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. Interview allows you the chance not only to 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.
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.
On the other hand, the PI is an opportunity for the b-school to question you about your application, your autobiographical sketch or any issues on your transcripts or entrance test scores. Your interviewer wants to learn what you are like as a person and how well you respond and communicate. We want to understand your values, how you think and how well you handle yourself under pressure.
One and all b-school is committed to admit students who are able to handle the rigors of business school on an academic, personal, physical and psychological basis. Your interview is your opportunity to convince the admission committee that you are up to the challenge you are expected to face in future.
According to experts, Personal Interview stresses on the following areas:
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!
So put on your thinking cap, do some soul searching and then jot down the answers to 'what's your goal' questions.
Domain Knowledge: 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. Be careful about the gates you open, and be very sure you have in-depth knowledge about whatever you mention.
Communication Skills: Your speaking and listening skills become very important than the often 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.
Preparation Strategy: To be honest, it is not at all tough to 'prepare' for an interview as you only have to analyze yourself because all the answer an interview board seeks are within you. Although, practice for an interview session should ideally begin, as soon as you make up your mind for pursuing 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, at least from courses one liked or did well in, from under graduation is 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.
Tips for Answering Questions Effectively
• Keep your answers short, but informative. Be prepared to offer a 4 to 6 line answer to every question. This is enough to share a few thoughts and to stimulate further discussion if the interviewer desires. Try to avoid simple 'yes' and 'no' answers or responding in monosyllables. Show interest in the questions and sincere thought in your responses.
• Avoid sounding self-centered. Cite your achievements, but demonstrate an appropriate level of humility. When discussing professional accomplishments, acknowledge the help and support of your teammates, mentors, teachers and role models.
• Don't reveal insecurities. Accentuate the positive and don't dwell on the weaknesses in your background or application. Don't give any indication that you aren't willing and able to meet the rigors of business school. Your job on the interview is to convince them you are the right candidate: they won't believe it if you don't sound sure of yourself.
• Watch your tone. You'll certainly be asked a few stressor questions that are designed to test your ability to handle conflict. Don't get defensive. Your tone can be revealed in both the words you choose and your voice. Practice responding to difficult questions with a friend before the big day. It will help.
• Listen carefully to the interviewer, no matter how nervous you are. Although you'll be stressed during the interview, this isn't acceptable that you ask the panel to repeat their question every now and then. It simply confirms that you weren't listening, which is the kiss of death for a business school applicant.
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