Questions at the Interview
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QUESTIONS AT THE INTERVIEW Even if each interviews is unique, there is great similarity in the subjects touched upon. The principal things your interviewer will be looking at are: your previous education your professional experience your extra-professional activities your character and your values your motivation for doing an MBA and, more specifically, at the school with which you're interviewing.
We polled numerous MBA students in order to gather a list of the questions most frequently posed in each of these categories. The great thing about this list is that it gives you the wording of most of the questions you will be asked. This list is very exhaustive, and you certainly won't have to answer even a tenth of these questions. The problem is that you don't know which ones you will be posed. We therefore suggest that you prepare a response to most of these questions so that you can be convincing on the spot.
Your previous education: Which school did you attend and why that one'? Would you choose the same studies again ifyou could do it over again? What was your major and why? What overall grades did you get? Did you get honors? Which courses were you best at? Why? What did you like most about this part of your education? What did you least like about this part of your education? What extra-curricular activities did you participate in? Why and what was your contribution? How did you pay for your education'?
Your professional experience: Can you briefly describe your career progress to date? What are your long term career aspirations and why? Please discuss the factors, both professional and personal, influencing the career decisions you have made so far. Can you briefly describe the key responsibilities of your current job? What are the key challenges of your job? While recognizing that no day is typical, please describe a representative working day. Why did you choose this profession? Why this company? What do you like best/about your current job? Describe your most successful accomplishment at work. Describe a failure on the job. What could you do to be an even more effective member of your organization? Describe a situation in which you have been in the position of leading a group. What have you done to develop those under your responsibility? What specifically have you done to help your company change'? How does your performance compare with that of your peers at a similar level? Describe your relationship with your boss. What is good and bad about it? Where is your industry heading in the next five years? (all the more important if your interviewer works in the same domain).
Your extra-professional activities: How do you spend your time outside of work? What activities do you enjoy most and why? Describe a situation where you have been in a position of leading a group in those activities, Describe your key accomplishments in these activities.
Describe any failure in these activities. What is the last book you read? What did you think of it? What is your favorite sport? What aspect of it appeals to you'?
Your reasons for doing an MBA and more specifically the reason you are doing this interview: Why do you want to do an MBA? Why now? Where do you expect to be in 5 years? What do you expect to get from an MBA? Why do you want to come to our school in particular? Which other schools are you applying to? How did you choose these schools? Why so many/few? Which school is your first choice? What if you are not accepted in the schools you are applying for? ifyou didn't get into any programs? What specific questions do you have about our school? What would you contribute to our school that is distinctive?
Your character and your values Tell me about yourself. How would your friends describe you? What are your main strengths and weaknesses? What have you done that you are proud of?. Who are your heroes? Why? Describe any significant experience abroad. What did you learn from this? Describe an ethical dilemma that you faced. How did you resolve it?
NEW Interview - Sample Questions & Suggested Answers Justify your decision to pursue the MBA programme? Don't tell the panel that you are looking for a "challenging job in a good firm with lots of money, status and glamour". Instead, you must convey to the interview panel that you have made a rational and informed decision about your career choice and your intended course of higher study. There are broadly four areas which your answer could touch upon : Career Objectives: You could talk about your career objectives and how the two year MBA programme will help you achieve them. Value Addition: Value addition will essentially be in two forms knowledge and skills. Background: This is where you connect your past to your future. If you are an engineer, try and say that the MBA course and your engineering degree will help you do your job better in the company that you will join. You should be able to convincingly justify how your engineering qualification will help. Opportunities and Rewards: You could also at this stage mention the opportunities that are opening up in organizations for management graduates. At this stage mentioning superior monetary rewards for management graduates may not be a bad idea. Why do you think you would enjoy your chosen area of study (Eg: Marketing)? Marketing is key to the success of any organization and the function has always appealed to me, because it requires a combination of creativity, strategic and analytic ability - all qualities that I feel I possess. Through discussions with some of my seniors, I have a pretty good idea of what it's like to work toward taking up a marketing job, and I know I will enjoy the work.
How do you spend your spare time? I have a good collection of books of different genre and enjoy reading. In addition, I love driving during late evenings or on rainy weekend afternoons. Also, for the last two years I've been volunteering at the local children's hospital on Saturday mornings.
What are your weaknesses? I used to be somewhat disorganized, but eventually this got me into trouble when I missed an appointment I hadn't written down. It was clear that I had to learn how to be more organized. So, with the help of my senior colleague we worked out a system that I still use today. Not only do I stay on top of things, but I'm more efficient, too.
The first thing you need to do prior to interviewing is assess yourself. This includes listing your strengths and weaknesses, your accomplishments and achievements, reviewing your strong and your weak subjects, and recording some of the key decisions you have made in your life.
You should then review your interests, the disappointments you've encountered, your work environment likes/dislikes, your business and personal values, your goals, needs, restrictions, and life style preferences. It would help if you're ready to practice answering the following potential questions
What does Personal Interview test?
So what does the personal interview process aim to test? Dr JK Mitra, Dean, Faculty of Management Studies, throws some light. "Personal Interview process might begin with the 'views' expressed during the 'extempore round' (part of process at FMS Delhi) 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. FMS 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 campus."
According to experts, the Personal Interview stresses on 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!
"Yes, 'Why MBA?' is the most important question that MBA aspirants need to answer. There is no "good answer". 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 faculty," says expert from Career Launcher.
Adds Mr Mitra of PT Education, "Why do you think now is the right time to pursue an MBA?; How will you fit into our program? And How will you do after you graduate? are the key questions for every MBA aspirants to answer convincingly. 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 programme, 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," says Mr Mitra of PT Education.
Interestingly, it is not just about knowledge and answering the questions but also 'leading' the interview panel. Says expert from Career Launcher, "Anything you say opens the doors to new lines of questioning and discussion, so make sure you know where you are leading the interview. So 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."
Jaya Desai of IMS Learning says, "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."
Your speaking and listening skills become very important than the oft 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.
Says Career Launcher Expert, "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."
To be honest, it is not possible to 'prepare' for an interview in a few weeks. Planning for an interview should ideally be a process that should begin as soon as you make up your mind to pursue 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. Says Nishant, a first year student of prestigious IIM Bangalore, "Reading newspapers and keeping updated with all the major happenings does help a lot. Revising the concepts, atleast from courses one liked or did well in, from undergrad in 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."
So now that you are all set with the strategies for doing well in your interview, lets look at a few Frequently Asked Questions, shared by Career Launcher. Remember, these are only to help you prepare and don't expect them to be repeated!
1. Describe yourself. 2. Questions on social service, hobbies (cricket), commercialization of cricket were asked. 3. The recent book that you have read. 4. Question on favourite subject followed by 'What is the difference between an economist's and a CA's interpretation of Fixed cost and Variable cost'; 'What are quick assets and liabilities?' and 'Draw and explain break even point' 5. Why did you leave your first job? Are you satisfied with your career? 6. Do you want to ask anything from us? 7. How many functions have you organized during your engineering? 8. How will you organize Hasya Kavi Sammelan? Differentiate between the style of Surendra Kumar and Shail Chaturvedi. 9. What is sampling principle? How will you draw a distribution curve? Questions on standard deviation. How will you explain variance? 10. Mention 5 use of eraser!
Remember that while planning and preparation for your GD is important, your thinking process and responses should be 'yours' and yours alone. Any element of 'artificiality' can dampen your chances. Says Dr JK Mitra, "My advice to MBA aspirants is that please don't 'prepare' for an MBA interview. Your best chance will be when you are at your natural self. Most of the 'coached' responses or behaviors actually put us off and jeopardize your chance. It is like 'acting'; it has to be so natural to you that you should not be viewed as 'acting'. Therefore, just approach the GD/PI round as a round that you are going to enjoy to your heart's content," says Dr Mitra.