One word that a lot of you will come across frequently at any business school is MECE - factors that are mutually exclusive or non-overlapping and collectively exhaustive or complete. In this article, I will use the MECE framework from business as a way to build a solid pre-interview preparation strategy for you.
Discipline and sincerity are the bedrock of a successful preparation strategy. If you are reading this, know that without discipline, it is unlikely that you will make it to the best business schools.
Primarily, there are three tests apart from aptitude tests based on which business schools evaluate students.
1. Group Discussion (GD)
2. Personal Interview (PI)
3. Written Ability Test (WAT)
These will test you on broadly four types of questions-:
I. Current Affairs
II. Case-based Topics
III. CV/ Resume
Let’s take up each in turn.
I. Current Affairs
A good manager knows what’s happening around the globe. Your understanding and awareness of world events will be tested through GDs, WATs and PIs. Some institutes like IIM B, IIM C, IIM K and IIM S are known for rigorous questioning on current affairs. Here’s a step by step guide for you:
Start reading a national newspaper daily - :
Understand that reading a newspaper passively may not help. Actively mark and thoroughly understand issues of national and international importance. Search issues that you read in the newspaper on the web and spend time building a nuanced understanding. Remember to maintain a record of events you explore and memorize key points. Make sure that you revise the pointers every week.
Read an international weekly - :
If you want to crack a business school test, it is crucial to know what goes on around the world. I recommend The Economist because it is a weekly magazine that offers readers a nuanced and layered understanding of events across the globe.
"It is read by individuals like Bill Gates and is currently available at a 50% discount, Click here to avail the offer. Reading and understanding The Economist will give you an edge over other applicants".
I would recommend you continue the practice even after the interview because it will benefit you in all walks of your education and career.
Structure your thoughts - :
Acquiring knowledge alone will not suffice. Practice presenting it to someone else. Figure out what you would say if asked an opinion-based question on a current affair topic. If you have an opinion already, figure how you will present and defend if needed. If you do not have an opinion, prepare how you will present both sides of the story in your GD, PI, or WAT.
II. Case-based Topics
This is a test of logical thinking and convincing skills. You will be given a problem statement and asked to make recommendations.
Here’s a step by step approach you can use to solve cases:
Step 1: Situational analysis
Step 2: Problem definition
Step 3: Statement of objectives
Step 4: Evaluation of alternatives
Step 5: Recommendation
Step 6: Plan B, if any
Apart from cases, you may be given abstract topics such as ‘Orange is the new black’ or ‘The grass is greener on the other side.’ These are aimed at testing the diversity of your thoughts. IIML, IIM B, IIM C, and many others give abstract topics to applicants and coming up with fresh or diverse ideas will earn you brownie points.
Remember that the number of points you make in a WAT, PI, or GD is not as important as the quality of your point. Ensure that you acquire enough knowledge when preparing current affairs that you do not fall short on content while approaching these abstract topics.
III. CV/ Resume
Whether you are an experienced professional or a recent college graduate, this piece of paper will eventually drive your PI. Ensure that you are well versed with the details of each activity you mention on your CV.
Let me explain this through an example. Let’s say a student writes on her resume ‘Research Intern’ at XYZ think tank and enlists that she researched on Article 15 and Budget 2021, producing an analysis and report on both during her internship.
Interviewers may start by asking something as straightforward as, ‘Tell me about your internship at XYZ’ and dive deep into what she did, ‘What is your analysis of the budget 2021?’ Let’s say she replies, ‘I think it was a reasonable budget given the complications covid induced on the country and world economy.’ Various lines of reasoning stem from here.
What were the complications covid created for the Indian economy?
What was the impact of covid on the world economy?
What are three actions the budget takes to address the Indian economy?
Where was the budget ineffective?
Based on your answers, further, follow-up questions may be asked. Therefore, prepare your CV based on questions on what I call the 5 layer technique. The idea is that you should have answered prepared to 5 follow-up questions you think may be asked based on any activity on your resume.
I understand if this seems like a daunting task, but doing the job will prepare you for your interview like nothing else.
Specifically for freshers, interviewers focus more on academic projects and extracurriculars. Professionals can expect more from work experience, initiatives taken, and responsibilities held. From the past interview experiences; academics, projects, favorite subjects, extracurriculars, PORs, academic achievements are some common topics interviewers like to grill applicants on.
IV. Behavioral/ Situation
The famous 'Tell me about yourself' question is the point where the interviewer gives you the choice to drive the interview as you please. This is where you make a mark. Talk about things you want to be asked questions on, things that show the best of you; share your major achievements and back them with impactful stories in a structured form.
I have interviewed my peers for mocks and always recommend them to leave hooks for the interviewer to hold on to and ask you questions.
Prepare questions like 'Why do you want to MBA?', 'Walk me through your experience at your undergrad college/work', 'What are your interests/hobbies?'.
In any answer, I personally look for a personal story and what has the candidate learned from it.
The answer should be structured and a simple framework that you can follow for this is the STARK framework.
S - Situation
T - Task
A - Action
R - Result
K - Knowledge
Define the situation/challenge with the task you did. Mention the objectives and the way you approached the challenges to attain the objective. Results may deviate from the projected outcome but this will have learning for you. Do not forget to mention it and how you can implement that learning in other avenues.
With that, we come to the end of this guide. Here’s a quick tip - the key to cracking any business school test is confidence.
Prepare thoroughly and practice relentlessly.
I wish you the very best.