Acing Personal Interviews

PIs as these are referred to as, are a different ball game. Here, the spotlight is solely on you -any apparent strength may be probed, any apparent weakness might be looked at closely.

Interviewers will likely evaluate you on the following four criteria:

Academic and work career: The breadth and depth of your educational background and your fundamentals regarding your subjects, your accomplishments, evidence of claims made in resume, and leadership qualities to name a few.

Mental acuity: Your intelligence, presence of mind, ability to gauge the tone of the interview, your understanding of questions and concepts being put on the table, creativity, and so on.

Manner and personal traits: Your poise, sense of humour, confidence, the way you relate to your interviewers in moments that are not your strongest, how you handle stress, disbelief, your assertiveness, enthusiasm, ambition, motivation, interests, hobbies, work philosophy, educational philosophy, including, your ability to maintain eye contact.

Appearance: Grooming, dress, posture, cleanliness, and apparent health.

Tips for presentation (for both GDs and PIs):

Dress formally: A lot of us truly miss the point here. This is important because how your present yourself is a statement on how you wish to be seen. Your appearance too is part of non-verbal communication, however dystopian that may sound.

Let me elucidate –

§ For men: Basic suits (wear ties, goes without saying) in monochromes are best. Go for something simple, elegant, and practical. Focus on neatness and cleanliness. Match your socks, shine your shoes, settle your hair. Make sure you are well-groomed – no five o’clock shadow or spade-like nails.

§ Best avoided: Funky shirts of the party-casual type, open collar, top shirt button left open, brown shoes with black pants or vice versa, extra-strong fragrance, sparkly cufflinks, to name a few.

§ Women: Indian formals include saris and salwar kameez dresses, just that both should be extremely sober-looking. Western formals are considered on par with Indian formals. If going for western formals, do wear a blazer. Try to stick to monochromes – avoid sequined, flamboyantly coloured motifs, too much jewellery or even make-up that stands out, basically, stay away from all extremes. Your thumb rule should be to err on the conservative side. The aim is to be well-dressed enough to not draw attention to the highs and lows of your dressing and instead to focus on your person.

Some typical questions asked during PIs:

§ Tell me about yourself.

§ How would you describe yourself?

§ Tell me something about yourself that I won’t find on your resume.

§ What do you take real pride in?

§ Why would you like to study here?

§ Why should we take you?

§ What are your long – term career objectives?

§ Which accomplishment of yours would you say has given you the greatest satisfaction?

§ If you could go back into the past to change something, what would it be?

Sometimes, however, interviewers may pose more difficult questions- ones that seemingly have no “right” answer:

§ What do you consider your major weakness?

Sometimes, they even try to create a stressful situation by asking pointed questions, interrupting,or feigning disbelief in an attempt to gauge your behavior under stress

§ The strategy to use in such a circumstance is to keep the desired institute firmly in mind & to formulate each answer- no matter what the question so it highlights your ability to be fit for the institute.

§ Also, politely and simply keep to your stand, if you really believe in it. For example, you are asked to show how you demonstrated your leadership skills in a particular situation and the interviewer presents a counterpoint, pointing a flaw in your basic premise of believing that you contributed constructively to the situation. You remain unflappable, hear the issue out completely. Then, politely assert that well, this is what you thought at the time was the right thing on account of so and so reasons and motivations, and that the interviewer’s view, while having made you think about it, has also made it apparent to you why your approach worked towards the results you desired. Say that you will keep that point in mind and think some more about it but for now, you count this experience as a positive one for yourself as well as the situation – and then go on to enumerate the positive outcomes.

§ You can ask the interviewer to be more specific or to rephrase the question

§ Observe the organizational environment very carefully

§ Treat everyone you meet, including the receptionist & interviewer’s staff, with scrupulous courtesy

§ Maintain an air of formality – understand that you are not there to make friends or to apply for someone’s kindness

§ In the interview room, greet the interviewers with a firm handshake, direct eye contact & a smile

§ Show interest in what the interviewer is saying

§ Recognize that you are expected to go beyond mere yes-and-no answers.

§ When you feel nervous tell yourself how much you need it to go right and how far you have come. Don’t think of the results, just be there in the moment, just give it your best.

§ Practice until you’re confident that you can face whatever the interviewer throws your way

§ Follow the interviewer’s lead, letting him or her determine which question to ask, when to move to a new area of discussion, & when to end the interview

§ Answer with honesty

§ Don’t try to oversell yourself

§ Always round up your interview on your side with at least a polite thank you. 

You may add a good bye!

Written by Dr. Himanshu Rai, Ex- CAT Convenor & Dean MISB Bocconi. 

Originally published –