Personal Interview (PI) is generally the last among key components of selection process at B-schools. While many B-schools have either replaced Group Discussion (GD) with Writing Ability Test (WAT) or added another component like Group Exercise or Case Discussion in the final stages of their selection process, Personal Interview has remained intact as the key component of the selection process during MBA admissions.
Now you must be preparing for the second stage of the selection process. After special features on tips to crack GD and tips to crack WAT, here we bring you expert advice and toppers’ insight on cracking Personal Interview at top B-schools.
So, what do interviewers look into while interviewing a candidate? Vinayak Kudva, Chief Mentor, IMS Learning, says, “A personal interview is the last step to get to know the candidate well. Personality traits that cannot be uncovered through Entrance tests, GD or WAT are evaluated here. The selectors try to understand the kind of person the candidate is, what are his/her interests, motivation, aspirations etc.”
Besides normal etiquettes like formal dressing, punctuality, your overall performance during the interview may make or break your chance into your dream B-school. In this article of Careers360, we bring you eight key tips to crack Personal Interview at top B-schools:
1. Be ready with ‘must know questions’
You should be well prepared with the basic questions revolving around your thought process about your career, life and ambitions, such as ‘why MBA’, ‘how will it relate to your goal’, ‘how does your academic background relate to your goal’, ‘how relevant your experience’, ‘why do you want to join a particular institute’.
According to Gautam Puri, Vice President, Career Launcher, “The interviewers may also grill you on core-academic knowledge and may go deep into questions related to your work experience.”
Besides this, few questions may also be asked on your general interest and hobbies.
Sharing his Personal Interview experience at MDI Gurgaon, Mayank Taparia, says “The interview began with the clichÃ©d questions on Why MBA? Why MBA after Engineering? and how will the career path go. The interview mostly had questions related to my interests and hobbies and what I expect to learn from MBA.”
He adds that aspirants must prepare extensively on these basic questions as interviewers usually cross-question on the same. He admits that the toughest moment during his interview was to answering these questions only. “The toughest moment during my PI was when I was cross questioned for my reason to do MBA. This is supposed to be the most obvious question in an interview and I was worried that I am not able to answer it properly,” says Mayank.
Jayesh Ruchandani who cracked WAT-PI for new IIMs and secured admission to IIM Kashipur, could not make it to SJMSOM, IIT Bombay, as he was not able to convincingly justify why he was directly going for MBA without having work-experience first.
Experts suggest that Personal Interview (PI) may include many questions from the subjects candidates have studied during their graduation or post graduation. Candidates should revise important concepts learnt in at least two major subjects and think about their real life applications.
2. Reflect confidence
During Personal Interview, you should reflect confidence while answering to different questions. Interviewers often tend to cross-question you even on your right answers just to check your confidence on your own answers.
As Akshat Modi of IIM Rohtak shares his PI experience, “The toughest moment in my PI was when there was a standoff between me and one of my interviewers. He asked me about the machinery specifications in the mine where I did my summer training and although I did not remember the exact details of each machine, I gave him the answer to the major machines used and their specifications. He then challenged my answer blatantly and told I was wrong. I stuck to my point. But, even he was adamant and told me that he had been to that place and he has seen the specifications. It was very tough for me because I had to give the right answer without offending him. I think he was trying to check my confidence level.”
Akshat Modi attributes his selection to the composure he maintained during the interview and the fact that he was very clear and lucid in his answers at PI stage.
So, how do you reflect confidence during PI? CAT topper Soham Barman who cracked MDI GD-PI says a good knowledge base including that of current affairs and economic scenario helps boost your confidence during the interview. “The interviewers were particularly impressed by my knowledge of Indian economy and economics and about the fact that I was well read and up to date about the current economic scenario of the nation. Also I feel the confidence level while answering the questions is very important and I feel I did pretty well on that front,” he says.
3. Be honest to yourself and interviewers
During PI, you are also tested for integrity of your basic characteristics like honesty. Your honest approach during your interview also makes your responses natural.
Experts suggest that you should be fully prepared with arguments to justify whatever you think is right.Gautam Puri, Vice President, Career Launcher, says, “One needs to be honest with oneself and one needs to think objectively to the basic questions. There is no right or wrong answer in an interview; it depends on how the candidate offers his responses. The interviewers expect honest answers without any bluffing.”
Toppers also suggest that it is better to skip the question which you are not sure about. An answer which you yourself are not convinced may invite unnecessary counter questions which may embarrass you further and hamper your chance in Personal Interview.
Your honest admission that you are not sure about a question may not carry any negative weight on your PI performance. CAT topper Prakriti Sharma who secured admission to IIM Kozhikode, says, “There was one question with regard to use of percentiles in professional spaces but I admitted that I was unsure about my answer and they skipped it and moved on.”
Prakriti advises aspirants to keep their cool, think on their feet and just be themselves during the Personal Interview.
Soham Barman of MDI Gurgaon, says “Barring a few instances, I was able to answer most of the questions confidently and convincingly. Whenever I was unsure about the answer to a question, I did not scruple to convey the same to the interviewers.”
Toppers also suggest aspirants to be honest with themselves to exhibit their character during interview. Jayesh Ruchandani says “My advice to aspirants is to clearly think about themselves and their goals and 'be yourself' during the interview. I would suggest aspirants to prepare for interview by writing down the answers for all the possible common questions such as 'Introduce yourself' and 'Strengths and Weaknesses' etc.”
Sharing his advice on PI, CAT topper Mayank Taparia says,“Be confident. Prepare the generally asked questions properly and be honest about your opinions. Be aware of your surroundings and what’s going in the world and in India. Have your own opinions formed and be confident and firm on your stand taken. Never ever lie in an interview as the professors are really smart and will get to know in a moment and will cross question you a lot until they find some discrepancies.”
4. Be Polite
Your politeness during the interview also brings positive impression on your interviewers.
In some cases, while you might be correct with your answers, you must not outrightly reject interviews’ views to your response. Instead, you should listen to them carefully and put forward your response with better argument. Experts suggest that sometimes, interviewers may also be wrong with some information, but you should not directly point it out. Instead, you should try to convince them politely about the correct information.
CAT topper Nitin Tibrewal who cracked FMS admission shares how the interview board hurled question based on the profile of another candidate on him and how he responded to the challenge before politely correcting them on their mistake. “The interviewer confused me with another candidate and asked me questions on my background (actually his background, considering me to be him). I tackled them quite calmly. Finally I cleared the confusion.” Interviewers in this case realised their mistake and the interview proceeded further smoothly.
5. Drive the interview towards your strength
While the questions asked in the interview may vary from candidate to candidate, it is important for you to gradually invite the questions from your areas of strength as the interview progress.
As CAT topper Soham Barman, shares, “For PI it’s very important to try and guide the personal interview towards your strength. So it’s important to identify your strengths i.e. topics which you are comfortable with and try and guide the discussion towards those topics.”
“Learn to drive your interview to your areas you are strong in and make sure you know well about yourself, key interests and other relevant details mentioned in the form,” adds Mayank Taparia.
You also need to prepare answers to the basic questions in such a way that it again prompts questions on your strong areas as interviewers mostly pick questions from your answers to the previous questions. CAT topper and IIT graduate Akshat Modi who secured admission to IIM Rohtak, says, “The interview was structured in a logical flow and covered almost all the areas. It started with the usual 'Tell me about yourself'. From my answer, they picked the fact that I was a mining engineer from IIT and from that point the interview turned into more of a viva.”
6. Stay calm
During the interview, you should stay calm and never look stressed. If you are not confident of an answer, try to skip it. In case, you are countered on a particular question repeatedly, politely stick to your answer if you are confident on the same.
Akshat Modi says one should remain calm even in times of stress and stick to one’s stand if he/she believes in it.
Sharing his experience, IIM student Bhaghat G says, “There was not any particular tough moment. But after listening to my explanation for my MBA, they said they didn’t believe what I said. I didn’t know how to reactâ¦I tried justifying again, but they repeated the same.”
CAT toppers say that handling tough moments during a PI is key to your selection. Nitin Tibrewal who cracked FMS- Delhi GD-PI to secure admission to the coveted B-school, shares, “I went through the Group Interview at SP Jain, where I was grilled on my hobbies, particularly reading. What went wrong was myself getting a little stressed. Then at MDI, I was again grilled on my hobbies. This time I answered calmly and got selected as well.”
He advises MBA aspirants to “Stay confident and calm. Be pleasant and happy”. He believes the first question mostly influences your chances of success in PI.
Recalling his interview for new IIMs, Bhaghat G recalls, “I was cool throughout the interview. I avoided a couple of traps by simply smiling where I didn’t have something useful to say. I answered which I thought was correct. I practiced little bit before interview. So, the tone was natural.”
CAT topper Akshay Jayaprakasan, who secured admission to IIM Kozhikode, also advise candidates to maintain proper body language and meet the eyes of all interviewers while talking. “Do not let stress get to you and remain relaxed as much as possible,” he says.
7. Positive body language and approach
Your body language and approach during the interview should reflect positivity. Experts say that your smart response and right answers must be supported by your positive expressions, constructive approach and attentive nature during the interview. Your sitting posture should be formal throughout the interview.
CAT topper Akshay Jayaprakasan says, “Body language, communication skills, and good sense of humor can take you places in an interview. It is also important to have a positive attitude. The interviewer in most cases is looking for how you approach a question rather than whether you know the correct answer or not.”
8. Be thorough with what you write in your CV
During the interview, interviewers also tend to pick questions based on the information that your CV carries. Interviewers expect you to be fully prepared with minute details on any information that you provide in your CV.
CAT topper and IIM student Prakriti Sharma says, “I think it is extremely important to be thorough with everything that is written on CV. It is alright to not be able to answer some questions with regard to current affairs and academics but the inability to answer questions about oneself is unpardonable.”
Another CAT topper Akshay Jayaprakasan says “If you are thorough with your work ex domain, current affairs, points mentioned in CV and academics, you will not face much of a problem in the interview.”
CAT topper Deeksha S who cracked WAT-PI round at IIM Kozhikode agrees as she says, “A candidate should remain confident about the facts mentioned in their CV. Generally, one should be prepared with current affairs and business topics thoroughly and able to explain and justify CV details.”
NitinTibrewal say that mock PIs’ may help aspirants to find the probable question based on their CV.
Stay tuned to bschool.careers360.com for more news and updates on GD-PI-WAT and MBA admissions