Interviewer
Successful candidates always ask questions at their interviews. In fact, the questions you ask reveal more about your suitability for business school than anything else. Here's what your questions tell us:
- How seriously the committee is thinking about the modernization of the business school and how well they understand the student's expectations?
- What is important for the institute - its own expectations or students' satisfaction?
- Apply the general information you gather about the school's particular reality
- Frame questions using your common sense and intellectual curiosity
- Ask for feedback regarding your energy level and communication skills
- Show the panel how well prepared you are (and will be in the future) for a becoming a manager
- Your observation power should also play a role in framing relevant questions like - What is the importance of huddle room in the institute? Or "Could the students approach the professors after the college time for any further clarification regarding any subject?" Etc.
General Rules for Asking Questions
- Only ask about topics you genuinely care about. You want to appear sincere and interested, not desperate for something to say.
- Research the topic thoroughly before mentioning it so that you can engage in a subsequent discussion. Prepare for your interview just as you would for an exam.
- Make sure the answer isn't obvious or has already been answered.
- Ask the appropriate person. Faculty members can offer a better perspective on certain issues than business students and vice versa.
- Watch your tone of voice and your body language. Many nervous applicants are unintentionally rude when they ask questions, which automatically puts off the interviewer. Be gracious and diplomatic in how you phrase your questions and reply to responses.
Mock Personal Interview
(Here are excerpts from the interview of few successful candidates for your reference.)
An interviewer is taking interview of a Computer Engineering student who has cleared the entrance test and GD for admission in his college.
Interviewer: Tell me about yourself.
Student: "I was born in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh and attended Scindia School. Ever since I was a teenager, I tinkered with computers. It was my hobby, my passion, and my way of learning. Like most kids I enjoyed computer games. When my folks gave me a computer as a reward for good marks in 10th Class, I mastered DOS, Windows, and WordPerfect within six months. I then went on to teach myself programming basics.
By the time I passed 12th Class, I knew I wanted to study computer engineering. From that point on, everything fell into place. My life revolved around the same. By my junior year at Engineering College in Nagpur, I decided I wanted to work for a major IT Company but I also wanted to master in other fields of handling business so that I can develop an overview of expectations of the company from me. That is why I decided to pursue MBA before joining any IT Company. I now want to graduate from this reputed college so I can be at the forefront of starting a career into a reputed IT Company. I am prepared to answer any questions you may have about my education and experience.
Interviewer: But you did tell me about your schooling, wasn't that all about your education?
Student: Yes sir, I did tell you about my school and subject preferences but can tell you a lot more about my engineering experiences and lessons I learnt from them, that is, if you allow me.
Interviewer: Frankly speaking, I have no idea about engineering stuff as I am a commerce student. So if you will tell me about you engineering course and all, I don't know how will I understand them, and above all, how will I know you are speaking the right thing?
Student: Hahaha.. You surely are very frank sir, so I will also be very frank to you. What I was about to tell you about my engineering days are just my experiences I had and the learning I get from them so far. They have nothing to do with my engineering course. Also, what I have heard about you from my friend's cousin, who is an alumni of this college, is that you are the most amazing professor with remarkable diversified knowledge base. So I can be very sure about your knowledge of computer engineering stream.
Interviewer: OK..So you are here with a lot of research and all. hmmm.. You seem to have done a bit of homework.
Student: Thank you for the compliment sir, I always like to be ready with my home work as it gives you an unmatched confidence.
Interviewer: Keep this attitude for the rest of your life as well. You will be informed about the final decision of the admission committee. All the best.