Riddhi Kalra’s Interview Experience – Common Admission Process (CAP)

“With the percentiles out, you’re going to feel like a billion dollars when the call letters start coming in. But remember that they’ll all be just emails with possibilities until you manage to convert them.  It’s very easy to go back to zero with nothing to show for it.”

The above words from my mentor rang through my mind as I waited my turn before my interview panel, being the second person in the list. A month of prep for the interview and over a year of prep for CAT’16 had gotten me this far.

Profile: 10th std- 96%, 12th std-96.08%, B.B.A- 8.02/10

Date: 23-02-2017

Venue: Indian Institute of Management Trichy, Chennai Centre (Guindy)

Slot: 8:30 am (Forenoon)

I was told to be conscious of the fact that the vetting of candidates happen the minute they walk through the doors of the venue. So I walk straight to the newspaper stand and pick a paper out just in case I missed out anything of last night’s headlines. Side note: Tamil Nadu Politics were/are dynamic in nature.

My WAT topic was “There are accusations on the fact that social media such as Facebook is used to spread false information, elaborate with examples.” We were given 20 minutes and I took a business perspective about how platforms like Glassdoor could be misused and how managers need to maintain a fine balance when they are communicating with their employees.

Post this was the Personal Interview round and it could then be noticed that my panel hadn’t started and 2 candidates were done with their interviews from other panels. I carry my portfolio and walk in when my turn came; to find 3 panellists – (P1) was a panellist with a French beard to the left, another male panellist in his late forties was seated in the middle (P2) and a lady panellist to the right (P3).

Now an interview usually lasts for about 20 minutes, but mine went on for about 45 minutes. However, at no point did I feel that it was a typical stress interview (which was a little unsettling, if you ask me because most of the candidates had one) it felt more like a conversation and was completely based on my resume. So, the bottom line is that interviews don’t always have to be scary or technical, sometimes they can be extremely simple, and they’ll still carry you to your destiny.

An excerpt of the interview:

P1: Good morning, Riddhi, please have a seat. (I greet the lady first, hand over my portfolio with my CV and then take my seat) We’ll start off with you telling us a little bit about yourself.

Me:  My name is Riddhi Kalra and I’m from Chennai. As you can see, I’m in my final year of pursuing my Bachelor of Business Administration. I am quite curious by nature and this is the reason I would take a lot of interest in various projects in school and this carried on in college, when I became a member of the Editorial Committee until I became the Editor of the M-Power Journal for the year 2016. The Journal Committee taught me patience and how to deal with people who weren’t co-operative. I think this ability to manage in such situations was the reason I was given the responsibility of heading the National Level Paper Presentation 2017 to be held in my college. Apart from the above, I’ve always believed that life is about maintaining a balance- one between social and professional life, because you only live once.

(Weird 5 second silence that felt longer)

P1: Wow did you rehearse that? (Panellists look at each other and nod)

Me: No, well, I just…

P1: You dint give me a chance to question in the middle…

Me: (nonplussed) Apologies, sir…by all means, please question…

P1: No, really that was good, even if it was rehearsed. So where do you stay?

Me: (getting more confused) I stay in Chennai only, Sir.

P1: I know that, but where in Chennai?

Me: Began explaining, but he was adamant on knowing nitty-gritties of landmarks (which was being dragged on for about 4 minutes) near my house and I mentioned a hotel which is an old favourite.  He nodded like he understood, and I wanted to put an end to this address discussion, so I attempted to steer it away – took a risk that could have easily gone south, but luckily it did not.

Me: Sir, their Vadai curry (a spice infused lentil south Indian breakfast dish) is supposed to be very good, you should try it.

P1: (laughs out loud and P3 smiles, but P2 still doesn’t even make eye contact, he’s ruffling through my portfolio)

(This, to be honest was the turning point in my interview; the tone of the panellists never became aggressive after that)

P1: Your last name is “Kalra”, but you’re from Chennai?

Me: Yes sir, I’m actually Sindhi.

P1: So where’s your native? Delhi…?

Me: No sir, it’s Sindh, present day Pakistan.

P1: Where’s that…? (at this point P2 finally decides to join in and animatedly explains the geographic proximity of Sindh to Gujarat and Punjab to P1)

P1: So how did you end up in Chennai from there?

Me: Well, my grandfather migrated from Pakistan after the partition in 1947 and he stayed in the refugee camps in Delhi for a while, then moved to Surat, Mumbai and then came down further south.

P1: Interesting, tell us more about your family.

Me: I’m an only child, my dad’s a trader in securities, and he’s extremely passionate about the same. My mom’s a home maker, but she takes tuition for school kids, not because of any financial constraints but she just enjoys having her own pocket money- not that dad doesn’t share his earnings with her but as a woman, we walk past a few things that are a little outside our budget range, and it comes with this baggage of guilt. For her, it was about being able to afford those small guilty pleasures by herself and she’s an amazing teacher, we’re extremely proud of her. (I feel the need to explain because of how judgmental people get when I tell them that my mom takes tuitions at home)

P1: So I’m looking at your CV and you’ve done a lot, you play TT, you play the guitar and you’ve acted. My question is, where do you get the time to do so much?

(wondering if he’s mocking me and if I’m supposed to justify logically, and racking my brains for something witty to say, considering the fact that I’d heard most students have far more glamorous CVs in IIMs- I stick to plain facts, no window dressing.)

Me: Sir, acting was something I’d done in school alone, it was my first attempt at it but it was a huge deal for my house- the green house (the entire school gets divided into 5 houses) won after a decade and I won Best Actress Award, so despite being a one-time event, it was quite memorable. Coming to TT, I now only play with my dad as a leisure activity and Guitar is something I’m pursuing more actively, I take classes twice a week and I’ve completed Grade 4 of the Trinity School of Music Practical exam, so it freed up time for editing in college during the rest of the week. But, yes I’ll admit that the past month has been quite hectic with the date of submission of the journal for publishing and the national level paper presentation on the same date (10-2-17) and of course I was trying to cram in prepping for this, so there were times I felt like it’s all coming apart- but I was fortunate to have good friends and family who have prepared me for what’s to come.

P3: Could you tell us what subjects you’ve studied so far?

Me: said a few subjects along with Research for Managerial Decisions, and said that I wanted to major in HR.

P1: gives me a situation where most employees feel that the HR of the organization are unnecessary and end up wasting time and resources.

Me: gives a generic answer with a mention of a case from HBR about the unsung heroes of the Taj Mumbai

P2:  you’ve done primary research-based projects on Manual Scavenging, so what were the insights you gleamed from it?

Me: The primary objective was to study the perception of society towards the existence of the practise of manual scavenging, and it was found that most people were not even aware that a law exists that bans the practise altogether and the secondary objective was to study the sensitivity towards the condition of the manual scavengers, which we found via our secondary research was quite inhuman, they’re forces to use rudimentary buckets and often succumb to diseases. We chose this topic as we felt that as a developing nation, if we cannot get rid of this inhuman practise-we have a very long way to go. So this was us doing our bit in our current capacities.

P2: What is a hypothesis?

Me: Answered null and alternate hypothesis along with an example, it was followed up with a question on type 1 and type 2 error.

P2: Why don’t you think you should take up your dad’s business and deal in shares? It’d be of great help to him and we’re not running away anywhere, you could still come back to us after a year or two. I mean, you’re not even 20 years old, you’re currently 19 (sarcastic laugh). You do understand that there’ll be students who are as much as a decade elder to you in the same class?

Me:  Sir, that’s true that I will take up my dad’s business someday but he’s not running away either. I could finish my MBA and then take that up. I do respect the people with work ex, but I believe that I have a point of view that’s different from theirs and that I can contribute to whatever is being discussed as well.

P1: Alright, Riddhi. It’s been a pleasure talking to you, but before you leave, I have one very difficult question for you.  I want you to act out a dialogue from the play you won best actress for.

Me: (laughs) I explain the scene of My Fair Lady in which Audrey Hepburn’s iconic dialogue “The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain” occurs, and I modify my voice and screech “the rraiiin in spine staiys minely on the pliine”.

End of interview.

Converts: IIM Trichy, Ranchi, Udaipur, Raipur, Kashipur and Amritsar. Joined IIM Trichy.

Of course, like any interview, its subjectivity makes it difficult to say if certain answers worked well or not, and a good way to judge would be the facial expressions of the panelists and the follow up questions asked, but the general rule I was told was to talk enough, and stay true to your personality.

Riddhi Kalra

Tends to be obstinate about pondering on the other side of things- the "what ifs", that have the potential to change the end of a story. Likes to appreciate the brilliance in mediocrity and the beauty in humility. Enjoys reading novels and is an amateur guitar player. Currently pursuing the Post Graduate Programme (Class of 2019) at IIM Trichy, she is a member of the External Relations Committee, Persona (the HR&OB Club) and the Student Team of InsideIIM 3.1