Monday, May 31, 2010

Cracking MBA interviews

“Why do you want to do an MBA?”

“Tell us something about yourself”

“What are your views about the current Indian cricket team”

“How did Punjab get its name?”

These were some of the opening questions I was asked during my interviews for admission into various top b-schools of the country. As you can see, some are clich├ęd questions whereas some are a bit off the course and there is no way you can be sure of what you are going to be asked. The best you can do is to be well prepared.

You may come across a lot of experts who tell you different things about how to crack an interview. A lot of the things might be true, but always take them with a pinch of salt. A lot of times their judgement is based on the past experiences of themselves or of others. The experience of others can surely give you a good idea of what can happen but it won’t be what will happen. Once I met a so called expert who told me, “ I will give you the answers to the questions like Why MBA and you just have to put them in your own words and present them.” Frankly this seemed totally absurd to me. In the end it is you who is going to be interviewed and it is you who knows about yourself, about Why you want to do an MBA! Being yourself is of utmost importance in any interview. If you don’t believe in what you are saying, how can you convince someone else about the same?

Confidence is the key when it comes to cracking an interview. Remember that most of the questions that you will be asked in the interview are going to be very basic and generic in nature. So, what the panel looks for is whether you can answer those questions with confidence and conviction. If an interviewee says that he wants to be entrepreneur, the panel invariably asks whether he has any business idea in mind. This counter question is just to check whether you are bluffing or are you actually serious about it. They also know that you won’t be having a fool proof business plan because otherwise what would you be doing there!

The question that gave me sleepless nights was whether or not I will be asked questions regarding my academics. I didn’t have a very good academic background which means less marks in graduation which made me doubt my own capabilities in answering those questions. This has been a query pointed at me by a number of aspirants as well. Again, like I said right at the start, you can never tell what you will be asked. For a fresher, you can generally expect at least a couple of academic questions as lack of work experience takes away one dimension of questions that can be directed at you so the odds increase. But this is not something that should worry you much as the panel more often than not will try to bring the best out of you and if you don’t seem to comfortable with your academics they will shift to other questions and you should try to answer them well.

Generally there is a lot of buzz about stress interviews. This is the case when the interviewer is trying to judge how bad your worst is. In such interviews, always remember, a smile never harmed anyone.

Sometimes the panel can also ask you current affairs or general knowledge questions. These questions are never the make or break questions. Whereas knowing the answers can give you some brownie points for sure, not knowing them will not end it for you. The bulk of your interview will be on the basis of the form that you will be asked to fill. Do take that form seriously as the form in itself won’t matter in your selection but the form is what can drive your interview in a certain direction. Try not to express extreme views as that shows you as being stubborn and less room is there for you to change your answer in the interview if you feel necessary.

A lot of times you can end up being your own interviewer. The questions you will be asked can be the loose ends in your previous answers. This can be to your advantage and also to your disadvantage. So, try not to leave loose ends and if you want it to play to your advantage, be extra careful as it can backfire as well.

All said and done, don’t forget that it is just an interview- One among many you will appear in this “MBA-season” or for that matter in your life. It will be good if you make it but won’t be the end of the world if you don’t. It may just be a blessing in disguise as who knows, You may get much better opportunities in the future.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

At the airport

What does a person do when his or her flight gets delayed and he/she has to wait agonizingly long hours at the airport? Some people start reading a book, some start working on their laptops, some go to the food court and eat something, some decide to do some shopping and some like me decide to do a bit of all this and observe other people doing whatever they are doing.

So while doing the same, I decided to start off with the people sitting just next to me. My immediate neighbour seemed to be totally engrossed in his digital camera-taking pictures and looking at the clicked pictures. His utmost interest in the same made me guess that he had recently purchased that camera. As he started to notice that I am noticing him, I looked for someone to observe, a little boy of 4-5 yrs made it easy as he came running to me, passed me a smile and offered me a sachet of tomato ketchup. I, trying to be a sport, smiled back and took forward my hand to accept the offer and he suddenly took back his hand. He again extended his hand to offer me the ketchup. I, knowing his intentions very well, decided to play on with him. As he took back his hand once again, he started laughing and ran back to him mother shouting, “Mummy,Mummy” probably hoping to recite the whole incident to her.

The next person I set my eyes on was totally immersed in his laptop. Observing a bit closely, I realised FRIENDS was the thing that was keeping his mind and his head still. He was totally unaware or rather not bothered about what all was going around him. You must be thinking that this isn’t something new. You always find people lost in FRIENDS no matter what the place is. I thought the same and couldn’t hold back a smile. In the meanwhile, I noticed a lady in her mid 40’s sitting at the back of that person staring at me in disgust. I think she was of the opinion that I trying to make a pass at her daughter sitting alongside her. To make myself clear, I wasn't!

Now I decided to move around the airport and explore some other areas. As I moved into the shopping arcade, I saw a couple of girls busy in their shopping. Moving from jewellery to clothes and back. One of them received a call from someone, I suppose, close to her. This supposition is based on the way she addressed him( I am sure about this). But the poor guy soon enough realised that nothing can come between a girl and her shopping when the girl frantically kept saying, “ Bye, Bye, Bye. Let me shop.”

I started feeling hungry and went to a eating joint inside the airport. As soon as I entered the cafe, I saw a couple trying their best to explain to their son that their flight was ready for departure and they had to leave. The son, on the other hand thought finishing his sandwich was higher on the priority list. After much persuasion, the child agreed to carry along the sandwich but not without a pout on his lips.

As I moved towards security check, I saw S. Sreesanth( Indian Cricketer) walking a few steps ahead of me. As we moved towards the escalator, Sreesanth preferred stairs over the escalator. Whether for fitness reasons or for the fear of escalators, I am wondering the same myself.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A tale of 3 cities

Over the last 3 weeks I have had the good fortune of spending one a piece in arguably the 3 most important cities of India-Mumbai, Delhi & Bangalore. All three have been the pillars of Indian economy over the last 50 years but beyond that, all three of them have a unique identity.

Mumbai, the city of dreams is a city which never sleeps. This was something I had just heard from people till I realised for myself when I visited Juhu beach at 2 am and found hundreds of people present there and enjoying the sea. Ofcourse the same thing has a downside, finding hundreds of people late at night means you will find thousands in the day. The city becomes a nightmare if you have to travel from one place to another between 7 in the morning and 10 in the night. You won't find place to drive your own vehicle and you won't find air to breathe in public transport. But then a walk at marine drive or sitting at the Bandra bandstand in the evening/night makes all the sufferings of the day worth it.

Dilwalon ki Dilli/Delhi has its own charm. Being a north indian myself, Delhi is much closer to my heart. A city which is the power centre of the country, a city which is of utmost historic importance to the nation is also a city where construction is an on going process which means dust and pollution make you sick. Delhi has that unique ability to look like the place to be and at the same time a place never to be at. Go to most of the localities in Old Delhi and you just want to get out but then driving through the Akbar roads of Delhi on a sunday morning is an experience in itself when one cant stop thinking-What do these ministers do in such big houses!

Moving down south to Bangalore was something I was circumspect about. I had never been into a southern indian city which worried me as to how I will cope up with the language barrier but Bangalore turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Bangalore seems like a bigger and a populous version of my own Chandigarh. A city which is undoubtedly the IT hub of the country has retained its Garden City status thorugh the years.Bangalore is a place where you can still breathe fresh air, something that is not very common these days. The rains and windy weather have been a fresh change after experiencing the heat in Delhi and Mumbai. Banglore has its own negatives ofcourse-the auto-wallahs are ready to drain your pockets the moment they realise you are not a local and would ask for money that would shock even a Dilli-wallah. Bangalore has its own traffic problems wherein you will be stuck in a jam and you won't move for a good 15 minutes unlike the traffic jams of a Delhi or a Mumbai where you keep crawling.Besides this, I don't have much to complain about this city as of now though spending more time might bring out a few more things to lament about.

So all you have to do to have a good time in any of these cities or for that matter any place in the world is to mend according to it because there was a reason when St. Ambrose said "When in Rome, do as the romans do."