SPJIMR Interview Experience – 2018

It’s mid-March, the time of the year when B-school interviews are mostly done and dusted and most of us are anxiously waiting for some or the other result. Some would make it to the schools of their choice this year and some would re-attempt the feline hurdle to grab better opportunities in 2019.

I would most likely be joining SPJIMR this year in Operations & SCM specialisation and I think it’s worth my while to share my 2018 SPJIMR-PGDM interview experience on this platform so as to present a first-hand picture of the entire interview process and help those of you who are looking to get a better idea about the SPJ selection process. As for me, I am an engineering graduate from NIT Rourkela (graduated 2015) with more than 2 years of work experience at Coal India Ltd. (CIL). With a 98.63 percentile in CAT (DILR – my nemesis) and belonging to the GEM category, I only had a handful of ‘reasonably good’ calls: SPJIMR, IIM-K, IIFT and MDI-G.

While reading this, do realize that this is just my personal take based on my experience. Other’s experiences could be vastly different from mine. This isn’t a generalisation or a guide to crack SPJIMR interviews. That’s why I have not included my answers for the questions, coz there are no right answers here – it all depends. Chance is a huge factor that comes into play at interviews, as in life, which makes them pretty unpredictable. You can prepare all you want, but it all depends on the day. If I go for a second take, I myself wouldn’t be any more likely to succeed just because I have been there once. So listen to everyone’s perspective, but prepare yourself in your own way to make it through, and even with all the preparation always keep in mind the element of unpredictability – it might just not be your day after all. One odd interview is not a judge of who you are or your abilities, so never take these things too personally or in a black-and-white manner. Put your best into factors you can control, and forget the rest.

Anyway, returning to the SPJIMR, as most of you know, the interview process at SPJIMR consists of three steps.

  1. Document Verification (duh!)
  2. Psychometric Test and WAT
  3. Group Interviews (1 & 2) – there is no GD or ‘personal interview’

The interviews for SPJIMR are held in two phases: Phase-1 (usually held in January) is only for candidates with profile-based calls, whereas Phase-2 (usually held in February) is for both categories of candidates, i.e. those with profile-based calls who didn’t attend in Phase-1 and those with score-based calls. I had a profile-based call, but couldn’t attend Phase-1 interviews at SPJIMR campus (scheduled from Jan 23-25) due to some urgent engagements at work. Subsequently, I booked an interview slot in Phase-2, which was held at Hotel Monotel, Kolkata on the 15th of February.

The entire process was well-organized and conducted very smoothly, thanks to the student admissions team of SPJIMR, and the coordinators were really helpful regarding aspirants’ queries. The whole process was completed in less than four hours.

Post document-verification, for the first leg of the process, a total of 30 minutes were allotted for completion of both Written Ability Test (WAT) and psychometric test. The psychometric test consisted of a bunch of about thirty questions. You are required to mark your response on the given sheet (5 options ranging from least appropriate to most appropriate – options remaining the same for each question) and explain your responses for any six of those questions in the space provided. For the psychometric test, be quick in marking your answers as you also need to finish your WAT in time. Limit your explanations to the space/box provided. Keep them concise, and keep in mind that questions could and would be asked from this.

The WAT topic for our batch (12 PM slot – around 35 candidates) was – “Describe any situation where you had to fill in for someone, and your learnings therefrom.” We had to write on it in about 300 words.

After the WAT got over, we had to wait for the coordinators to form groups of students (about 5-6 candidates per group) for the first group interview (GI-1), which is an elimination round. GI-1 is mostly about your profile – expect HR questions apart from questions on your academics, work experience and preferred specialization. We didn’t get any questions from GK/Current Affairs but then it doesn’t hurt to prepare.

Group Interview-1. Six candidates, two interview panel members P1 and P2 (later found P1 to be a professor of marketing and P2 to be a professor of finance). I was asked just three questions:

  1. Tell us something about yourself (common to all six of us, in round robin fashion). Based on this, they would ask you questions and then come back to it later after hearing other candidates out. (mine was the only introduction after which they seemed least interested to ask anything :D)
  2. So you work in the Ib coalfield? What functions does your department look after?
  3. Your work profile is mostly about maintenance of existing systems. Tell us about projects you have implemented and how they help improve the coal production process at CIL.

I thought my profile came off as the least interesting of the six candidates (the panel members smiled the least at me :D), and I felt if anyone was going to be axed, it would be me. It was surprising as I was asked the least number of questions.

Questions to other candidates

  1. What’s the meaning of your name? Why is it spelt like this? There was this girl named Writavrita and they asked her about why her name started with a ‘w’.
  2. What is the economic theorem that forms the basis of the algorithm that you use at your firm? (asked to a finance candidate and by P2, the Professor of Finance). He wasn’t able to answer to P2’s satisfaction and was eventually eliminated, though I felt his overall interview was good.
  3. If you are the regional sales head, how would you increase the sales of Coca-Cola (pre-condition: no commissions or discounts)? (asked to a Marketing guy by P1, the marketing professor)

It lasted for only about 30 minutes, which means each candidate got roughly 5 minutes to speak. What follows this round is the dreadful wait for one of the ADCOM guys to come and announce the results. We waited for about 35 minutes and in the meantime grabbed some snacks to munch on. When the results came, all but one of our group had made it to GI-2 – yeah, that’s tough. Try telling a guy that out of six people, you are the only one who didn’t make it. Other groups had less favourable results – three of six candidates qualified from the next group.

Anyway, though I felt for the guy, I was elated I was not the one walking out. Maybe my two years of work experience got me through. I thought to myself – this is the one chance I have got even after a relatively disastrous GI-1, and SPJIMR is my best call, I need to grab it by the balls.

Group Interview-2 was really short by SPJIMR GI-2 standards. It was like half an hour or so for us. I had expected it to be longer. GI-2 is less of an interview and more of a casual discussion centred around ethics, personality and perception, where both panel members and candidates get to know each other, talk and engage in light humour – questions can turn from anything to anything, so you can’t really prepare for this round. There were five candidates this time (not the same as GI-1 group, only one candidate was from my GI-1 group) and two interview panel members P3 and P4 (later found out P3 to be the chairperson of PGDM programme at SPJIMR and P4 to be from the Operations management dept at SPJ). Most questions were asked by P4. P3 was mostly watching us and shared his thoughts at times.

  1. Well, if we would all just be sitting like this and smiling at each other, then this won’t go anywhere. So why don’t each one of you tell us what you think this interview is about. You already had the first interview – why this one again?
  2. What would someone not like about you? What aspect of your personality would people find an issue with?
  3. Would you marry? What qualities would you look for in your spouse? Why?
  4. (To the other candidate) So you are saying exactly the opposite of what he (I) said. Explain.
  5. (To the other candidate) You seem to be more concerned about doing what others expect of you rather than going for what you feel is best for you. Do you feel that’s the right approach?
  6. A case of sexual harassment – Would you take the same stance as him (other candidate)? What if you were the girl’s brother? What more would you do to ensure her safety?
  7. Are you emotionally expressive? Do you think expressing emotions openly is good for the workplace?
  8. Question on WAT (by P3) – do you think it’s always necessary for a supervisor to know everything that the subordinate workers do so as to be ready to jump in for a hands-on approach?
  9. Question on psychometric test answers (by P4) – You have marked that you never lie. Explain.
  10. Last question (only to me by P4 coz he was an Ops professor) – You work at CIL, right? What work does your department do there?

I felt I was the most confident among all five in my group, and put my thoughts out very clearly, which was a relief considering how my GI-1 had panned out. I also listened to other candidates very carefully. Form clear opinions and back whatever you say – you may take your time but don’t blurt out ill-conceived opinions. Be patient and don’t interrupt others while they are speaking.

Do remember that they will often ask the same question to everyone in a round robin fashion. And at times they would ask you questions based on the response of other candidates, so be a good listener and express your views frankly. Don’t hang your head down or stare into nothingness after answering (many do that) as if you are done, especially when other candidates are speaking. Actively look at them, nod and smile while they are talking – be subtle in your emotions, but look interested in others. Also, don’t try to be over-smart and double-guess the interviewer – be yourself and be comfortable. Don’t be too nervous – realize that others are as puzzled as you are.

Know yourself and be clear and confident about your opinion and decisions, and you will ace the SPJIMR interview. It’s not a knowledge-fest and if you don’t know the answer to a question, you can just straight-away admit that you don’t know. Be open-minded. If you have read till this point, I thank you for bearing with me and hope this little nugget helps you in some way. All the best for life. Cheers!

Abhijit Nayak

Abhijit Nayak is an MBA aspirant who's going to join the PGDM 2018-20 batch at SPJIMR, Mumbai. He has more than 2 years of experience in general management and project management at Coal India Ltd. He loves nature and photography, reading books, and rambling on Quora.