With the release of CAT 2021 Response sheets you now know your raw score and the estimated CAT percentiles (via the CL Percentile Predictor) and those who have a score that will get them an interview call from an acceptable B-school should gear up for the 2nd round of the selection process – Interview.
A list of institutes that you can consider is given in my other blogpost – Jayein toh Jayein kahaan 2021: Top MBA Colleges. My rule of thumb is that an acceptable B school is possible for a general category, OBC and EWS candidate at a CAT score of 90%ile, for SC candidate is 80%ile and for ST/PWD candidate it is 75%ile. Similarly, those with an NMAT score of over 230 can expect calls from NMIMS Mumbai. Hence along with your XAT/SNAP preparation, you should also focus on Personality Development Program Classes to ensure a good performance in the interview stage.
But the misconception that many students have is that they can afford to defer their WAT/PI preparations to the last week. But that would be catastrophic to your MBA dream as the interview process is reasonably tricky and tough to crack. Therefore, without much delay, you should start your interview preparations right away.
Let us have a look at the time lines. IIFT, NM and SNAP interviews are typically conducted in end January to early February period and the interviews of IIMs start around 10th February. Hence, if you delay,you will not have sufficient time to prepare.
The reality is that the Personality Assessment stage is the most difficult part of the selection process. While the number of students you will be competing against are fewer, the quality of competition is higher. Each student who is shortlisted by the institute deserves to be in the final list, but only those who are well prepared will finally make it. This stage is difficult because its focus is on those aspects that have been ignored by most of us as they were never part of our school and college exams.
The questions asked in the interview are very simple, but the answers require deeper introspection. Also, unfortunately, there is no specific way of answering these questions and worse each one of us will have a different answer. Some of the commonly asked questions in the interview are:
- Tell me something about yourself
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What do you consider is your biggest achievement in life so far?
- Why do you want to do an MBA?
- Which is your favourite subject?
- Are you satisfied with your academic performance?
The answer to each of the above questions will come only after deep introspection of self which unfortunately requires time and cannot be left for the 2-4 weeks between the call letter and the actual interview.
In addition to the interview many institutes have other evaluation tools or activities like group discussion, case study, group task, extempore, etc. which many of you have never been a part of. Hence, you need time to understand these tools and practice them. This is where MBA aspirants with work experience have an advantage over college students. Those of you with work experience would have been exposed to some of these evaluation tools during your recruitment process but may still need to understand its intricacies and will most probably need practice.
If you think that this stage is all about personal attributes and ability to speak and you can afford to ignore your academics/job, you are mistaken. This stage also evaluates you on what you gained in college, your job and your knowledge of the environment (general awareness).
So along with your CMAT. MH-CET, PGDBA preparations, you should start preparing for personality assessment as well.
How to prepare?
While most CL students are already enrolled in a program that will prepare them for the Personality Assessment stage, unfortunately many of you will delay the process and start your preparation for personality assessment only after mid-January. The onus of utilizing the next 45 days productively is entirely upon you. So, let us see what all you need to do in these 45 days to ensure that you are not caught unaware when you receive your interview call letter. You need to work on the following three broad areas:
- Academics and/or Work
- General Awareness
Academics / Work:
This is the area from which questions are invariably asked to all students. In terms of preparation this is the easiest – all you need to do is study. Prepare a couple of subjects from your final year and brush up the fundamentals of the key subjects. You should also revise your summer internship report, term papers or any project that you may have done as part of your academic program.
In case you are working, you need to have not only complete understanding of your work but also knowledge of your company and the environment (market and the industry) in which you operate. Key assignments or projects undertaken by you are also important because they can help prove your understanding of work.
I know that most of you are not very fond of reading newspapers but for the next 3 months it is essential that you read it daily. While I prefer Indian Express, you can start with whichever newspaper you are comfortable with. In addition to the front page that most of you glance through, you should read the editorial and the business pages also. The Sunday newspaper has articles from diverse areas written by people holding different points of view on an issue. Read all of them and you will not suffer from lack of knowledge during an interview or group discussion. Additionally, read a current affair weekly to ensure that what you read in the newspaper during the week gets reinforced. Those of you who have a background in business studies, commerce or economics should read a business newspaper also.
This is the most difficult area in terms of preparation and will need introspection. Many interview questions are asked to understand you as an individual – your motivations or reasons for your actions in the past, your strengths and weakness, your likes and dislikes, etc. To be able to answer these questions convincingly you need to first understand yourself. The answers to many of these questions may require a discussion with your parents or siblings or with someone who knows you well. A good starting point is to write down an essay on yourself. You can also explore yourself with various psychometric tests such as LOCO Test (determines how much you internalize and externalize), PE Test (Personal Effectiveness Test), Big 5 Personality Test (Tests you on five broad dimensions of personality, used by large number of companies) in the CL’s aspiration.ai. You can also browse through various knowledge sessions, Self-Introspection activities and webinar sessions by CL’s marquee Personality Development Program (PDP) faculty.
Working on the above areas while clears self-doubts and prepares you in terms of knowledge, you will still need to do mock group discussions, interviews, etc. You cannot learn swimming by reading a book, you need to jump in the pool. So, form a group that meets regularly for group discussions and case studies; dig deep into your past to identify possible questions and create answers for them; pair up with a friend to discuss and refine your answers; The more you practice the better off you will be.
To summarize, mastering the following 5 Mantras should get you battle ready:
- Study at least two subjects of final year.
- Brush up the fundamentals of key subjects.
- Brush up your summer internship, projects and term papers.
- Good knowledge of your work
- Knowledge of your company, competitors and industry
- General Awareness
- Read newspapers daily – focus on the front page, editorial page and business page.
- Read a weekly current affairs magazine.
- A 500-word essay on self
- Identify and answer possible interview questions based on you background
- Form a group for mock group discussions
- Pair up with a friend to discuss possible interview questions
- Mock GDs with potential call getters
- Mock interviews with experts.
All the best