It’s that time of year again. First-years across B-schools are getting ready to forget the brief friendships they’ve formed over the past 4 months, to do battle for the chance to spend a 2-month period in a place that will supposedly go a long way in securing them glittering, cushy careers.
Battle lines are being drawn, verbal spears being sharpened and the people who couldn’t tell the difference between retail and investment banking till two weeks ago are getting ready to portray themselves as prime contenders to handle a few million dollars that some rich people want to treat as pocket change. There is an intensification of misogyny (“the girls always get placed first”) and an increase in the loathing of IITians (“they’ll get placed right after the girls”). People are using advanced statistical tools that most Quant professors don’t know, to determine what chance they have of getting shortlists from recruiters. Folks who didn’t know the difference between shampoo and conditioner are now experts on the merits of hair treatments pioneered by different companies.
Those who considered themselves really intelligent for having endured three years of work before joining an MBA program (in order to get an idea of the real world) are now cursing their stupid decision of wasting all that time trying to fix (and screwing up further) a few thousand lines of redundant code written by somebody else. They are steeling themselves to look wistfully at the top FMCGs (their dream jobs) coming to campus and recruiting a bunch of twerps still in their metaphorical nappies while they wait around for the IT giants they ran away from to come back to their rescue.
So basically, there are chances of bearing witness to astronomically high levels of disappointment and resentment and quite a few tears being shed as that one company you’ve wanted to work for all your life walks away without casting so much as a glance laden with contemptuous scorn in your direction (swiftly followed by the next company that has always been your dream destination).
Amid the mass hysteria of trying to satisfactorily answer the “Why MBA?” question without sounding like a money-grabbing troll and figuring out what you want to do 5 years down the line (I personally want to put others through this same agony), the peaking paranoia levels raise every small and absurd rumour to the level of gospel truth. And in that time of hopelessness, people will turn to any source that offers them some explanation, anything that enforces a semblance of logic and order to this rampant randomness. This is the time juniors mob seniors trying to understand ways and means to if not beat the system, at least come to a truce with it. After all, the seniors have gone through this torment in their time and lived to tell the tale, which clearly makes them experts at navigating this minefield. The questions and the advice fly about thicker than warring armies letting loose volleys of arrows at each other.
So what must one do in order to get through this immensely challenging time and come out without too many scars? Probably the most important thing is to understand that the selection process is really, REALLY random. There is no telling what recruiters are looking for when they come to campus and although trend analysis may work in the case of some companies with clear selection criteria, trying to predict whether or not you’ll get a shortlist is like brewing a magic potion with only a threadbare notion of how to go about it while using just the ingredients you’ll find in a bachelor’s fridge; you are grossly under-prepared and are undertaking an exhausting exercise that will most likely lead to heartburn. The shortlists are something that you can’t control, so stop paying heed to every baseless rumour that starts doing the rounds. The randomness of the process also means that it becomes difficult to know whether you’ll get a chance to prove your mettle in front of the biggest brands. So if you’re not a person who’s been on a diet of Brahmi and kryptonite since you were in the crib and probably turned down the chance to join a Wharton or a Cornell, it makes even more sense to have fall-back options. It may sound defeatist, but let’s face it, everybody wants to hire the best person possible and people who’ve run their own start-ups while routinely saving babies and kittens from burning buildings, along with maintaining perfect grades just seem a tad bit better than people who list their greatest achievement as being runners-up at the class Counter Strike tournament 5 years ago.
For many people getting a shortlist is a minor achievement; it at least breaks the monotony of sitting on your bum for two days straight, watching others run around from GD to interview while cribbing about the evil, backstabbing people they considered friends. This is followed by an intense cramming up of the major happenings in the sector so you come across as informed and intelligent in the GD. Once you manage to breach that hurdle there is the part where you cram up facts about the company. And some people do it well enough to write a biography of its 200-odd year old history. This is especially common with FMCG and similar companies where you memorize the top 5 products of every category they ever manufactured and woe betide you if you call Head & Shoulders a HUL product or say Horlicks is a delicious Cadbury concoction. But apart from these (sadly not superfluous) exercises, the most important attribute you need to crack an interview is confidence (yes, I know that’s a cliché). Of course, I am assuming that you are already thorough with everything that you’ve written in your CV, not completely ignorant with the subjects you’ve studied and have a palatable explanation for why you left your ridiculously low-paying IT job to join this B-school.
Because the recruiters will try to put you under pressure. They will ask you questions that they know you won’t have answers to. And if you can just manage to not get flustered by those leering devils in front of you, you really have a shot. Remember, it’s your interview. Try to divert it to areas that you want to talk about. And most importantly, it’s okay to say you don’t know the answer to a question. It’s not okay to bumble around trying to dupe the panel with some shoddy guesswork that they will easily see through.
So before you go into an interview, just relax, take a deep breath and no matter what happens, don’t let anybody faze you. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t crack it.
All the best for the process.
Nadeem is still trying to make sense of Life, the Universe and Everything having just started his second year and planning to have a great time while he tries to figure all that stuff out. You can follow him at nadeemraj.insideiim.com
He's an amateur storyteller at 42shadesoctarine.wordpress.com