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Top Q&As for B-School Interviews
IMS Learning Resources
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February 15, 2006

For those of you who don't know it yet, personal interviews play an important role in the MBA admission process.

The interview is, essentially, a personality test. What the admission panel looks for is a sound grasp of academics, self-awareness, clarity of goals, and a well-rounded personality. Typically, these sessions last 30 minutes to an hour and are designed to assess qualities that aren't easily detected in your written test.

Before you are accepted to your chosen MBA programme, you will need to jump through multiple hoops. For many applicants, B-school interviews are the most stressful leap of all. The institutes call you for one because they don't know you, and want to assess if you have qualities that would make a good manager. In a GD, your group skills -- how you perform in a team -- are evaluated. In an interview, the panel deduces your individual skills.

Each school handles the interview process differently. B-schools have a raft of different interviewing policies, styles and techniques. The weight of the interview in admission decisions varies from school to school as well. Because of these variables, the best way to make a good impression is to plan ahead, prepare thoroughly and abide by some common sense dos and don'ts.

Interviews are the only touch point where a candidate comes in face-to-face contact with the panel. You get an opportunity to impress the panel and justify why you should be selected.

Frequently asked questions

Tips for your response

We have selected some of the trickiest questions and tip you off on how to tackle them.

Tell us about yourself

This is possibly the most frequently asked question. Your opening statement could include a summary of your goals, overall professional capabilities, achievements, background (educational and family), strengths, professional objectives and anything about your personality that is relevant and interesting.

You need to cover all these points, but not necessarily in the same order. The order depends on the importance each aspect has to your life. This question represents an opportunity to lead the interviewer in the direction you want him to go -- for example, your area of expertise, competence or whatever else you wish to highlight. Your intention should be to try and subtly convince the interviewers that you are a good candidate, that you have proved this in the past, and that you have a personality that fits the requirement.

Remember that the first impression you create will go a long way in the ultimate selection. Keep in mind that most candidates who are asked this question just blurt out their schooling, college, marks and qualifications -- all of which is already mentioned in their CVs.

A final word on approaching this question. Once you have said what you have to say, stop. Don't drone on for the sake of speaking, because 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-inducing tactic. If the pause gets too awkward for you, just add something like, "Is there something specific you wish to know about me?"

Why do you want to pursue an MBA programme?

In the answer to a direct question on this subject, you must convey to the panel that you have made a rational and informed decision about your career choice and intended course of higher study.

There are a  number of areas your answer could touch upon. Career objectives, for one. You could talk about these and how the two-year MBA programme will help you achieve them. This implies that you have a clear idea of what your career objectives are and how you wish to achieve them. For example, you may want to be an entrepreneur and wish to set up your independent enterprise after an MBA. You could explain to the panel that the MBA programme will provide you with the necessary inputs to help you run your business better.

Also talk about value addition. What is the value you will add to yourself during your two-year study of management? Value addition will essentially be in two forms -- knowledge and skills. Knowledge of the various areas of management (marketing, finance, systems, HRD, etc.) and skills of analysis and communication. You could also talk about how it will help you develop your overall personality.

You could also, at this stage, mention the opportunities opening up in organisations for management graduates. Highlight with examples. At the end, you may mention that while monetary rewards are not everything, they are also important and MBAs do get paid well. You must not mention these reasons as your primary motivators though, even if that may be the case.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

To prepare for this question, be very clear about how you perceive your strengths and weaknesses. Strengths are personality traits that help you perform better, while weaknesses hamper performance. You should give a thought, in advance, to what traits about yourself you will mention to the panel and try and support the said trait with an example. Your weaknesses should not be ones that would be negative or undesirable in an individual desiring to be a manager. At the same time, they should not be too idealistic either.

What are your hobbies and interests?

When you specify your hobbies, do not fib. For instance, if you like reading novels, you may be asked what kind, which authors, of whether you agree with the endings. Make sure you talk only about novels you have actually read.

You cannot get away with saying your hobby is cooking and not know that ajinomoto is a vital ingredient in Chinese cuisine. The reason is, if you pursue this as your hobby, you are expected to take time out for it from your busy schedule.

IMS Learning Resources Pvt Ltd is an education service provider.

Have you successfully made it through a Personal Interview during the MBA admission process? Write in and share your tips. Don't forget to mention your name, age, the name of your management institute, the year in which you graduated and where you currently work.

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