Thursday, 4 September 2014

Personal Interview Tips and Its Important Area

Personal Interview
Once you submit your application to business school, the admissions committee will conduct a preliminary screening based upon your undergraduate GPA and CAT/MAT/XAT/Etc. scores. If you meet a pre-determined "academic cutoff," you will likely be invited for a personal interview to further probe your suitability for that particular business school.

The personal interview is a critical step in the admissions process and should not be taken lightly; most MBA programs will not accept a candidate without meeting him/her in person. A personal interview is aimed at knowing a candidate more intimately - assessing the clarity of thinking process, future goals and the 'fit' with the B-school. It provides the admission committee of a b-school to evaluate your interpersonal and soft skills.

Personal Interview can also turn out to be an opportunity to 'sell' yourself. While intimidating for some MBA-hopefuls, the personal interview represents a prime opportunity. Interview allows you the chance not only to put a face and personality to the name and credentials on your application file, but also to express your academic, personal, and professional accomplishments, experiences, and intentions.

The focus of a B-school interview can range from specific questions about your job to broad discussions on life. Approach the interview as a conversation to be enjoyed, not as a question-and-answer ordeal. It may be about your hobbies - your recent cross-country trip. This doesn't mean that the interviewers are not serious. It just means that you're being sized up as a person and a future professional in all your dimensions.

On the other hand, the PI is an opportunity for the b-school to question you about your application, your autobiographical sketch or any issues on your transcripts or entrance test scores. Your interviewer wants to learn what you are like as a person and how well you respond and communicate. We want to understand your values, how you think and how well you handle yourself under pressure.

One and all b-school is committed to admit students who are able to handle the rigors of business school on an academic, personal, physical and psychological basis. Your interview is your opportunity to convince the admission committee that you are up to the challenge you are expected to face in future.

Interview - an integral part of the B-School admissions process.

The admissions process of some business schools requires that the MBA applicant attends a mandatory interview. These mandatory interviews are usually conducted as in person ones. If you are an international applicant and the business school has not been able to either send its representative or identify any alumni in your country to conduct the interview in person, the interview is conducted over the phone or through web conference. Again, an in-person interview is generally recommended as you can build rapport and use it to get feedback to determine your fit for the particular program.

What does the PI tries to test?

The personal interview process aim to test the 'views' expressed by a candidate during submission of the application or through a free-wheeling discussion around one's bio-data given in the application form."
A few 'knowledge-dipstick' questions on one's basic academic background might also be fielded to assess the depth and accuracy of existing knowledge. A few basic General Knowledge questions may also be asked. B-Schools also give importance to consistent academic performance as it is indicative of academic discipline and ethos one is required to have to survive in the rigorous competition.

According to experts, Personal Interview stresses on the following areas:
  • Goal Clarity
  • Knowledge
  • Communication Skills
  • Personality traits

Goal Clarity
"Why do want to do an MBA? How does it fit into your career goals? What do you wish to do after your MBA?" - These are some hard questions that you will have to answer almost invariably in all Interviews. These questions search the 'inner motivations' of a candidate, and there are no 'right answers'. The only way to answer these questions is to introspect: what excites and motivates you; what makes you perform your best; what would you really like to do in your life, and how do you genuinely see an MBA helping. Tough questions, but answering them honestly is critical for your success!

'Why MBA?' is the most important question that MBA aspirants need to answer. There is no "good answer" for this. The answer needs to be your answer. In other words, you need to think deeply, introspect and find out what it is that really drives you, that really sends a shiver of excitement down your spine when you think of achieving it. It is only this excitement and this drive that can convince the interview panel about your answer rather than any 'manufactured' answer by any test prep faculty.

Also "Why do you think now is the right time to pursue an MBA?", "How will you fit into our program?" And "What will you do after you graduate?" are the key questions for every interview candidate. Interviewers are looking for responses incorporating specific examples from your academic, personal, and professional experiences. Further, they want to know the reasons behind your major life decisions.

So put on your thinking cap, do some soul searching and then jot down the answers to 'what's your goal' questions.

Domain Knowledge

Given that a good MBA is a demanding program, B-schools would like to know how you will be able to cope up with the academics and the extra-curricular 24 x 7 demands of your new campus. They are also keen to assess how you have utilized the earlier learning opportunities.

Be prepared to discuss different specialty areas in business and their responsibilities. Interviewers will also expect you to discuss current issues in business, including the economy, taxation, foreign competition, the role of technology and ethical challenges in the field.

Interestingly, it is not just about knowledge and answering the questions but also 'leading' the interview panel. Anything you say opens the doors to new lines of questioning and discussion, so make sure you know where you are leading the interview. Be careful about the gates you open, and be very sure you have in-depth knowledge about whatever you mention.

For e.g. if you say you have an avid interest in Badminton, be ready for questions pertaining to Prakash Padukone, Deepika Padukone, plastic shuttles v/s feather shuttles, Saina Nehwal etc. It is advisable to brush up 2-3 subjects from your graduation thoroughly if you are a student fresh out of college. Also, contextual knowledge of the environment around you as well as "general knowledge" comes quite handy.

Brush up on your area of specialization/ subjects at graduation. Account for breaks, if any. Take pains to know about the company you work for; your place in the scheme of things and your contribution. Since 'Extracurricular' would comprise activities other than academics and work life, list those activities, preferably recent, that you have participated in or initiated. Be clear about what you do in your leisure hours. Preparation for general awareness questions is an ongoing exercise.

Communication Skills

Your speaking and listening skills become very important than the often tested reading and writing skills. As simple as it may sound, good communication strategy is quite simple. Listen to the question keenly to understand it well, and then offer a precise answer. If you don't know the answer, no bluffing the panel please! The experts are too experienced to notice this and can get switched off.

While speaking, the biggest sin you can commit is beating around the bush and being too verbose. Remember, panel can easily interpret these "tactics" on your part to be lack of clarity or a deliberate attempt to obfuscate your lack of knowledge. Also, while answering questions, please remember it is not a quiz and you can actually pause and collect your thoughts before answering, if required.

Preparation Strategy

To be honest, it is not at all tough to 'prepare' for an interview as you only have to analyze yourself because all the answer an interview board seeks are within you. Although, practice for an interview session should ideally begin, as soon as you make up your mind for pursuing management education. However, you should use the few weeks and months before the interview to revisit and update your knowledge base, and crystallize your reasoning and thinking process on your career and life goals.

Reading newspapers and keeping updated with all the major happenings does help a lot. Revising the concepts, at least from courses one liked or did well in, from under graduation is required.

Attend mock GD sessions and giving 2-3 mock interviews. Importantly, preparing for GD/PI sessions is a good time to reflect and introspect on what are one's career goals and the reasons why one is opting for management career, and one should make use of this opportunity.