July 5, 2012

FAQs on PI

Is it better to have a longer selection interview or a shorter one?

The length of an interview in no way is an indicator of how well an interview went. This is especially so when there are a number of candidates to be interviewed, like in the Civil Services interview or the MBA entrance interview. In the past, a number of candidates have reported varying lengths of interviews. Nothing positive or negative should be read into this. An interview is only a device whereby the panel seeks information about the candidate. Information that will help the panel decide whether or not the candidate should be selected. If the panel feels that it has gathered enough information about the candidate in 15 minutes of the interview commencing and that it has no further questions to ask the interview will be terminated in 15 minutes. If on the other hand the panel takes an hour to gather the information required to take a decision the interview will last for an hour. In either case the decision could be positive or negative. It is a fallacy to believe that interview panels take longer interviews of candidates whom they are more interested in. No panel likes to waste its time. If an interview is lasting longer than usual then it only means that the panel is seeking more information about the candidate in order to take a decision.

What to Expect in a PI?

In general, B-school interviews are not formulaic. The focus can range from specific questions about your job responsibilities to broad discussions of life. Approach the interview as a conversation to be enjoyed, not as a question-and-answer ordeal to get through. You may talk more about your hobbies or recent cross-country trip. This doesn’t mean that it won’t feel like a job interview. It just means you’re being sized up as a person and future professional in all your dimensions. Try to be your witty, charming, natural self. Interviews are conducted by students, faculty, admissions personnel and alumni. Don’t dismiss students as the lightweights; they follow a tight script and report back to the committee. However, because they’re inexperienced beyond the script, their interviews are most likely to be duds. You may have to work harder to get your points across.

How to Prepare ?

Prepare for the interview in several ways: Expect to discuss many things about yourself. Be ready to go into greater depth than you did in your essays (but don’t assume the interviewer has read them). Put together two or three points about yourself that you want the interviewer to remember you by. Go in with examples, or even a portfolio of your work, to showcase your achievements. Practice speaking about your accomplishments without a lot of “I did this, I did that.” Finally, be prepared to give a strong and convincing answer to the interviewer’s inevitable question: “Why here?”

How do I answer questions as :

Tell us about yourself? : An often asked opening question. Perhaps the most frequently asked question across interviews. Your opening statement needs to be a summary of your goals, overall professional capabilities, achievements, background (educational and family), strengths, professional objectives and anything about your personality that is relevant and interesting. This question represents an opportunity to lead the interviewer in the direction you want him to go e.g., your speciality or whatever else you may wish to highlight.

Your intention should be to try subtly convincing the interviewers that you are a good candidate, you have proved that in the past and have a personality that fits the requirement.

Remember that the first impression you create will go a long way in the ultimate selection. Keep in mind, most candidates who are asked this question just blurt out their schooling, college, marks and qualifications. All this is already there in the CV. Why tell the interviewer something he already knows?

A final word on approaching this question. Once you have said what you have to say – shut up. Don’t drone on for the sake of speaking for you just might say something foolish. Sometimes interviewers don’t interrupt in order to give the candidate the impression that he has not spoken enough. This is just a stress/error-inducing tactic. Don’t fall for it, especially if you feel you have spoken enough. In case the pause gets too awkward for your liking, just add something like, “Is there something specific that you wish to know about me?”

Why MBA? : When you are asked this for God’s sake don’t tell the panel that you are looking for a”challenging job in a good firm with lots of money, status and glamour”. That is the first answer that most candidates think of. Unfortunately, it is the last answer that will get you admission. In the answer to a direct question on this subject you must convey to the interview panel that you have made a rational and informed decision about your career choice and your intended course of higher study. There are broadly four areas which your answer could touch upon:

Career Objectives : You could talk about your career objectives and how the two year MBA programme will help you achieve them. This implies that you have a clear idea of what your career objectives are and how you wish to achieve them. For example, you may want to be an entrepreneur and wish to set up your independent enterprise after doing your MBA and then working for a few years in a professionally managed company. You could explain to the panel that the MBA programme will provide you with the necessary inputs to help you run your business enterprise better. But then you must be clear about what the inputs you will receive in the MBA programme are.

Value Addition : That brings us to the second area that your answer should touch upon. What is the value you will add to yourself during your two year study of management. Value addition will essentially be in two forms knowledge and skills. Knowledge of the various areas of management e.g. marketing, finance, systems, HRD etc. and skills of analysis and communication. You will find it useful to talk to a few people who are either doing their MBA or have already done it. They will be able to give you a more detailed idea of what they gained from their MBA.

Background : Remember, there must be no inconsistency between your proposed study of management and your past subject of study or your past work experience. If you have studied commerce in college then management is a natural course of higher studies. If you are an engineer this is a tricky area. You must never say that by pursuing a career in management you will be wasting your engineering degree. Try and say that the MBA course and your engineering degree will help you do your job better in the company that you will join. But then you should be able to justify how your engineering qualification will help.

Opportunities and Rewards : You could also at this stage mention the opportunities that are opening up in organizations for management graduates. Highlight with examples. At the end you may mention that while monetary rewards are not everything they are also important and MBAs do get paid well. You must not mention these reasons as your primary motivators even if that may be the case.

Personal Interview is one of the most widely used methodology for selection across all fields and positions. Here the interviewer(s) tries to find out whether you will be able to do justice to the position he is trying to offer you, though less emphasized and mentioned you also get a chance to find out more about the institute or organization you are applying, and about the responsibilities that come with the position being offered. This is true both for admission in coveted Institutes or recruitment in organizations.

To help you prepare for the same, here are some tips and suggestions, but these should be taken with caution; there is no one size fits all policy and you are not supposed to follow every advice given here blindly but to think on it and modify it according to your personal needs etc.

1.) General tips :

# Be open and honest.
# Ask questions, since the interview is as much an opportunity for you to learn about the school as for the school to learn about you.
# Follow proper business decorum.
# Watch your nonverbal clues, such as eye contact, posture, and fidgeting.
# Be courteous to the administrative staff, since how you treat them can have an impact (positive or negative).

2.) Application / Resume / CV :

# Review and re-review your application; the interviewer is likely to ask specific questions about it.
# Be ready to provide examples and specifics and to elaborate on info on your resume and application.
# Write all and only relevant info.
# Don’t exaggerate; people have tendency to exaggerate skills and achievements, but try not to write something that can not be proved or justified.

3.)Gearing Up for the Interview :

# That nobody is perfect is the maxim that sounds even more pertinent in the context of an interview. Interview is without a doubt a trepidation for everyone, and the novices and the old hands alike find themselves on pins and needles at the prospect of being interviewed. What makes people lose sleep over the interviews is essentially an apprehension of the unforeseen, a dread of being confronted with something they don’t know; and no matter how many interviews has one faced and sailed through, every new interview brings a new pain in the neck. Jitteriness hangs over everyone; only the intensity may differ. And though there are no alternatives to awareness and conviction, there are certain guidelines which when followed will put off some seemingly trifling slip-ups, which could turn your interview into a dismal affair at the end of the day. These are the gimmicks that must be exercised if the interview is to be saved from some apparently petty blunders.

4.) Before Taking the Bull by the Horns :

# The homework starts right from the word go- immediately after you receive the interview call. Apart from brushing up your technical know-how, which is undoubtedly pivotal to your success, you need to pay heed to some aspects that will pump up your confidence level and help keep off nerves at the interview table.
# Reaching for the interview late may put the interviewer off, as it can also dampen your spirit. So to have an idea as to when you should leave for the interview, just go by the venue at least one day prior to the interview as a rehearsal.
# Envisage the likely questions and picture yourself answering them with confidence. Keep telling yourself that you are good enough to sail through. This will infuse just enough confidence in you, and that’ll make all he difference in the interview.
# Consider the dress you’ll be wearing. ‘Formal dress’ is often a deceptive phrase as it may mean different clothing for different companies. Sometimes, it’s indispensable to put on a three-piece, while the other day it may seem too much of affectation; only a tie with formal shirt and trousers may do. Make out what dress could be apposite for a particular company.
# If the company is too far-off and your dress is likely to get rumpled in the bus, better travel in a taxi. Carry a comb in your pocket. There is no excuse for a clumsy appearance in the interview.
# Reach the venue at least half an hour in advance so that you have enough time for having a breather and bracing up for the interview. Arriving at the last minute and entering the interview room panting will reveal you in a poor light and you won’t be in the right kind of frame to take on the interview.
# In case the interview does not commence on the scheduled time, don’t lose you focus. Don’t be distracted and maintain your composure. Read some magazine or talk to the people about the company. Go out for a breath of air but don’t go too far away. And don’t ever let it show that you disliked being made to wait. You have got some time on hand, so use it discreetly

5.) Inside the Interview Chamber :

# Pull yourself up the moment you are summoned inside the interview chamber, and enter the room with an air of confidence. And while you are taking on the real deal, practice the following:
# Maintain a body language suggesting confidence and cheerfulness. Don’t look uneasy or dispirited. Smile at appropriate moments.
# Maintain eye contact while answering the questions. This will suggest that you are confident enough.
# If there is more than one interviewer, address to all of them. Remember names if you can and address by the names. Sound confident but avoid being brash.
# Saying ‘sorry’ or ‘pardon’ when you couldn’t quite get the interviewer is civility, but making the interviewer repeat something for you too often could really make you sorry at the end of the day. You say ‘sorry; once, and the interviewer willingly repeats, you say again, and he takes notice, you say thrice, and his exasperation shows, you go on to say yet again, and you just lose it all. What puts the interviewer off is the revelation that you are not all ears during the interview. So better listen attentively and minimize ‘being sorry’ or ‘begging pardon’.
# Don’t speak too loudly or too faintly. Maintain a pitch that is audible as well within the perimeter of courtesy.
# Don’t delve too much on a topic. Neither keep the answers too short. Just speak enough on every topic(now defining enough is a mundane task in itself :P).
# Use wit and make the interviewer smile. But again, discern the faint edge between humour and discourtesy. Also, whatever you speak to bring smiles on the interviewers’ face should sound germane to the topic. However, use this trick sparingly- making the interviewer chuckle twice in an interview is just sufficient.
# Some questions may be devised to judge your self-restraint and tolerance as a professional. So if a question sounds provoking, don’t fall for the trick. Avoid acting feverishly and maintain your cool. Handle such questions discreetly and with shrewdness.
# Try to make out what is going through the interviewer’s mind while you are answering to the questions. His body language may well give you a clue if he’s listening to you attentively or you are just pushing on an off-putting gab. Put on the brakes the moment you discern that you have deviated off the point.
# The interviewer might ask you towards the close of the interview if you have any questions. Don’t think it impolite to ask a question or two. Rather, not asking a question could revel that you just want the interview to be over, so go ahead. However, exercise caution regarding the question you pose. Never inquire about the salary. Preferably, show inquisitiveness about your role or the organisation. In the end when all is said and done and you make an exit from the interview cell, you might well be knowing in your heart that you’ve just made it. After all, it’s all about being confident and acting astutely.

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