In this write-up, I’ve literally time-traveled down the memory lane to make you aware and understand the nitty gritties of the selection process at the intimidatingly sprawling ICFAI Hyderabad campus at Banjara Hills. I got a call letter from ICFAI after cracking IBSAT (ICFAI’s independently conducted entrance exam for aspiring MBAs), which is held every year around mid-December.
In the call-letter, I was given a range of dates to choose from for the D-Day. It also mentioned a list of around 15-20 assorted topics on which I was supposed to give a timed presentation. I decided on a date and my chosen topic was “Latest Technologies in Banking Industry”. I zeroed in on this topic as I had prior work experience in the Banking Sector and keen personal interest in Information Technology.
Though I had prepared well for the presentation, I had no idea what was in store for me as this was the very first presentation and interview of my life. I didn’t even know that I was supposed to be scared or at least a bit nervous. My state of mind just before taking the train to Hyderabad was virtually unoccupied and relaxed. Perhaps, ignorance of what laid ahead was a good thing.
Next day, I reached the selection venue 15 minutes before the scheduled time i.e. 7 AM.
Tip No.1: Make it a point to reach the venue before time for all your future interviews. This will avoid unnecessary hassles and will keep you calm and composed. A few hundred well-dressed interviewees were already present. By the time I got myself registered, the enormous lush-green campus lawn was already overflowing with apparently agitated students.
I felt like an ordinary rat competing in a yet another ruthless rat-race. Suddenly, I started feeling anxious and exhausted. I went for a quick bite at the canteen and had a sumptuous South-Indian breakfast coupled with hot coffee. The snack took the edge off my anxiety.
Tip No.2: Stay hydrated on the day of your Interview/Exam and have a carbohydrates-rich meal before leaving. Its all the more heart-braking to have all the potential yet not able to get through the three-step selection process because of something as trivial as ‘low on energy’. Trust me, there are loads of people like that.
I pulled myself together and waited outside the presentation chambers. After a restive wait, my name was finally called at around 12:30 PM. I entered the room. Mine was a group of 10. Each candidate had to deliver a perfectly timed presentation for precisely 10 minutes. Subsequently, a flurry of devious questions ensued. Besides one more participant, I tackled the questions well. My presentation was not perfect but it was compensated by my confident answers.
Tip No 3: Besides confidence, your ‘Domain Knowledge’ plays an extremely crucial role to get through even the trickiest of interviews/post-presentation questions. So ,walk the extra mile and be prepared and well-read about your area of core competence. It’ll certainly take you places. Present yourself elegantly and don’t loose your calm even when you don’t know the answer. Be honest and upright and politely ask the audience to forgive your ignorance. Remember, no one knows everything (even James Bond & Sherlock Holmes are works of fiction). Honesty is a precious commodity and the examiner knows that. You can’t fool him.
All the 10 candidates in my group gave their respective presentations. It took a little less than 3 hours for the entire activity to get over. I was starving so I had lunch at the canteen. Then, I went to to the building where the interviews were being held. My batch number implied that the estimated time of my interview was 4:30 PM. I spent the remaining time revising my self-introduction speech.
Tip No.4: It is advisable to prepare a customized, ingenious and non-cliched self-intro speech to make the maximum impact and a cracking first impression.
You may have been advised before that the 1st few minutes are imperative to your final selection. On the contrary, in my case it was the exact opposite. When I was asked to introduce myself, I was somewhat shaky at the beginning mainly because of lack of a formal recitation. It was only when an interviewer sensed my discomfort, he asked me about my job experience. The ball was in my court so I had to play ball to stay in the game. I still think I was lucky to be given a chance on a platter. A more elegant speech would most definitely have bettered my prospects.
Tip No.5: Obviously, dependence on sheer luck is outright stupidity. During my MBA’s placements session, a soft-skills professor once told me that there is only one foolproof rule to crack an Interview/GD. He termed it ‘PPP’. It meant Practice, Practice and more Practice. Sounds silly at first but trust me it is the only surefire way. Every other short-cut is just an illusion. So gear up and get going. Its high time!
Tip No.6: Another simple yet brilliant concept that will help you sail through the interview is another silly-sounding principle called the ‘House-Cow’ Rule. A school boy was once asked to deliver an extempore on the topic: ‘House’. The boy, knowing nothing about the house started with the sentence: ‘My House has a Cow’ and then went on and talked only about the Cow during the entire presentation. Its a witty analogy whose implied meaning is to cleverly draw the interviewer’s attention to the subject of your choice where your strength lies. Mastering this cunning art of manipulation can be achieved with rigorous practice. Remember the ‘PPP’ rule?
Coming back to my personal interview, it was undoubtedly the longest and the most gruelling interview of my life. They grilled me for 20-25 minutes. When I came out totally burned out, I knew I was in a soup. I called my Dad right away and told him the same. He, however being a veteran banker and an old-hand interviewer himself begged to differ. He explained that even in my inhibition, perhaps they saw some potential. That’s why they gave me more time to prove my mettle and to see whether I crack under pressure or not. He told me that the interviewers probably ‘liked’ me. His assurance was music to my ears.
Later, at around 7:00 PM, I stood in an endless queue where envelopes sealed with fates of aspiring MBAs were being distributed. I opened mine to find ‘Gurgaon’ campus written inside it in bold letters. I was slightly disappointed at first as I wanted Hyderabad campus. But simultaneously relieved that I’ll be closer to my home-town and also because the day’s roller-coaster ride had eventually come to an end.
Contributed By : Pranshu Awasthi, Class of 2007, IBS Gurgaon