Clearing the interview round is the last step in your journey towards getting an admit from Indian School of Business (ISB). While it may seem that you are (almost) there, make no mistake that this is the most difficult stage of the process and needs a lot of preparation. This is because (a) the bar is really high as only the best get shortlisted and (b) there is a high chance of elimination at this stage as only 1 of 3 candidates get the offer of admission from ISB.

So, how does one approach ISB interviews? What kind of preparation is required? What are the frequently asked questions? This blog attempts to address all such queries that often cross the mind of applicants who are preparing for the ISB interview. Being ISB alumni and having been on the ISB interview panel (as well as candidates years ago !), we understand how both sides of the table think! This blog explores our take on ISB interviews and how to prepare for them.
Firtsly, 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, asses how presentable your personality is and evaluate your communication skills. Contrary to popular belief, ISB 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. Most importantly, ISB interviews are usually conversational and rarely are stress interviews.
Going ahead, this blog will be structured into 5 themes around which most of the interview questions revolve.

  • 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, your educational & professional profile, and your interests / hobbies. Ensure that your prepare a solid answer for this question as it forms your first impression on the ISB interview panel. Moreover, this will be a starting point for the interview and initial few questions may be based on your response.

  • Theme #2 – Why do you want to do an MBA from ISB?: An interview panel seeks a compelling reason for your decision to pursue an MBA. The offerings of an MBA program from ISB 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 ISB. One preparation tip is to research about the various learning resources available at ISB. 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.

  • Theme #3 – Be thorough with your Application: ISB lays significant emphasis on an applicant’s profile. This includes your academic history, your professional work experiences and your extra-curricular activities. During your interview preparation, go through every line of your application, prepare to defend the quantitative impact of your work and also prepare to walk the interviewers through your job responsibilities which is important to establish credibility of what you have mentioned in your application form. 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 application form if you cannot back it up.
  • 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 ISB to secure a shortlist from such companies will bode well with the interview panel

  • 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.

To summarize this, given below are the top 10 most commonly asked questions in the ISB PGP interview. 

ISB Interview Questions

  1. Tell us something about yourself
  2. Tell us something about yourself which is not in your application
  3. What are your biggest strengths?
  4. What are your weaknesses / areas of improvement?
  5. What is your most significant achievement till date?
  6. What is the most challenging situation you have faced and how did you overcome it?
  7. Why MBA / PGP? (& why now in your career?)
  8. Why ISB?
  9. Apart from ISB, which schools have you applied to?
  10. Where do you see yourself 5 / 10 years down the line? How will the ISB PGP help achieve that?

Overall, ensure that you prepare well, around the 5 themes and the 10 questions given above. Prepare your storyline / talking points for each of the above. As broad guides, remember the following points:

  • Your answers should be concise – 60 to 90 seconds max. No one is interested in a long, boring story. If someone needs details, they will ask for it 
  • Answers in bullet points are preferred. Mention 3 points and explain them. This reflects a structured thought process

While getting that interview call seems like you are almost there, it’s not that simple. As mentioned before, 2 out of 3 people, who make it to the interviews, do NOT make it to ISB. Hence, it is extremely important for one to prepare well and leave a lasting impression on the interviewer. While you may there is a lot of “gyaan” on what to do, 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 / video 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: 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. An interviewer almost always asks if the candidate has any questions. 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!

To give you a better sense of the ISB interview, I am sharing my ISB interview experience here:

ISB Interview experience

ISB interviews are usually conducted in a 5-star hotel in the city and the venue for mine was no different. However, it was 35 kms from my house and slotted first up (10 AM) on a Saturday morning. Hence, I woke up early and started from home well in time, reaching the venue 30 mins prior to schedule.

While I waited in the lobby, other aspirants, sharply dressed up, started coming in. Some started next / across me and we started having conversations (trying to calm ourselves down on the big day !). Usual discussions around “when did you get the call”, “Hyderabad OR Mohali”, “Campus exchange”, “international exchange”, “electives”, etc. occupied the next 15 minutes. Then we were asked to write a short “write up” on a one-word topic (mine was “Blue”).

I got down to writing, knowing that I could be called for the interview anytime as the clocked ticked and approached 10 !
Within 10 minutes, I was asked to go to the 15th floor where the panel would be waiting for me. The panel comprised 3 ISB alumni. Some other panels had a different composition (e.g. 2 alumni + 1 admissions committee member). However, of late, ISB has made it mandatory that all interview panels would have ONLY ISB ALUMNI.

I greeted the panel and they asked me to take a seat. Then began the Q&A ! excerpts of which are given below:

  • Q1: Tell us more about yourself: I was well prepared so it went well and helped me get “in the zone”. This question is more to check your confidence and communication skills as they already know a lot about you from your application.
  • Q2: Why MBA? Short-term and long-term career goals?: Was well prepared, answered well. The panel seemed happy with the answer.
  • Q3: Why ISB?: Was well prepared, answered well touching upon the class diversity, the alumni network, the faculty, etc. The panel was satisfied with my answer.
  • Q4: What is your most significant achievement till date?: Since I had spoken about my career so far in the first two answers, I asked them if I could talk about something outside of work, which they were fine with. I then spoke about an achievement from my school days (which was > 10 years ago) but I picked that since it was the most significant one. They cross-questioned me but eventually seemed fine with the answer.
  • Q5: Any questions for us?: I was rather surprised because I knew that this is usually the last question. I asked about the electives bidding process which they answered. That ended the interview and I was pretty relieved.

Overall, it lasted for about 20 minutes which is unusual. Interviews usually last 30 minutes (even 45, when the panel is not completely sure of your candidature). Short interviews usually happen when the panel is clear on what they want to recommend. Since it was “short & sweet”, I was pretty confident of my chances.

The author is Co-Founder, Strategy4GMAT and an ISB alumnus. Views are personal.

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