Top Questions to prepare for Personal Interview rounds
Sreetama Datta, 23 Feb 2018, #CAT
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How to Preapare for PI - A Personal Interview round for B-schools is the most integral part of the selection process. In many of the top B-schools, the weightage of PI rounds for generating merit list is highest. Hence it is of utmost importance for MBA aspirants to know how to prepare for Personal Interview rounds. To assist them for preparation, Careers360 brings the top questions to prepare for Personal Interview or PI rounds. Previous years' CAT toppers, currently pursuing management studies from top B-schools in India share their PI experience and based on that we enlist top questions to prepare for PI rounds. Know preparation tips for Personal Interview round here in this article.

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As you begin your preparation for Personal Interview round, you must be well aware and acquainted with the question types which are most commonly asked by the panellists. Take a look at the top questions asked in PI rounds of B-schools and how to prepare for these PI questions.

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How to Preapare for PI - Common Questions and Topics for PI


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Here we bring to you the top questions for Personal Interview rounds:

  • Tell us about yourself

  • What is the meaning of your name? (Typically used as an icebreaker and if you have an uncommon name)

  • Why do you wish to do an MBA?

  • What are your plans after an MBA?

  • How will your MBA support your goal?

  • How does your academic background relate to your goal?

  • What are your strengths, give examples?

  • What are your weaknesses, give examples?

  • What are your short-term long-term goals?

  • Elaborate on your work experience.

  • How relevant is your experience?

  • Why do you want to join a particular institute?

  • Which specialisation do you want to opt for?

  • What are your hobbies/interests? (Technical questions on the same)

The other topics to prepare for PI include the following:

  • Current affairs – Politics, Economics, Business, Social events, demographics, Sports, Literature, Entertainment, Awards and Recognition

  • Educational background

  • Social background

  • Work experience

  • Hobbies and interests

  • Your performance or points presented in Group Discussion/Written Ability Test

  • Your CV or SOP

Toppers’ Experience and Tips on how to crack Personal Interview rounds


While these are some of the common questions, the toppers share the questions which they were asked at premiere B-schools.

Ashu Airan, a student of IIM Lucknow shares his interview experience as "My best PI experience was at IIM Lucknow. The interviewers were interrupting in between and never allowed me to complete my sentences. So, I never ran out of words and that gave me an edge! Here are some questions I was asked, or rather bombarded with:


Q - Is this a company name (Applied Materials)?

Me - Yes and explained what my company does and my job role there.


Q- Why MBA?

Me – I started with a job and felt the need to acquire some managerial skills...

Even before I could complete my answer, from here onwards the interruption by the panellists had already started.


Q - What will you gain from here?

Me - Knowledge, faculty and alumni interaction

A sort of rapid fire on all three points.


Q - What you will add to the batch?

Me – I talked about my industry experience which is different and a club I had started in college. They kept cross-questioning me about the club for a while. Further, they questioned me about QFD or Quality Function Deployment, regarding my work experience, my rank in my graduation, class strength and even attendance.


However, they asked me a question regarding BOM which I didn’t know. I clearly mentioned it to them. But not knowing the answer didn’t make me feel unconfident about myself. Clearly, we had to move on."


Tackling Tricky Questions


Sharing a tricky situation in the PI round, Shailav Goel, an MDI Gurgaon student says, “One of the most difficult questions according to me was to tell something different about my life that was not reflected in my CV. I was not prepared for such a question hence the answer I provided was also vague.”

In case of questions which leave of tongue-tied, it is best to either confess about your ignorance on the topic/question or give a witty reply. Anusha Ramachandran, an IIM Shillong student, while sharing her PI experience at IIM Indore says, “I was grilled on automobile engineering, and I did not know the answers. I politely told them that I did not have an answer. They were quite hard to me and kept asking me more questions from the same subject. Finally, they moved on to the next topic.”


There can be unexpected questions as well where you may not sure how to articulate the answer. The key is to frame your answer based on related themes and direct the conversation accordingly. Meghna Duvvuri, an IIM Calcutta student used to work with Samsung, in the camera team. While she had expected questions about cameras and technology related to that and her work experience, one of the panellists asked her “Why millennials are in love with taking photos?”


Sharing her answer, Meghna says, “This wasn’t a question that I had expected, but since I had recently read an article about millennials I could successfully navigate the discussion in the way I wanted to. It’s impossible to prepare for every question that can be asked in the interview, but making sure the basics are covered and keeping calm is of utmost importance. This way, the interview can be turned into a discussion and a level of comfort is established between the interviewers and interviewee.”


Candidates' geographical background can lead to a plethora of questions. Hence, acquire some basic information on your state such as historical relevance, political or social scenario, about famous personality belonging to the centre etc. You might also be questioned regarding the development of your state or city. Ashish Shrivastava, a student of IIM Lucknow, who belongs to Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh was asked ‘Why does encephalitis only spread in Gorakhpur?’ This was an unexpected question for him and needless to say, he faced trouble answering this question. He also shares,

In the IIM Indore Interview, I was asked to list 10 train stations between Bangalore and Gorakhpur. I could not answer that one as well, so the Interviewer asked me to draw the map of India and show the location of Bangalore and Gorakhpur on it and list the states in between. Thankfully, I was able to do that!”


Sharing her experience, Julie Bania, a student of IIFM Bhopal says, “While preparing for interviews we generally concentrate on preparing too many questions on technical aspects and course-related questions, but we forget to prepare some basic questions from school subjects or native place and general knowledge. Some questions thrown at me included ‘Name some common trees found in your state, some animals or names of national parks, sanctuaries and hills or rivers in your state etc.’ Although these questions were not difficult, my mind went blank and I answered few names I knew.”

Sampling the above instances, while preparing for a personal interview, candidates should be ready to face and tackle questions on any topic or subject and know about themselves, their background as thoroughly as possible. 


How to tackle interesting questions at Personal Interview rounds


Although interview rounds are meant to be serious affairs and we generally picture grumpy faced professors as interviewers, at times they also ask questions to break the ice and lighten the mood of the stressed candidates. For e.g. they ask you questions about your hobbies or other areas in which you are comfortable in. Some questions can be interesting as well which allow you to answer confidently. Hence along with the important and relevant questions, candidates should also prepare for PI questions related to hobbies and interests.


Tiyasha Ganguly, IMI Delhi student was asked about her favourite movie and an analysis on that. She shares, "I was asked about my favourite movie since I come from a Media and Communication background. I had answered that 'La La Land' was a movie that I had loved. I mentioned about how the storyline depicts the characters going through a lot of difficulties and insecurities after which they finally achieve their goals."


Talking about his Personal Interview at IMT Ghaziabad, Arko Biswas, a first-year student of IIM Raipur shares, “Among all the interviews, I had the best experience at the Interview in IMT which had two panellists. Upon entering, even before a handshake, I was fired a question.


P1- Do you know the name of the person whom we just interviewed?

ME: Yes sir,‘Arkojeet’.

P1- Why should we even interview you? He already has a Jeet after Arko.

ME: What’s in a name, sir? It is all about the person.

P2- You say name does not matter?

ME: Not exactly, it matters in some respects. Like for the celebrity star with huge stage names, it does matter to some extent. I then gave examples of stars and brands.

P1: Say, your name is changed to Dinanath Biswas, you become the CEO of a company.  How would you feel about it?

Me: After few days a child is born, his parents name him Dinanath. I will know his parents aspire him to be a successful business man like me, hence the name. I will give a new name to the market and hence a new brand will be created.

P1: Very Well!”


Another IIM Lucknow student Jayesh Patil shares that the most difficult question to answer was 'Why MBA'. He mentions, "The most difficult questions I faced were about why I choose to do MBA and how it fits in after having my own entrepreneurial venture. I answered that my experience at the start-up has made me realise that I don’t have a structured way to go about business. As a result, it becomes very difficult to manage things like pitching projects and converting clients. I’d like to get an academic foundation with MBA, apply those concepts and then get on with my venture again.

A lot of follow up questions were asked in multiple interviews about CEOs and start-up founders who do not have an MBA, yet they are doing well. My reply to that was that there is a considerable learning curve that goes into running a successful company and I’d like to reduce this time by getting an MBA."


As Shubhra Pratim Halder, an IIM Lucknow student observes, "Well, IIM interviews always have a surprise element in it. Believe it or not, the candidate gets a lot of chances to turn the board in his/her favour. It solely depends on your logical and sensible approach to answering the questions and most importantly, keeping the conversation going in his/her favour." Your approach is what matters during the PI rounds. While you may be overconfident and give an incorrect answer to an already known question, you can also tackle a difficult question with a smart answer or a direct ‘I don’t know’. While the ball is at your court, ensure that you give the best shot.


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