How to approach the Indian B-School Personal Interview

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WAT-GD-PI

Over the past four weeks I have been extremely tied-up doing WAT-GD-PI sessions for our students here in Chennai, which explains why the posts have become sporadic. Now that we are done with the Achievers Workshop here in Chennai there is more breathing space to do some writing.

The IIM interview season has already started and aspirants would be trying to get as much insights as they can right from how to dress for the interview to how to reduce India fiscal deficit without affecting our growth!

Amidst all of this clutter how does go in with the right perspective? What is the state of mind with which one should approach an interview? How you approach an interview will make all the difference.

The Interview Is Not A Test

For almost every aspirant this interview is a test, albeit an oral one, in which they will be interviewed/interrogated and they have to somehow find a way to get though this successfully.

Everything — your answers, your body language, your facial expressions, your composure — is determined by this, your attitude towards the interview. The panel being this set of two or three gods (benevolent, hectoring or bullying) upon whose mercy your life hangs.

To start with let us drop the test metaphor and try to view the interview as something else.

The Panel Is Your Prospective Client

Why is the panel your client?

Firstly, because they have a problem — they need to fill a certain number of seats. Well that might not seem like a problem but it is. It is problem because they want the right candidates for the seat.

Secondly, finding the right candidate is not an easy job because just aptitude  won’t do, they expect the candidate to have many more traits that cannot always be evaluated objectively. Hence, the IIMs go through the trouble of organising interviews spread out across the country and across many weeks. Else they would have shortlisted people based on CAT Scores and weightage assigned to different aspects of the profile.

If every seat they have to fill is a problem, then each IIM needs about 300-400 solutions.

What is your job? To convince them that you are one such solution.

Why the prospective client metaphor?

Simply because it determines what attitude you take to the interview. Prospective clients can be very similar to interview panels: generous,expressionless, grumpy, combative, high-handed and many more as those among you with work experience will attest.

How Would You Handle a Prospective Client?

  • Would you be walking in trembling and under-confident?
  • Will you sit passively across the table and expect them to ask questions and provide answers or will you try to establish a connection?
  • Will you go unprepared or will you go in with the best pitch you can make about your firm and your product?
  • If the client throws a tantrum or is asking you uncomfortable questions will you sweat and give up or will you handle it with poise to the best of your abilities?
  • Would you give false information and expect the client to not question or probe further or will you say I am not aware of that I will get back to you on that one?

The answers are self-evident and so are the traits you need to display

  • Self-Belief, & Confidence,
  • Communication Skills & Personableness,
  • Preparedness & Purpose,
  • Poise & Ability to Handle Stress,
  • Honesty & Prudence.

 

A Test Of Potential

You might not have all the above traits in abundance but a few of them like Honesty are must-haves. The rest of the traits cannot be imparted through specific courses at an IIM but can only be polished during your stay at the b-school and the internship you will be required to do as part of the program.

So at some level you are supposed to demonstrate these traits to some extent and show that you have the potential to become a business leader if you get a chance to learn at a premier business school like an IIM.

This might seem similar to the Selling/Marketing Yourself  idea and may be it is to a certain extent, but there is a vital distinction you have to make —  you are not marketing yourself to an individual like in B2C Marketing (Business-to-Consumer), you are marketing yourself to an institution like in B2B Marketing (Business-to-Business).

So all the traits we spoke about have to displayed with the assurance of a solution-provider than with the spirit of a salesman.

If you are able to approach your interview through this lens, I am sure you will be able to give a good account of yourself in your interview.

If you approach the interview panel as you would a client then you will end up displaying these qualities.

A few dos and don’ts

It is tough to cover the whole gamut of questions and possible scenarios in which a PI can play out through a blog post since it largely depends on the profile of the candidate. But be that as it may we can still look at some general principles that will hold you in good stead to handle a PI.

Be prepared for all the standard questions (Tell us something about yourself, Why MBA, Career Goals, Strengths & Weaknesses)

Be genuine, if you do not know say I am not aware, if you are making an educated guess then preface your answer saying I am not sure but I think..

Do not throw jargon such as I want to do brand management or investment banking unless you have done quite a bit of research about that and have are genuinely prepared to answer questions such as what is your favourite brand & why

Be prepared to think on your feet to answer questions that you are not expecting, your brain has to be alive and ticking not frozen

Be prepared to handle questions from your engineering, I know you are want to do an MBA to escape engineering but you have to for one last time 🙂

Be prepared with GK & Current Affairs especially policy related ones such as Make in India, Odd-Even, Climate Change, Net Neutrality, Startup India, Smart Cities and even controversial issues such as Award Wapasi and the likes.

and

Wear a smile, it looks good on almost all everyone.

Fake it till you become it

I know all of these are easier said than done and some of your might not feel that these qualities do not come naturally to you but everyone need not be a natural on everything, successful people conquer their weaknesses by reading and learning about it and confronting it.

 

Visualize yourself doing the right things

During the posts leading up to the CAT, we had discussed a lot about visualization — seeing yourself executing certain a set of behaviours/moves in certain situations. For example, in one of the posts we had clearly discussed that the DI-LR section can end up being the make or break section. We had discussed how you should not take the performance on one section into another. But despite all of this on test-day a lot of aspirants did adhere to it and went on to spoil their Quant section on the back of a sub-par DI-LR section.

You need to talk yourself into making the right moves. At that time we had used the example of Brian Lara and Michael Jordan and how they used the technique of visualisation. Well the Cricinfo Monthly has done even more detailed story with an entire issue dedicated to BCL. The writer Rahul Bhattacharya seems to be as crazily passionate about the batsmanship of The Prince as I am and has penned an awesome article for the issue.

http://www.thecricketmonthly.com/story/954549/fly-lara-fly

Prepare well and all the very best for your upcoming interviews!

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