There are too many situational questions that are asked in the MBA interviews and various terms such as leadership, teamwork, ethical dilemma, most significant accomplishment, short term, long term goals and constructive feedback are misinterpreted by the applicants.
No one ever asked these in the undergraduate interviews or even in the job interviews, but a B-school will give a lot of importance to the behavioural questions. For example: When they want the applicants to talk about their most significant accomplishment, they are not interested in the accomplishment as much as they are in the context. They want to understand “Why is this so meaningful to you?” It is their way of assessing the heavyweight character that will be a part of their community. In questions such as these, the applicants usually explain to them a random project they were part of without understanding why it is very significant for them and why the school would value this transferable skill set.
There are just too many questions that applicants fail to describe comprehensively. When candidates describe their professional lives or respond to professional questions, they at times fail to understand that this is not a job interview and the listener can be from a very different background and may not easily understand their ‘lingo’ or be able to assess the size of the accomplishments.
If you implemented a new technology in the firm, the interviewer needs to understand why it’s such a big deal in your organisation or in your industry. You need to address the challenges you faced from the leadership in your company, and address how you overcame those. While narrating the story, just remember that the listener is not from your company and will not be able to relate to your responses unless you set the background for him or her.
Some people from operations and supply chain get very enthusiastic about the new inventory management system they installed in manufacturing firms. It is important to know that if your interviewer is an academician, he will wait for you to describe why this accomplishment should be rewarded and how this sets you apart from the rest. Let me give you another example: Imagine that you worked on rolling out a new project and created revenues of about Rs 5 crore. Now, how will the interviewer assess the size of the monetary gain? Is it too big in your company or industry? Is it hard for someone in your peer group to generate this? It is not the money that can be used to dominate the conversation in an interview unless the interviewer understands how important this achievement is. Everyone working in a public sector bank will have “million” figures on their resumes, and an applicant from a large bank will not be necessarily compared from someone working for a startup. Do a lot of research before you apply to the top tier MBA programmes. It is okay if we are not used to it as the undergraduate programmes are not so demanding. However, given the competitive landscape of the jobs after MBA, the barriers to entry are relatively high.
The author is founder and CEO of PythaGURUS.