The Personal Interview:
The heat of the B-school admission process does not end with clearing the most competitive entrance exams such as CAT, XAT, SNAP, etc. You will have to face the final frontier-the Personal Interview (PI). Although many students successfully clear the exams and get the GD-PI calls, many fail to perform well in the interview room.
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.
To perform well, it is essential that you understand the What, Why and How of the personal interview round.
So what does the PI test?
Personal Interview aims at understanding and knowing the candidate better. It is an opportunity to market yourself as the most suitable candidate who deserves that admit card into the reputed B-school. The views expressed by the candidate in the application form will be put to test.
You will be asked about your academic background and the accuracy of existing knowledge may also be put to test. Remember, it is not just the knowledge gained from books that will be questioned. B-schools are looking for candidates who are also well-aware of the world.
What are the key areas you should concentrate on?
MBA programs are demanding and needs you to have adequate knowledge related to the field. You should do your research on the specialization you are interested in. Do not forget to research on the institute as the most common question asked is Why MBA? Why MBA in this institution?
The panel wants to know how you will cope with the demands of the program, how their program will benefit you and how you will contribute to the institution in return. Also be prepared to answer what your other areas of interest include. Extra-curricular activities also play an important role.
2. Clarity of goals:
Personal interview is a chance you get to emphasize on your goals. You will need to have clarity of your goals to answer the questions such as Why MBA? How does in fit your career goals? What are your plans after MBA? The panel is looking for the inner motivations of the candidate. Since there are no right answers to these questions, it demands introspection. Honest self-assessment may help you answer these questions convincingly.
3. Communication skills:
This is the key to success. Personal interview is all about communicating your ideas, goals and motives to the panel who is listening to you to know you better. Learn to speak clearly and be professional.
Have confidence in what you say and answer to the point. Listen to what is being said and do not be afraid to give yourself some time to understand it well before you answer. Do not try answering when you have no clue and accept the things you do not know. The panel you will be addressing is experienced and will be easily ticked off with tactics used to impress.
What are the most frequently asked questions?
The questions generally revolve around behaviors, skills and attitudes of the student. The selector aims to gain an insight into the personality of the student by assessing the student in the following areas:
- The Strengths and weaknesses of the student
- Aim and objective behind management education
- Stress and Time Management skills
- Past performances and experiences as indicator to future behavior
- Honesty and integrity
- Personality conflicts, if any.
Some points to keep in mind:
ü Success in the interview cannot be achieved with inadequate preparation. Lack of preparation is a common complaint among interviewers, and if you are prepared, you will stand out among your competitors
ü It depends on how well you know yourself, your goals and how serious and dedicated you are about achieving them.
Try to be your witty, charming, natural self.
ü Do not try to put on. The interviewers will be able to see your masks through.
ü Students, faculty, admissions personnel and alumni conduct interviews. Don’t dismiss students as the lightweights.
It is important to have a good idea of “What you consider to be your greatest strength, why and what are some examples that show this”, before you go into an interview.
ü The interviewer will most likely ask some pointed questions, you may also encounter something as broad as “So, tell me about yourself.” These open ended questions are usually the ones that help you lead the interview.
ü You should have in mind what you want to convey about who you are before you go into any interview.
Steps to approaching the interview?
- Do your homework, and know everything about yourself, the B-school and the field of your specialization.
- Don’t waste time discussing things that are already indicated on your application.
- You can elaborate if the topic illustrates something about your character and preparedness for the b-school experience, but do not be redundant.
- The first impression you create is very important.
- Use this opportunity to show how you are different from the thousands of other applicants, not to blend in to the crowd.
- After you have said what you have to say – don’t venture any further. Don’t drone. You just might say something foolish.
- Sometimes interviewers don’t interrupt in order to give the candidate the impression that he has not spoken enough. This is just a stress/error inducing tactic. Don’t fall for it. If the pause gets too awkward for your liking, just add something like, “Is there something specific that you would like to know about me”
Body Language Matters:
Ensure that your non-verbal communication skills speaking positively for you. The panel will scrutinize your body language; you might be saying all the right things, but if your body language speaks otherwise, your chances may not be too positive. Therefore, it is equally important for you to improve your body language.
The few pointers you should keep in mind:
- You are assessed from the time you walk into the interview room. Avoid adjusting your clothes and hair while walking in. Tidy up before you walk in.
- Follow the person leading you to the panel. This shows that you respect and understand protocol.
- Greet everyone and make eye contact with each panel member.
- When you extend a handshake, do so with your palm facing upwards. This indicates honesty and sincerity.
- Take your seat only when you are offered to sit.
- Sit comfortably and avoid leaning backwards as it indicates arrogance and boredom.
- Leaning forward may indicate nervousness.
- Sit with both feet on the ground and do not cross your legs.
- Take control of your gestures. Do not nod your head too many times. This indicates that you are desperate to agree with the panel.
- Avoid looking down as it signals judgmental and negative attitude.
- Maintaining eye contact is crucial to express confidence. Hold eye contact for at least 10 seconds before you look at another panel member. This does not mean you stare without a break. Staring can be intimidating.
- Crossing your arms indicate defensiveness or closed mind. Keep your hands on your lap or knees, but do not grip them tightly as is indicates you are tense.
- Scratching your neck, rubbing your nose or eyes can be indications that you don’t believe in what you are saying.
- Once the interview is over, do not let go of your composure. Collect your belongings calmly, shake hands with the leading panel member if not with everyone else and leave with a smile.
- A confident goodbye is equally important to improve the impression.
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