The last mile to your favorite B-School.
With almost all B-school entrance exam results being declared, the next important thing is to prepare for interviews/GDs and WAT. Every B-school has a separate criterion for preparing the merit list. For example, IIM Indore focuses on your graduation marks while IIM Bangalore may look into your work experience more.
I scored 99.31 in CAT 2019. My profile was GEM (9,8,7) with 29 months of work experience as of December 2020. I had received calls from IIM Lucknow (PGP), IIM Shillong (PGP), IIM Bangalore (PGPBA), SPJIMR, FMS, MDI, NITIE, SJMSOM, DMS and all the new IIMs. Out of these I converted all the new IIMs; with the exception of a couple of the baby IIMs, IIM Shillong, MDI, NITIE and DMS. I chose MDI.
The first and foremost task after getting the shortlist is to prepare for GDs/WATs and interviews by reading about the current affairs and brushing up your subjects which you studied in your undergraduate college. For people with work experience, a thorough knowledge of all the projects which you have been a part of is a must. Also, the academic knowledge behind those projects is also required. Also, you should be well aware about the latest news related to your job profile. For example, I was a data analyst and hence I was asked questions on statistics and machine learning. I was also asked to explain the concept of blockchain.
For the Writing Ability Test (WAT), you can prepare by reading about a trending topic and then try to write about 300 words essay on it. Structure is very important in your essay and it should display a logical thought flow starting with some introduction, then the specifics and data points and it should have a good conclusion.
For Group discussion, the preparation pretty much remains the same but since different candidates are also involved in this process, it also depends on how the group performs as a whole. However, there are some basic etiquettes that you need to maintain. Firstly, your body language must not be aggressive. Pointing fingers and speaking over others continuously does not look good in front of a moderator. Secondly, there may be a not-so-sunny-day and you might get a topic about which you haven’t read much. In these scenarios, make sure you hear your group mates carefully and then put up your own viewpoint after listening to their points. Thirdly, you should only start the GD if and only if you are well aware about every fact and data related to the topic. Usually, the first person to speak is focused upon heavily by the moderators, so if he/she starts with some incorrect information or irrelevant points, then his/her marks can take a hit. Fourthly, make sure that the group discussion doesn’t turn into a fish market. However, this is an ideal situation and there might be people who would try to speak over others and make the discussion into a debate. In times like these, it is important that you don’t contribute to that fish market and can politely ask everyone to maintain the decorum. Lastly, speaking more doesn’t necessarily mean a good performance. Make sure you are not verbose and keep your points short and simple.
I had my first interview on 12th February 2020 for the new IIMs. I was asked to explain the meaning of the term ‘random variable’ and given a simple question about graphs. There were questions related to the state from where I belong, Chhattisgarh. I had an NGO certificate related to women empowerment and hence I was asked about certain women empowerment related government schemes. Overall, the interview went average as I couldn’t answer a few questions related to my home state.
My next interview was from SP Jain. SPJIMR has 2 rounds of group interviews. 4-5 candidates are made to sit together, and their interviews are taken. The first interview is mainly about the work experience or the projects related to the specialization which you opt for (The specialization is asked at the time of registration itself; mine was Information management). The next interview is more of a personality-based interview where your core ethics are checked. The candidates are expected to answer the questions based on their values. I was asked whether a green-coloured pill (sounds familiar?) could be introduced for the students who have trouble handling stress. The catch was that the pill would be prescribed by a doctor and it won’t have any side effects. I stuck with a ‘no’ but as the answer depends on the values, people can have different answers. An ethics-based interview is a lot like a psychometric test. Your answers must be consistent.
I then gave the interview for MDI where the GD was like a fish market and the group as a whole performed below average. I was the first from my group who was interviewed and was asked to rate the group’s performance. I was candid about it and explained the qualities we lacked. I was asked some easy questions on my work experience and a couple of general knowledge questions which I answered correctly. One of the panelists was trying to lead me in the discussion of politics but I kept an arms distance from that discussion. As a general rule of thumb, try not to discuss politics as sometimes panelists can be biased against those with alternative ideologies. Make sure your answers are diplomatic in case you are asked questions relating to politics. Overall the interview went great.
IIM Shillong had a case-based group discussion. The candidates are basically given a case and problem statements are mentioned. The candidates are given 10 minutes to prepare the points and then the discussion commences. My interview panel grilled me a lot on machine learning and data sciences. A stress interview was also taken where I had to refute every argument which was put forward by the panel member. The key to perform well in a stress-based interview is patience and calmness. I put forward my rebuttals very politely.
The rest of the interviews were pretty much along the same lines as the ones mentioned above. Interviews can be intimidating and there are times when you might not have any clue about some questions being asked. This sometimes stresses candidates, and they end up answering incorrectly to even the easy questions. Keeping a calm mind and a constant smile on your face go a long way. Even the interviewer doesn’t expect you to answer all the questions correctly but would be very keen to find out how to react to the questions you don’t know the answer to. This is because as a manager, you can be asked to lead teams which work on things outside your area of expertise. Therefore, it is important to not lose your cool when you don’t have any idea about the questions. My standard reply for a question about which I had no clue was “I am sorry I don’t know the answer to this question. But I will definitely google it after this interview”.