B-School Selection
Comments 44

How to build your profile for an MBA

This is a question that I get asked often by students and a very important one at that — how do I build my profile? So before we get on to the answer, let us evaluate what elements of a profile are.What are the elements of a “profile”?Your profile is the impression that various elements in your resume create as a whole.

  • Academic Performance
    • Your marks in X, XII, Graduation
  • Work Experience
    • Number of months
  • Academic Pedigree
    • The brand of the institution from which you have graduated or will graduate
  • Academic Achievements
    • Ranks secured at school (X & XII), college and university-level and/or performance in national or state-level entrance tests
  • Co-Curricular Achievements
    • Ranks in Olympiads, NTSE, Paper Presentations, Journal Publications and any other academics-related contests outside of regular school and college work
  • Extra-Curricular Achievements
    • Achievements in non-academic pursuits singing, dancing, sports, games, NCC, martial arts etc, Model UN etcetera
  • Positions of Responsibilities
    • Official posts held at a school, college and university-level
  • Pursuits of Special Interests
    • Any extra-curricular interest pursued out of passion but without achievements — reading, writing, sports, games, singing, dancing, painting, trekking, photography, short-film making

Most of the things that would go on to a resume can be fitted into one of the above labels.

What is a “good profile”?

A good profile is one which would rate as “average” or “above-average” on most of the elements listed above and have a spike on at least one of elements.

A spike is a level of achievement on a parameter or attribute that indicates that you are really better at it than most of the other people in the fray.

A few examples of what spikes are:

Academic Spike — Someone who has above 90% in X, XII and Graduation will be considered to have a huge spike in academics. The key is the 90 in graduation since most aspirants (at least in this part of the world) tend to have 90s in X and XII, it is the 90 in your graduation that will put you in the outlier category.

Sports Spike — Those who have participated in individual or team sports or games at a district, state and national level will be viewed as having a spike since most aspirants will have played but not professionally. A student I met recently told me that the moment he put forward his national-level badminton at the under-13 level in front of the NMIMS panel the interview changed (he made it despite with a merit rank in the 300s the fact that he had just cleared the cut-off with a score of 209. Even running the marathon or cycling if done seriously with achievements to speak about can be a major spike.

So similarly you can have a spike in any one area it can be leadership spike if you have always held positions of responsibility. It can be an extra-curricular spike if you have participated in a lot of dramatics, singing or dancing at college-level. It can be a special interest spike if you have formally taken up dancing, singing, painting, languages or any other interest and are pursuing it seriously.

Does your profile impact your MBA aspirations?

Your profile plays a major role in three things:

  • The probability of you getting a call from premier institutions
  • The conversation you are going to have in your PI
  • The shortlists you are going to get during your summer & final placements

But all of the elements listed in the profile factors do not equally influence all the three things mentioned above.

Getting a call from premier business schools
Each b-school has a different set of criteria based on which it gives out calls. The usual elements that come into play are

  • CAT Score, Academic Profile & Work Experience

Each b-school gives each of the three components a different weightage and in some cases no weightage at all.

IIM-A for example no longer gives weightage to work experience but Academic Profile (especially your Graduation Marks) play a major role. IIM-B gives weightage to work experience, IIM-C does not consider Graduation Marks and gives, IIM-I gives more weightage to XII marks etc.

Freshers need not worry most b-schools take in a healthy percentage of freshers — please understand that for colleges that consider work experience calls are not given out only to those who have work experience. The weightage for work experience will make it easier for working professionals to get a call — they can get in with a lower percentile when compared to freshers.

Also, for the first call it is only the quantity of work experience that will play a role and not the brand of the firm that you are working with.

What is important to note is that these criteria might change from year to year.

Do not worry about what you cannot change — your marks in the past — let the IIMs decide their weightage and give out calls based on their calculation, focus on what you can change.

Those who have graduated and have poor graduation marks need not worry since IIM-C does not consider it at all in their process; get a good CAT score and you are in!

Also please note that Academic Pedigree plays no part in this stage of the process.

The conversation you are going to have in your PI
Most top colleges send out a form to be filled out along with the call the next round. This form will ask you to fill out not just details about your academic profile  and work experience but will also

  • ask you to list achievements — co-curricular, extra-curricular and work-related (if applicable) and
  • ask you to write answers to questions such as
    • why do you want to do an MBA
    • what are your career plans
    • what are your strengths and weakness
    • what is the biggest challenge you have faced in your life so far
    • what is your biggest failure and what have you learnt from it
    • what are your hobbies and interests

The panel will have your filled-up form when you go into the interview and you will be asked questions based on what you have filled up. This is where the achievements and interests element of your profile come into the picture. You can have a look at a sample form, that of S.P.Jain last year, here.

Even if a college does not have a form and starts off with a tell me about yourself, the interview will be based on the things to tell about yourself that are not captured in the CAT application.

The two elements — brand value of the college where you pursued (or are pursuing) your bachelor’s degree and the brand value of the firm that you are working for are not evaluated objectively, which means that there are no marks allotted to the same separately based on any criteria.

The panel will make it a part of the overall marks it awards to you in your PI, based on how you perform in the PI. So a good college brand by itself does nothing unless you do a good job in the PI.

Getting interview shortlists for summer internships & final placements
You will be having your summer placements 3 to 4 months into your MBA. So this means that your resume will not have changed at all. So the profile you have before getting into the b-school is what you will have while applying for summer training.

It is at this stage that the brand value of the college where you pursued (or are pursuing) your bachelor’s degree and the brand value of the firm that you are worked for, are more important.

Firms will have loads of resumes from all b-schools and they tend to make their jobs easier by giving out shortlists to those with big brand names on their resumes. So this is where the real value of the IIT-tag kicks in! Also, all firms do not do this, only the real big consulting firms tend to do this.

How to build your profile

As mentioned earlier, you need to focus on what you change in your present and hence your future and not your past. The objective of this post is to give you a realistic idea of the selection process and help you chart out your future course of action. So do not get deflated but start looking at the ways below to improve your profile.

Take up certification courses aligned to your career aspirations

I am an engineer and I want to get into finance! Well to do this you have to show what steps you have already taken towards your goal.

A lot of engineers who are dead serious about getting into Finance are taking up the CFA exams, the US equivalent of the CA. A student of mine who is currently at IIM-C, the mecca in India as far as Finance aspirants are concerned, said that there about 70 students who have cleared at least Level 1 (out of 3) of the CFA! the CFA is neither an easy nor a cheap exam to prepare for and take. But if you are really, really serious you need to take it up.

Other options for those keen on pursuing Finance are taking up NSE certification courses about which you can learn here

A great option for those looking at any specialization be it Marketing, Finance, Analytics or Operations are the certification courses from premier international schools such as Wharton on Coursera.

You can choose courses by specialization and college (just ensure that you choose top-rung colleges).

Freshers can really benefit by taking up a few courses especially in Marketing and Analytics since they will give you an introduction to the world of business as well as ammunition for the PI.

Take up positions of responsibility

This is one thing that freshers should really go after in the next semester. Forget publishing a paper as part of the symposium, organize the symposium! There are loads of committees and clubs on campus, you need to get into at least one of them, actively organize things/events as part of the committee/club and ensure that you a certificate for the same.

Take up social impact activities

While both freshers and working professionals can take this up, it is easier for the latter to become an active contributor to the CSR initiatives in your organization. You can also sign up to do volunteering work for an NGO working in the field of your interest — education, health care, environment etc.

One specific thing that freshers can look at is applying to and joining student organizations such AIESEC (they have city-wise chapters) or take part in their initiatives.

Take part in contests, events and cultural festivals

If you are not interested in organizing then take part in inter-college events based on your interest be it — case study contests, b-plan contests, singing, dancing, acting, sports whatever you are passionate about. The idea is that you should come across as someone who does more than just going to college and coming back.

Take an interest in the Entrepreneurship Cell of your college

A lot of people keep saying that they want to become entrepreneurs some years down the line when asked about career plans or Why MBA. But mostly the line is similar to — any they lived happily ever; nobody knows how we are expected to take it at face-value. So show some interest and become a part of the E-Cell if your college has one!

Take your interests to the next level

Your IIM interview can revolve entirely around your passion or interest. So take whatever interest you have and explore it seriously. If you like languages then take up learning a language and clear at least a level. A student of mine liked to read Manga (Japanese comics) and she ended up learning Japanese and clearing a few levels!

If you like outdoor activities such as trekking or cycling join the Chennai Trekking Club. If you have always wanted to train for a marathon then train to at least do a fraction of it.

Take your public speaking skills by joining Toastmasters

Those of you who want to really improve your communication skills with a view to doing well in the interviews should join Toastmasters — it is a not a training institute but a club for people to improve their spoken English. Once you become a member you can also take up positions of responsibility within the local chapter that you attend.

Do you do more, do you stand above the crowd?

As aspiring management professionals, you need to display that you are capable of doing much more than others. You need to show that you do more than just go to college or work and back. You need to show that you passionate about things apart from what is required. You need to show that you have the potential to perform on a much larger canvas.

So pick a few things from the list and get started!


  1. Hussain says

    Amazing sir. Well u gave us the directions in which we could be strengthen to challenge after CAT exams


  2. Sir ,can you suggest anything who wants to pursue mba in hr.
    Currently serving in an NGO,did an intership for 6 months,few extra curricular certificates.


  3. shubham srivastava says

    i am serving in ngo in education…and targetting MA in HR from TISS….what other things i
    can do???

    shubham srivastava


    • You can take up certification courses on Coursera that are related to HR or Psychology (since they are a part of HR courses).

      All the best!


  4. Rahul says

    Hi Sir,
    I’d like to know how graduation score affects summer intern placements when I get into a premier institute?
    Any workarounds to counter a low score? Are there people who don’t get any internships?
    I have a CGPA of 6 and working on increasing it in last 2 semesters.


  5. Tanya says

    Hello Sir. Thank you for writing this article. I’m targeting MBA in HR. Just wanted to ask are courses from Coursera of value when presenting oneself to a panel to showcase one’s own skills? Also is being part of an NGO of any value during the admission process?


    • Hi Tanya,

      You are asking for a very specific course, for a topic that is nothing but how to crack an interview. I’ll cover that on the blog later. In the meantime you can browse through Coursera for the same, I haven’t.

      NGO stints do have value in as much you are able to communicate the work you have done and the learnings from the same. There are no marks for just doing some NGO work.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  6. Subrat says

    Hello sir ,
    thankyou sir for writing this article , sir i graduated in 2017 , my previous cat was not good so i left job for the serious preparation and now i run small business to remain independent . so my profile is not likely to be good as there’s an two year gap if i give this year cat 2018. just wanted to ask should i take some online courses to cover up this year gap or shouldn’t attempt cat.and try after some work experience ?
    please share your insights what should i do?


    • Hi Subrat, As long as you can show proof that you are running your business and that the experience is valuable from an MBA perspective, it is not an issue. Do a few online certifications as well.

      Take the CAT this year and get the percentile you can.

      All the best!


  7. Nisha Bhapkar says

    Hello sir,
    I am mechanical engg student and completed my graduation this year.I got selected to accenture company through clg placmnts .So i want to knw how much company brand plays role or it will create negative impact on my profile like being mechanical student working for IT firm?


    • Hi Nisha,

      Thanks for writing in.

      What matters is what you want to do post your MBA and how your work ex is related to that.

      As far as traditional operations roles go, recruiters will look for relevant work ex in manufacturing — supply chain, logistics, quality control or design — pre-MBA. So typical IT work-ex will be of no use as far as operations roles go.

      For Marketing, they prefer freshers or people with relevant work-ex in sales or digital marketing or advertising. If you have only 1 year of work-ex in IT, it will not hamper your chances in Marketing since you are a female applicant as well and gender diversity will come into play.

      As far as doing an IT job while having a Mech Engineering background, having a negative impact on your profile goes — it is negligible since a majority of the candidates in India work in IT.

      Hope this clarifies.

      All the best!


      • Nisha Bhapkar says

        thank you Sir
        i have one more querry ..what if i do job in small scale mech engg company and do not accept offer from Accenture which is MNC..Does this small scale company’sexerience will be counted?and would have better impression?


  8. Himanshu Nar says

    Hi sir,
    Very motivational and detailed post! Loved it!
    I wanted to ask few things! I am a commerce graduate, haven’t had participated in any sport professionally or extra curricular activities. At this stage, what will the best option that you think I can exercise so that I can at least get in one of the top 50 institutes? Should I get a job now, gain experience and may be complete the MBA program later or should I try to complete my MBA now with the given set of degrees and skill sets i.e. a fresher!


    • Hi Himanshu,

      It depends of the specialization you want to take up.

      For Finance, since that is aligned to your background, unless the work-ex is relevant it won’t make any difference. Also, you would need to look at doing a CFA to add to your profile if you want to do well in Finance.

      For Marketing, you do not need work-ex, so you can do an MBA straighaway.

      Ops and IT are anyway ruled out.

      So in short if you can a job either in Marketing or Finance and you are interested in that field then take it up and do an MBA later, else do an MBA now.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


      • Himanshu Nar says

        Thank you! I will weigh up the options given by you and choose the best one!


    • Glad you found it useful, wanted to ensure aspirants know that there is more to it than the rest. Go through the post titled preparing for more than an MBA as well.


  9. Hello sir,

    Thank you so much. I am a working professional with 18 months experience and got below 80%ile in cat 18. I am intrested in finance and wanted to ask the following :

    1) Should I do ncfm and coursera courses (the one you mentioned but with only Introduction to Financial Accounting and Introduction to Corporate Finance) or study for CFA?

    My academic profile is not good so I really would like to do as much as I can to improve my profile.


    • If you are really serious about Finance then CFA is the only way out, NCFM and Coursera are good enough to impress PI panelists by giving them evidence to support your claims of interest in a particular domain, but they won’t get you a job, to impress recruiters a CFA is a must.

      All the best!


  10. Athira Anilkumar says

    Sir, I am 2017 engineering graduate who lives in Bangalore. Could you tell me the names any NGOs with whom I can take up some socially relevant activities? The field of work doesn’t matter. I had searched a lot for NGOs but couldn’t find any recognized ones.
    I am a TISS aspirant too. Would social work help me during TISS interviews?


    • Hi Athira,

      You can volunteer to work with an NGO called Bhumi — http://www.bhumi.ngo/volunteer/

      Social work will help, for TISS as well as other schools, but not just because you have done it — say like ticking a checkbox but because of what you make of the experience and how it influenced you.

      All the best!


  11. sachin kose paul says

    Sir, I have a work experience of 1.5 years. I have 9.8 CGPA in 10th, 87% in 12th and 7.6 CGPA in graduation. I belong to general category. Will I be able to make it to the top 6 IIMs? If so, then how much should I score in CAT?


    • Hi Sachin,

      You have a decent profile, if you score above 99.30 you stand a chance of getting calls from some of the old IIMs.

      All the best!


  12. Shresth Gupta says

    Sir, I have 1.5 years of work-ex in IT and am planning to quit my job after completing 24 months and focus completely on CAT19. I want to pursue Consulting Domain, what course can i target for that in 4-5 months of time till CAT along with the preparations. I have planned to join back IT sector after CAT19 , so it will be a kind of 4-5 months break, will that affect my profile ? (My acads 93/92/82 , NIT passout in 17 and working with a MNC with good brand name)


      • Shresth Gupta says

        Thanks sir for such prompt reply. I would also like to how much gap would not make any difference during the interviews if I plan to quit in august end with around 4 months for CAT and other exams.


  13. nitin salvi says

    Hi sir i’m a fresher and i would be graduating this june. i want to take cat’19 for that should i prepare for the 5months i would be having with myself or take up a job while preparing( btw i’m an IT engineer) what should i do.?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Nitin,

      Honestly, it depends on the profiles you are looking at post-MBA.

      For Marketing, work-ex is not important, in fact, only relevant work-ex counts, otherwise, they prefer freshers.

      For Finance, relevant educational background and strong academics are important.

      For Operations and IT, 2 years of work-ex is crucial.

      You can get a bit more clarity on the role played by work-ex in this post — https://thecatwriter.com/2017/03/10/should-i-my-job-to-prepare-for-cat/

      All the best!


      • nitin salvi says

        Thanks a lott for your input sir And my credentials are 8.6 / 74.6/ 6.1 ( X / XII / GRAD.) , also i belong from SC category.


  14. Aditya Joshi says

    Sir, I want to pursue MBA in Finance.
    I am in BA (2nd Year) and I wanted to do some certification courses.
    There are 5-6 local institutes for Certification course in Finance in my city, will it help in making a good profile?

    Local Institute’s certificate can add any value?
    Please Answer Sir.


    • Hi Aditya,
      If you are really keen on building a career in Finance then a CFA is the best thing you can do for your career. If you can clear L1 before starting your MBA then it will be best.

      The certification courses from local unknown institutes will have no value.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  15. Hi! I’m a 2nd Year B.Tech Student with absolutely no interest in the IT Field.
    Would interning in IT Field be really important for my profile?
    Finance is something I’m aiming for in my MBA but I don’t know how to start working for a profile in that field.
    Can you help me with how can I approach building my profile?


  16. Abhishek says

    Is it just me or like anyone else also got goosebumps reading this?. I am just an average person with average academics 77/80/66. Just like you said in your blog, we can’t change the past so there’s no worrying about it. I’m focusing on CAT 2021. It’s my first attempt and i want to score 99.99 percentile. I was reading your blog and I’m really inspired and motivated to take this challenge full head-on. I was looking for things that i can do to make my CV look better during the interview. Now I have got all the information i needed. Thanks Sir for this valuable information and also these motivating words. I have just one question. I want to do MBA from Finance. So as there is less than a year left, what certificate course can i do in this field that not only it helps me in the interview but also gives me a overview of what i am going to face during my MBA?


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