5 tips for preparing MBA Specialization Questions

In this article we shall appreciate various tips to prepare a particular function of management for an MBA entrance interview.
Understand the challenge
There are two kinds of offerings in a Management School – a General Management Program and a Specialized one.A General Management Program takes you through the various functions of management in the first year and poses an opportunity to specialize in one or more functions in the second year of study (assuming a two year tenure). On the other hand a Specialized Program is designed to provide inputs specific to a particular management function/domain right from the beginning, thus focussing predominantly on the core area of specialization. Knowing which function/domain to specialize in offers a distinct competitive advantage and presents you as a candidate with greater goal clarity. It is strongly recommended that you prepare a particular function of management so that you engage with the panel on a specific note. This serves as a potent differentiator and even facilitates a better handling of the question ‘Why MBA?’.
Marketing Management
If you are showing an inclination towards marketing management, then it is suggested that you familiarize yourself with the basics of this function. The following areas need special emphasis:-
  • Operational definition of Marketing, with focus on customer needs and the role of marketing in satisfying those needs more efficiently and effectively than competition.
  • Difference between marketing and selling, with an understanding that selling is only one part in the marketing spectrum which includes areas like market research, product management, and customer relationship management as well. Further, while marketing is more relationship oriented, selling is purely transactional in nature.
  • Steps in the marketing process, beginning with an understanding of customer needs, designing the value proposition, strategizing the 4Ps (Product, Price, Place, Promotion), organizing sales & distribution, managing customer satisfaction etc.
  • Commonly used terms in marketing environment, like branding, segmentation, positioning, targeting, marketing strategy, product life cycle etc.
  • Practical aspects of marketing, with an understanding of marketing practices adopted by various brands/companies.
  • List of top companies excelling in Marketing Management and relevant details w.r.t these companies.
  • Details w.r.t any one brand/product, either domestic or international, with an appreciation of the journey of the brand/product through its various stages.
  • Analysis of some recent advertisements, with emphasis on the effectiveness of the advertisement, the overall appeal, relevance of the message in the advertisement etc.
  • Career progression challenges in the field of Marketing, with a basic understanding of paths like product management, advertising management, sales & distribution, market research etc.
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Human Resource Management (HRM)
HRM requires an understanding of the following:-
  • A working definition of HRM, with focus on the role of HRM being to enhance workplace productivity and organizational effectiveness.
  • Steps in the HMR process, including areas like recruitment, selection, training & development, motivation & team dynamics, performance appraisal, remuneration, separation etc.
  • Commonly used terms in HRM, like human capital, employee productivity, gap analysis, job description etc.
  • The concept of Human Capital, with reference to the stock of knowledge, habits, social and personality attributes, embodied in the ability to contribute to an organization so as to produce value.
  • Challenges in contemporary HRM, with an understanding of employee retention, cross-cultural fit, generational shifts etc.
  • List of companies with good HRM policies.
  • The challenges of International Human Resources Management, dealing with complex issues such as differences between cultures, legal systems, and economic systems.
  • Career progression challenges in HRM.
Finance Management
If you are opting for finance, then the following need attention:-
  • A working definition of Finance Management with focus on the efficient and effective management of funds in such a manner as to accomplish the objectives of the organization.
  • Commonly used terms in Finance Management, like financial resources, banking & non-banking finance, investment banking, financial ratios etc.
  • The concept of value maximization, with an understanding of managing financial resources so as to maximize value to all stakeholders.
  • Banking sector, with reference to functions of the central bank (RBI in case of India), commercial banks, banking regulations, monetary policy etc.
  • Challenges around the stock market, with an understanding of capital market, market capitalization, bullish & bearish markets etc.
  • The Union Budget and the Economic Survey, especially analysis of the most recent one.
  • Career progression challenges in the domain of Finance Management.
Other Functions /Domains
Apart from the above three conventional functions of management, you may also choose to opt for the following, depending on the B-school you are applying to-
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  • Operations Management, concerned with designing and controlling the process of production and redesigning business operations in the production of goods or services.
  • IT Management, as a discipline whereby all of the information technology resources of a firm are managed in accordance with its needs and priorities.
  • International Business Management, as the function responsible for handling global management challenges like diversity in business environment, cultural differences etc.
  • Strategy, with reference to designing effective business strategies for sustainable business development.
  • Agri Business Management/Rural Management, with focus on the business aspect of agriculture production& its international trade, understanding of challenges in food, agriculture and allied sectors etc.
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