PI (Personal Interview) Tips - MBA aspirants need to cross several hurdles in order to put their step into their dream B-school for pursuing management programmes. Personal Interview or PI is generally the last among key components of the selection process at B-schools. The interview panel which comprises 2-5 panelists intend to gauge the personality traits and required skills of the candidates during the Personal Interview round. The motive of the personal interview round is to measure the suitability of candidates for the MBA programme in their institution/B-school. While many B-schools have either replaced Group Discussion (GD) with Writing Ability Test (WAT) or added another component like Group Exercise or Case Discussion in the final stages of their selection process, the PI (Personal Interview) has remained intact as the key component of the selection process during MBA admissions. So, it is imperative for aspirants to gather PI Tips to excel in this round.
Being one of the most crucial admission rounds, it is a mandate for candidates to know how to successfully crack PI or Personal Interview rounds and get the final admission offer. In this article by Careers360, we bring forth expert advice and toppers’ insight on how to crack Personal Interview at top B-schools and also, a list of Personal Interview (PI) tips to ace most essential round pertaining to the counselling round. Furthermore, a few sample Personal Interview (PI) questions have been added for the convenience of the prospective students.
So, what do interviewers look into while interviewing a candidate? Vinayak Kudva, Chief Mentor, IMS Learning, says, “A personal interview is the last step to get to know the candidate well. Personality traits that cannot be uncovered through Entrance tests, GD or WAT are evaluated here. The selectors try to understand the kind of person the candidate is, what are his/her interests, motivation, aspirations etc.” Typically, the panel might have 2 - 6 interviewers depending on the norms of the institutions.
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PI Tips - 8 keys to crack Personal Interview
Besides normal etiquette like formal dressing, punctuality, the overall performance during the interview may make or break candidates' chance to get into their sought-after B-school. Here are the eight key Personal Interview or PI tips to crack Personal Interview at top B-schools -
1. Be ready with ‘must know questions’
Candidates should be well prepared with the basic questions revolving around their thought process about 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’.
According to Gautam Puri, Vice President, Career Launcher, “The interviewers may also grill you on core-academic knowledge and may go deep into questions related to your work experience.”
Besides this, few questions may also be asked on the general interest and hobbies of candidates.
Sharing his Personal Interview experience at IIM Lucknow, Ashu Airan, says “My best PI experience was at IIM Lucknow. The interviewers were interrupting in between and never allowed me to complete my sentences. So, I never ran out of words and that gave me an edge! Here are some questions I was asked, or rather bombarded with:
Q - Is this a company name (Applied Materials)?
Ashu - Yes and explained what my company does and my job role there.
Q- Why MBA?
Ashu – I started with a job and felt the need to acquire some managerial skills...
Even before I could complete my answer, from here onward the interruption by the panelists had already started.
Q - What will you gain from here?
Ashu- Knowledge, faculty and alumni interaction.
Then I went on with a sort of rapid fire on all three points I mentioned, i.e. Knowledge, faculty and alumni interaction.
Q - What you will add to the batch?
Ashu– I talked about my industry experience which is different and a club I had started in college. They kept cross-questioning me about the club for a while. Further, they questioned me about QFD or Quality Function Deployment, regarding my work experience, my rank in my graduation, class strength and even attendance.
However, they asked me a question regarding BOM which I didn’t know. I clearly mentioned it to them. But not knowing the answer didn’t make me feel less confident about myself. Clearly, we had to move on.”
He adds that aspirants must prepare extensively on these basic questions in order to crack PI, as interviewers usually cross-question on the same. He admits that the toughest moment during his interview was to answer these questions only. “For me, the most difficult question to answer was ‘Why MBA?’ It seems easy to answer but it is not. They were grilling me on everything that I was answering. I answered in terms of learning, exposure, alumni interaction and faculty experience,” says Ashu.
Experts suggest that Personal Interview (PI) may include many questions from the subjects candidates have studied during their graduation or post graduation. Candidates should revise important concepts learnt in at least two major subjects and think about their real-life applications.
2. Reflect confidence
During Personal Interview round, one should reflect confidence while answering different questions. Interviewers often tend to cross-question even on candidates' right answers just to check the confidence level on their own answers.
As Ashish Shrivastava of IIM Lucknow shares his PI experience, “I was very nervous in front of my panel, as IIM Lucknow was my first interview. I was asked questions on my Engineering stream, a business model of Jio, my home town, the last movie I had seen etc. I flubbed a lot of questions but I kept a smiling face throughout the interview and did not become tense or rude, and that helped me a lot.”
So, how do you reflect confidence during PI? Arko Biswas of IIM Raipur says, "For a qualitative question, it is a test of your presence of mind, approach the answer logically and make your thought process visible to the panellists. The way you work things out in a situation which you don’t know about or have limited knowledge of is the best and most efficient way to make your mark."
3. Be honest to yourself and interviewers
During PI round, candidates are also tested for the integrity of their basic characteristics like honesty, humility,etc. The honest approach during the interview also makes the given responses natural and genuine.
Experts suggest that one should be fully prepared with arguments to justify whatever he/she thinks is right. Gautam Puri, Vice President, Career Launcher, says, “One needs to be honest with oneself and one needs to think objectively to the basic questions. There is no right or wrong answer in an interview; it depends on how the candidate offers his responses. The interviewers expect honest answers without any bluffing.”
Toppers also suggest that it is better to skip the question which candidates are not sure about. An answer which does not convince the candidates themselves, may invite unnecessary counter questions which may embarrass the candidates further and hamper their chance in qualifying the Personal Interview.
Honest admission of not knowing an answer to an asked question/s may not carry any negative weight on PI performance. Julie Bania, who secured admission to IIFM Bhopal says, “I was always honest when I had no answer to a question. I usually answered unknown questions with 'I am not aware of it' or simply 'Sorry, I don’t know the answer'. I never tried to make stories or give vague answers which worked in my way.”
Toppers also suggest aspirants be honest with themselves to exhibit their character during interview. Jayesh Patil says “When I mentioned I worked on my own start-up he stopped me and passed on a sheet which had four beer glasses drawn with liquid at different levels in it. I was asked if I drink alcohol, and if I visited a gift shop to buy gifts before handing the paper. He asked me to give a catchy tag line to the given picture considering I’d place it in a gift shop. After I answered this, I was again asked to continue with my introduction.”
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4. Be Polite
Politeness during the interview also brings a positive impression on the interviewers.
In some cases, while one might be correct with his/her answers, must not out-rightly reject interviews’ views to his/her response. Instead, candidates should listen to them carefully and put forward their response with a better argument. Experts suggest that sometimes, interviewers may also be wrong with some information, but candidates should not directly point it out. Instead, they should try to convince them politely about the correct information.
Akanksha Sharma who cracked DMS, IIT Delhi admission shares how the interview board asked technical questions and how she tackled them. “A few technical questions pertaining to Analog Electronics were difficult for me to answer. I had to put efforts to think and respond back. Panelists were very humble to give me time to think without stressing me out."
5. Drive the interview towards your strength
While the questions asked in the interview may vary from candidate to candidate, it is important to gradually invite the questions from the areas of strength as the interview progresses.
As Dipal Kumar Patel of IIM Raipur shares, “ I was able to share my answer with utter confidence. Further, I was able to drive the interview with my explanation of the previous question. This led the interview in the desired direction.” You also need to prepare answers to the basic questions in such a way that it again prompts questions on your strong areas as interviewers mostly pick questions from your answers to the previous questions.
6. Stay calm
During the interview, candidates should stay calm and never look stressed. If they are not confident of an answer, should try to skip it. In case, they are countered on a particular question repeatedly, should politely stick to the answer if confident on the same. Julie Bania says, "To appear for PI one must try to speak confidently with proper communication skills. Even if the answers to every question is not known one must never get nervous. You must be calm and lose the grip of the interview."
Sharing his experience, Dipal says, “When I was facing them, I was slightly nervous. I tried to answer the questions by keeping the stability of my emotions intact. At one point in time, I thought I might not control it but it didn’t happen.” Vidisha Mehta, an MDI Gurgaon student affirms that one needs to be patient while handling the questions. She says, "I had to go through a stress interview. For the first half, they kept arguing against any answer I gave them. The second half, on the other hand, was quite pleasant. The ordeal lasted for about 10 minutes."
CAT toppers say that handling tough moments during a PI is key to your selection. Shailav Goel who cracked GD-PI-WAT rounds of MDI Gurgaon, shares, “One of the most difficult question according to me was to tell something different about my life that was not reflected in my CV. I was not a prepared for such a question hence the answer I provided was also vague.”
7. Positive body language and approach
Candidates' body language and approach during the interview should reflect positivity. Experts say that smart response and right answers must be supported by the positive expressions, constructive approach and attentive nature of candidates during the interview. The sitting posture should be formal throughout the interview.
CAT topper Akshay Jayaprakasan says, “Body language, communication skills, and a good sense of humour can take you places in an interview. It is also important to have a positive attitude. The interviewer in most cases is looking for how you approach a question rather than whether you know the correct answer or not.”
8. Be thorough with what you write in your CV
During the interview, interviewers also tend to pick questions based on the information that CV/Resume carries. Interviewers expect candidates to be fully prepared with minute details on any information that you provide in the resume or CV.
Sharing his experience on how being aware of his CV helped him crack PI, Arko mentions, "My interview process was conducted by three male panellists and it lasted for 25-30 minutes and being a fresher, my interview was focused on my resume, some questions on current affairs and two questions on my graduation course, i.e. Mechanical Engineering."
He also adds, "My resume consisted of quizzing achievements, so there were few questions from current affairs like my summary on the implications of the latest budget by the Indian Government. I then had a conversation on Roger Federer’s comeback with one of the panelists who happened to be a Federer fan!"
So now that the candidates know how to prepare for PI rounds based on the PI tips based on toppers' experiences, they should now focus on brushing up their body language, CV and most importantly, communication skills in order to crack PI rounds of top B-schools.
Priya Ramakrishnan, a student of NMIMS Mumbai, says, "My interview experience at NMIMS was wonderful. Since there were ample opportunities to guide the direction my interview went in (which could be dangerous if not used well), I was able to make full use of the time to impress the panel. Being a bibliophile, I personally felt comfortable during my interview since we were discussing a book I had read recently. The panel consisted of three members – one faculty member, one industry expert and one alumnus/alumna.
Some of the traditional questions that are asked in the personal interview round and other top interview questions that are commonly asked in B-schools are provided below -
Q. Introduce yourself.
Q. What is your strength and weakness?
Q. Who has inspired you in your life and how?
Q. Describe your ideal company, location and job.
Q. What are your short and long-term career goals?
Q. How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition?
Q. How much salary do you expect after completing your programme?
Q. Where do you see yourself five/ten years from now?
Q. What kind of people do you find it difficult to work with?
Q. What kind of people do you like to work with?
Q. Why do you think should we select you for our MBA programme?
Q. What five words would you choose to best describe yourself?