At the outset, I'll be stating my assumption: most candidates view b-schools (primarily) as placement agencies (other attributes are secondary). It is very unlikely for a candidate to invest lacs of rupees in a degree with no job prospects. Certainly, no rational individual will take a huge educational loan if re-payment prospects (through great placements) are not assured.
The interviewer knows this very well.
The Indian managerial education is caught up in a tricky situation. Faculty members and governing bodies want b-schools to emerge as centres of learning and knowledge creation. On the other hand, bowing down to the pressures of industry requirements, placements have become the core focus for most b-schools.
Moreover, for most aspirants, Placements is the MOST important criteria for assessing b-school’s value. Hence, the combined might of aspirant expectations and corporate pressures force b-schools to primarily perform the role of placement agencies.
As a result, in many b-schools, the faculty members are actively involved in the placement process. So, amongst others, following questions are going on in the interviewer panel’s mind while assessing a candidate:-
1. Will this candidate add value to my class?
Remember, a lot of learning happens in b-schools from peers. Group assignments and case competitions teach as much as classroom lectures. Will you be a candidate who will sit quietly and not provide your perspective OR will you be the student who will ask thought-provoking and intelligent questions in the class?
2. Can this candidate be placed easily?
The faculty members of many top b-schools are involved with placements. A candidate lacking coherence and clarity will be rejected by recruiters on campus, thus denting the placement records.
3. Does this candidate add to the batch diversity?
Imagine a group composed of a lawyer, a doctor, a former techie, and an ex-consultant, working on an assignment. The kind of various perspectives it brings to the table has the potential to lead to significant learnings. Thus, a diverse profile of the students in a batch adds value to the entire batch.
Also, having a diverse batch helps the placement committee with talking points while making their pitch to a prospective recruiter.
Considering these assumptions in mind, here are my DOs and DONTs for an MBA interview:-
- Do a proper Due Diligence before applying for a programme
This is applicable for all b-schools (and particularly for the not so well known b-schools). At least refer to the official placement reports (don’t merely rely on figures on social media platforms). Also, it is highly desirable if you can speak to a couple of candidates who are already enrolled in the course. While this may not necessarily add to your candidature, but it will give you a more realistic picture of the programme.
The interview panel will see this as a reflection of your seriousness. Recruiters on campus placements appreciate serious candidates – which implies that the interview panel also wants serious candidates.
- Refer to the list of courses available in the programme
This is also a part of due-diligence. Every MBA programme is made up of several courses. These course lists are available on the websites of any b-school (just like their placement reports!). You should take a glance at it. Ideally, some of the listed courses should excite you. Speak to the present students (if you can) and gather more details on them. And, you should definitely present this as a reason for joining that particular programme in your interview!
- Inquire about the Alumni
Placements are just a starting point for your career, they are not an end in themselves. The kind of network and alumni connections you can develop, have a much higher weight with regards to professional success than initial placements. Do have some knowledge of where do the alumni from that institute typically pursue in their careers.
- Prepare your pitch which answers the 3 questions raised above
Your conversation during the interview should convince the interviewer of the flowing points:-
-You will add value to the class. (Perhaps through your intelligence, hardworking nature and diverse background, have anecdotes to substantiate each of these points)
-You will be placed with ease (due to the attributes mentioned above)
-You will add to the batch diversity (every individual is unique, just find some compelling attributes which make YOU unique)
Doing a thorough reflection and analysis of yourself - strengths and weaknesses, past accomplishments etc. will help you prepare good answers in this regard.
- Have more clarity in your mind.
Think of why you want to get into the MBA programme. The phrase “Have more clarity” conjures up images of monks meditating in the Himalayas. Having clarity requires no such extreme measure. It is quite simple:-
-It is okay if you are confused in life. The good thing about MBA programme is that it offers you the space for exploring various options. A management programme will introduce you to various functions (such as Finance, Marketing etc or specializations within a function such as Organisation Development or Compensation within HR) in a structured manner. You can use the MBA platform to explore these options, which can help you decide where you would want to be.
-Think about what you would want to be seeing yourself in the longer future. You could be pursuing a career in the corporate world, running your own enterprise, pursuing a career in academia. Most of us just have no idea, and that is perfectly okay. Just figure how the MBA programme you are applying for assists you in achieving that objective. (eg. if you are amongst the many who have no idea, you can say that the MBA will help you figure that out)
- NEVER say that you are interested in applying for the particular course citing only the placement statistics (average package X lacs, highest package Y lacs). This will guarantee a rejection in an interview.
- Being Dishonest
Interviewers appreciate honesty. Do not be that person who has no plans for being an entrepreneur yet says “I will not sit for placements” in the interview! The panel is composed of extremely experienced professors. Please maintain honesty with them and with yourself.
The points I have suggested here are purely based on my opinions, and I retain the right to be wrong. I hope that this article has been useful. In case you have further questions, feel free to reach out in the comments section.
Wish you the very best for your interviews!