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Personal Interview  

Personal Interview round -What, Why and How
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. To help our readers, the MBA aspirants, to excel in the final frontier, MBAUniverse.com presents the What, Why and How of the Personal Interview round. While the written exam tests the quantitative, reasoning and verbal skills of an applicant, that's not all that a future manager is expected to excel in. In fact, that's just the start! A successful manager should not just be good with his quota of work, but he/ she is expected to contribute as part of a team and lead the team.

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. 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. Interviews allow you the chance to not only 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.

What does it test?
So what does the personal interview process aim to test? According to Dr JK Mitra, Faculty of Management Studies, University of Delhi, "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 gives importance to consistent academic performance as it is indicative of academic discipline and ethos one is required to have to survive in the campus," added Dr. Mitra.
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 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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Prep Strategy
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.
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.

Practice Questions

How to prepare for the personal interview
1. Why should we admit you into our MBA program?
2. What are your strongest abilities?
3. What skills would you be bringing to the classroom?(relevant if you have job experience)
4. What are you looking for in this program?
5. Tell me something about yourself?
6. What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
7. Where do you want to be in 5 years?
8. Why do you want to study in this institute?
9. What does "success" mean to you?
10. What does "failure" mean to you?
11. What are your three major accomplishments?
12. What have you disliked in your past jobs? (If you have worked in more than one organization)
13. What kinds of people do you enjoy working with? (If you possess work experience)
14. What kinds of people frustrate you?
15. How long before you can make a contribution (Not monetary) to the institute?
16. In the past year, what have you been dissatisfied about in your performance?
17. What according to you is your ideal job and how will this program help you realize the same?
18. What can you tell me about your past bosses? (If you have work experience)
19. Which is more important to you: money or the type of job?
20. What have you learned from your activities in college?

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