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What top B-school interview rounds look for: Knowledge, presence of mind

When selecting students, some common questions the interviewers ask include the reason behind the change in the stream, and how he/ she will cope with the new environment, why MBA and so on

Written by Arnab Mitra | New Delhi |
Updated: February 6, 2020 7:38:23 pm,, cat 2019, cat 2019 interview, cat 2019 interview rounds, cat 2019 personal interview IIM CAT 2019: The final stage of the selection process, the interview round has started in various IIMs. Image source: Illustration by Manimanjari Sengupta

IIM CAT 2019: Even if you are among the top scorers in the management entrance examinations including CAT, XAT, there are chances that you might not secure a seat in the college of your choice. The reason is the gradual change in the interview round that considers the overall personality of the candidate and not just their academic performance. Institutes prefer experts possessing excellence in a domain other than academics.

When selecting students, some common questions the interviewers ask include the reason behind the change in the stream, and how he/ she will cope with the new environment, why MBA and so on. “We mainly check students’ seriousness about the profession and refrain from asking questions on their subject topics that they already are good at,” IIM-Sambalpur’s professor Atri Sengupta commented.

Mock test link for CAT, practice here 

Speak your mind, and heart

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In 2016, at the time of interviewing a student, we asked, “What does cricket mean to you?” The student replied, “The bat and ball, the two key instruments are the weigh of responsibility, and it’s upon a person how to deliver.” His quick response and the way he presented his answers got him a seat.

READ | This IIM Ahmedabad student is a beauty pageant winner 

Though every IIM has its own selection process, there still is a common pattern. Most of the IIMs are selecting students who know things beyond their subject knowledge including the work experience, knowledge on current affairs, communication skills, and ability to perform under pressure, said Himanshu Rai, director, IIM Indore.

The IIMs choose a candidate on the basis of his/her thought process. “The panelists do not follow specific patterns during discussions with a candidate. The responses helped them to understand the thought process, which shows a candidate’s managerial capabilities,” the director remarked.

Top MBA colleges aim diversity

In 2017’s IIM-Ahmedabad batch, there were students from an interesting bunch of profiles that included a model, a filmmaker and few fashion designers. Similarly, in IIM-Rohtak’s PG batch (2017-18), of the 400-plus students, there were around 20 outliers of which one was a sailor and another a politician.


According to Atri Sengupta, a member of the IIM Sambalpur’s interview panel, diversity is one of the key features of their selection criteria. “Diversity helps to build the environment of the classroom which benefits other students. Though candidates are mainly from an engineering background, but there are many who have prior experience from various fields like sports, music, fashion designing. Such aspirants help in bringing diversity in the classroom and more interesting conversations,” said the assistant professor.

Know yourself, don’t pretend

According to Niva Bhandari, assistant professor, MDI Gurgaon, the candidates should possess detailed knowledge on every topic, including their hobbies. “At the time of filling the application form, the candidates choose random hobbies like collecting stamps, kite flying, collecting books, but their lack of knowledge about these hobbies put them in trouble in the interview rounds,” she commented.

Apart from the in-depth knowledge of a subject, the candidates should possess fair knowledge on current affairs and apply their own opinion in the interview rounds. “The candidates should read newspapers daily and jot down important events in a diary or mobile that will help them to revise before the interview,” the professor advised.


IIM Kozhikode professor Shubhasis Dey advises students to cultivate opinions backed by facts at the interview round. “Be prepared to defend your academic achievements and your failures,” he said. “Be aware and curious about the world around you and the best way to achieve that is to start reading anything that interests you from books, periodicals, newspapers, blogs etc,” the convenor mentioned.

IIM Calcutta professor Sumanta Basu recommends that candidates should substantiate his own thoughts in the interview. “During the interview stage, the candidate is expected to demonstrate her analytical and decision-making skills along with the ability to derive insights from a situation. It might be quantitative or not, but in both cases, the candidate should be able to substantiate the discussion with original thoughts supported by information and logical thoughts,” the CAT 2018 convenor said.

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First published on: 06-02-2020 at 07:38:06 pm

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