Indian IT Applicant: 6 steps to ace MBA Interviews?
8 May, 2021
Indian IT applicants know this question too well. How do I create uniqueness in my MBA profile? How do I show business schools that I can bring in diversity even though my career graph and background is very similar to about a hundred other applicants?
Being an Indian MBA applicant already puts you in an applicant pool so saturated that even when the global MBA applications went down, 6.9% in 2019, Indians still managed to show an uptick in MBA applications in Canada, and the UK.
While all MBA applicants struggle to create memorable and authentic MBA profiles and essay answers, an Indian IT applicant faces the real dilemma. However, Indian female IT applicants still have it better. The real grunt is faced by Indian male IT applicants.
The real issue arises in MBA interviews.
As difficult as it may be for Indian male IT applicants to crack the code to top business school admissions, it’s not impossible. This article will share an amazing story of our applicant, Sunil, who didn’t only crack his dream school but also created a 100% conversion rate.
In a recent interview, he shared his learnings throughout the MBA application process that helped him create the 100% success rate.
Indian Male IT Applicant cracks 6 interviews at top business schools in the US and Canada
Sunil applied to 6 schools across the US and Canada with us. Being from an IT background, he also faced the dilemma you’re facing today.
He started with an MBA profile, very similar to many IT applicants. Post-MBA Consulting goal, an average GMAT score of 660, and an ambitious dream school that was ranked #1 in Canada, Rotman. He knew if he wanted to crack any business school at all, he needed to have exceptional answers to his essay questions, glowing letters of recommendation, and a glorious interview.
This is not the story of an MBA applicant with a 750 GMAT score, work experience at a feeder firm, international experience, and an Olympic Gold medal. Sunil is a testament to the fact that even though Indian male IT applicants are met by a tougher crowd in MBA admissions, they can still blow them away.
Sunil worked multiple times on over 30 business school essays. Spent days networking, and preparing himself for the interviews.
In the end, he, an Indian male IT applicant, received interview calls from all the schools he applied to and rocked his interviews leading to 6 admits including Rotman.
If he can create such an amazing result, you have no reason to doubt yourself.
How to Ace MBA Interviews for Indian IT applicants
One of the biggest hurdles in getting a top school admit is the interview stage. It’s the point where the school gets to meet you and evaluate you, unfiltered, for the first time.
This is where most MBA applicants get rejected. Unlike your MBA essays, you don’t have the chance to look at your answers the next day and correct them. Whatever you say during an interview can either really improve your chances or place you on the chopping block.
Practice and Record Yourself
This is where Sunil really took control of his technique. He practiced his interviews. He did not create robotic answers to any questions, rather started to hear his own answers.
According to Sunil, practicing, recording your answers and listening back to them, can create a significant change in how you perform in an interview.
“I'm sure I failed a lot of interviews and not done well. But at least I've come out of it saying, you know, this is my message. You might not like it. This is who I am,” Sunil relayed one of his lessons from practicing for his interviews.
Practicing for an interview wasn’t a one-time thing for Sunil. Proving his point of truly believing that practice could make a huge difference in how you answer questions during an interview, Sunil took up the same process for his on-campus interviews during his MBA as well. He added, “And to be honest, I have done a ton of mock interviews every time with you. I remember even for my campus recruitment; I did like 20 interviews each round.”
Have a consistent story
Having a consistent story revolves around the skills you wish to highlight in an interview. If you claim to have a particular set of strengths, your answers to any other questions should not refute it.
Whether you realize it or not, it is a rather easy task for an interviewer to catch such contradictions. In fact, such an answer would give them the impression that the interviewee is putting on a show and trying to give all the “right answers”.
Sunil beautifully explains the same with an example, “So the first question would be, tell me your strength. And you would go, my strength is teamwork and, hard work. Then four questions down the line, they would ask you about a time when you had a problem with your team. And you would go, ‘Oh, I just put my foot down and I said, this is how it's done. I made sure that everybody does it.’
You are contradicting yourself between the first question and the last question. In my opinion, it should always be about the consistency of the message. You are going into an interview with a single message.
That could be anything. It could be, that you're good at analytical skills. Or hard-working. Maybe You're good at working with a team. Or you're good at solving complex problems. You're good at breaking down problems and defining them.”
Bringing out an example from his own MBA interviews, Sunil says, “Having written the brag sheet, having talked to you and done multiple interviews the one thing that I realized was that I was probably good at working with clients. And that client could be anybody. It could be your official working client. It could be your boss. It could be your teammates. But the message was that I'm good at working with clients.
And that's what I tried to incorporate throughout the interview at every point of time. Every question had the word client, you had enforced that answer. So that when somebody comes out of it and says, ‘Okay, I need to write two lines about Sunil.’ then it would be, ‘Oh, he's great with people’.”
Understand the context of the interview question
Sunil points out that the biggest mistake applicants make is trying to find the right answer for the interviewer’s question. He says it’s the CONTEXT of the question that answers.
He shared, “I remember when I was working on the brag sheet I was thinking, why would I answer three stories for each question? Why do I need to put in three-four examples of strength when you asked for one or two? And it just struck me, as I attended interviews, often they (business schools) asked the same question in a different context, at different stages of the interview.”
He urges applicants to understand the context of the question and mold their answers according to it. remember, you’re not trying to deceive the interviewer. You’re simply picking up an experience or incident from your life and showing a different side of it to the interviewer.
Picking up the example of hard work as being one of your strengths, Sunil explains, “I'm not saying change the meaning of it, but just align it to a question about teamwork still putting the hard work element. But now you're answering a teamwork question in the same context.”
Keep your answers one and a half minute long
“One thing that somebody needs to focus on is trying to limit your answers to one and a half minutes,” Sunil emphasizes.
Business School interviewers are generally alums of the school. These are graduates who are working in the same city or country as you and will probably be interviewing multiple MBA applicants on the business school’s behalf.
This also means that they would prefer shorter interviews due to their schedules. Rather than having a rushed interview where you’re trying to drive a single point home for about 10 minutes. Having shorter yet informative answers can help your interviewer understand your candidature more.
If you are fortunate to have an interviewer with a good chunk of time on their hand, having shorter answers could also help you save some time to create a better rapport with them.
Ask for help
This is one of the most important points on this list. Just like everything else in life, there is nothing wrong with asking for help to prep for your interviews too.
Sunil reached out to Jatin for help during his on-campus interviews. Due to the amazing connection that Jatin shared with him, he was readily available to help Sunil prep.
“So, imagine if I could reach out to you a year later and say, ‘Hey, help me with this’. I would have reached out to a lot of people, and everybody is happy to help if you ask them. So, that is what I would say would be the one single aspect of trying to be successful at an interview,” Sunil said.
Even if you don’t have an expert at your disposal, ask your friends or family to conduct mock interviews with you. Practicing with them can help you gain the perspective of the interviewer as well. You will be able to tell whether your answers are too long, too short, too digressive, or just sound deflective.
Another piece of great advice that Sunil had was to showcase diversity. He pointed out that an MBA program doesn’t have space for 10 people with the same skill set. Thus, making sure that you point out your diverse skill set is a crucial step during MBA interviews.
Sunil says, “You're not going to be the funny guy. You don't want 10 of those people in your team, in an MBA program. Everybody's funny. Nobody does the work. You want that one funny guy who kind of makes the teamwork well together. But at the same time, you need somebody who's analytically strong. You need somebody who's technically strong. Somebody good at presentation. Somebody good at breaking down and problem-solving. And if the firm or the MBA program is not aligned to you, or if they already have a person who has that skill set, you're not going to fit in you.”
However, he does add that showcasing diversity does not mean you can’t be true to who you are. His solution to this dilemma is to be prepared with all the stories from your career before the interview.
“If you look back and you say, ‘What is that one or two things that make me who I am?’ that probably would be the best path to any successful interview,” Sunil suggests.
Being an Indian male IT applicant who cracked top schools across the US and Canada, Sunil’s insight into MBA applications can help create uniqueness in your MBA profile. He is someone who has lived your struggles and came out the other end with success.
Watch his entire interview to know more about how he got admitted to 6 top business schools even after being a part of an oversaturated MBA applicant pool.