The battle of getting into a top business school doesn’t just end at the stage of cracking the entrance exam. The next stage of the battle is to come out victorious through the Group Discussion and Personal Interview rounds. The second stage is where it’s all about how your personality, how you perform and use your communication skills rather than just the power of your brain. Most MBA training institutes do their best to tell you the basics such as you should be updated with current affairs, have a personal introduction ready, little tips on the do’s and don’ts but what they miss is that this is the stage where you are tested more on your soft skills, communication skills, presentation skills, interpersonal skills, body language etc. and that is what I am here to talk about.
It’s a simulative exercise where 8 to 10 students are given a topic by the coordinator. The topic can either be something related to current affair, abstract topic or even a famous quote. All the candidates are given a couple of minutes to prepare on the topic and jot down their points. The first thing to do at this stage is to jot down points in both favour and against the topic, this way you will have a counter argument even if you are supporting the topic or not.
Now keeping in mind, the objective of getting noticed for bringing in meaningful contribution to the discussion, you need to:
- Remember 2 quotes – “First Impression is the last Impression” and “All’s well that ends well”: When we watch a movie, we usually remember the start and the finish very well but a very few scenes of what happened in between. The same can be applied for a group discussion where the chances of making a strong impact is either by being the first person to start the discussion or being the one to end it.
- Listen & Respond: The most important thing which we miss in a discussion scenario is to listen and then make a point. Everybody tries to put in their points of view but there are very few who listen to something react to it. Try to be that person in the group.
- Loud is not the answer: You will find that one person in the group is the loudest and quite aggressive. However, note that it’s not aggression but assertiveness that the coordinator is looking for. Don’t lose your temper or start an argument. It would be wise learn to agree to disagree instead of picking up arguments. If you find an aggressive person in the group, calm them down by agreeing to them and they will go quiet for a moment. That is your window to put across you view and why you disagree with some points mentioned by others. Make sure you convey that even though you disagree with their view, you respect it nevertheless.
- Body Language doesn’t lie: Sit straight and keep your body relaxed because the coordinator can judge how nervous you are just on the basis of your posture. Lean forward to show interest and make eye contact with everyone in the group. Remember to never make an eye contact with the coordinator during the discussion. Keep a pleasant expression on your face and avoid frowned or shocked expressions.
- Be a Facilitator: Saying “Let’s hear what XYZ has to say” to a person who is trying to speak since a long time, shows your leadership qualities and ability to handle a group of people well. Don’t miss this opportunity! Also if you find someone digressing from the topic, take the stand to bring them back.
You have cleared group discussion and already spoke in front of 10 people. All you have to do now is interact with just 2 people, but the most important thing here is that this stage is all about you. These are some ways you need to approach this round
- Relax: It is normal to be a little nervous or anxious, so take a few deep breaths. Calm your nerves and remind yourself that you are one of those who have made it till this stage. Work on your shoulders as stress and nervousness tends to lock down our body and make our shoulders stiff. Take a deep breath and roll your shoulders back.
- The First & Lasting Impression: In case of a personal interview, the first 10 seconds make it or break it for you. So here is the run down: the moment you enter the room, walk tall, make eye contact with the interviewer and keep a smile on your face. Greet them and introduce yourself. Wait until they ask you to sit and always sit from the right side of the chair. Make sure you have only a file with you, place it on your lap when asked to sit and rest your hands on top.
- Introduction: Remember this personal interview means everything is supposed to be about you. Keep your introduction short and to the point, tell them things which are not mentioned in your file or resume, but it is important to touch the information in the file briefly. However don’t exaggerate or make up false stories as the interviewer are experienced enough to catch the fibs.
- No Nonsense: You need to keep in mind that the people taking your interview are experienced and have taken thousands of interviews before yours. So don’t to act smart around the interviewers and understand that having a no nonsense attitude will work in your favour. Don’t try to digress if have no idea about the topic in hand. Give it an attempt and it is absolutely OK to say that you don’t have much knowledge in this field but will come back with an answer. The interviewers will appreciate the fact that you are genuine.
- Don’t be fooled: Sometimes the interviewers will try to get friendly with you but that doesn’t mean you start getting over friendly and cracking jokes. This is a test, where the interviewer is trying to gauge your interpersonal skills. Same ways, in a stress test they will grill you down until you break. This is a test to check how you perform under pressure.
- Pleasantries & Other words: Phrases like “Thank You”, “I am obliged”, and “I beg your pardon” will never let you down during a personal interview.
- Paraphrase: I have come across a few people who say “good question” in order to buy in some time to think of an answer. Avoid saying this as it means that the rest of the questions asked by the interviewer were not good enough. Instead of saying good question, paraphrase the question, for example, “So what I understand from your question is that…? “
Along with all the above, remember to be yourself. All the B- schools are looking for talented and skilful candidates and that’s the reason why they are so stringent in the selection process. Make good use of this opportunity to shine and dazzle.
All the best!
Contributed by Sonia Dubey ( Class of 2009, IBS PUNE )
Linkedin Profile of Sonia Dubey : https://www.linkedin.com/in/soniadubey