Monday, November 30, 2009


Purgatory: (v) the condition or process of purification of soul, in a state of grace, made ready for Heaven.

Yes I am in purgatory; being tested and purified to be chosen not for heaven but, in my case, for a b-school. IESE business school, with which I interviewed a week back, has placed me on a wait list and has invited me to attend an Assessment day. To me this is good news. Some one thinks I'm worth the test. IESE apparently does so and needs some re-assurance that i'm the right person and I'm actually happy to undergo the assessment. As per their mail its a good chance to assess my fit with the culture of the school. I'll do my best and only time will tell if I make it to (heaven?)..

Monday, November 23, 2009

Preparing for the Admissions Interview.

After experiencing an admissions interview, I thought it would be a good idea to post a write up of ways that you can prepare for the interview and to avoid disasters during the process.

So here is a list of 10 things you can do to make your admissions interview a very pleasant experience.

1. Prepare: There is absolutely no substitute to preparing for a challenge. Be it a GMAT test, a soccer game, an admissions interview or a job interview, the better one prepares, the better are the chances that he/she can emerge as a winner.
Here are some of the questions you can expect to be asked:
* Tell me about your self.
* Briefly take me through your glorious resume
* Why do you want to do an MBA?
* Why do you want to do an MBA now?
* Why do you think ___ school is the best place to do an MBA?
* What are your short term and long term goals post MBA?
* What are you motivations behind each of the big decisions you made - work for xyz company, work in ___ country, pursue ___ degree, etc.
* What do you do apart from spending a 100 hours a week writing code/crunching numbers/selling abc product?
* Why do you think you are a good fit for the program?
* Can you tell me something about yourself that's not in the application.
* Tell me one time you failed.
* Can you talk about one leadership experience.
* What would be your role in a team.

I'm sure you will be able to come up with more questions, but the important take away is - Prepare your response to these question. This doesn't mean you should write out a comprehensive transcript of what you are going to speak. Just make outlines and let your instincts drive you home.

2. Try to know the interviewer: In today's social media world its not hard to track a person. Put your effort to learn more about the interviewer. You can even send a friendly note to the interviewer just to confirm the time and place (if not already done). But don't haunt him/her. The maximum number of unsolicited emails that you can send is one. Researching the interviewer might also reveal similar interests that you share with her and thereby might be able to connect with her.

3. Read interview reports: There are several applicant/student blogs which contain interview reports where applicants share their interview experiences. These might be extremely useful to understand the nature of the interview - casual conversation type, "check-box" type, "fill the gap" type or "strictly business" type. These can help you prepare better.
Here is a link which has a huge database of interview reports for a wide range of schools -
This helped me a lot in my preparations.

4. Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse: This is extremely important. Don't just write and read your responses, rehearse them. Ideally do a mock interview with your colleague, your friend, or if you have the buck, with a professional interview expert. These people can give you some positive feedback and constructive criticisms which will be extremely useful. Your scripted responses might not always be perfect, believe me!
If the above is not an option consider rehearsing in front of a mirror. This will at least raise your confidence and bring out some of your involuntary hand or face gestures that might in fact look stupid. Finally, have you ever wondered why Guy Kawasaki and Steve Jobs give such amazing presentations, always. That's because they Prepare and Rehearse!!

5. Don't get lost: There is a reason why google maps is so popular. This is coz millions of people use it. So should you. Look up the address of the interview-venue. Make sure you are familiar with the place and location. If not, try to visit the venue a day before and find the nearest parking lot. If you are interviewing in a place like New York city this might be extremely important.

6. Don't loose sleep but rise early: Preparing should end at least a day before the interview. This day should be to relax and to feel confident. Watch a movie, have a great dinner and go to bed early. On the day of the interview, wake up early enough (Note: early to me is 7am) for the interview.

7. Dress to impress: I know this is a cliche statement, but hey it is a fact. Merely wearing a suit and a tie doesn't qualify for this. Wear something that will make you look smart, professional, business school material and most importantly, un-artificial.
(For women, I'm sorry my level of expertise in dressing is limited when it comes to women's clothing. )

8. Come to the point, fast: This tip was given to me when I was doing Step. 4. The first thing to do while responding to a question is to answer it. It may sound like a duh, but this is very important. Don't build your point with a background. Answer the question first and then you can build your supporting statement. The advantages are two fold: You will not bore the interviewer and make her wait for the answer, and you will come out as a more organized person.

9. Don't panic when the tide is high: There might be instances when you could be thrown off-guard with a unexpected question. Just don't panic. If you cannot come up with anything within 5 secs, ask the interviewer for a few seconds to think. Its perfectly fine. Remember there is not correct answer, you will be judged by the way you answer.

10. Don't forget to smile: Do you like talking to person who never smiles and looks like a moron? You don't have to answer this obvious question but remember that the interviewers are also humans with the same mind set. So smile and if you can, make the interviewer smile too. This will be win-win situation.

11. Be Thankful: Here is an extra point. Be courteous enough to send a thank you note to your interviewer. After all, she has taken the time to listen to your story. So send a thank you note and the more genuine it is the better.
And oh, try to include at least one topic that you spoke about during the interview just to remind her who you are.
As always please feel free to add your interview tips in the comment section for the benefit of all.