Friday, October 9, 2015

My journey to Columbia University – Graduate School of Journalism

Team getyourMBA recently met up with Pavni Mittal (Page on, a former candidate with getyourMBA, who successfully applied to and received admission to the prestigious Columbia Journalism School this year. Just 1 month into the program, Pavni is already managing a hectic schedule of classes and assignments, while acclimating to New York and all that this great city brings with it!

Pavni is doing a 1 year course, M.A. in Journalism, with a concentration in Politics. She hopes to use this and her background in business reporting to get make a career in Foreign Policy. Here is a summary of our conversation with her, where she shares a number of great insights and tips for aspiring journalism candidates:

Team getyourMBA: Let’s start with you telling us a little bit about your background. What were you doing before you joined Columbia?
Pavni: I have a background in Political Science. I was at Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi University. After graduating, I did a post graduate course in journalism at Asian College of Journalism (ACJ). After this, I was an Anchor & Senior Correspondent with CNBC TV18 for close to 4 years.

Team getyourMBA: Since you already had a Masters degree in Journalism, what prompted you to apply to Columbia? 
Pavni: I found that the predominant focus at ACJ was very technical. The program places emphasis on things such as production, and putting a program together. It prepared me very well for Television, but I realized after working for some time that I wanted to go deeper into the subjects I covered. The program at Columbia is for experienced journalists, with a very application oriented curriculum. We are routinely asked to consider the events happening globally, and think about them from a journalistic point of view. In essence, this is where you get to master the ‘Art of Journalism’.

Team getyourMBA: How did you pick the schools you applied to?
Pavni: I only applied to Columbia since it’s the best. I was very clear from the beginning that I would go only if I got admitted to Columbia.

Team getyourMBA: What is the application process for journalism schools like?
Pavni: The application consists of 4 main parts – 1) TOEFL score 2) Three essays 3) Recommendations 4) Transcripts (at least, this is what is true for Columbia Journalism School)
I was able to waive writing TOEFL since I was working at CNBC and that was enough to show my proficiency in English. 
The three essays have the following focus – one essay is autobiographical that requires you to essentially write about “Who you are”. The second essay is professional, with a focus on “What you have accomplished so far”. Finally, the third essay is a SOP, with a focus on “Why do you want to do this program”.

Team getyourMBA: How was the essay writing process for you?
Pavni: I struggled with it to be honest. Till today I don’t know how I wrote what I wrote :) First of all, I started my application too close to the submission deadline, because I confused the deadlines. This left me with very little time for writing my essays. Also, I struggled the most with the autobiographical essay since I wasn’t sure how to portray myself. I was confused about things such as – What should I include and not include in the essay? How do I make my essay culturally relevant to someone in the US? How do I make sure my essays convey a coherent story of “Me”? It took me about 10-12 iterations before I got it right.

In this regard, working with getyourMBA helped me a lot as the biggest change I made with their help was to my essay content. Earlier, I was getting all kind of advice around correcting my language, to sounding “cool” in my essays. getyourMBA helped me change course to getting my content right and making sure that I was able to connect the dots across various key points to convey a great story about myself, my achievements so far, and why I wanted to join Columbia. 

Team getyourMBA: What tips do you have for a candidate applying to journalism schools?
Pavni: First of all, start a little earlier than I did! More time will definitely help you think through your application. And then, it’s very helpful to get someone who is familiar with the university application process in the US to review your essays. Many folks in India who don’t have this exposure may give advice which might not be very relevant. Schools here care about diversity and what value each candidate adds to the class. It is important to bring this across in your essays as clearly as possible.
A big thing I realized during this process is that the essays cannot be treated as disjoint pieces of writing. Everything has to come together as one, single coherent story about yourself and your world view so far. It’s almost like a caricature of yourself.

Team getyourMBA: What about recommendations? How did you select the people you asked for your recommendations?
Pavni: I asked three people for my recommendations at first – my previous supervisor, one of my university professors and the CNBC network head at the time. The key thing in a good recommendation is that it should have a personal touch – the person should be able to write about what struck them about you, and what they think about you, as opposed to simply stating your accomplishments and what you’ve done.

Team getyourMBA: Did you give any pointers to the people who wrote your recommendations?
Pavni: My previous supervisor didn’t let me see what she wrote, but she promised me that if she has agreed, she would make sure she did a good job. What I do know now is that she mentioned things like “When I worked with Pavni, this is what I found out about her” and “When I met Pavni first, this is what struck me about her”, which was great, since it connected who I was with what I’d written in my essays. For the other two people, I gave them some pointers for the recommendation.

Team getyourMBA: Were there any interviews at Columbia?
Pavni: No, there are no interviews.

Team getyourMBA: So now that you’re through, in hindsight would you have done anything differently?
Pavni: Definitely. I would have liked to start earlier. Also, I think I should’ve tried to enjoy the process more. The essay writing requires a lot of introspection which is very useful for planning your long term career, not just for gaining admission.

Team getyourMBA: How has your experience at Columbia been so far? Are you enjoying it?
Pavni: It is all that I expected and much more. The class is so diverse. I’m working with Africans, Americans, Europeans, Asians. It completely changes your world view. It’s way more hectic than I thought it would be. I’m still a little bit dazed! Soon I’ll have to start job hunting so that will be very stressful. But I’m learning a lot each day and glad about that.

Team getyourMBA: Any parting advice for candidates who may be considering applying?
Pavni: Be very clear why you are applying. Your primary goal should be to learn and master your craft so that you can apply it to your field. Your goal cannot be simply to get a higher paying job as the chances of that happening, especially if you’re a foreign student, are not 100%, since you won’t have relevant cultural context from the get go. Many students in fact go back to their jobs after having learnt new skills in the course. So your primary goal should be to learn.

Great advice Pavni! Team getyourMBA wishes you all the best at Columbia and in all your future endeavors!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

IIM Admission Interviews - some myths, some truths and some advice - Part II

So, it is interview season again, for admission to the IIMs. Some of you might have received your calls already, Congratulations! Many others will probably get them soon. So how are you going to prepare for the big day?
Well, you could start by reading Part I of this post,  IIM Admission Interviews - some myths, some truths and some advice - Part I, which appeared previously on this blog and then come back to this one where I continue to bust few more myths and give some advice. 

So, to continue from the previous post on this subject - 
Myth 3: IIM interview panels are just looking for any reason to reject you. So any slip-up, just a single mistake and you are out. So it is absolutely critical to give correct answers to all questions.
This is far from the truth. Because the interview is, by itself, not the deciding factor in a candidate’s admission. You can check out the website of the IIM’s for the evaluation process and see how points are awarded for each individual element of a candidate’s profile including their academics, the CAT score, their work-ex etc. and of course the interview. So the interview is just one of several factors that affect your chance. To grade you on the interview, the panelists will encourage you to come up with good answers during the interview and if you come up with one bad answer but a bunch of good ones, they will rather grade you well for your good answers than grade you poorly for the one bad answer.
Myth no 4: One needs to be careful not to disagree with the interviewers or say anything they might not like or they might reject you.
First get one thing clear. Interviewers are tasked with SELECTING not rejecting. These are selection interviews. The panel is actively looking for good candidates. I remember how exhausted and fatigued the whole panel would feel at the end of a session if we did not come across good candidates on a day and by contrast how refreshed and satisfied we were on days when we met some bright sparks. The point is that Interview panelists always hope that the next candidate will be a bright prospect, one who will be a pleasure to talk to. Some candidates, either for the fear of saying something wrong or maybe because they are just plain nervous, hardly say anything at all. Perhaps the notion is that the lesser you speak, the lesser the chance of making a faux-pas. But if you do not speak out your mind, how does the panel find the reasons to select you? Interview questions may be of the problem solving kind or of the type when you are asked to describe a situation or event, or where you are asked for an opinion on some subject or simply to check if you know certain facts. In some cases there might be a right or wrong answer as with solving problems or with fact based questions. But even here, if you know the solution to the problem you should be able to also defend your solution logically by explaining each step of your working if needed. And if you are asked for an opinion, feel free to give it but also know that you might be asked to explain why. If you differ from something the Interviewer says, speak out your mind freely but also be prepared to explain your point logically. Interviewers love to get into a lively dialogue with candidates on any subject. The Caveat here is of course that you should always be polite, If you disagree with the interviewer do so politely, try not to interrupt unnecessarily, no curse words obviously, never be rude, avoid making any politically incorrect statements, do not display too radical views. For example never say something that could be construed as a racist remark. And in general do not talk negatively of anyone.
And yet, while this may be obvious to most people, it is a typical mistake many candidates make. Particularly in response to a question like ‘why should we select you among so many others like you?’, candidates often take off in describing how others have this short-coming or the other and so try to show they are better. This is not a good answer. Instead concentrate on your own strengths, your own abilities. Give examples of how you demonstrated some good quality from situations in your past. 
Myth no 4:  IIMs prefer engineers – just check out the class profile of any IIM and a large percentage is always engineers – so non-engineers are at a disadvantage.
While it is a fact that engineers form a large percentage of admits to the IIMs, this is certainly not because the IIMs prefer this to be so. In fact going back to what I wrote earlier in this Blog, the attempt is always to provide as much diversity in the class as possible. So then why do the IIM classes consist of so many engineers? Well, because quantitative skills do form a necessary requirement for a candidate to successfully complete the MBA curriculum. Quantitative and Statistical Analytical tools and techniques are increasingly becoming part of the skill set of the Business Manager of today. And to grasp these well, a certain level of quantitative ability is necessary and engineers by virtue of their education, possess these abilities in larger numbers than many other graduates. The CAT also tries to assess this skill among all aspirants and the ones with better quant skills score better.
But once you have been called for the interview, this is no longer a factor. Even though there might still be a few stats or maths questions you may be asked in an interview, these are always very simple, easily answerable because you prepared for the quant section of CAT. And overall, at the interview stage, the non-engineers in fact have a better chance simply because they are different by the very virtue of not being engineers among the pool of applicants. So instead of worrying about the engineers, bring out your own strengths, speak up from your own different perspective and demonstrate how you are unique.
Coming now to some advice and suggestions:
  • Some questions do tend to be asked very often in admission interviews and you will find them on many a website. Questions like ‘tell us something about yourself’ or ‘what are your strengths and/ or weaknesses’ etc. And while it might be a good idea to write down few points you can use to answer such standard questions, DO NOT rehearse your answers too much. Definitely do not rehearse in front of a mirror or anything. Rehearsed answers always sound very flat and jaded. Let your answer be extempore even if you did some preparation for it. It will sound fresh and will therefore be more convincing.
  • Similarly, never use answers written by anyone else for you. If you want to go over the points you wrote for an answer, with someone else just to check if they sound good, by all means do so. But finally, make your own list of points, in your own language, so that when you are answering to the interview panel, you will speak in your own words, with your own language signature. Interviewers have a knack of catching on when you provide ‘coached’ answers and they usually do not like that.
  • Among the subjects to prepare on for the interview, I have already highlighted the importance of being well prepared on everything that is written on your CV and anywhere else in your application documents. If you worked with a company or if you interned with one, make it a point to know about the organization, its products, its main competitors and the industry in which it operates. If you organized an event at college, be prepared to describe what you did, how you did it, what problems came up and how you solved them etc.
  • It is also important to realize that an MBA is about running a business. So make the effort to become aware of the general business climate in the country, read up on the general economic scenario, read up on data like the rate of inflation, rate of economic growth, its trend in last few years, projected outlook for the economy etc. Also be generally aware of the political goings on in the country and how they might impact the business climate etc. If you are asking for admission to an MBA course, you must demonstrate an interest in managing businesses and must therefore be aware of the climate in which businesses operate.
    And finally, understand that more often than not in an interview, what matters more is NOT the exact answer you give, but the way in which you give it. Demonstrate to the panel that you are confident about your own abilities (not over confident please) and in full control of your emotions. If asked to solve a problem, provide the solution and also, if asked, be ready to explain how you arrived at the solution. If asked for an opinion, feel free to give your own point of view and be prepared to engage in a discussion on the subject with logical arguments. Even if you do not know the answer to a question, have the confidence to say so, without feeling nervous about not knowing it. “No one knows everything on this earth and if I am not able to answer this one particular question, it in no way reduces by suitability as a candidate for admission” – that is the impression you want to convey to the panel.
    All the best for D-day. Be cool. Be confident. You can do it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How will I know when is the right time to go for my MBA?

This is among the most vexing questions that trouble many a candidate when they are contemplating about the right time to apply for MBA admissions. I will address this question in some detail here. And while trying to answer this question, I want to address a few related questions as well –

  • Is it a bad idea to join an MBA program directly after undergrad?

  • When does it become too late to go for an MBA program?
The root of all these questions lies in the fact that there is no single universal answer to “when is the right time to join an MBA program?”. The answer to this question would unfortunately be different for different people. Most experts would perhaps agree that the right time to go for it would be when you feel you are ready for it. And so we come to the main topic of this post - “how would you know when you are ready?”

To quote some of the more common answers, you will know you are ready if -

1.       You have articulated a clearly defined career goal which is better achieved with an MBA degree under your belt.

2.       You feel you are close to stagnation in your current job and could breakthrough to the next level with an MBA degree.

3.       You want to change the Industry or the functional area you are working in and the MBA can help you make that change.

4.       After 4-5 years into your career you have decided this is not the career you want for life, but are still unsure what alternative Industry or Work Function would be best for you and you want to use the wide exposure that the MBA program would give you, to help you make the choice.

Take answer 1 above. For most people, part of the answer to “how would I know when..?” would come from your introspection on why you want to pursue an MBA program at all. In fact it is very likely that if you are clearly able to articulate why you want an MBA, you might already have an idea of “when”. But for some people, this might happen at a very early stage in their career – in fact some might be clear about their goals while still at Undergrad. And that brings up the related question – is it a bad idea to go for MBA straight after UG?

This question has already been discussed in some detail in one of my earlier Blogposts at so I will not repeat the same arguments again. Suffice to summarize that even though most people (including me) hold the view that you would benefit more from the MBA program after having worked for a few years, there is not sufficient empirical evidence to support that MBA grads with prior workex are indeed better at managing businesses as compared to those who joined the MBA programs directly after UG. The IIM’s in India have a large contingent of fresh grads in their classrooms, MIT Sloan is encouraging undergrads to apply and almost 20% of their class is being filled with fresh grads. And these early career MBA grads have as good a track record of managing business enterprises, whether  in India or in other countries, small  business or large corporations, as the MBA graduates of the same or any other business school who had worked longer before entering the MBA programs. And to add another dimension, the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) takes in large numbers of fresh grads as well and with just a one year curriculum (the IAS training program) they get some of the toughest leadership jobs in their early careers – as head of a district in some remote part of the country, and they later go on to head major public sector enterprises in so many different industries.

Coming to the other end of the spectrum, is it ever too late to go for an MBA program? Well actually, NO. One example of later career aspirants is the significant number of people from various defense services who, after 12 or 15 even 20 years on the force go for such programs. In India for example, an Army Officer can take voluntary retirement with full pension benefits after 20 years’ service. So, many of them take up an MBA or some other educational program to help them get into some civilian career at that stage. Yes, there might be other issues to consider. For example can you afford to go without a monthly salary at that stage when you probably have a family and other financial commitments? So, you might choose a part time program, a one year program rather than a two year program, an executive MBA program or whatever suits you. But the point is that the MBA program and the benefits it gives could still be relevant for mid-career professionals. In fact if a mid-fifties senior finance executive had a brilliant idea for an online portal based business, would it be too farfetched an idea for him to join some MBA program to learn how to monetize his idea, how to manage such a business, the latest techniques of marketing such a portal etc.?

So, whenever you have a clear career goal, and you can see how an MBA program can help you achieve that goal, you will probably know when the right time is also. But if this happens right after UG, would you not stand to learn more from the MBA program if you had worked a few years first? Maybe yes, but if your career goal is centered on a big business idea, can that idea wait that long? Would it not be better to get whatever you can from the MBA program now and implement your idea sooner, to ensure you get the first entrant’s advantage? This is why they say that the answer to when MBA is different for different people. You evaluate all the factors that concern your decision and then do what works best for you. And this is what it means to say that when you have your career goal, you will also know when the right time is for you.

Answers 2 and 3 above are fairly clear I suppose and those that identify with them would also be able to decide the right time for them to go for it. Coming then to answer 4 above, about those who are unsure, either when they finish undergrad study or even after few years into their working careers, about where they want to go.

One of the things the MBA program does for you is that it exposes you to multiple industries, various business functions, even multiple geographies and their respective business/ career climates for professionals. So the MBA program can also be a great way to find out what kind of career interests you most. At most good business schools you will get peers from diverse backgrounds, multiple nationalities, different educational and working careers etc. So in the one or two short years of the length of the MBA program, you will get to draw upon a very wide range of experiences as your peers bring their own backgrounds to bear upon any discussion inside or outside the class. And this window-view into so many different careers might be just the thing to help one decide what he or she might wish to take up as their own career. But would the same he or she not benefit more from the MBA program if they already had a career goal? Very probably YES. But the fact is that if they do not yet have that goal in their sights, is it not better to attend an MBA program now in order to at least be able to make a good choice of career rather than waiting indefinitely for that elusive goal? Yes it might be too early to jump into an MBA program right after UG if your only objective is to make a career choice. But what if you’ve already been working for 4-5 years and still not sure?

At this stage look at the point of view of the Business school also. To gain admission to most good business schools you need to pass through a highly competitive selection process, competing against exceptional fellow aspirants. With a large pool of exceptional candidates applying each year, schools too want to put together a great class every time. One big reason for you to choose a good business school is the diversity of the peer group you will get there because then you will get the benefit of the diverse experiences of all your classmates. So obviously the school also wants that you too should be able to add to that diversity. And from their experience if they find that people who have worked for some years before coming to the MBA programs have better experiences to share with their peers, they will obviously prefer such applicants. So another way of telling when you are ready could be when you have significant experiences of diverse kinds to share with your peers at school, which will add to the pool to make the class more interesting.

In conclusion then I can only reiterate that the right time to join an MBA program would be different for different people. A fresh grad would probably have a different expectation from the program than someone with workex. And while it might be true that the same fresh grad might learn more from the program if he or she were to join up few years later, his or her objective might be better served by doing so now. This is what would work best for them and so this is the right time for them too. Likewise a late career entrant to an MBA program would probably not be able to attract an employer who is looking for someone younger who can be better molded to the culture of his company. But then this later entrant probably might not want to start at the bottom of the ladder in a new career. He or she probably has useful skills and knowledge from their past workex and would look for some career that will better utilize all those past skills as well as the ones newly acquired through the MBA program.

So introspect deeply to find your own reason(s) for joining business school and that is what will best help you to decide when you are ready for it.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

MBA aspirants - There is a lot to be done NOW. Even in March.

Most people who apply for MBA admissions start the process only by July/ August each year with the belief that it is a year long process and since most programs commence in Fall each year, it is ok to begin the previous Fall. Their plan is to take the GMAT by August/ September and proceed with the actual application process in next few months.

But the reality is that if you begin in Fall, you might just have missed some opportunities already. In fact the right time to wake up to this exercise is NOW. These are important months in the application timeline which, if you use them well, will not only ease the process later but might also afford you some opportunities that you might miss otherwise.

But before I come to the early opportunities, let me first address another group of aspirants – those who applied in the R1 or R2 for Fall 2014 entry and did not get through. If you are thinking it is all over for this season and you need to wait for Fall this year to begin applying again, look around again. It is true that Round 3 is not a good option for admission applications but there are many other options still open to you. Many business schools, including some top ranked ones, have a January intake as well. And the time to apply for January 2015 intake is now. For example INSEAD has R1 deadline of 21st March and R2 deadline of 28th May for their January 2015 entering class. HEC Paris has a deadline on 1st of every month for next few months. So use this time to target these schools. In fact EDHEC Paris is still open even for a Scholarship round till 31st March, and that too for the Fall 2014 entering class. So do your research and find the opportunities that suit your goals. The important thing is to WAKE UP.

Moving on then, to those who are yet to start their thinking process for the entire project for application to MBA programs, here is why you too should wake up NOW:

·         Pre-Final year students interested in going to ISB:  The Young Leaders Program of ISB is just for you. If you are selected, It not only guarantees you admission to the prestigious MBA program at ISB with a two year deferral, it also guarantees you a Rs 1 Lac scholarship to boot. BUT the deadline to apply is NOW – 15th March 2014. Moreover this is a onetime window of opportunity because only those in their Pre-final year of a UG degree program or of an Integrated or dual degree program are eligible. And you are going to be in your pre-final year only once. No? So wake up now and, if you qualify, apply before 15th March.
·         IIM aspirants: Those wanting to apply to the IIM’s for 2015 intake – Many of you might have already started preparing for CAT 2014. If not, you need a careful self-evaluation to determine how many weeks/ months of prep time you need for this exam, often touted as ‘among the toughest entrance exams to crack on the planet’, and begin your preparation accordingly. Main thing is to avoid a realization in June or July that you do not have enough time to prepare any more. Though there is no ‘Best Duration’ of preparation time for CAT, it may be just a few weeks for some or even more than six months for some others. The point is to know yourself and make that evaluation to decide how much prep time will take you to a relaxed and confident state on exam day. Because that is how you will score well – by being relaxed and confident.
·         Those wanting to apply to GMAT accepting business schools in US and other countries (and to ISB in India): For you also, these are important weeks and months which you don’t want to miss out on. Because what you do now, can be immensely helpful later. It is true that the main application process does not begin till July when most schools start to open their portals for applicants and put up their essay topics etc. But till then, don't lose time. Do your research, take the GMAT early, decide if you want to hire an advisor to help you with the application process and do your search to find the advisor who works best for you. And here is why doing these things early will help later:

o   Do your Research: There are hundreds of Business schools you can target. But which ones are best suited for you? Apart from the Rankings, there are other factors to consider. For example, some schools have a better program for the energy sector than others. At some schools you do not need a US based co-signer to get a student loan. Some schools have a locational advantage in some way. Some aspirants might prefer a small town setting for the business school or vice-versa. All the research you do now will help you make better informed decisions about the schools to apply to later in the season. Moreover, some of you may be in jobs that involve travel to the country where your dream school is located. If so, make it a point to visit the school. Business schools encourage aspirants to visit them, interact with students and staff, even sit in on some classes with prior permission. So do all these things. This will not only help you makeup your mind better, it might even show the school how serious you are about joining their school during the evaluation of your application.

o   Take the GMAT early: Get this over and done with before the application pressure begins. Taking the GMAT by June or earlier has two benefits. Firstly you go to the exam at a time when you are not already thinking of your applications, so you are more relaxed – recipe for a better score. Moreover, should something go wrong on exam day and you end up with a score below your expectation, there is enough time to schedule a repeat exam. Though I do not always advise aspirants to repeat the GMAT easily, the point is that if you do need to repeat it, there is time.

o   Search for the right application advisor: This can often be a project by itself because there are so many of them out there. Of course you need to first decide if you need one at all. And once you know that you do, find the one who best suits your working style. Check out their work, ask around among your colleagues and seniors, look for references and only then hone in on the advisor you choose to work with. Because this is an important selection that can affect your career. The quality of application you finally submit will surely be influenced by the advisor so take care to evaluate and select the one who works best for you.

o   Spread your applications between Rounds 1 and 2: Don’t wait to send in all the apps in R2. Preparing a good application is time consuming and making multiple applications with the same or similar deadlines a herculean task. Round 1 deadlines can be as early as September so If you begin the process early, take the GMAT in good time, you have all the time you need to choose the application round you want to apply to. Keep the work schedule on applications light by spreading them out over 2 rounds. Bunched up applications will stress you out and you will surely not produce your best work with essays etc. if you are stressed.

To conclude, it may still be March, but it is not too early to start thinking and planning, and in many cases, acting on some opportunities. But in any case, the wake up call, if you want to apply for MBA admissions, is NOW.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

IIM Admission Interviews - some myths, some truths and some advice - Part I

I am often asked by IIM aspirants what the IIM Admission Interview Panels look for in candidates. Many others are apprehensive about the kind of questions they will need to answer. What topics will they quiz me on? What all do I need to read up on? Hours are spent scouring the net for questions asked by interviewers from each institute. So I want to dispel a few myths and misconceptions on the subject.

Myth 1:  I must tweak my profile a bit and present it in a way that will please the interview panel.

The thing to understand is that IIM students do not come off an assembly line. They do not conform to any one or more stereotypes. They are all different from each other. At any great learning institution, particularly at IIM’s and other Business Schools, a student learns as much from the lectures and such, as from his batch mates. And this is made possible because each student brings their own unique perspective, based on their individual backgrounds, their knowledge and ideas, their various skills etc., to the discussions in and outside the class, so each one gets the benefit of everyone’s experiences. To this end IIM’s also try to create a diverse class each year with students from different backgrounds, while of course maintaining certain academic standards. Therefore the best approach to the interview is to be yourself. Each one of us is unique in our own ways and it is important to let this uniqueness show through in your behavior. And the way to do this is to not try and give answers that you think the panel wants to hear; rather, give answers that you think are correct because that is what brings out your own unique way of thinking. Moreover the interviewers will find your uniqueness refreshing and that will keep them interested.

Myth 2 (and this is a big one):  I need to mug up on every possible subject because who knows what the interviewers will quiz me on.

The reality is that an interview is not about the interviewer trying to find out what all you don’t know. Rather it is just the opposite. The panel only wants to be sure that you know reasonably well, those subjects that you claim to know, by way of what all is claimed in your CV/ Application form. In fact I recall many instances when we would ask the candidate what subject he would like to talk about in the interview and then proceed to talk about just that.

So the first thing to be prepared on for the admission interview is your own CV. Be fully aware of everything mentioned in your CV, application form, any other application material and your certificates. But this needs more preparation than many candidates allow, and I say this from my own experience of having interviewed hundreds of them. If you are a Mathematics graduate, should you not be able to prove that the product of any three consecutive positive integers is always divisible by 3? This is not graduate level maths. Remember the 3 times table you mugged up in class 2? Does it not tell you that every third number is a multiple of 3? So any three consecutive positive integers would always include one multiple of 3 and so their product would always be divisible by 3. This should be elementary for anyone who has cleared class 5, and that also because in class 2 they might not have used terms like integers. And I have seen graduates fumble to answer this one. Another time I asked a Civil Engineer to draw a simple beam and its bending moment diagram, and he could not. But a simple beam is among the most basic elements a Civil Engineer learns so it is not acceptable that one from a reputed institution does not know it. It does not show you in a good light. Let me be very clear. The admission interview is not an engineering exam or an exam to test your knowledge of your graduation discipline. In fact in most cases the interviewers would probably not even be qualified to test you on your subject. But it is definitely expected that you should be familiar with the basics of your field. Otherwise what is the value of your UG degree? And without the UG degree, are you a fit candidate for the IIM? So brush up on your basics.

And be prepared likewise, on all other achievements, experiences, qualities mentioned in your CV. Did you organize your college festival? Great. But can you talk about the experience if the interviewer wants you to? Do you claim to be a trekking enthusiast? In the high mountains perhaps? But do you remember the exact location of your last three treks? Where did you start the trek from? How do you get there? How many days did you trek? At what altitude? How much distance did you cover each day? What were the places, villages, rest stops along the way?

And this brings up the importance of always stating the truth and only the truth, whether it is in your CV, your application form or the interview. Never state a falsehood or exaggerate any aspect in your profile. Interviewers have an uncanny knack of finding out those claims you make that are not wholly or partly true.

So does this mean that the only thing to prepare for D-Day is to be thorough with your CV? Well, obviously not. You do need to read up on some other things as well, but that will be for the next part of this Blog – watch this space.