Personal Interview for MBA Admissions

PI (Personal Interview) is one of the requisite shortlisting rounds of all the top b-schools for an MBA admission. Succeeding the group discussion round, the personal interview round is the decider of whether you will get into the b-school you're contesting for or not. In this round, the admission panel inspects everything; from your body language to your communication skills which helps them learn more about you. The way of communication in an interview is two-way and so are the benefits. As a candidate, you get acquainted with a lot of new things and traits that are very important to thrive in a world full of competition. The panelists, as interviewers, ensure that the student potentially feels comfortable in the b-school, has the ability to network well with the people and can handle the pressure of balancing multiple things in one go. Basically, the personal interview round is like a “research round” wherein you reflect upon your own strengths and weaknesses to convince the panelists that you will be a valuable addition to the b-school.  

Two of the most important things to consider initially while preparing for a personal interview are reputation and visibility of the institute you are about to interview for. Say for example, you were able to receive a call for an interview from one of the major IIMs or b-schools like FMS, IMT, SPJIMR, MDI Gurgaon, etc. What is that you will do next? Jump around and celebrate? i'd suggest to not get overly excited because a call from an institute does not necessarily mean that you will crack the interview. Keep in mind that the interview is going to be highly hyper-paced and intense in terms of competition. It is no surprise that all the twenty IIMs clubbed together make up for merely some thousand admission seats. You know what this means, it is not your time to laze around and think the needful is done after acing the CAT exam. It would be best if you gathered all your strength together one last time, keep a keen eye out to your surroundings and try to soak in as much knowledge as you can before stepping in the interview room. One major thing to consider here is the originality of your speech and your personality. The duplicity of words is not encouraged during the interview at all. Other than preparing traditionally, you need to make sure that you do not lose your confidence during the time of the interview. 

Before understanding how to gear up for personal interview, let us get to grips with what is the format of a Personal Interview Session:

Format of Personal Interview Round 

The format of personal interview differs with respect to every b-school. Usually, the session lasts anywhere around 25-30 minutes. As far as the personal interview round at top a listed b-schools is concerned, it is part of the second and the final stage of the selection process and has an overall weightage of approximately 40-50%. The weightage has been increased after the widespread unrest of covid-19. The student, before contending for the personal interview round, needs to clear either the group discussion round or the written ability test round. Once a candidate clears the former stages as mentioned, he gets called in by 2-3 jury members who are specifically assigned for conducting the personal interview. By any means, this many to one interaction is not held for the purpose of scaring the candidate off or intimidating him/her. This round has an immense significance as it helps the jury understand what is your intellect made of.  The questions can be either generic or candidate specific.

Personal interview can be either conducted after the GD round, or conducted directly after the WAT (Written Ability Test) round to maintain social distancing in view of the coronavirus disease. Here is the traditional PI format that most b-schools are likely to follow in order to extract maximum potential from a pool of candidates to find a “good fit”:

Preliminary

Interview's side of story

The Question Answer Trial

Body Language/Communication

Questioning the panel/Closure

Walking through doors and addressing the panelists gracefully.

Letting the interview speak and explain the process

Only speaking after the interviewer finishes the question.

Relax while you answer the questions. Do not slouch. Keep both your hands on the table in a criss cross manner.

Prepare a generic set of questions related to the university you are contending for.

Seating yourself gracefully facing towards the panelists.

Marinating Patience and Decorum.

Speaking confidently when asked to describe yourself.

Focus on adding valuable points based on panelists' questions and answer them in a natural manner.

Showcase the highest amount of interest for the institute but at the same time, do not show desperation.

Greeting the panelists through a handshake/smile.

Listening carefully so that the interviewer doesn't have to repeat himself.

If you pursued a bachelor's prior to this, make sure you study the basics of the same properly.

Do not panic if you are not able to answer any current affairs or general knowledge question. Reply with "I would have to read up on that sir". You can use this line multiple times and still have strong chances of selection

If everything goes well, be patient and do not storm out of the interview hall. Try to stay put and give an ear to interviewers providing information regarding next possible steps.

Only introducing yourself on the demand of the panelist.

Noting down the important points/minutes to showcase your interest and dedication.

If you are a working professional or have been one in the past, ensure you know everything related to your job role and what all achievements you received.

Jog the panelists through your entire life journey and state clearly how pursuing an MBA from their college will transform their careers.


Note: The questions asked by the panelists would be based on your past academic record, work experience, general affairs, economy and finance, your life’s ventures and technicalities of the profiles you have been handling. In some cases, the PI panel may ask you to give a 5 minute extempore on a social topic, a written problem, psychometric tests etc.

How to prepare for a Personal Interview?

The journey of starting your preparation for CAT to grabbing a seat into an IIM consists of 2 major phases-

  • Getting a good CAT score.

  • Converting a interview call

After getting a call for the Personal interview, preparation for the same should begin with full force. Many students neglect this part of the preparation and become lethargic after getting an interview call. However, one should not forget that this is a game changer. Many who score 99+ percentile are not able to make it to the top IIMs and one big reason for the same is neglecting the interview preparation. This takes us to the million dollar question, 'How to prepare for a Personal interview?'

The Personal interview preparation can mainly be divided into two portions-

  1. Generalised type of preparation.

  2. More personalized type of preparation.

Generalised preparation- 

This portion will consist of Questions which the interview panel expects from you irrespective of your background.

This can be classified as-

  • Basic economics- Start by reading NCERTs of 11th and 12th or you can also watch YouTube videos for the same. Many concepts like monetary policies, fiscal policies, LPG reforms, etc should be focused upon.

  • Basic finance- One can watch YouTube videos for the same and get familiar with basic finance concepts like bonds, debentures etc.

  • Learning about the state/city in which the IIM is located- Learn basic history, polity and geography of the state.

  • Current affairs- One must be well aware of their surroundings and for that start reading newspapers or follow some news handles on social media.

  • Common HR questions- Questions like Tell me about yourself, What are your strengths and weaknesses, etc should be prepared well in advance so that one looks more confident and well prepared in an interview.

Personalized Preparation-

This part of the Personal Interview preparation depends on your background and your qualifications. This depends on your graduation, work experience, qualifications, etc.

This portion of preparation can be classified as-

  • Revising your graduation subjects- Many students specially engineers lose points because they are not well versed with their graduation subjects. So the time between CAT results and personal interview should be utilised to revise the graduation subjects.

  • Prepare each and every point mentioned in your resume- Questions will be formed only around one's resume, hence one must be well prepared with points mentioned in the resume.

  • Knowledge of your field of work experience- One should have thorough knowledge of one's work experience and the field one has worked in. 

  • Revisiting the projects mentioned in the resume- Personal Interview panel can frame direct questions from the projects mentioned in the resume.

  • Knowledge of your hometown/homestate- Major geographical, political, economic knowledge about your hometown as questions can be framed from this part.

Hence, your personal interview preparation should be based on both generalised and personalised factors.

Last but not least, one should focus on building one's personality and confidence because in an interview they don't just want to test one's knowledge but also one's personality.

Personal Interview Questions

Some of the common Personal Interview Questions for you to practice are:

  • Tell me about yourself.

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • Why do you want to pursue an MBA?

  • Why and which field of specialisation you want to pursue in MBA?

  • What are your hobbies and interests?

  • Which B-School do you want to join as you have received calls from other B-Schools also?

  • What is the most important decision you have made in life?

  • Tell me about your home-state/hometown.

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