Let’s break the myth first.
No, B-school interviews aren’t scary. They are not even meant to be in the first place. What is meant to be a conversation between the panellists and the interviewee is often misconstrued as an excruciating process. This is the first misstep.
There will, of course, be plentiful stories online which portray a skewed picture of what took place during the interviews. Not undermining any of those accounts, we strongly feel that the contextual lacking in the portrayal can make you unnecessarily dreadful of an interview (which of course, is a make or break). The best thing about these interviews is that they are fluid. There’s no pre-decided script even at the panellists end (confirmed by a plethora of candidates who have undergone this process), which makes it really interesting.
The biggest take-away is that the ball is in your court. This means that you can determine how you want to take it forward. To put it simply – you can make them ask the questions you want. How can this unfold is explained later on in the article.
The first and foremost requirement is to cover your bases. Have a solid grip on your domain subject(s) and be thorough with your prior work experience (if any). You should be able to walk the panelists’ through various scenarios you might have encountered at work and be succinct; you cannot afford to fumble here. Also, remember that questions may be centered around extremely basic ideas that test your concepts!
Next in your preparation, cover current affairs and major historical events (India as well as worldwide). The idea is to be abreast of significant happenings in the world and your views on the same. One of us (Yash) was asked to speak on four topics of interest in the IIM Ahmedabad interview, where I mentioned Indian Politics, Global Economy, Global Politics, etc. I was then asked to explain the different ways in which Brexit could pan out and its likely impact on the global economy.
The key takeaway is that you are not only supposed to know of these happenings but also provide your take on it (whether it is right or wrong is irrelevant as long as you can substantiate your views through some backing or data points).
In the final leg of the preparation, you must have solid answers for anticipated behavioural questions. Start by making a list of possible questions and write down your answers in pointers. Practice those answers with your friends and seek their views.
When you enter the interview room, smile, and greet them, only take a seat when asked to.
The opening question is mostly to gauge your body language. If you are confident and you answer without any hesitation, it would be a huge win. Whenever you answer a question, first look at the panelist who asked the question and then at the other two as well (generally, each panel has three members – two Professors and one alumnus; however, this can differ) while answering. It seems that the primary objective of the panelists is to understand how you think, how you react, are you a fit for a career in management, can you easily take up a leadership position in the future, are you well-read, etc. Now the most important thing – the panelists are very, very well-read and knowledgeable, plus they can easily understand if you are lying. If you think you know everything, rather you know more than the panelists, trust us – that isn’t possible in this lifetime. So be calm, composed, and humble.
Don’t let arrogance creep in any of your answers. Understand that everyone being called for interviews is equally competent and has had a splendid life full of academic and extracurricular accolades. Set yourself apart by showing a genuine hunger for learning and the ability to think. If you don’t know an answer, be upfront, and clearly say that you don’t know the answer. This definitely won’t go against you, but your honesty will get you brownie points. Whenever a question is asked, give it a thought and answer; try wording it carefully because the next question that comes will be exactly from whatever you said. This is where most students fall into the trap. If you answer without thinking it through, the next question will probably throw you off the chart.
One of us (Aneri) was asked during the IIM Bangalore interview to draw a report on ‘the Indian economy in the next five years’ – what are the trends, where is the Indian economy headed, etc. I said that there are three significant factors that I think are the pillars on which the economy stands – 1. Macro factors (I spoke at length about GDP, inflation, and the likes) 2. Tax collection (Now here’s the catch – I kept tax collection second, so that I could speak a bit about macro factors first and I knew that the minute I delve into tax (being a CA, it is my domain subject), the further roll of questions would be around GST, and it would be a different discussion altogether (which is where I would be extremely confident and comfortable in answering). This is how you can use your presence of mind and infuse your domain subject(s) wherever you see the gap. However, force-fitting won’t help.
Remember, that it is a level playing field – how badly you want to get into your dream business school is equivalent to the institute’s desperation to fetch good students.
Believe in yourself, be confident and smile throughout the interview, no matter what. DON’T BE SCARED. You are a warrior. Future leaders are strong, smart, and, most importantly, can slay their way through EVERYTHING.
Co-authored by Aneri Shah and Yash Goyal.
Aneri and Yash are Chartered Accountants and are currently in the second year of their MBA (Batch of 2021) at IIM Bangalore and IIM Ahmedabad respectively. Prior to MBA, Aneri worked at KPMG in tax and regulatory team and Yash worked at PwC in Mergers & Acquisitions.