Cracking the Interview (MBA)

Why MBA? - Part 1 Congratulations to all who have secured a call. Now that round I is cleared, we need to gear up for round II - the Personality Assessment Round. This series of articles is on how to prepare for round II. Actually clea…

Why MBA? - Part 1

Congratulations to all who have secured a call. Now that round I is cleared, we need to gear up for round II - the Personality Assessment Round. This series of articles is on how to prepare for round II.

Actually clearing round II is far easier than clearing round I. But this I will tackle in another article. To get your attention, let me directly tackle the question that bothers most - "Why MBA?"

I find students searching all over for a 'good' answer to this. Did your mentor, the internet, this forum decide that you do an MBA? If not, then how can they provide you the 'correct' answer to this?

YOU decided to pursue MBA from among the options you had, if any. Why did YOU choose MBA over the other options? First answer this question honestly to yourself. Then we will debate over 'can this be stated in the interview!'. And how to put it across.

Let me start by supposing some general situations …

Reason 1: After graduation, I did not have any options. Campus placements at my college were patchy and the only jobs I could get were of the menial varieties. So I decided to do an MBA.

Saying this, as it is written above, obviously does not show one in good light. It is more of a passive decision-making. Can it be put across to be shown as an active decision-making, without the burden of lying? Of course ……

"I spent my college days being involved in a myriad of activities, both academic and extra-curricular [if this is true or replace it with what you were good at college]. However now on the verge of starting a professional career, I find that the employability that my graduate degree imparts is of limited use in the corporate world. I could get a job, but the job will only be one that supports my sustenance. However, my idea of a job is that in which I can possible use my creative skills/leadership skills/etc etc and which can thus satisfy my need of doing something worthwhile and not just sustaining myself. MBA is a professional course, which not only increases employability skills but also gives me an opportunity to get started in such a job. Hence I decided to do an MBA."

Reason 2: I am an IT engineer, bored of my job, looking for better prospects.

"I have very high ambitions in life and am also very competitive by nature. I did very well in college when I got placed in TCS/Infy/Cognizant/... , one among the first 3 companies to visit campus/inspite of tough competition in our college/[something like this that shows you in positive light]. In my 2/3 years of experience, apart from learning quite a lot of things, I also realized that to achieve my ambitions, I need to catapult myself ahead of the many engineers with similar skill sets as me. In my career, I would like to reach the upper echelons of management, like a CXO, at an early age [you may even specify age]. MBA from premier B-school not only provides the necessary impetus, but also helps by changing my job profile to a more managerial one than the current technical one, which does not excite me as much today.

Reason 3: Money

I will take this up in part 2, after hearing a few more reasons from you.

NONE OF THE ABOVE ANSWERS ARE PERFECT, a lot more needs to be added to this topic of 'why MBA?'. Don't get half-baked ideas. Let me conclude the series before making up your mind.

The idea is NOT to give you answers, but to make you open for an HONEST reply, and then to tell the same honest answer in better words. Remember the panelists are not so dumb as to believe that reason to pursue an MBA is a mysterious or a scintillating one.


Why MBA? - Part 2

So, you want to do an MBA because of the 'moolah' 😃
Newspapers may report starting salaries of 30+ lacs p.a. But these are bagged by just couple of individuals. The median salary at IIMs is in the range 12-16 l.p.a. At other top institutes the median salary is 8-12 l.p.a. If you are interested only in money, can you not think of any other career that offers higher median salary?
Median starting salary of pilots range 12 to 14.4 l.p.a. How high can you reach? 3 yrs work-ex gets 24-30 l.p.a. A commander in Air India gets around 50-80 l.p.a.
Starting salaries in merchant navy (3rd mate) is 14 l.p.a. (tax free and expense free too). Chief Mate nets 36+ l.p.a. (tax free)
There are some more exciting careers - deep sea diving, petroleum engineers on rigs, Indian Mujahideen, etc. offering higher salaries.

Will you trade your pursuit of MBA for any of these alternative careers?

If your answer is no, for whatever reason, then money is not the only reason for your choice of MBA. And the reason why you will not trade positions, is also the reason for choosing MBA.
So while adding monetary benefits, you need to also highlight the other factors that made you choose MBA over other careers.

You can always get money in the discussion, nothing wrong here. Let me again remind you the panelists are not prudes, nor do they expect you to be one. All of us know the motivation that money can spur (in some of us). So if 'money' is very important to you, mention it. But then remember - one who works only for money is a mercenary (hence I jokingly mentioned IM as a career choice). Hence mention money, but then also mention why money through MBA and not other means.

All that I mentioned in Part 1 and 2 is just dressing-up the answers. None of the suggestions actually go deep down to 'discover' the reason for choosing MBA. They assume MBA is the choice and then try to rationalize them. So in part 3, we will go deeper, into more 'wow' answers.


Why MBA? - Part 3

Let's ignore dressing up the answer and let's focus on the correct way to arrive at an answer this question €Ś
To do this, we have to ask ourselves why does the panel ask this question; how will they judge the answer?
It does not take a lot of effort to narrow down the purpose of the panel as:
Does the candidate have a 'sense of purpose'?
Is the process of arriving at the decision a sound logical one?
Has the candidate made an informed decision?
How self-aware is the candidate? (there are many other questions as well to check this)

The ideal answer is one that clearly mentions your goals and/or mile-stones. And then continues to logically reason out why an MBA is a catalyst in this journey.

If one follows the above frame-work, answers to all the following related question gets answered:
1. Where do you see yourself xx years down the line?
2. What is your short term/long term goal?
3. Which specialization are you keen in?
4. What will you do if you are not selected?
5. In your graduation, you have done 'xxxxxxxxx', now you want to do MBA. Why?
6. What does (professional) success mean to you?

Now evaluate your answer and check, does it answer all the above? If not, then your answer is not the ideal one. You are forcing the panelist to keep asking you further questions to probe deeper. Your advantage lies in making the panelist's job easier. Whereas, with a half-baked answer, it seems that the panelist are more concerned to dig-out answers from you and you are not contributing. If the panelist asks you more than 2 questions with the same intention i.e. 3 or more questions in the same area by just re-wording their questions, then your performance is below-par.

More on ideal answers in part 4.

Why MBA? - Part 4 (Concluding Part)

1. Personal touch: Please don't reply an answer that is 'one-size-fits-all'. This is a VERY COMMON ERROR.
A common theme in answers these days - “I want to do an MBA because it is a professional course with excellent placement opportunities, helps me learn diverse concepts, builds my personality, leads me to network with future corporate leaders, ...”
Does the interviewer get to know ANYTHING about YOU from the above answer?

2. Forward looking: There NECESSARILY needs to be some mention about what you would like to do in near and/or far future.
I know it is difficult for all of us to have a clear goals. But then all of us have a wish list of what one would like to achieve/become. It may change in the future but as of now, this is what I would like to be. There is no harm in owning this wish list up. It is far better to own this up (even if one thinks that one appears foolish) rather than to come across as a person who has no idea of what one wants.

3. Erroneous reasons: Plenty of them, the common ones ...

“The course gives me practical exposure in management.”
No MBA program gives you practical exposure. Case-studies are not practical exposures.
And worst of all, freshers mention this as a reason. If you are so keen about practical exposure, how come you are not deciding to work for a few years before MBA?

“I will learn new concepts.”
If you are doing a course only to learn new concepts, you might as well join a music school, it will also teach you new concepts. Read below about Means v/s Ends.

“The faculty are good.”
If I tell you about a course in course in journalism where the faculty are excellent (even better than the B-School), will you do that?
Secondly, this is false. At all B-Schools there will be just a couple of faculty whom you will admire, rest all are run of the mill types (just as in your previous academic experiences). This is reality, wake up to it, don't over-estimate everything about an institute just because the brand is good.

About erroneous reasons ...... Is MBA an end in itself or a means towards something? If it is a means, none of the above answers, in isolation, convey this.
Don't make it sound like - if you get admission in the B-School, you have achieved your dream. (A problem with most aspirants is that they actually truly believe that admission in B-School is goal achieved and period. This belief will come across in your answers and is not good for your prospects)


PS: I remember one more hilarious starting line - "Right from the start, I wanted to make a career in management ..." Are you kidding me? People dont know what to do even at this stage and you knew about it right from beginning? Ok, given the benefit of doubt that maybe you were really aware of it, you must be crystal clear about which specialisation/which sector/what role in management you would want. No? Then why do I believe your first sentence? Please paint a holistic picture. Next post on this - does all your answers fit like a jig-saw puzzle?

Career roles in Corporate Banking.

This post is in response to a question by @ar45 . It may help others too, so making a separate post.

There are two sides to a commercial bank. The liability side which deals with retail customers having accounts with the bank i.e. the branches that you and I go to transact our accounts, these branches having tellers and bank managers. MBAs (from premier B-School) usually do not have any lucrative career in this side. So please dont mention branches of banks or any of its environment, etc as your career idea.

The other side of a commercial bank is the asset side, in simple words the loans made by the bank to corporates/institutions/individuals. This is the side where MBAs have a career. So the starting point for most is a Credit Analyst where you would assess the credit risk of a loan requirement OR the starting point is Business Development where you would have get business (loan requirements) from corporates. The career path for both roles are higher responsibilities (criticality, bigger clients, etc). You move (2-3 years) to Relationship Manager for larger corporates and offer custom solutions to these corporates. Going forward (Sr. Manager, AVP, VP) you have higher responsibilities like bigger geographical areas, larger numbers reporting to you, sector specialisations (priority lending, real estate, credit card division, home loans, etc), data analytics, restructuring loans, profitability goals, strategising focus areas, compliance responsibilities (to regulations), etc.

Another major job profile in Commercial Banking is that of treasury management. It simply means managing the cash coming in and cash going out to ensure liquidity, mitigate risk and maximizing returns, while maintaining compliance to regulations. These would include a lot of money market operations and also investment decisions. The hierarchy here is very flat.

Most Commercial Banks now have Merchant Banking divisions also where the roles are similar to Investment Banking roles. These would include investment advices to corporate clients of the banks; merger and acquisition activities; providing capital as equity rather than loans. Also on the liabilities sides, there is a career in investment advisor to HNIs.

Where to start? – Part 1

I just got a call from a student and he wanted to know how to start preparing for his interviews. On asking him what preparation is he doing currently, he said that he is updating his awareness of Current Affairs. I recollected that most call-getters, because of lack of proper direction, blindly start preparing on areas like Current Affairs or Academic stuff, Economics, etc. I think one needs to first decide what s/he wants to talk about in an interview and then prepare only on those areas.

What is the 'syllabus' for a personal interview? General Knowledge? Knowing the chief ministers of all states of India; knowing all cabinet ministers; knowing the Nobel Prize winners; knowing the history of UN; ...... Anything under the Sun?

It is a PERSONAL interview i.e. personal about YOU. Think of all the questions asked ...
Introduce YOURself.
What are YOUR extracurrics/hobbies/achievements?
What are YOUR career goals? What will YOU do if not selected?
Why should we select YOU?
Why did YOU do so poorly in acads?
Who is YOUR role model?
Even, what question should we ask YOU?

Yes, there are questions like: What is CRR/SLR? What is GDP growth rate? Is AAP denigrating democratic institutions? What is Six Sigma? UN has how many constituent nations? Who is the CEO of XYZ company?
But none of these questions are pulled out from thin air and thrown at an unsuspecting candidate. They are invariably in response to student's answers.
If they wanted to just check the General Awareness of a candidate, would it not be far easier to just hold a test rather than a PI? Think, why does the written test not have General Awareness. It is definitely not by oversight.

The syllabus of a personal interview is 'YOU'.

The preparation to PI must start by introspection. One needs to identify 4 broad areas that one needs to talk about. DONT presume that there are certain areas that the Panel is interested in. The areas need to be those that show you in good light. The areas could be the obvious ones like Acads, Work-ex, Extracurrics/Hobbies, General Awareness, but need not be. They could be very personal in nature as well, like a hurdle you conquered, knowledge of an area you are interested in (could be movies, sports, music, history, etc), knowledge about place/s you grew up in, an elective you took, your family, a college incident ...... it could be anything, the only acid test is “DOES IT SHOW YOU IN A POSITIVE LIGHT”.

Preparation for PI is not the time spent in last-minute-mugging-up in areas one is weak in. Time spent doing this is total waste, you cannot make up for years of negligence in few weeks of hectic activity. Rather spend decent time of identifying the 4 areas one needs to talk about. And spend all your time in building up further knowledge in these 4 areas.


@sekhar_s my reason would be:

Sir/Ma'am , i can explain that keeping in view my long term and short term goal.I will first talk about long term goal.I would want to own an ngo in future.I was my college head for an NGO called leaders for tomorrow,and i have a cause(plan) on which my NGO will focus,so this will support my answer.An MBA will help me in networking,which is the foremost thing for an NGO.

Now i would come to my short term goal.I want stability in my job,I am earning just 10k per month,which is too less to survive.I have my own dreams,which I would like to fulfill first.I would like to earn,save and experience all of it.After 10-15 years will work on my long term goal and meanwhile work on a voluntary basis.Also,i choose to do MBA in finance,the only reason I have is as my long term goal goal is about NGO,I would love to manage all the finances.

P.S-will the short term goal condradict the long term one.As I write about earning money here...?Thank you sir.:)