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How to answer these 6 common questions in an interview

Last updated on: February 10, 2012 06:59 IST

Mandira Popat, an alumnus of NMIMS, Mumbai identifies 6 commonly asked questions in an MBA interview and tells us how to answer them.

The saga that began with filling applications and written exams is now edging towards its end with the calls trickling in beginning the season of group discussions followed by the final frontier- the Personal Interview.

The personal interview is that final opportunity for you to make that lasting impression that differentiates you from the rest.

It takes right amount of knowledge, commitment, and hard work to come out on top and the same holds true for your personal interview.

Every B-school interviewer would like you to answer at least three questions:

Why us? Why MBA? Why you?

There are a certain set points of questions that you need well thought of answers to ensure the interviewer appreciates you enough.

Here is a list of pointers and specific guidelines for your interview to make certain you do not give the panel outright reasons to reject you.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier

1. Tell me about yourself

Last updated on: February 10, 2012 06:59 IST

This is the oft asked and most abused question in all PIs.

Being asked to talk about your favorite subject- you, may seem to be the easiest task. However, candidates tend to underestimate the power of this question and usually ramble on about irrelevancies and veer off topic.

This is the point in the interview where the panel shall form their initial opinions about you as a person and you want to come across as a focused, goal oriented individual.

Remember what you have said in your application forms and try not to transgress from or contradict what you have already mentioned in the form.

Tell the panel about what kind of person you are, what your special interests and achievements are; elaborate on your goals and your dreams.

Give the interviewer a glimpse into your persona, rather than being standoffish.

Keep the introduction crisp and concise, keeping in mind what the interviewer shall be interested in knowing about you.

Don't try too hard to impress the interviewer. They meet with amazingly qualified candidates year after year.

Be confident in your accomplishments to date, but most importantly, be yourself and show humility as you reflect on the many things you've yet to learn and experience.

2. Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses

Last updated on: February 10, 2012 06:59 IST

This question seems like a softball lob, but be prepared.

You don't want to come across as egotistical or arrogant. Neither is this a time to be humble.

Don't come up with puerile answers such as 'weaknesses are for mediocre' or 'my biggest weaknesses are my biggest strengths'; sob stories are a strict no-no.

Also, don't come up with weaknesses that could not be rectified or those you have not worked upon to improve. Tell about your weaknesses and what you have done so far to overcome them.

Don't use words like 'My strengths are...' Ideally, say – 'I am a person who believes in perseverance' etc. There is much more to life than great resumes and percentiles that admission interviewers look for in candidates.

Enthusiasm, willingness to learn, positive approach, contributions in different areas, and way of carrying oneself are the strengths that make one candidate different from another.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

3. Questions related to academics

Last updated on: February 10, 2012 06:59 IST

Please keep in mind that you have applied to an academic institution and even if your sole objective in joining a B-school is only to get a good job, the faculty members of a good B-school take academics seriously.

Revisit your course books and strengthen all your fundamentals.

Usually, the panel asks questions that will test your knowledge and understanding of concepts and not your memory.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

4. Questions related to work experience

Last updated on: February 10, 2012 06:59 IST

Never badmouth your previous industry, company, board, boss, staff, employees or customers. This rule is inviolable: never be negative.

Any mud you hurl will only soil your suit. Especially avoid words like "personality clash", "didn't get along", and similar phrases which cast a shadow on your competence, integrity, or temperament.

It also suggests to the panel that you may trash the b-school in future if your career plans do not work out the ideal way.

Give well structured answers focusing on your achievements and your professionalism.

Answer precisely and mention how your experiences at work helped hone your knowledge/analytical skills/people skills/soft skills.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

5. Tell me about your hobbies and interests

Last updated on: February 10, 2012 06:59 IST

You should talk about genuine hobbies that you follow.

Don't say 'coin collection' is your hobby if it wasn't pursued passionately and if your interest and knowledge in Numismatics is lacking.

You are better off talking about a specific couple of authentic interests you have rather than making false claims and faking interests.

Please ensure you are well versed in your area of interest as the panel may delve into a discussion about the same.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier

6. Why MBA? Why us? Why you?

Last updated on: February 10, 2012 06:59 IST

Make a connection between your career goals and what the B-school can offer you; explain to the interviewer why attending a B-school, especially this one, is the next best step in your career.

Prepare adequately for these questions, do a thorough research on the B-school and the program it offers, talk to alumni and current students if possible to find out more about the B-school.

The interviewer must answer this question favorably in his mind to give you a seat in his B-school. So help him out!

Walk through the reasons why you want to pursue a MBA program at the particular B school, and follow each with a reason why you are the ideal candidate for them to have at their B-school.

The level of competition for the top schools is fierce; there panel meets plenty of good candidates and you need to differentiate yourself.

Ensure to do this by talking about your unique characteristics that add value, your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) which is not just another commonplace characteristic and support by examples that demonstrate its existence.

Although you need to sell yourself to the panel, do not do so in a boisterous manner where you may come across as an arrogant, over-confident egoist.

Be respectful of the panel and appreciate their knowledge and experience. Maintain a dignified, polite stance and establish yourself as a refined and exceptional individual.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier