IIM A PGPX interview: Questions, Answer Tips and Experience

Clearing the interview round is the last step in your journey towards getting an admit from IIM Ahmedabad’s (IIM A) prestigious PGPX programme.

But, How does one approach the interview? What kind of preparation is required for IIM Ahmedabad’s PGPX interview? What are the questions usually asked? What mistakes should I avoid?

This blog attempts to address all such queries that often plague the mind of applicants who get invites for the interview round. We also focus on the rather loathed extempore which is the beginning of the interview. But before we get into the specifics of the IIM A PGPX interview, lets quickly understand how to approach MBA interviews.

An interview round should always be considered as a round of acceptance, not a round of rejection. The purpose of an interview round is for the panel to judge the authenticity of your application, assess how presentable your personality is and evaluate your communication skills. Contrary to popular belief, interviews usually do not go beyond a pre-determined scope. Your profile, your ambitions and relevant world affairs will constitute a major part of your interview. In the given time constraint, there are only a limited number of questions that a panel will ask you on these grounds.

The IIM Ahmedabad PGPX interview starts with an extempore. You would be asked to pick up a piece of paper on which a topic would be written. Usually the topic would be current and likely to be based on your area of experience. In 2020, a key question could be the impact of COVID 19 on your area of business / work. Some of the other key topics could be:

  • India towards a USD 5 trillion economy
  • “Atma nirbhar Bharat”
  • The Reserve Bank’s role in the Indian economy
  • The role of the media in India
  • The coming of age of Rural India
You would be given some time to think (around 2 minutes) and then asked to start discussing the topic with the interview panel. Understand that while the panel is looking to test your knowledge, it will be more interested in your own opinion / views than mere information which you would have read in newspapers / on the internet.

In my IIM Ahmedabad PGPX interview (years ago!) I was asked to assess Dr. Raghuram Rajan’s performance as RBI governor and comparing it with the performance of his predecessor (D Subbarao). I think this was mainly because I was then working with a Bank (though an Investment Bank!). I started by talking about how Dr. Rajan had performed and then went into the specifics of currency crisis of 2013 which he managed. I think my it was not my knowledge of banking in general but my specific views on Dr. Rajan’s governance, his policy, his management of the crisis, etc. which helped me get brownie points!
Then we switched topics and they asked me about my work experience, my extra-curricular achievements, why PGPX, why IIM A, etc.

Overall, it started with the extempore and then became a behavioural interview. Thinking about my learnings, I think they can be summarized into the below themes. Hence, going ahead, this blog will be structured into 5 themes around which most of the interview questions revolve. These themes can be applied not only to IIM A PGPX but also to any other MBA programme.

 
MBA Interview Theme #1 – Tell me something about yourself

Consider this as an opportunity to tell the interviewers something about yourself that the they don’t already know from your application. Remember, the interview panel will have access to a snapshot of your profile for their perusal. Do not waste this opportunity by simply reiterating facts about yourself that they would already be aware of. An introduction should ideally include your full name, a brief background about your family, your educational & professional profile, and your hobbies. This will be a starting point for the interview, with the initial few questions being sourced from your response.
 
MBA Interview Theme #2 – Why do you want to do an MBA from IIM A?

An interview panel seeks a compelling reason for your decision to pursue an MBA. The offerings of an MBA program from IIM A should align with your career requirements. Preparing a response to this question will require you to sit back and think about the possible reasons behind your decision to apply to IIM A. One effective tip is to research about the various learning resources available at IIM A. The sources of inspiration for this question can easily be traced back to your Essay questions. You should make a conscious effort to draw a link between what you prepare as a response to this question and what you have mentioned in your Essay answer. An inconsistency between what the interviewers hear and read will certainly make them question the authenticity of your responses.
 
MBA Interview Theme #3 – Be thorough with your CV

IIM A lays significant emphasis on an applicant’s profile. This includes your academic history, your professional work experiences and your extra-curricular activities. Being thorough with every line in your CV, being able to defend any quantitative impact of your decision and being able to walk the interviewers through your job responsibilities is important to establish credibility of what you have mentioned in your CV. For e.g. if you mention Football as being your hobby, you will be expected to know some well-known players, football teams, recent tournaments and their results etc. Kindly note that faltering on this segment can prove to be a deal breaker as the interviewer will have every reason to doubt whatever you have mentioned in your Essays or CV if you cannot back it up.
 
MBA Interview Theme #4 – Career Objectives

An interview panel will always be interested in knowing your ambitions. They would expect you to communicate your medium-term and long-term career goals in a succinct manner. The career progression envisaged by you should experience a natural and reasonable flow with an MBA acting as a necessary tool to help you tread that career journey. Try and be specific with the industries or job roles that interest you. It is imperative to conduct prior research about the firms visiting campus, the kind of job roles offered during placements etc. Mentioning these roles, and highlighting your strategy at IIM A to secure a shortlist from such companies will bode well with the interview panel
 
MBA Interview Theme #5 – Have an Opinion

Business world today is more interlinked than it ever has. Trump’s policy decisions on immigration or recent geo-political developments between N. Korea and S. Korea have repercussions on businesses across the world. Therefore, it is important for a management student to be aware of such developments and have a point of view on these matters. You will not be judged on the merit of your argument or the nature of your stance, unless it is ridiculously unreasonable, but having an opinion is always better than not having one. Therefore, stay abreast with recent economic and business developments. There is a high chance one of those developments will feature during your interview.
 
Overall, just be yourself and do not try to fake it. Its ok if you don’t know something and accepting it would fetch you more points for attitude / honesty than for a fake answer. Good luck!
 
Getting that interview call seems like you are almost there, isn’t it? Well, it’s not that simple. 2 out of 3 people, who make it to the interviews, do NOT make it to top B-schools like IIMs and ISB. Hence, it is extremely important for one to leave a lasting impression on the interviewer.
 
Here are the top 5 mistakes that should be avoided in your interview:

Lacking structure and consistency: Structure is very important, be it written communication, or oral communication. It is important to not just jump from one point to another. There has to be a flow to it that must make sense. Also, deviating from what is written in your application, or from what you have said earlier in the interview is a big turn off. Consistency is what an interviewer looks for.

Falling into the interviewer’s trap: This is true for any interview, whether its IIM A or any other B-school. One of two things can happen, you can either lead the interviewer into asking you questions you want to be asked, or follow his trail and let him ask the questions he desires. Your next question almost always depends on the answer to your previous question.

Repetition: Throughout your interview, the interviewer wants to get to know as much about you as possible and how you would add value to their community. While maintaining coherence, try to cover as many different aspects about yourself as you can, rather than repeating the same points over and over again for various different questions.

Not adding a personal touch: The biggest advantage of a Face-Face interview is that you can actually show your passion for what you want to do through your body language. While talking to the interviewer, try to make it a conversation rather than a question-answer session and show different aspects to you personality along with your professional achievements and goals.

Not asking a question at the end: Though not common in IIM A interviews, if given an opportunity, one must ask a question about the school or the programme. One of the most common mistakes that candidates make is that they don’t ask any questions at the end or they ask an irrelevant question. Always ask a question! This shows curiosity and interest, and if the right question is asked, it adds brownie points.
 
Avoiding these mistakes give you an edge over the other candidates who make these mistakes! Just be yourself and don’t fake it to impress the panel. They will always know!