The next 7 days starting 03 Dec 2016 were going to be Chak De! moment for me. The schedule was jam packed with 5 interviews and these 7 days were going to decide the result of my months of hard work put in GMAT, TOEFL and Applications. The first on the list was for IPMX Program at IIM Lucknow Noida Campus.
Don’t worry for the things not in your control
The first thing you want is a good start of the day and a quick glance at the interview order pasted on notice board defied this principle. I was last on the interview list which meant I had to wait for the whole day, but got to listen to the experiences of fellow candidates, and perhaps face a tired panel who might want to perform some adventurous stunts based on their knowledge that I would know all their secrets from earlier candidates. Over the years, I have learnt and mastered the principle, don’t worry for the things not in your control. It helps a great deal in various life things!
Academic writing is an art with some science involved, you need to define a starting point, instantiate it, exemplify and critically demonstrate it, and conclude it.
The interview process started with an essay topic on entrepreneurship. We were given single ruled A4 sheet with two sides and had 15 minutes to gather our thoughts. The topic was quite common and related to ongoing buzzword in Indian business scene, so there was no dearth of writing material. The issue was time at hand, and number of pages. This was the time I felt GMAT/TOELF writing skills came very handy. I followed standard template which had 4 paragraphs, opening paragraph to introduce topic and its boundaries with regards to my essay, next two paragraphs devoted to critical evaluation of two examples of entrepreneurship in Indian context, and final paragraph to present concluding remarks.
Pen and Paper Writing: In case you are in a job that does not require you to write much (Read: over last many years), you may want to test your fingers over 2 pages of good hand writing before embarking of IIM Lucknow writing skills test.
Being in software job, there is hardly any requirement to use pen/paper. At the max, we scribble action items during meeting, or use white board marker to make few boxes and fill in details. I felt severe pain after completing first side of the page, and struggled hard to write on the second side.
In hindsight, having last number to be interviewed turned out to be a boon as I got opportunity to interact with almost all applicants on the morning slot.
After academic writing, we were moved to separate room, close to where panel was sitting. And soon after, laughter emerged from one corner of the room. There were quite a few guys who had developed camaraderie as they were part of other IIM interviews. Soon, other people joined and started sharing their experience. It was amazing to see how a bunch of unknown people till 15 minutes before became close and started sharing stories. Thats human nature, and an MBA demand that how well you gel with people.
Some amazing and funny interview experiences of fellow participants
While we were discussing everything under sun, the story soon turned to relevant topic for the day, Interview. The folks started talking about their experiences on different interviews and some of them finely engrained in my thoughts. I feel it would be unjust if I don’t share the same with you all.
Hobby: Reading, a heathy habit for active brain, may turn out to be MBA applicant’s nightmare
Today, for the first time, I realised how big a health hazard the reading habit can be for an MBA aspirant. One guy who had IIM-Ahmedabad interview recently, shared his nightmare with the group on how he was pushed to name a common interest book by the interview panel, and how he named a book he had read 2-3 years before. That’s it!! Rest is worse than your imagination and I don’t wish to dissect this topic further.
Hobby: Mountaineering, another healthy hobby for fitness, can still ruin your chances as MBA aspirant.
This guy was heart and soul of the laughter and various discussions we were having. He shared his past interview experience in which he was asked what is ‘nautical mile’. Jolly good fellow, probably never could have imagined that such an interesting and unique hobby could still land him in soup. This happens if you are an engineer, expected to know art, science, history, philosophy, psychology of whatever you speak.
Third last guy just interviewed on my panel, and statistics returns!!
I firmly believe that in any interview, you dig your own grave through what you write, speak, and exemplify. Your answer leads to next question. By the time panel had reached third last person on morning slot, they probably had finished all routine and general questions and started becoming specific. Or, perhaps this guy had some interest in ‘6 sigma’. He explained how he was taken for a ride over standard deviations, variance etc. Did he dig his own grave? When someone asked whether he mentioned any related term, he realised that he had mentioned about his strength, process management, and from there the panel picked word sigma. Bingo, it was proven that you dig your own grave.
My turn came, finally!
Finally, it was my turn and when I reached outside the gate, the interview coordinator asked me to wait since panel member had gone out for a minute or two. Hell!! This was gonna increase my apprehension and anxiety to the highest level that morning. Finally, I was signalled to get in. The caffeine taken by panel members in the morning had probably vanished and they were feeling need for a break after taking so many interviews back to back. This fact, coupled with my significantly higher experience and decent profile, meant that my interview was gonna be a chit-chat and less drilling. The panel was more interested in knowing about my ambitions and how MBA fits in my journey. What all I have done in past and how do I expect to use MBA to make relevant advances in my life. They also asked about what other colleges I was applying for. One of the panelist was really kind to discuss how UK (BREXIT) scenario might affect applicants in future. Overall, it was really nice and healthy discussion and I felt very good coming out of the room.
Profession: Diversity requires people from different background
During various discussions, I felt the Indian MBA scenario is yet to get wider aplicants pool to cater to the need of wider diversity. Someone in hotel management is as skilful as some in IT/Banking/CA/.. job when it comes to diversity of experiences. But the lack of post MBA opportunities, or the cost of MBA programs serve as strong deterrent for such candidates and colleges hardly get good applications from such unorthodox areas. In fact, foreign universities (especially in Canada) give additional weightage to such profiles. Trust, the things will improve in coming times and Indian colleges will be see a broader and strongly diversified applicant’s pool to choose from.
The result was declared after excruciating wait of 26 days, on 29 Dec 2016. The wait for results was maddening and the same can be seen on Pagalguy IPMX 2017-18 Forum page with some really crazy activity speculating on next best result date, repeated phone calls to admissions office and disappointment on the result date shifting once or twice.
Eventually, the result date came. The result emails were sent out separately in some random order. I was fortunate to receive the acceptance email among initial few at around 5 pm. The other candidates had agonisingly long wait as emailing continued till late in the evening, say 8 pm or so. Waitlist candidate had to wait couple of days more.
Here is a list of my key take-aways from this interview:
1- If reading books is your hobby, make sure you have read good authors and recall the content really well. Don’t just read one book of one author, try to read multiple books as interviewer would ask you to name more books until a common interest is established.
2- In case you have some unique hobby, don’t get contend with the fact that this unique hobby will create exceptional impression on interviewer. Try to think about art, science, mechanics, and surroundings of your interest.
3- In case you are from a profession that can be labelled as routine, mundane, non-MBA type, do prepare good stories which counters this perception and gives interviewer a confidence that you have been making impact in a widely perceived as a routine job. Believe me, this will create lasting impression and boost MBA chances hugely.
4- I felt the work done for my foreign MBA application helped a lot in interview processes. The foreign MBAs are very particular about knowing your uniqueness, good impactful stories. This requires listing various life stories and choosing the best ones. This exercise greatly helped me during interview process as I could make coherent and meaningful story.
5- Please make sure to reach before time. The interview process starts with a written test, and in case you miss it, there is no way you can attempt it separately, perhaps the topic is leaked and college does not want to give undue advantage. During our time, two folks were 10 minutes late in the morning slot. The administration asked them to wait full morning half and were accepted in afternoon slot. Don’t know what would have happened if this had happened in afternoon (last) slot.
6- There were just 2 interview slots in Noida centre, morning and evening.