Saturday, February 24, 2007

Preparing for the MBA Entrance Interview - part 2: Common Interview questions

In these posts, we will discuss some of the most common b-school/mba entrance personal interview (p.i.) questions.

q.1 Why MBA? / Why do you want to pursue Management as a career?
No interviewer worth his professional/academic experience will accept you as a likely candidate if you go wrong with this one. So you must get this right, without fail.
This question may come disguised also - for example, if you are an engineer, the interview panel may want to know as to why you don't plan to do a Masters in Engineering or Technology. Why not GATE or GRE? But essentially they just want to know that - that why is it that you want to do an MBA?
Where do interviewees go wrong with the answer? - They miss the wheat for the chaff. While it's alright that you do want to make a lot of money in life, please understand that money is an end and not the means. It's not that one cannot make loads of money without doing an MBA - please understand the question clearly: they are asking "why you have chosen this means - that is, management". Similary, lots of other students say that they want to become CEOs or achieve other such exalted corporate positions. Again, the same problem - becoming a CEO is an end, not the means. Getting it?

To understand the question completely and give a suitable reply, you need to understand what becoming a manager entails. What are the roles of a manager? What skill sets does he need? You must know for your own sake the definition of a manager - do you think you have the required skills? Do u think the ones that you don't can be acquired? Can some of your existing managerial skills be refined? As you hunt for this answers, all the while asking yourself as well, the answer to the "Why MBA" will become clear to you.

I don't plan to give you an answer - that will defeat the whole purpose. But think of it like this - people do an MBBS to become doctors, not to become the Medical Superintendent of AIIMS. But will AIIMS ever give the post to a non-MBBS? Why not? Does every MBBS stand a chance of going to the very top? Think about it..and the answers will come flooding in.
You may write to me should you need a bit of help - but please write only after you have gone through the process i mentioned.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Preparing for the MBA Entrance Interviews

Let me begin with a question: Would you fear an examination if you were told most of the questions that would be asked, beforehand, and further given time to prepare the answers for them too?
Quite a few things in life are actually pretty simple - just that we somehow manage to complicate them on our own. The B-school (including the IIMs) interviews are one such thing. The interview board rarely ask you questions that you were not expecting or couldn't have expected if you had done even some amount of homework. Even if they do throw a few surprisers, it' s unlikely that a good interview board would reject you on the basis of your lack of knowledge of a particular fact. I have been on the interview board of one of India's finest b-schools myself, and believe me when I say this - each one, mark my words, each one of those rejected was rejected for failing to give a good answer to question/questions that they should well have expected. Yes, we did ask a student to tell us the exact number of districts in India, but she was never rejected because she failed to answer it correctly. We further gave her time to give us an approximate answer, but she was not even rejected for failing to do even that. Such questions are generally "select" answers rather than "rejection" answers. If she had told me that for administrative purposes the great country had been divided into 593 districts, you can't blame me for forming a positive disposition towards the country, can you? I'd have been even more pleased if she wouldn't have known the precise figure but worked out an approximate one. ( 10 small states x 8= 80, 10 mid-sized x 5= 150, 7 large ones x 25 = 175, total: 405 - each one of these figures is wrong, but full marks for an immediate approximate analysis).
If you could become a fly on the wall in any IIM interview room, you would be amazed with some of the answers that you will hear. Students don't go wrong with some of the tougher questions, it's rather the simpler ones which seem to elicit some very weak responses. Inane questions like "Why do u want to do an MBA?" or "What is Marketing?" - well if you want to do an MBA and you expect India's premier b-schools to pick you up you should have a good answer for that, shouldn't u? The marketing sitter is asked to only those students who show an inclination towards marketing, and then not being able to suitably define marketing is a crime, don't u think so? I mean, it's okay if you don't know the precise Philip Kotler definiton of marketing, but your answer should be sufficiently explantory, thats all.
The problem is - interviewees are looking for much external help but don't really sit down on their own and do some good old-fashioned homework. Please understand that the iim interview or for that any other interview is no rocket science. The interviewers are not going to ask you questions out of nowhere. The interview is not so much a knowledge of your test but a test of your aptitude again, just like the CAT. Hence it is not too difficult to gauge what the interview is going to be like, and it follows then that, it's a test where the interviewee already knows the questions beforehand. You just need to be ready with those answers.
Likely scenario:
"Tell us something about yourself/introduce yourself/give us a background et al" are the most common interview openers. There are 2 aspects you need to take care of while answering this question:
1. You should have a rough sketch of the answer ready - of course you know that don't rehearse or memorize the answer.
2. This answer will by and large dictate the rest of your interview. Spend more time or show sufficient enthusiasm while talking about areas that you would like the interviewer to ask you more questions on. If you are a cricket fanatic and would be very happy answering questions on the game, may be you could start with "I am a cricket lover born in a rare non-cricket state in India. It surprises me how Sachin Tendulkar became my favourite sportsman whereas most of my schoolmates at Kochi would swear by Ronaldo or Beckham". Just a suggestion, you could form your own ways of going about it. But don't overdo it as you should cover the various facets of your life and if you drag too long you might be cut short. Also, don't end your first answer talking about a segment of your life from which you do not want the questions to emerge. So don't wind up with academics if that's not where you want the questioning to happen.
to be contd....