How to tackle basic questions at B-School interview
Richa Kapoor, 06 Dec 2016, #CAT
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ICFAI Univeristy-Sikkim
Indian Academy School of Management Studies

Personal Interviews for final selection to Top B-schools including Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) often make or break admission chances of MBA aspirants after cracking CAT. While B-School admission boards often grill candidates during interviews with follow-up questions on candidate’s interest areas and academic background, their focus remains on assessing them on the basis of their personality, attitude, passion and approach towards tackling challenges.


Thus, your approach to deal with basic questions in interviews is the final impression you leave on your interviewers. The basic objective is to assess whether the candidates possess the ability to logically answer basic questions.


So, what could be some of the basic questions that you need to be ready with before your admission interview; and experiences of selected MBA students on how they answered such questions, after being shortlisted on the basis of CAT scores. 


Basic questions asked by interview panel


Q. Tell us something about yourself?

Q. What do you do in your free time?

Q. What are your hobbies?

Q. What is the reason for choosing a particular institute to pursue your MBA?

Q. Why did you choose a particular course for specialisation?

Q. Tell us something about your city?

Q. Which is the most famous cuisine of your city?

Q. Which is your biggest weakness? Substantiate it with examples?


Experience of candidates who made it to IIM


Key tips while answering personal interview questions for IIMs.


1. On why you want to do MBA?


All of us possess certain inherent managerial skills. In our day to day life, knowingly or unknowingly we are managing our life, from getting up in the morning to going to our workplace. However, in this era of cut throat competition, we provide you certain tips, which will help you to crack the personal interview for IIMs.


With candidates from diverse backgrounds, such as engineering, humanities and commerce stream and those with a certain degree of work experience also applying for the MBA course, one of the common questions that is asked as to why you want to to pursue an MBA. Candidates must answer the question in a manner that the panel is led to ask him questions from the information that he had given.


Krishna Bharadwaj, who made his way to Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad shares on Quora his experience on how he tackled the question related to his decision to pursue MBA.

Krishna Bharadwaj, IIM Ahmedabad student.

Why MBA?

How can MBA help you?

To be able to know how the MBA helps me, I would first have to know what I'll be learning in case I join.

That's available in/at <publicly accessible data source>

Agreed, but I would like to get a more personal opinion, preferably yours, since you teach there.

Well, you'll learn X, Y and Z.

Thank you. From what you've told me, I feel that X will help me achieve A, Y will give me better understanding of B and Z will be a good foundation for C. Together, they could very well comprise the skill set I consider necessary to achieve my goals. And hence, MBA.

Fair enough. So do you have any questions for us?

Well, how has your day been so far?

If we look at the above answer, we see that the candidate was able to convince the panel with his answer as he clearly sited his objective for pursuing an MBA.


Thus we can say that the panel is looking at clarity of thought and purpose. Candidates must not try to impress the panel by giving an ‘out of the blue’ kind of answer as it would only go against him or her, if he or she is not able to back it up with concrete example in case of a follow up question.


Another candidate, Sharad Singh, who made his way to Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad shared his personal interview experience on Quora.

Sharad Singh, IIMA

More often than not the answer would be generic. One doesn't need innovation everywhere.
However, I think it's more about wrapping up your answer with credible/witty/honest conversation post the main answer.

In my IIM Calcutta interview on why MBA, I said: I want to know what it takes to create and run a company so that I can start-up later.

Interviewer: Oh come on, you will forget everything of start-up once you get the fat salary offer.

I smiled and said: What I said is my truth. Let's see how IIM moulds me!

Interviewers smiled and moved to the next question.

Normally, personal interviews are supposed to be a serious affair and one cannot afford to trivialise it. Normally, the environment is tense and all said and done the candidate is nervous. However, from the above answer given by the candidate, we see that the candidate was able to maintain seriousness of the interview and at the same time maintained his wittiness.


2. How to tackle a question like tell me about yourself?


Though the question looks simple to answer, however, you must remember that you cannot make it monotonous by giving out the same information which is already before the interview panel in the form of your resume. It is about how well you play with words (e.g instead of saying that a person is fat, you can say that he is horizontally challenged). Avoid using jargons or adjectives while answering such questions. In case you decide to use adjectives, you should back them up with solid examples. Ahead of the interview, try to make note of the things that define you and the probable questions that might be asked related to those things. Self analysis is the best analysis. Any misinformation could backfire and you might end up on the losing side.


Rajat Jain, wrote in Quora about his interview where he was asked to tell about himself

P1: - So, Rajat tell me about yourself. (a classical interview question)

Me- I am Rajat Jain, pursuing Civil Engg., did my schooling from Delhi. I like to read detective fiction and solve sudokus in my free time.

Here, we see that the panellists seemed convinced with Rajat’s answer and were in no mood to probe him further. Though it is quite possible that he might have been asked questions related to his liking towards reading detective fiction as well as solving sudokus during the free time.


Always remember that while facing the interview board, you need to be humble, calm and have a pleasant smile on your face. Be your natural self, but don’t Carry a casual body language and at the same time adopt a professional approach.  


It is quite possible that the candidate’s interview was scheduled just before the lunch or towards the fag end of the day, where the panellists were tired and were in mood to grill the candidate. Sometimes, positive body language and confidence while answering the question, goes in favour of the candidate


In both the above cases, the candidates calmly answered the questions and did not show any kind of anxiety. Remember that this question is normally asked by the interview panel to strike a chord with the person as people on both sides of the table are strangers. So, despite him having your resume, do not press the panic button.


3. What are your hobbies?


While mentioning your hobby, be very clear and precise about what you say and be thoroughly prepared for it. Anything wayward will go against you and reiterate that once again do not say anything which will take you off guard.


Here is an example where the candidate was able to judge that one of the panellists was Bengali from his accent and accordingly she gave the answer. She had mentioned that her hobby was cooking. 


Aparajita Saha, who made her way to IIM Bangalore in 2014, had mentioned cooking as her hobby.  The panellist who asked "So... your hobby is cooking?" pronounced her name as 'Oporajita.' Immediately, Aparajita was able to gauge that the panellist was a Bengali. She took this as an opportunity to turn it in her favour.


Aparajita Saha speaks on Quora about her experience on answering the question on her hobby.

P: So... your hobby is cooking?

A: Yes
P: What do you like to cook the most?
A: Bengali cuisine
P: Cook something for us now.

A: I will make a Bengali style pomphret curry for you today.


I was marinating fish, frying them, making curry, garnishing with coriander leaves and serving them to the panel. Everything in the air of imagination. I was so flowing in fish-curry emotions that I could actually see the curry being made from scratch and smelling wonderful and the Bengali judge loving it. I could feel him salivating when I said "The curry is done."


P: Did you forget something?
A: Hmm...I don't think so.
P: Think. What about salt? Did you add salt?
A: I added salt in the fish marinade. But not in the curry. I'm sorry.
P: No salt in the curry. You curry will taste bland.
A: I agree. I should have been more careful.

Such instances indicate that you have to be mentally alert. Had she not been able to judge that one of the panellists was a Bengali, it was quite possible that she would have told them something which was her favourite while cooking or may be some south Indian dish. By being able to judge the regional background of the panellist, she was able to keep the interest of the panellist while she was explaining to them the process of cooking the Bengali cuisine. 


Thorough and strategic planning is the key to success for personal interview, remember that you need not waste your time in doing extensive research on any topic. The preparation has to be “FOCUSSED”. You are not expected to write a thesis, hence at the heart of your preparation should be reading the right kind of content rather than trying to read each and every everything. Your brain has to be tuned in a manner that it is able to filter the information which it has to take and which it has to delete.


Also Read

Personal Interview Tips: Dos and Don’ts

What B-schools look for in a Candidate

PI-WAT Topper Interview

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