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MBA Personal Interview: How to Deal with Tricky Questions?

Rini Maria
Rini MariaUpdated On: July 15, 2022 04:26 pm IST

A Personal Interview is one of the shortlisting rounds for admission to MBA in all the top B-schools. Here are some useful tips on tackling tricky questions during an MBA personal interview round.

How to deal with Tricky Question in MBA Personal Interview?

An MBA Personal Interview round is considered to be one of the crucial shortlisting rounds for admission to the top B schools. A personal Interview or PI as it is popularly called is conducted after the group discussion round. It acts as the most important determinant of whether the candidate is credible enough to seek admission to a particular B-school. Candidates are evaluated on various factors during both GD and PI. PI is a one-on-one interaction session between the candidate or an interviewer or a panel of interviewers. During a PI, the admission panel analyses the candidate’s communication skills, analytical skills, and even body language.  

In short, the PI round is like a “research round” in which the panelists delve deep into the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses and determine if they can get the most out of the MBA programme, influence their future classmates with their presence in the class, and add value to the B-school. PI is also the game-changer in the MBA admission process to IIMs because scoring 99+ percentile in CAT would become futile if one neglects the interview preparation. 

What are Interviewers Looking for in an MBA Personal Interview?

The admission panel evaluates the following things in a Personal Interview:

  • The ability of the students to network well with the people and work as a team
  • The candidates’ communication skills, and what they bring to the class from their previous experiences
  • The ability of the students to handle the pressure of balancing multiple things efficiently. 
  • The candidates’ rationalism as well as leadership skills, ability to learn from others’ mistakes, draw upon their experiences to solve problems, and discuss current events, especially related to business.

Why is Personal Interview the Key to Acing MBA Admissions?

A personal Interview (PI) acts as the final hurdle to the path of seeking enrollment into one’s dream institution. PI is an important medium to develop a candidate’s character and personality reflecting on what is stated on the resume. The PI round provides an opportunity for the candidates to prove their credibility to enroll in the MBA program and establish themselves as individuals who can add great value to the organisation.

Format of MBA Personal Interview (PI) Round

Every B-school has a different format for personal interviews. The way of communication in the PI round is two-way and hence the candidate gets to learn a lot of new things and traits that are crucial to thrive in a competitive world. The PI round lasts somewhere around 25 to 30 minutes. The PI round is an integral part of the second and final stage of the selection process. The overall weightage of the PI round is somewhere between 40-50%. It is mandatory for the candidates to clear the group discussion round or the written ability test round to become eligible for the PI round.

Questions Asked in the MBA Personal Interview (PI) Round

The admission panel asks questions based on the candidates’ past academic records, work experiences, general affairs, economy and finance, choice of program, technical issues related to their work, etc. In addition to this, a 5-minute extempore on a social topic, a written problem, psychometric tests, etc. may also be a part of the PI round. Some of the most important questions asked in an MBA PI round are as follows:

  • Tell us something about yourself.
  • What are your key skills/ greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • Where do you see yourself five years down the line?
  • Why MBA?
  • Why do you want to join this College/B-school?
  • Why do you think we should give you admission to our college?
  • Why marketing/ finance/ etc. specialisation?
  • How will you contribute to the campus if we choose you?
  • What is your expectation from this MBA program?
  • What is the difference between a good manager and a good leader?

How to prepare for an MBA Personal Interview?

Candidates must start their preparation for the MBA PI round religiously right after getting a good CAT score and converting an interview call. The PI preparation can be summarized in the following manner:

  • Candidates must be well-versed in basic Economics and topics like monetary policies, fiscal policies, Financial Markets, Saving and Investing, Risk and Return, Insurance, Money Management & Budgeting, etc. by reading NCERTs of 11th and 12 and watching YouTube videos. 
  • Candidates must have knowledge about basic Finance and topics like bonds, debentures, income, spending, savings, investing, and protection.
  • It is imperative for the candidates to learn the basic history, polity, and geography of the state in which the IIM is located.
  • Candidates must possess immense knowledge of the events of political or social interest and importance happening in the world at the present time.
  • In order to look more confident and well-prepared in the interview, candidates must prepare common HR questions like, ‘What are your career goals?’, ‘What are your short-term goals?’, ‘What are your long-term goals?’, ‘Why do you want to join this College/B-school?’ etc. well in advance.

Candidates may also opt for a more personalized preparation encompassing their graduation, work experience, qualifications, etc. in the following manner:

  • It is advisable to revise the core areas of the graduation subjects.
  • Since the panel asks questions from one’s resume, a candidate must prepare each and every point mentioned in his/her resume thoroughly. 
  • Candidates must possess a thorough knowledge of the field they have worked in.
  • If a candidate has mentioned several projects in his/her resume, he/she must remember important points from the projects since direct questions can be framed from this part.
  • Candidates must have a holistic knowledge of the geography, politics, and economy of their hometown/home state. 

In addition to the generalised and personalised PI preparation, one should focus on building one's personality and confidence, because in an interview the admission panel doesn't just test one's knowledge but also inspects one's personality.

Another thing that must be kept in mind while preparing for the MBA PI round is the reputation and visibility of the institute a candidate is about to interview for. The originality of one’s speech and personality plays an important role in the selection process of the candidate. The duplicity of words is highly discouraged during the interview. Before appearing for a PI at a B-school, it is feasible for the candidates to do a background check and ensure that they know enough about the institute they are applying to. It is also important to know about the program and specialisation that one has opted for.


How to Deal With Tricky Questions during an MBA Personal Interview?

Some of the general tips that would help the candidates ace the MBA PI round are:

Be ready with ‘must know questions’: It is important for the candidates to be well prepared with the basic HR questions revolving around their career path, life, and ambitions, such as ‘why MBA’, ‘how will it relate to your goal’, ‘how does your academic background relate to your goal’, ‘how relevant your experience’, ‘why do you want to join a particular institute’.

Avoid making a statement: Candidates must attempt tricky questions diplomatically. They should not take a positive or negative side explicitly. However, it is best to lean on the positive side to portray an optimistic mind and thought. Reflecting on negative aspects may leave a wrong impression.

Be honest with yourself and the interviewers: Candidates must answer all the questions with honesty, humility, and integrity. Candidates may skip a question they are not sure about rather than bluffing in the interview or giving incorrect answers. 

Portray realistic goals: The candidates’ goals should be realistic and well-thought-out. Get clear about your career goals. It is best for the candidates to showcase the highest amount of interest for the institute but at the same time, they must not show desperation.

Exhibit STAR approach: Candidates must undertake the STAR (Situation-Task-Action-Results) approach to answer a behavioral type question. 

Bring up examples: It is imperative for the candidates to bring out good examples of teamwork and leadership. 

Mould your character and personality: Candidates must try to build a character around their resume, reflect confidence and represent themselves as a perfect fit for the college program.

Reflect moral values: Candidates must promote such values that reflect the values on which the college stands.    


MBA Personal Interview Sample Questions and Answers

Tell me about yourself.
“I am a determined, hard-working, passionate, and enthusiastic person who has ambitious plans for the future. Over the years I have built up a track record of being a self-starter, a highly motivated person and someone who is supportive of others when they need my help or assistance. I am a patient person who understands you only get what you want in life if you are prepared to work hard at it, if you listen to others’ experiences and knowledge, and if you apply yourself fully in everything you do. I am respectful, disciplined and a good team worker.”

Why do you want to study an MBA?
“I see MBA as a fundamental requirement for me to achieve my long-term career goals. I will also gain an increase in confidence, communication and interpersonal skills, discipline in terms of sticking to my study plan, the ability to think strategically, and credibility in terms of academic achievement.”

Why does the MBA program appeal to you?
“There are three reasons why I want to study this MBA program. Firstly, it will help me gain my desired career and it will give me the required foundation needed to progress to a strategic level at some stage in my future. Secondly, it will help me gain an international mindset as well as allow me to develop my own unique selling points, qualities, and attributes. Thirdly, I will be able to learn skills that will be attractive to all global brands, hence boosting my employability.”

Why do you want to study your MBA at our university/college?
“I chose this university because of its highly experienced lecturers, robust program structure for achieving the MBA course objectives, and its environment that is conducive to constructive and effective learning.”

Why should we choose you over other suitably qualified applicants?
“I promise to be successful in the MBA program and apply myself throughout. I will also support other students so they achieve success too, and will act as a positive role model for the university during my time here. Finally, I genuinely believe I will go on and make effective use of the MBA in my future career, and I say this due to my long-term strategic plans and the ambitions I have that are part of my career planning roadmap.”

While preparing for Personal Interview rounds, candidates must especially be alert and prepared to face tricky questions. Always be mentally aware during the interview. Never give up during the interview. Always put the best foot forward. Good Luck!

For any queries or questions reach out through the Q and A zone or fill out the Common Application Form (CAF)

Stay tuned to CollegeDekho for all the latest information!

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