Do you know that approximately, 2.2 lakh aspirants appeared for CAT in 2010, for a meagre 2000-2200 seats available in all IIMs; simply put only 10% of the candidates could finally make it; further simply put, only ONE out of every 100 aspirant could actually ‘Bell the CAT.’ What qualities that one candidate has that 99 others don’t, become most apparent in the last and final leg of the selection process: Personal Interview.
A Personal Interview, as the name suggests, is a one-to-one interaction of the candidate with a highly qualified and discerning panel that includes College Faculty, admission personnel and alumni who are well established in the industry. After judging a candidate’s intellect and team-participation skills in previous rounds, a PI is intended to judge his overall persona- Knowledge, comfort with People and his ability to make an IMPACT.
Like in the previous article (on Preparation of GD), before we mull over the “Do’s” of a PI or its preparation, let us first look at what not to do in an Interview. So, friends, ‘Don’t’:
1) Appear nervous and or try to be what you are not.
2) Be over-confident/ arrogant/ show disrespect in any possible way toward any Panel member.
3) Treat any question as casual – because ‘you never know’; even a seemingly simple/casual question may be a stress/ error inducing tactic.
4) Don’t boast about your academic achievements especially MARKS; these can very well be seen in your Resume and/or Mark sheets.
5) Don’t go on dragging a particular point. Don’t think it is the Interviewer’s responsibility to ask another question and thereby stop you; try to achieve a logical pause; should the Interviewer want you to continue, he would ask so; or you may ask a question like - ”Is there something specific that you would like me to elaborate on”.
6) Don’t appear to be someone who is in lure of a highly paying job in an MNC, with great perks and foreign travels. Remember, this is an Interview for a higher education degree not a high profile job.
And now let us look at what it takes to be successful in an Interview. Here are a few ‘Do’s’:
1. Demeanour and Language: Please make sure your Dressing (which includes clothes, shoes, hair) should be neat and impressive (not over-the-top or distracting by any means). Remember to carry a handkerchief and a pen for sure. Your grooming, etiquette and courtesy would be under scrutiny right from your entry to your exit. As far as the Language skills go, managing one’s Accent, Phonetics and Vocabulary is also very important. Reading and watching news can be very helpful in this regard.
2. Body Language: Try to be witty and charming, though not overly so. Try to be (or at least appear) natural and confident, show that you are enjoying the conversation while still being in control. Making proper eye-contact, first with the person who asked you a particular question, and then with the rest of the members, is a good and important thing to do.
3. Portfolio: Make sure your Portfolio folder which will include your Certificates, Marksheets, Accolades, etc are laid out neatly and chronologically. Also, your credentials at work/college/ elsewhere should be given due place and be noticeable. This will not only give the impression of you being organized and serious about your candidature, it may also give leads to the Panel for a few questions (career and academic highs, dip in performance in a particular year or duration, an unusual/challenging Project that you would have executed, etc).
4. Know it All about:
a) Yourself: Please know yourself like you did never before. Everything from your strengths, weaknesses, hobbies, aspirations, to your values, habits (both good and bad), likes/ dislikes, etc.
b) Your Background: you should know in detail about your Parents, Siblings (their profession, education, etc), your residence and native place (like what all these places are famous for, the infrastructure, socio-political situation, some particular issue that is ongoing at that time and its potential solution in your opinion), your school & college, place of work, a particular high/low about these places, etc.
The idea behind questions based on Self and or your background, is to gauge how well you know yourself and how ‘awake’ you are with respect to your surroundings. Such questions if prepared well for, can give further leads to the Panel and direct the Interview in your comfort zone.
5. Preparation/ Doing your Homework:
a) READING: is a must-do, and as I’ve always said, should be done religiously even before you have planned to appear for CAT. Increase your knowledge about current affairs, business & markets, cross-countries’ relations, sports. You are expected to not only have knowledge but also an opinion regarding the various issues facing the world today and a potential solution as per your point-of-view. Reading newspapers, current-affairs and Finance magazines, watching news and discussion-based programs will help you do just that.
b) Knowing the Institute and Degree: It is extremely important to read enough about the Program you are applying for, and the particular Institute hosting the Interview for you. Be prepared for questions pertaining to them: “Why MBA”?, “Why IIMA”?, “What do you know about IIMA”?, etc. You should appear to be both serious and aware of the degree and the Institute you are applying for.
c) Attending Mock PIs: “Practice makes a man perfect”, shall always be true and applicable. So enrol in an MBA Preparatory Institute that have GD/PI sessions on a full-term/part-time basis. These institutes offer a number of practice sessions, and provide individual feedback, analysis, tips for handling FAQs, and ofcourse suggestions to candidates which helps them prepare for Personal Interviews.
6. Leading your own Interview: It is a fact that an Interviewee leads his/her Interview. While answering a question, attempt leaving an insinuation that may prompt the Interviewers to ask you the next question. This lead should be about some professional/educational achievement, an Initiative taken by you (at work or for a social cause) that demonstrates your leadership skills or about a subject of which you have an in depth knowledge. Talking about what you know in-and-out, will give you the confidence and conviction to speak and field questions. However, this should be done subtly, and avoid giving direct suggestions to the Panel, as it may earn you negative points.
7. Acknowledge your weakness: Despite of keeping in mind the Do’s and Dont’s, and having done all the required preparation, there will still be questions for which you may not have immediate and relevant answers. Apologize for your limited knowledge of the issue, say you would definitely like to know more about it and would make an effort for that. Remember, you need not be an omniscient robot for IIMs, but you should appear as a candidate who:
a) is ‘AWAKE’ and ‘INFORMED’ about himself(strengths & weaknesses), his surroundings and the world in general.
b) looks at MBA as a career choice that will add value to and is a logical extension of his current knowledge and skills.
c) is a “People’s” person and can take testing situations in his stride.