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What B-school interviewers look for
Mohit Menon
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January 30, 2007

Part I: What not to do at a Personal Interview 

Do you think being good at English and Math -- which are tested in the Common Admission Test -- and leadership qualities -- tested in the Group Discussion -- determine whether you are manager material? 

Think again. These qualities are not enough to decide if you will make a good manager.

That is why Personal Interviews are conducted -- to test if you have some crucial qualities needed in a good manager. 

Some key qualities for B-school aspirants:

Top questions

~ Two frequently asked questions at top B-schools are:

a. Why do you want to do an MBA?
b. Tell us something about yourself.

Other important questions are:

Tackling the important questions

~ You must be prepared for personality-based questions like: Tell us about your strong and weak points.

When you talk about your negative points, also mention what you are planning to do in those areas. 

~ Most top B-schools ask a large number of questions on the subjects you have studied during your Class XII+2 and graduation. Most questions are conceptual.

By answering them correctly, you send out a message to the interview panel that you have prepared thoroughly for the interview. Excuses like 'I studied this a long time ago' will certainly not be appreciated.

~ You may be asked questions on career planning, like: 'Where do you see yourself five years from now?' You could speak about a middle management function in the industry you plan to join after specialisation.

~ Answers to questions on current affairs/general knowledge and your hobbies would be a reflection of what you do in your leisure time and how deeply involved you are in these activities.

For example, if you say reading is your hobby, be prepared for questions on what books, magazines, and newspapers you read, your favourite author, the last book you read, why you like the author and his/her style of writing, what are the author's books you have read, the names of your favourite magazine/newspaper editors, the cover story of the latest magazine you read, the headline in today's newspaper, etc.

If you have work experience

You are likely to face many questions about your job profile, key learnings, the industry you work in, the organisation you work for, and competition within the industry.

Beware, having work experience does not mean you will not be asked subject-based questions.

Applicants with a year's work experience are often asked questions on the subjects they studied during their graduation.

Quick tips

Be prepared for any question under the sun. The real world will throw up completely unexpected challenges, and whether you will be able to face them then could be determined by your answers now.

When asked personal questions, answer in a mature manner. Answers like 'this is personal stuff and since I don't know you personally, I cannot answer this question' will not go down too well. 

Remember, every interviewer asks questions with a sense of purpose. Make sure you answer every question sincerely.

Keep it natural

The questions mentioned above are more or less a certainty. Prepare for them well in advance. But beware, a  mugged-up answer to these kinds of questions will not help you -- you don't want to falter in the interview.

Instead, prepare broad aspects related to your studies and purpose in life, which could form the basis for your answers in the interview. This would make your answer look more natural. Also bear in mind that an interviewer often bases his next question on what you say in response to a question.

If you prepare well for an interview, you can cover up for mistakes you might have made during the Group Discussion. Hence, recognise interviews for their inherent salvage value too.

Part I: What not to do at a Personal Interview 

-- Mohit Menon is general manager (marketing) at T.I.M.E, an organisation that prepares candidates for courses like the MBA and the MCA and competitive examinations like CAT, GRE and GMAT.

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