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Top 5 Questions that are asked during a B-school Personal Interview

CAT results were declared a little while ago and MBA aspirants have started getting calls from various colleges for the second round of the selection process. Most business schools rely on a combination of the three basic formats for the final selection. Those three are:

  • Written Ability Test (WAT)
  • Group Discussion (GD)
  • Personal Interview (PI)

While WAT is popular with the IIMs, the most common of the above lot is Personal Interview. These typically last around half an hour and the interview panel judges the candidate on a host of factors such as communication skills, clarity of thought, ethical standards, etc. In this post, we will primarily talk about some of the common questions that are asked during the process. Q1 – Introductory Question The introductory question in almost all personal interviews would be some version of ‘Tell us about yourself’. While this might look harmless, but a candidate should be well prepared for the introduction. The answer to this question sets the tone for the entire interview. A good answer in this category would focus only on the positives. Even if there are some glaring problems in your curriculum vitae, you should try to avoid them during this answer unless you are explicitly asked to elaborate on that. A common mistake that people tend to make during this question, they bring out their shortcomings (like a year gap after 12th, less marks in graduation, etc.) and try to justify them some way or the other. Often, they end up blaming someone else or circumstances for it – this should not be done. It would be better if you enter the interview room well prepared with 2-3 versions of the introductory answer. Also, try to include something about yourself in the introductory answer that cannot be reflected in the curriculum vitae. Please understand that the panel already has a copy of your resume. Q2 – Academic / Work-ex Related Question While both academic and work-related questions come directly from the points in your intro, they have a marked difference. Academic questions tend to be oriented towards the basics, while work-related questions will usually go deeper. This is primarily because a working candidate is very immediately involved in his/her job, and a greater depth of knowledge and maturity of outlook is expected of a working candidate. Working candidates will face a number of questions on the details of their work, such as, the daily responsibilities, the reporting head, the clients handled, the nature of the team in which you work, the platforms and the technologies applied in the course of job, growth opportunities within the company, technical details such as the management of the company, the market size, the stock price etc. Q3 – General Knowledge Related Questions A common goal of the interview process is to check if the candidate is a well-rounded individual or not. One of the ways to do the same is testing a candidate on General Knowledge related issues. While there are a bunch of exams that test a candidate on GK, the most popular one – CAT – does not. Also, XAT does not share the GK score with other colleges. In such cases, you can expect some questions on current affair topics. Now these questions would not be of the type ‘Who became the Chief Justice of India in Nov 2019?’ but it would be more of the type ‘What do you think would be the impact of the Ayodhya verdict in the long run?’ The answer for the first one is Sharad Bobde and the answer for the second one would probably take another blogpost. So, you need to have a slightly deeper understanding of topics to crack this type of questions. Some of the possible topics for this year’s GK questions could be:

  • Coronavirus Pandemic
  • US Presidential Elections
  • Economic slowdown in India
  • Persian Gulf Crisis
  • Australian Bushfires
  • Impact of Brexit on European and Global Economy
  • US-China Trade War
  • Impeachment of Donald Trump
  • Honk-Kong Protests

We have a GK course with videos to help you prepare for the same. You can check out our GK course here. Q4 – Personality Based Questions These questions primarily comprise the following: extra-curricular activities, hobbies and interests, strengths and weaknesses, personal values and ethics, memorable life experience and challenges. Many B-schools restrict the references to extra-curricular activities by clearly stipulating a minimum level of participation (such as district or state level). If no such stipulation exists, feel free to mention any activity that you have pursued alongside your studies. Extra-curricular activities, unlike hobbies and interest, are not necessarily current pursuits. You may have been a part of the school debate team 5 years ago. That still qualifies as your extra-curricular activity. When you refer to the activities, no matter how small they seem, always focus on your learnings from them. The panel may also ask you to talk about memorable life experiences that have had a seminal influence on your being. Irrespective of whether these experiences are joyful or painful, do not look at them from an emotional perspective. Do not gloat over your victories or lament your losses. Instead, look at both as sources of learning. Learning is all that remains after time has passed. You need to understand that CAT, GMAT, GRE, Bocconi Tests etc. are essentially eliminators. They are used to reject candidates who do not meet the basic criteria. On the other hand, the personal interview process is to select the candidates and if the candidate excels in the interview round there is possibility for securing scholarships. Q5 – Goal Oriented Questions You should expect one of the following questions in your interview:

  • What are your short-term career goals?
  • What are your long-term career goals?
  • Why do you want to do an MBA?
  • Why do you want to do an MBA from this specific B-school
  • Why should you be selected over other candidates?

Please ensure that your short (5-6 years) and long (10-15 years) term goals cannot be at odds with each other. If you are passionate about social service and wishes to start an NGO in the long run, but in the short term you want to climb up the corporate ladder and become a VP in a global FMCG company, it is easy for the panel to understand that both of the above are not your goals and you are just saying that to impress the panel. Trust me – this sort of strategy would backfire. Consistency is important and for that honesty is important. The last question (why you should be selected over other candidates) cannot simply be answered by repeating our strengths, because then the panel will get right back at us by saying that many candidates have the same qualities. Most candidates think that the purpose of this question is to prove to the panel how he/she is better than 20 other candidates waiting outside the room. Nothing could be further from the truth. What we must demonstrate is our uniqueness. In uniqueness there is no comparison. There is nobody better or worse than you because there is nobody like you. This post was contributed by Ravi Handa, founder of HandaKaFunda.com  for aspirants preparing for their B-School interviews. For candidates preparing for Bocconi Test, please check Ravi Handa’s article here. Click on the image below to apply to SDA Bocconi’s IMB program. Last date for applications in Round 3 is March  20,2020)

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