5 tips for answering - Why MBA?

One common question you can encounter in interviews is: Which field of management would you like to specialize in? and Why?
In this article, you will learn how to handle such questions well.
Understand the challenge
  • The panel wants to know whether you have thought over the domain you wish to specialize in or not. They also want to assess your curiosity to know about the different areas in Management. This presents you as an informed candidate with an ability to research w.r.t relevant areas.
  • The panel wants to assess your career goals, degree of focus, reasoning for it and the link between your goals and your intent to pursue a formal program in management.
  • If you state a functional area for specialization, more questions could be asked on it. You are advised to prepare questions which capture the basics of your intended area of specialization. For example, if you desire to specialize in Marketing then you are atleast expected to know an operational definition of marketing, steps in the marketing process, difference between sales & marketing etc.
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Right approach
  • Find out your area of interest. Also, be clear about how the field of your specialization relates to :
    • Your strengths and weaknesses : For example, if you are a person with good persuasion skills, then you may be more probable to contribute to the domain of marketing. Similarly if you have strong interpersonal skills, then you may be more suited for a role in HR.
    • Your educational qualifications : There are certain areas of study which have a positive co-relation with certain specializations in Management. For example, a graduation in Financial Studies spells out a strong penchant for Finance, while a graduation in Computer Applications serves as a strong base for IT Management, and a graduation in Industrial/ Production Engineering is more suited  for a program in Production Management. However, this does not imply that you are not equipped to pursue a particular management stream if you did not study it previously.
    • Work experience : If you have prior work experience in a particular management field, wield it to your advantage. It demonstrates your ability to contribute in that function of management. However this needs to be corroborated with key learning, contribution and achievements.
    • Future expectations and ambition in life: Stating clear time bound goals in a particular domain of management demonstrates clarity with respect to career progression in that field.
  • The specialization you intend to pursue may be a consequence of a more basic interest. For example, if you take keen interest in analysing the stock market, it may form a good platform to project an interest in finance.
  • You may link the intended area of specialization to a specific skill/personality trait. For example, ability to persuade/convince others may form the genesis for marketing, while good data analysis/management may lead to finance!
  • Do some introspection. If you can convince yourself that you need to specialise in a particular area, then you can also convince the interviewers!
Poor Answers
Some candidates come out with vague, random and ambiguous answers to the ‘why MBA’ question. Such answers negate your candidature as the panel is not convinced about your reasons to be a part of their program. Let us look at one such answer:
"I am not sure as to which field to opt for, but I think Finance will be good as there is more money in it."
Analysis :
  • It is too short to reflect your knowledge of different fields of Management.
  • It does not state adequate reasons for choosing Finance as the field of specialization.
  • The focus is money and not career or job satisfaction.
Good Answers
There are candidates who are able to create convincing reasons for enrolling in an MBA program. Let us take the case of a candidate with no work-experience who states the following:
"I have had no industry experience, and hence do not have exposure to functional areas like Finance, Marketing and Systems. However, while participating in and organizing various college level festivals, I earned the reputation of someone with good “money management” skills, an input which conforms with my ability to manage my pocket money well. I want to groom this skill formally and transform from a small scale money manger to an industry ready “finance manager”.
Analysis : Despite lack of professional experience, the candidate is able to demonstrate his natural skill to organize & manage his pocket money and link this preliminary skill to a more evolved and professional competence related to managing financial resources!
Let us consider the case of a candidate who would like to specialise in a functional area where in which he has prior work-experience, and goes onto say the following:
"I would like to specialise in Systems. I have experience in the "Software Industry", in particular to coding and software programming. However, since I lack knowledge of functional areas like finance and operations, I could not play an effective role in client interaction. These skills, I feel I would learn when I specialise in Systems from "…" Moreover, an MBA would open up new opportunities for me in the field of IT Consultancy."
Analysis : The candidate is able to relate his professional experience with his intended area of study (IT Management), specifically through a functional gap which may be adequately filled with a management qualification in the desired field.
Avoid the following
  • Do not link the choice of field to material gains. This looks too commercial and mundane.
  • Do not state a particular field without a basic understanding of the same. It may backfire with a volley of difficult –to-handle questions
  • Avoid putting it onto the first year of MBA. This may indicate that you haven’t researched well enough or you haven’t been able to understand your strengths & career aspirations.
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