Hi guys, this is Sourabh Das. An IIM BLACKIS PGP (2020-2022) aspirant, and here is my interview experience. Please do give it a complete read. Hope some gonna relate, and the rest may find it useful for their interviews in the years to follow.
"Dream is not that which you see while sleeping; it is something that does not let you sleep."-Late Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
An inspiration that drove me to what I am today but never till 'that day' did I realize the true sense behind this phrase. "That day" (somewhat mid-January 2020) was no different to other days, passing in ambiguity and with a constant hope of getting a call from IIM until my attention forcefully stuck the first glimpse of my flashed mobile screen with an email notification which persisted for hardly 5-6 seconds. And within that time frame, everything seemed blurred to me except the two specific phrases in the email subject text- 'WAT-PI' and 'IIM'. Yes, you read it write, it was the Indian Institute of Management. Adrenaline rush forced me to waste no further time, and it was the mail confirming my stage-1 selection in an IIM. Dreams really kept me awake from that day and one after the other, I started getting calls from other IIMs as well.
Having done with the in detailed WAT-PI form fill-up process, I never expected the horizon of interview experiences up & stored for me. Although Quora guided a ton in framing my mindset for IIM renowned interview rounds, but its pedagogy was on a parallel universe to what I encountered in person. From my firsthand experience, I would suggest candidates to have a special check and be true to facts & data on filling their WAT-PI forms as that would act as the prime catalyst for either your selection or rejection. Done and dusted with the documentations, as days passed, my mobile screen again started flashing of email notifications, but this time with 'WAT-PI Call Letter' as the subject phrase.
Mostly all IIMs would select the metro cities for their WAT-PI rounds, governing reasons being the transport connectivities and interview conduction facilities. Prime locations would be the elite 5-star hotels (for example Taj Hotel, The Grand Oberoi, Novotel-Hotel & Residences, etc.) or IIM campuses (especially the 'holy trinity'). These locations might allure with you with the lucrative surroundings, somewhat a reflection of your standard of life after you become an IIM Alumni. Still, nevertheless we must not ignore the years of hard work and efforts which took us to this spot. Amidst all these, a subtle nervousness and tension still governed my neural network until I found a position to wait for the day's proceedings. Document verifications followed by WAT (Written Ability Test) in the pipeline somewhat made me a bit acquainted and at ease with the flow of the hour. For WAT rounds, the topics don't seem that challenging to me as I was in a constant practice of writing and keeping myself updated with the national and global happenings brought me an added advantage.
Queued up in sequence, waiting for my turn to be called in the interview room. Honestly speaking, these waiting minutes were stressful and equally cherishable as the constant permutation and combination of logics fighting a war at the back of my head and the brain trying to figure out the best possible answer to tackle the interviewers' question(s). And finally, that moment arrived "May I come in Sir..?"
No, I'm not an anti-feminist, but I found it feasible to use 'Sir' as I was always found at least a male interviewer in my panel.
Offline Interview Experience:
The interviewers mostly greeted with a smile but sometimes with a neutral or a bit serious look is what was unexpected to me at the beginning, but later I was used to it.
Q: "So Sourabh, tell me something about yourself."
A well-rehearsed and compactly framed reply was at the cannon mouth, but till date, I regret not to complete it when anyone of the interviewers cut me in between with something they found interesting either in my WAT-PI form or in my words.
Q: "Why MBA?"
A lot of replies in line to this are prevalent in the online platforms, but I pose to take a risk and present my own version of explanation to back up my decision. Sometimes lucky not to have been questioned about it but mostly had to face questions which I pre-framed in my biological memory more efficiently than an AI could have performed in my place.
Q: "You have a good job. So why don't you apply for an Executive MBA."
Honestly speaking, a regular two year MBA at an IIM is the dream that has been inculcated in me for years, and I can't let that go just because I have a work experience of more than three years and holding a reputed designation in my company with a pretty good salary. Well, from experience shared in Quora, I knew it would be coming, so had a well-armoured confident set of logics to fight on my behalf. For future aspirants with work experience of more than two years, I would suggest to expect this question in almost all interviews. Questions from my job profile were answered with the best possible replies.
Q: Hobbies pose to be a clickbait for the interviewers, and it was no exception in my case.
I was particular in mentioning hobbies at the time of WAT-PI form filling and hence, apart from a couple of instances, came out with flying colours. For me the knowledge of football, my interest in music (playing the violin) and my passion for travelling and exploring places was enough to justify my areas of interest. In certain scenarios, the interview who also share the common zone of interest went deeper into the topic where at positions I was about to give up but could barely manage to keep my balance and not topple off. One of the candidates that I came across later was a National level swimmer, and she was literally asked to swim while in her sitting position. Even the track of questions can take an unexpected turn from violin to a class-8 science experiment on sound.
I strongly recommend titling this interview round 'Expect the Unexpected.'
Q: "Who is Abhijit Banerjee?"
The answer is quite simple.
Q: "Famous for what?"
"Ahhhh...are these IIM interview questions?" I felt at some moment but never knew what was coming.
Q: "Explain the theory for what he received the Nobel Prize in 2019, citing his experiment and observation."
That was something which made my forehead sweat kiss the ground.
Q: "Why should we take you?"
Basically, I learned to market myself even before getting into a B-school. Political questions were another domain that was by default in their bucket as the disadvantage one would acquire to hail from a part of India mostly in the news due to State or Central political controversies.
Q: "What is the national vegetable of India?"
Believe me; I discovered this only after the interview.
Q: "How can you have an exact 4 litre of water from a 5 litre and 3-litre uncalibrated irregular shaped tumbler if provided with an unlimited source of water?"
In some interviews, I faced complex riddles so solving them within that stipulated time frame posed a problem but somehow, my presence of mind didn't let me down. My takes on a certain situation based incident either from past or a hypothetical one were a common practice of judging my decision making or analytical skills by the interviewers. Jargons like Big Data, Augmented Reality, etc. posed as hurdles to jump.
Q: "What is/are Principles of Management, 5-Cs of Management, Cross-selling, Product Life Cycle, etc."
Could answer most of them in a bird's view perspective but failed at times. "Sorry, I can't recollect at this moment"-was a reflex and safe-sided reply to the unknown ones.
The experience and prevailing nervousness (many deny to face, but I have seen almost all having it) of IIM interviews are something that I was tasting for the very first time in my life hence, everything to go that smooth should not be expected neither did it happen in my case also and hence, I landed at times being embarrassed but I kept myself busy in covering up for my frivolity. I believed in the statement that 'great progress comes after great disasters', hence, after every interview experience would work upon my flaws and knowledge deficits to outperform my last interview performance in the upcoming ones.
Getting a call from an IIM and finally converting them is a completely different ball game altogether. The CAT percentile adds a certain weightage to the composite score for selections, but the lion's share still remains majorly with the Interview score and minorly with WAT score. Under the prevailing COVID scenarios, where conducting WAT through online platform seems to be a far achieving scenario, almost all WAT-PIs scheduled after the nationwide lockdown broke the decade long prodigy and preferred to settle only for personal interview rounds crapping the WAT rounds.
Online Interview Experience:
Owing to the prevailing nationwide lockdown scenarios, interviews scheduled after 24th March, '20 were forcefully shifted to online mode. First of its kind even for the B-schools to conduct the interview rounds completely online (mostly through Zoom meeting platform) wherein the WAT rounds were abolished and its corresponding weights were merged with that of the PI's, thus giving personal interviews the sole the proprietor in deciding my fate at the IIMs.
Q: The questions were more likely to be the same as mentioned in offline mode but with the primary difference that a significant phase of the interviews was occupied with COVID centric questions and the entire b-school fraternity virtually experience a revolution in digital platform usage.
"May I come in Sir..?" was now replaced by "Am I audible to you Sir..?" as the new normal.
At times the subtle piling of pressure from random and unexpected question had a toll on my mindset but my a constant smile kept me in the battle. After passing through all these rigorous WAT-PI and brainstorming Interview rounds, what seems a frivolity to me earlier, is an authentic hand-on experience now, i.e. 'people speaking volumes of their interview experiences and conversions'. Even that is what you all might be reading all these while in my words. Joining the dots, in the end, feels like my journey so far especially edging those sacrosanct interview rounds is worthy of the reward of getting into IIM BLACKIS. And after all these hurdles, it was entirely legitimate for my true-blue mind to sync with my heart (otherwise in most scenarios they would suggest opposite opinions) and come up with a conclusive statement "I'm finally into an IIM, MY LIFE IS SORTED"…Oops, I fear that didn't persist long as the more I kept on diving into the layers of MBA journey and unfolding the facts enlightened by senior and alumni talks, the louder a common idea echoed my thoughts- "IT'S JUST THE BEGINNING AND THE RACE HAS JUST BEGAN". . .