MBA Interviews: The Right Strategy and Approach

In this article we shall discuss the correct strategy to tackle B-school interviews.
4 level approach for MBA interview
First of all, look at a four pronged strategy to appear for the MBA entrance interview. These levels have been created to impart some direction and method to your interview preparation. Each level highlights a different challenge, which needs to be managed strategically. The four level approach also helps you to create a ‘to-do’ list while preparing for this critical round of selection!

Level 1

Understand your profile, as nobody knows you better than you yourself! Knowing yourself is the starting point. Carefully research the various elements of your profile, covering areas like family background, education, interests & hobbies, career plan, strengths & weaknesses etc.
Based on this profile assessment, design the introduction part in a strategic and sequential manner. Try to prioritize your comfort areas, which may serve as probable points of connect with the panel. Be prepared for an action-reaction mechanism, as whatever you claim is bound to invite a reaction from the panel in the form of discrete questions.

Level 2

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Demonstrate learning ability through concepts & achievements in academic areas. This is highly recommended as the panel is tasked with the responsibility to identify and attract candidates who have a willingness and ability to learn. Your performance in a formal academic set-up strongly validates this particular ability. Understand your academic graph and be prepared to justify any erratic changes in the graph. For example, if you scored very well in class 10th and 12th, but your performance dipped in college, you need to prepare a befitting justification for this. It is also advised that you be ready to answer questions on a particular subject in your graduation, popularly tagged as the ‘favourite subject’. This is important, not just because the panel may ask you to identify one such subject and assess you on it, but also because it may help you to hold the fort in case of an inability to respond to various other questions and gives you an opportunity to direct the panel towards your desirable set of questions. Preparing your projects/papers is also recommended as questions on this part enable the panel to assess your application orientation. Questions on projects typically concern your learning and contribution, in addition to being aware of the profile of the organization/industry where you carried out the project.
Apart from the academic area, be prepared to showcase learning from non-academic and extra-curricular activities, with specific emphasis on accomplishments/versatility.This corroborates your ability to multi-task and connect well with the surrounding environment.
In case of a prior work experience, the following need to be prepared:
  • Key learning
  • Specific contributions
  • Challenges faced
  • Organization/Industry profile with specific reference to market share, market size, competitive scenario, vision/mission/quality policy etc.

Level 3

Understand the challenges in the ‘Why MBA’ question. This is a tough question as most of the candidates fail to create a differentiation here. Developing a correlation between past, present and future with respect to management pursuit, will help you to prepare a convincing answer. Understanding your short and long term career goals and establishing a strategic fit between goals and management education, will also streamline your answer.
You are also advised to explore the MBA program offerings in a meticulous detail, with specific thrust on the case study methodology, peer group learning, industry interface and integrated approach to different management functions.

Level 4

Show an overall environmental sensitivity, with particular emphasis on social responsibility of business. Understand the challenges around emotional intelligence as demonstrated through self- awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy and social skills.

5 Success Mantras for Interviews

The next step is to keep the following 5 points in mind before appearing for an MBA interview. The five expert mantras will help you ace any MBA interview with high score.

Understand the challenge

The interview follows a buyer-seller interface.The panel is the buyer and you are the seller. The buyer has specific needs, which need to be researched. While some needs are organization specific, most of the needs are generic in nature. For example, all organizations look for candidates with a strong willingness to learn, high levels of initiative & energy, strong task orientation, good interpersonal skills and capacity for hard work. The organization specific needs would be reflected in the organization’s website under headings like vision, mission, quality policy etc. You need to design the value proposition accordingly, and support it with examples and illustrations.

Create Competitive Advantage

The value proposition should be based on a mapping between your core competence and the expectation quotient. Demonstrate competence through relevant achievements and contextually strong inputs. For example, you may showcase your willingness to learn from participation in extra-curricular activities, apart from academic curriculum. Similarly, your sense of social cause may be demonstrated through voluntary work with NGOs.

Lead Strategically

The panel is there to assess you; not intimidate you. This realization will help you to dispel the myth that the interviewer may ask you just anything under the sky!  Infact, the panel likes to be led and will give you multiple opportunities to do so.  Seize all challenges which offer leadership opportunities - introduction is the biggest such opportunity. It is here that you may create a set of harmless teasers for the panel to hold on to. For example, if you introduce yourself as a person with strong initiative and good interpersonal skills, the panel is probable to ask you questions around initiative and interpersonal skills. This may range from basic definitions of these terms to examples supporting their demonstration.

Communicate Effectively

Communication has two dimensions – verbal and non-verbal.Verbal is the usage of words and is measured by parameters like fluency, articulation and modulation. Non-verbal includes areas like body language, facial expressions and overall energy. Effectiveness of communication is measured by its ability to achieve the desired outcome, which in the given scenario is to respond confidently to the questions asked by the panel and present yourself as a well composed person.
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Behave Appropriately

Behaviour is under scanner right from the time you enter the room. Infact  behaviour is reflected in things as basic as your dress, the way you organize/carry the interview file, the way you look at the panel etc. For example, if you walk in with your file of certificates held very closely to the chest, then you my come across as nervous and under confident. Similarly, the file held in the hand which is dangling freely with a swing, is indicative of being careless and irresponsible. Certain panels have psychologists to assess your behaviour who constantly scrutinize your behaviour.
Handle stress interviews and bouncer questions through regular practice and simulations.
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