Once you submit your application to business school, the admissions committee will conduct a preliminary screening based upon your undergraduate GPA and CAT/MAT/XAT/Etc. scores. If you meet a pre-determined "academic cutoff," you will likely be invited for a personal interview to further probe your suitability for that particular business school.
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.
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. 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 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 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 admit 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.
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 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.
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:
"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.
Given that a good MBA is a demanding program, B-schools would like to know how you will be able to cope up with the academics and the extra-curricular 24 x 7 demands of your new campus. They are also keen to assess how you have utilized the earlier learning opportunities.
Be prepared to discuss different specialty areas in business and their responsibilities. Interviewers will also expect you to discuss current issues in business, including the economy, taxation, foreign competition, the role of technology and ethical challenges in the field.
Interestingly, it is not just about knowledge and answering the questions but also 'leading' the interview panel. Anything you say opens the doors to new lines of questioning and discussion, so make sure you know where you are leading the interview. Be careful about the gates you open, and be very sure you have in-depth knowledge about whatever you mention.
For e.g. if you say you have an avid interest in Badminton, be ready for questions pertaining to Prakash Padukone, Deepika Padukone, plastic shuttles v/s feather shuttles, Saina Nehwal etc. It is advisable to brush up 2-3 subjects from your graduation thoroughly if you are a student fresh out of college. Also, contextual knowledge of the environment around you as well as "general knowledge" comes quite handy.
Brush up on your area of specialization/ subjects at graduation. Account for breaks, if any. Take pains to know about the company you work for; your place in the scheme of things and your contribution. Since 'Extracurricular' would comprise activities other than academics and work life, list those activities, preferably recent, that you have participated in or initiated. Be clear about what you do in your leisure hours. Preparation for general awareness questions is an ongoing exercise.
Your speaking and listening skills become very important than the often tested reading and writing skills. As simple as it may sound, good communication strategy is quite simple. Listen to the question keenly to understand it well, and then offer a precise answer. If you don't know the answer, no bluffing the panel please! The experts are too experienced to notice this and can get switched off.
While speaking, the biggest sin you can commit is beating around the bush and being too verbose. Remember, panel can easily interpret these "tactics" on your part to be lack of clarity or a deliberate attempt to obfuscate your lack of knowledge. Also, while answering questions, please remember it is not a quiz and you can actually pause and collect your thoughts before answering, if required.
To be honest, it is not at all tough to 'prepare' for an interview as you only have to analyze yourself because all the answer an interview board seeks are within you. Although, practice for an interview session should ideally begin, as soon as you make up your mind for pursuing management education. However, you should use the few weeks and months before the interview to revisit and update your knowledge base, and crystallize your reasoning and thinking process on your career and life goals.
Reading newspapers and keeping updated with all the major happenings does help a lot. Revising the concepts, at least from courses one liked or did well in, from under graduation is required.
Attend mock GD sessions and giving 2-3 mock interviews. Importantly, preparing for GD/PI sessions is a good time to reflect and introspect on what are one's career goals and the reasons why one is opting for management career, and one should make use of this opportunity.
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.
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?"
What you'll Be Asked?
You should be prepared for these potential areas of questioning:
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.
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.
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.
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, everyday. 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.
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:
(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.
An interviewer (Mr. Dubey) taking interview of a fresher candidate (Rachit) who has cleared CAT and scored well in GD session.
Ritesh: May I come in sir?
Mr. Dubey: Hello Ritesh, please come in. Take your seat.
Ritesh: Hello sir, Thank you.
Mr. Dubey: So you have scored 97 percentile in CAT. Congrats.. What do you think? Is it a great achievement?
Ritesh: Thank you Sir. Yes, it is a great achievement as I had put in a real hard work in the preparation. But at the same time it is only half a battle won.
Mr. Dubey: What are the major reasons for your success?
Ritesh: Many years ago I learned an important lesson from Mr. Dewakar Sinha, my first most important mentor. He told me his secret to success was to 'Look at each day as a new opportunity to be your very best. Set high goals, be honest, never say no, and be in the company of people who share your passion for doing their best.' I've always remembered that advice and try to live it every day. While preparing for CAT, I used to be very self motivated, determined and honest. I really liked working hard and enjoyed what I did and I also tried to surround myself with people who shared similar passions. I generally thrive in such environment. I am looking forward to find same environment in this institute.
Mr. Dubey: Why do you want to study in this institute?
Ritesh: I've always wanted to gain knowledge instead of mere earning a degree. This institute has got several years reputation in the field of academics and a long list of experienced and talented faculty. This was the main reason for my interest in this institute. Also, I have been in touch with a number of alumni of this institute for their guidance regarding my CAT preparations. I could pursue this course anywhere, but I'd rather study in an institute whose products I trust.
Mr. Dubey: Well. Ritesh. It was nice talking to you. You will get the admission department's final decision in a while.
Ritesh: Thank you sir, have a nice day.
An interviewer (Mr. Mehta) asking questions from a candidate (Nisha) who was working in a BPO part time along with her BA. She has scored well in entrance test and GD.
Mr. Mehta: Hello Nisha, so how are you feeling today? Nervous or excited or both?
Nisha: Hello Sir (With a courteous smile). Yes sir, I am excited as well as nervous as you can see. But I know how to handle stress as I have done it before as well.
Mr. Mehta: Really. so how do you manage stress with work?
Nisha: Stress is a part of life so one must accept it as it comes in the way. When I am confronted with stress, I tend to find out the cause of it. There are various causes for stress, it may be due to self reason or may be due to others too. If I see there are people who are adding to my stress level then I believe in discussing with them and focusing on the professional as well as personal issues that lead to such stressful situation. So what ever be the cause, I approach it with a flow chart method, i.e. starting with the root cause and doing the follow up. One tends to lose temper but life/work teaches you to stay calm and use logical ways to find out the solution. This is the only way to achieve your pre-determined goal within time frame, I believe.
Mr. Mehta: Do you have a goal? Where do you see yourself in 5 to 7 years from now?
Nisha: Setting goal is very important for me sir, so I do have set a goal for me. Although it's certainly difficult to predict things far into the future, I know what direction I want to develop toward. Within three years, I would like to become the very best HR Manager for the company that hires me in the campus placement after 18 months from now. In fact, my personal career mission statement is to become a world-class expert for Human Resources. I will work toward becoming the expert that others rely upon. And in doing so, I feel I will be fully prepared to take on any greater responsibilities that might be presented in the long term.
Mr. Mehta: It feels so good to hear such motivating future plans from kids your age. I wish you all the very best. You will soon get to know the final decision of the admission committee.
Nisha: Thanks a lot for your compliment sir. Have a nice day ahead.
An interviewer (Mr. Tyagi) is in conversation with a candidate (Archana) who does not seem to be much open to people, although her entire academic life and score in written test are commendable. But her GD performance is not that great. Mr. Tyagi wants to examine if Archana is worth giving a chance in his institute.
Archana: May I come in Sir?
Mr. Tyagi: Please, have your seat.
Archana: Thank you sir.
Mr. Tyagi: So Archana, you are a commerce student and want to pursue finance?
Archana: Yes Sir. I have completed B. Com with Accounts Honors. I was always interested in numbers and figures, so have decided to become a finance manager since childhood.
Mr. Tyagi: What qualities do you feel a successful manager should have?
Archana: The key quality should be leadership--the ability to be the visionary for the people who are working under them. The person who can set the course and direction for subordinates. A manager should also be a positive role model for others to follow. The highest calling of a true leader is inspiring others to reach the highest of their abilities.
Mr. Tyagi: But Archana, what I can make out from our conversation is that you are not a very outgoing person. Is there a reason for this or do you consider this as your weakness?
Archana: Yes sir. you observed it very right that I am not a very extrovert person. There is no specific reason for the same and I don't consider this as a weakness. Throughout my academic life, I have performed the way I decided and was expected to. I never fell short on my professors' expectation and performed my duties well. My little reserve nature has never been a hurdle for me.
Mr. Tyagi: If I were to ask your professors to describe you, what would they say?
Archana: I believe they would say I'm a very devoted person, that I put my mind to the task at hand and see to it that it's accomplished. They would say that if they ever had something that needed to be done, I was the person who they could always depend on to see that it was accomplished. They would say that I always took a keen interest in the subjects I was studying and always sought ways to apply the knowledge in real world settings. And I am not just guessing what they would say, in fact, I'm quite certain they would say those things because I have with me several letters of recommendation from my professors, and those are their very words. I can show them to you as well.
Mr. Tyagi: If you had to live your life over again, what would you change?
Archana: That's a good question. I realize that it can be very easy to continually look back and wish that things had been different in the past. But I also remember that things in the past cannot be changed, that only things in the future can be shaped. That's why I continually strive to improve myself each and every day. That's also the reason why I want to become the very best finance manager the company, which will hire me, has ever had. To make positive change. And all of that is still in the future. So in answer to your question, there isn't anything in my past that I would change. I look only to the future to make changes in my life.
Mr. Tyagi: Well said Archana. I am very impressed I must say. I wish you all the best in life. You can leave for the day. The final decision of the admission committee will be conveyed to you soon. Thank you.
Archana: Thank you Sir.
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:
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.
What are your strengths and your weaknesses?
First of all, take time to write down 3 of your strengths and 3 weaknesses. These are examples from personal life; you can quote your relevant real professional life examples.
"Since my childhood, I have a habit, if I want to go to a movie and my parents wanted me to finish my maths homework first, then I used to solve the Math's problems first and also I used to make sure that I do it correctly. I would not care how much effort was involved, how much convincing was required, so my first strength is that I am a determined person.
Secondly, I have a habit, when I take up some work; I make sure that I do it very well. It was my dad's 25th birthday. All my family members had completed the decoration, but I started when everybody finished, because I was not satisfied with the way it was done. I worked alone for four hours and at the end of it, everyone appreciated it. Moreover, my father, for whom it was a surprise, was delighted. My second strength is that I love perfection and I achieve it most of the times.
Now as I have told you about my strengths I would like to share with you something. One of my strength of being a determined person is also my weakness. When I take up some commitment, I invest so much energy, hard work and efforts in it that I sometimes neglect my personal life, social life, health and family life. I still remember I have not visited my very close friend since last 2 years. My strength of being a determined person is also my weakness.
My mother tells me that I spend a lot of money. I think she is right and but from other perspective, I think what I am doing is also right. Whenever I buy something - clothes, watches, shoes, I buy best quality products, and good products or services are always expensive. My second weakness is that I spend a lot of money on quality products."
The first thing you need to do prior to interviewing is assess yourself. This includes listing your strengths and weaknesses, your accomplishments and achievements, reviewing your strong and your weak subjects, and recording some of the key decisions you have made in your life.
You should then review your interests, the disappointments you've encountered, your work environment likes/dislikes, your business and personal values, your goals, needs, restrictions, and life style preferences.
Your success will ultimately depend on your ability to sell yourself to the interviewer. (S)he is seeking the following traits:
If you have them, flaunt them! They will open the door to a wonderfully challenging, yet satisfying academic experience.
Hopefully you should be ready to face PI by now. For such understanding on the subject matter please stay tuned to www.mbarendezvous.com, portal with MBO approach.