How to crack the Personal Interview round to get into your favourite MBA college

Personal Interview (PI) is the final and crucial step in the entire MBA admission process. This round is focused on getting to know the candidate better by gauging the clarity of his / her thinking process, future plans,etc. In its endeavour to help students crack the PI level, PaGaLGuY speaks to Group Discussion/ Personal Interview (GDPI) expert, Sidharth Balakrishna and a few MBA students to know what works and what doesn’t in the PI round.

Introduction is important

In interviews, the candidate is often asked to introduce himself/ herself. Before the interview, he/ she is often given a form to fill, on the basis of which questions are asked in the round. “In your introduction, I suggest you go beyond just mentioning the school/ college you studied in, where you work, the marks you obtained etc. Highlight your achievements and what you enjoy doing. Try to relate that to the course you are applying to and what you want to learn. In short, try to make the interview panel interested in you as an individual,” said Balakrishna.

According to him, studies have shown that interview panellists often base their decisions to select a certain candidate within the first few seconds of the interview itself. “The rest of the Interview is more to confirm the initial quick opinion. So think about what you wish to say in your introduction, carefully,” he said.

Recalling his PI experience, Archit Garg, first year student of IIM Shillong said that simple and routine questions like the ones based on introduction, strengths and weaknesses should be replied with utmost confidence, giving no chance to the panellists to doubt one’s credentials. “PI forms the most important part of the selection procedure. During my interviews, I always avoided giving monotonous replies to the questions and tried making the interviews more interactive, which helped,” he said.

Nature of questions asked

According to Balakrishna, it is extremely important for a candidate to revise his/her academics for the interview round. “I strongly advise that you do not neglect what you’ve learnt till your graduation, as basics and application-based questions pertaining to one’s specialisation is often asked,” he said.

IIM Calcutta student, Sumeet A Kalaskar too said that questions pertaining to one’s subject area are mandatory and that one must always be prepared for them. “I had a background in Computer Science and so was asked about the subject in detail. Thereafter, they asked me why I chose to pursue MBA after studying Computer Science. One needs to have valid answers to such questions. If one fails to convince the panellist, he/she will fail to qualify the round,” Kalaskar said.

Candidates with more than a year’s work experience can expect questions around that, including about the company and the industry where they operate. “For example, anyone working in a Tata company can expect to be asked about the recent boardroom battles in the company,” Balakrishna said.

Garg started his preparations for the PI round by brushing up his basics of finance, marketing and economics.“I also revised some of the subjects that I studied during engineering. Along with all the knowledge that I tried to acquire during my preparation, I paid special attention to craft answers in an attractive way. It becomes essential to know oneself inside out in order to frame answers for questions that are specifically directed to know your personality,” he said. Additionally, he said that the panel asked questions ranging from his academics, work experience to general awareness and personality. “All in all, I appeared for nearly 8-9 interviews. A couple of them focused more on academics. It is always better to know the panellists before you enter the room as it will help you have an idea about the topics you need to focus on and the ones to avoid,” Garg said.

Is GK necessary?

While no direct GK questions are asked in the PI round, candidates say that general awareness questions pertaining to one’s area of subject are asked quite often.“I was asked general awareness questions pertaining to the kind of answers I gave in the form. That is why one must be very sure about what he/she writes in the form,” Kalaskar said.

Speaking about his experience, Garg said that he was not asked GK questions that required factual answers but those that tested his awareness of the business world and world economy in general.“The questions revolved around recent mergers and economic policies. Since I had work experience in IT, I was also quizzed on my sector -based knowledge,” he added.

Balakrishna also stated that General Awareness questions will be asked in the most seamless way possible. “Going by the aforementioned example of the Tata company, a general awareness question could be asked to someone from an IT background as to whether he/she feels the result of the elections in the United States could impact the IT sector;” he said, adding that one must be aware of current affairs and know how to relate it to the question asked.