February 25, 2012

Killer PI Q/A


Because communication skills are such an integral part of effective management, some schools include personal interviews as part of the admissions process. Some tips to help you prepare for an interview:

o Review your application; the interviewer is likely to ask specific questions about it. o Be ready to provide examples and specifics and to elaborate on info on your resume and application. o Be open and honest. o 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. o Follow proper business decorum. o Watch your nonverbal clues, such as eye contact, posture, and fidgeting. o Be courteous to the administrative staff, since how you treat them can have an impact (positive or negative).

Some Frequently Asked Questions on Interviews :

“Tell us about yourself”?

In an interview how does one handle the question “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?”

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 interviewcommencing 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.

In the MBA entrance interview how do I justify my decision to pursue the MBA programme?

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.

What to Expect ?

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?”

Self Awareness

1. How would you describe yourself ? 2. Tell me about yourself ? 3. How do you think a friend or professor who knows you would describe you? 4. What motivates you to put forth your best effort ? 5. How do you determine or evaluate success ? 6. What academic subjects did you like best ? Least ? 7. What led you to choose the career for which you are preparing ? 8. What personal characteristics are necessary for succeeding in the career that you are interested in ? 9. What is your philosophy of life ? 10. Why have you switched career fields ?

Weaknesses / Negatives

1. What major problems have you encountered and how have you dealt with them ? 2. What have you learnt form your mistakes ? 3. What do you consider to be your greatest weakness ? 4. Did you ever have problems with your supervisor ?

Skills / Abilities / Qualifications

1. What do you consider to be your greatest strength ? 2. Are you creative ? Give an example. 3. What qualifications do you have that makes you think you will be successful ? 4. In what way do you think you can make a contribution to society? 5. Why should we take you ? 6. What are your own special abilities ? 7. Why should we take you over another candidate ?8. What is your managing style ? 9. Why do you want to join this institute ? 10. What do you know about our institute ?


1. What is your attitude towards working hard ? 2. What part does your family play in your life ? 3. What are the most important rewards you expect in your career ? 4. What is more important to you : money offered, or the type of job ? 5. Do you enjoy independent research ? 6. In what kind of a work environment are you most comfortable ? 7. How would you describe the ideal job for you ? 8. What two or three things are most important to you in your job ? 9. Do you prefer working with others or all by yourself ? 10. How do you like to work ? 11. Under what conditions do you work best ? 12. What is the highest form of praise ?


1. In what part-time or summer job have you been most interested ? 2. Tell me about your experience. 3. What jobs have you held ? 4. How did your previous employer treat you ? 5. What have you learnt from some of the jobs that you have held ? 6. What jobs have you enjoyed most ? Least ? Why ? 7. What have you done that shows initiative and willingness to work ? 8. Describe your current job. 9. What did you like least about your last job ? 10. What did you like most about your last job ?

Goals / Objectives

1. What are your short-term and long-term goals and objectives ? 2. What specific goals other than those related to your occupation have you chosen for yourself for the next 10 years ? 3. What do you see yourself doing 5 years from now ? 4. What do you really want to do in life ? 5. How do you plan to achieve your career goals ?


1. How has your education prepared you for a career ? 2. Describe your most rewarding college experience. 3. Why did you select your college or university ? 4. If you could, would you plan your academic study differently ? 5. Do you think grades are a good indication of your academic achievement ? 6. What have you learnt from participation in extracurricular activities ? 7. Do you have plans for continuing your studies ? 8. Why did you pick your programme ? 9. What courses did you like best and why ? 10. What courses did you like least and why ? 11. How has your college experience prepared you for this job ? 12. How did you pick your dissertation ? 13. Describe your dissertation process.


1. What do you expect to earn in 5 years ? 2. What did you earn in your last job ?


1. What are your outside interests ? 2. What do you do with your free time ? 3. What are your hobbies ? 4. What types of books do you read ? 5. How interested are you in sports ? 6. How did you spend your vacations in school ?


1. What qualities should a successful manager possess ? 2. Describe the relationship that should exist between a supervisor and a subordinate. 3. What 3 accomplishments have given you the greatest satisfaction ? 4. If you were taking a graduate for this institute, what qualities would you look for ? 5. What can I do for you ? 6. Tell me a story.7. Define cooperation.

Stress Questions

1. What causes you to lose your temper ? 2. How often have you been absent from school, work or training ? 3. Have you ever had trouble with other people on the job ? 4. Can you take instructions without getting upset ? 5. Don’t you feel you are a little to old/young for this job ? 6. How does your family like you being away on business trips ? 7. With your background, we believe that you are overqualified to join this institute. 8. You haven’t had sufficient experience in this field. 9. Our experience with women on this job has not been good. 10. What would irritate you most if I as a manager did it ?

Influencing Others

1. Tell me about the time you were most persuasive in overcoming resistance to your ideas or point of view. 2. Tell me about the last time someone made an unreasonable request of you. 3. Describe the most disappointing and frustrating experience in gaining the support of others for an idea or proposal.

Interpersonal Skills

1. Describe a situation where it was most important for you to display tact and diplomacy. 2. Tell me about the last time you had a clash or disagreement with someone at school/college/workplace. 3. Tell me about a time when you felt most frustrated and disappointed at a person with whom you had worked.

Personal Adaptability

1. Tell me about the last time you were criticized by a supervisor or a professor. 2. Tell me about the time when you felt most pressured or stressed at work/ school/internship. 3. Tell me about the time when you felt most frustrated at your school/workplace. 4. In what aspects of your work/internship do you have the most confidence in your abilities.

Communication Skills

1. Tell me about the time when you felt best about your ability to draw out or solicit information from another person. 2. Tell me about the time when you had to work your hardest in order to fully understand what another person was saying to you. 3. Describe the last time when someone at school/work misunderstood what you were trying to communicate.


1. Tell me about the most long term, sustained extra hours of effort that you put into your work/college/internship. 2. Describe a time when you felt most frustrated or discouraged in reaching your goals or objectives. 3. What do you feel has been your most significant work/school/internship related achievement within the past year or so ? 4. Describe the last time you did something well which went beyond the expectations in your work/internship.

Administrative Skills

1. Tell me how you go about organizing your work and scheduling your own time. 2. What do you do to ensure that your goals and objectives are met in a timely way ? 3. Describe the most extensive planning that you have ever done.

Problem Solving and Decision Making

1.Tell me about the most difficult problem that you faced in your work/school/internship ?2.Tell me about the last time you made a decision that backfired. 3.Tell me about the time when you regretted most not getting advice before you went ahead ?

Conflict Management Skills

1. Tell me about the last significant crisis situation that you faced in your work. 2. Tell me about a time when you were most persuasive in overcoming resistance to your ideas. 3. Tell me about the time when you had a disagreement with someone at work.

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