A, B and C may be the first letters of the English alphabet, but for Master of Business Administration (MBA) aspirants, they also stand for IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore and IIM Calcutta. The ranks of these institutions aren’t necessarily in the alphabetical order, though. The ranks vary from year to year depending upon the individual performances and many other factors.
However, it cannot be doubted that students across India want to secure seats in these three institutions. Once the Common Admission Test (CAT) scores are given out, the race to find a place in these institutions gets intensified even further. This can only be done by cracking the written ability test (WAT) and getting past the personal interview (PI) round.
However, as it stands out, just getting calls for the WAT or PI is often not sufficient to secure your IIM dream. Generally, only one out of four candidates who get these calls finally make it to an IIM.
Cracking CAT with a perfect 100 percentile score is also not enough when it comes to admission interviews at IIMs. No one can relate this struggle better than a CAT topper who found himself in front of a tricky and demanding panel of interviewers.
Shounak Chakraborthy was the topper of CAT 2015, who bagged a perfect 100 percentile, successfully aced all the interviews and received the admission offer letters. He talked about his preparation for the PI round for the IIMs and shared his ‘secret success mantra (formula or recipe)’ with Team PInterview.
PInterview (PI): From which MBA institutes did you receive calls for the GD/PI?
Shounak Chakraborthy (SC): All the IIMs. I hadn’t applied to any other institute.
PI: How did you prepare for the GD/PI rounds?
SC: For the GD/PI round, you must be well acquainted and prepared with your expertise and qualifications mentioned in your CV, the various projects that you worked on, your hobbies and extra-curricular activities, and your strengths and weaknesses. Other than preparing for these, I also used to listen to podcasts, like economic podcasts and political podcasts to understand the functioning of these fields. I read and went through everything that could keep me updated. That is why I also read the newspaper regularly.
PI: From which B-schools did you receive your final admission offer letter?
SC: I gave the interviews only for IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore and IIM Calcutta and converted all three of them. However, the interviews at all the three institutes were completely different.
PI: How was your interview experience in IIM Ahmedabad? Is there any question that you want to share?
SC: My interview at IIM Ahmedabad was extremely detailed. They asked me questions about my internships, projects, academics and hobbies. The interview went on for about an hour.
PI: How was your interview experience in IIM Bangalore? Is there any question that you want to share?
SC: The IIM Bangalore interview was too random. The questions asked were not at all domain-specific and that is what caught me out of the blue as it didn’t cater to my knowledge or qualifications. They asked me a situational question that if I were the Education Minister and was given the liberty to choose any five subjects, what would they be. The interview at IIM Bangalore was more of a personality interview than an academic one.
PI: How was your interview experience in IIM Calcutta? Is there any question that you want to share?
SC: The interview at IIM Calcutta was very short and did not go on for more than five minutes. They asked me about some current affairs. At that time, the JNU incident was in the news, so they asked me my opinions revolving the incident.
PI: Which IIM interview was the toughest? Why do you think so?
SC: The one that was the most gruelling was the IIM Ahmedabad one, mainly because it lasted for so long and they grilled me on a lot of topics. However, I was acquainted with the questions as they were all domain-specific, which I could confidently answer.
But I would say that the one at IIM Bangalore was the most interesting of the three, as I could not predict the questions or how I actually fared in my interview. As I mentioned earlier, the interview was extremely random and I did not understand what they were trying to assess.
PI: How much time do the IIMs usually allot to interview a candidate?
SC: 10 to 15 minutes on an average.
PI: How many interviewers conducted your interviews at the IIMs?
SC: Two or three interviewers.
PI: What kinds of questions are generally asked to a candidate at IIM interviews?
SC: The questions are usually formulated on the basis of the candidate’s curriculum vitae (CV) and the form that he or she fills out. Hence, you should be extremely thorough about your qualifications, strengths and your application. You should not stutter or give dubious answers to the questions. For instance, if they ask you about your project, you should be able to talk about it with absolute confidence and without stammering or hesitating.
PI: What is the secret to performing well in an IIM Interview?
SC: I believe that being confident and outright is the secret to giving a good interview. Being thorough and acquainted is also important, but this knowledge has to be put forth with an optimistic confidence.
PI: How should MBA aspirants prepare for MBA Interviews?
SC: You should actually take some time off to thoroughly revise and practise everything that you have pursued and experienced till date. Build up on your communication skills. Ensure that you keep yourself updated. Read voraciously and read the newspapers everyday for at least a month before your interview. Develop your comprehension skills and general knowledge through every mean possible and by surfing on the internet.
PI: Do you believe that mock interviews help improve one’s interview skills?
SC: Absolutely! Mock interviews most definitely help and improve one’s interview skills. Prepare your answers for the generic questions – like the ones about your extra-curricular activities, weaknesses, strengths, and the other qualifications, academic achievements and professional experiences mentioned in your CV. Mock interviews also engage you in practising your way of communicating and in improving your body language.
Q: Any message that you would want to convey to the IIM aspirants?
A: Be truthful and confident and success will come your way!
Shounak Chakraborthy has deferred the admission offers from the IIMs and is currently working with Capital One as an associate in Bangalore.
PInterview offers its users one-to-one online mock interviews with industry professionals and domain experts to improve and excel one’s interview skills and help them ace interviews.