Hitchhiker’s Guide to cracking the WIMWI — Final Section

I was flabbergasted upon receiving the most coveted B-school call in the country. With a renewed verve, I began the Interview prep with all guns blazing! In the next few days, I received a call from IIM B and L but surprisingly, not from IIM I and K. It is indeed hard to believe how one could receive a call from A and B but not from C, I, and K. But, there’s proper reasoning behind this unexpected phenomenon that lies in the disparate shortlisting criteria followed by each IIM. I won’t dig deep into it, but here’s a quick tip:

Tip #14 — Go through the individual shortlisting criteria of each B-school in your target list to estimate the probability of an interview call from each of them.

The most arduous part of preparing for an MBA interview is to consolidate the seemingly boundless stretches of the study areas that need to be covered before stepping into the hellish interview room. It is immensely crucial to approach the interview prep systematically as it is pretty common to get engulfed by the overwhelming quagmire of the multitudinous volumes of interview questions that have been asked from the candidates in the past.

First things first, it is crucial to “Know Thyself” in and out as the very step in your Interview preparation journey. Knowing Thyself is all about ‘You’ as an individual, right from your childhood till the moment you set foot in the interview room.

To begin, create a new Google/Word Document titled: This document will contain everything you have achieved or been through in your life, jotted down in a detailed and comprehensive textual form. Classify the document into broad heads, namely childhood, education, professional experience, achievements, and extracurricular activities.

Preparing this document will need immense introspection, and trust me, the more you introspect, the better you will uncover yourself as an individual. You ought to be thorough with each and every event of your life, as it forms the key to cracking the PIs. Take a solid 2–3 days to prepare your initial draft. Once done, start traversing through each point in your draft and compose another document named: As the name suggests, this document should contain a list of questions that could be framed around your life experiences.

With the baseline in place, break down the areas of your interview prep broadly into the following five paradigms:

Paradigm #1 — Behavioral/HR Questions

This paradigm is one of the most important ones, especially if you’re someone with low work experience. Preparing for behavioral questions gives your profile a unique storyline and personality that you wish to present to the interviewers. Preparing the behavioral questions requires a lot of introspection and constant refinement from time to time. Refer to this document for a list of commonly asked behavioral questions in an MBA interview. This is, in no way, an exhaustive list, but preparing well for these questions would help you design a comprehensive narrative for your candidature. Be very thorough and clear with the narrative that you have prepared for your profile, make sure the narrative is logically sound and coherent, and stick to it throughout the interview. On that note, it is very important that you do not overdo it by memorizing the answers to these questions or preparing excessively, as it can very well play against your favor during the interview. Moreover, always be ready with the proper reasoning behind everything you talk about in the interview.

At this point, I’d like to take a a jab at “THE MOST” dreaded MBA interview question:

Why MBA?

Honestly speaking, I would have created over 20 evolved versions of the answer to this one question until it was finalized. The reason this question is so important is that it is pivotal for an aspirant to have complete clarity behind their reasoning for pursuing an MBA, so they can make the most of their crunched time at the campus, and carve out a brilliant career for themselves. MBA is not an end goal but a means to achieve the career goals that an individual aspires for. Hence, the essence of the “Why MBA” answer lies in logically arriving at that link, that augments your current status to the one you wish to climb to in the future. Therefore, once you have identified your short and long-term career ambitions, think of an MBA as the path that connects you there, and that is supposed to be your “Why MBA” answer.

Paradigm #2 — Background specific Questions

This paradigm deals with questions about your personal background. This would include your knowledge of history, geography, culture, news, and politics of the cities and states you associate yourself with. It would also include a discussion around the extracurricular and cocurricular activities you’ve performed in your school and college. Furthermore, if you happen to mention a hobby in the interview, be prepared to answer in-depth questions about it too.

Paradigm #3 — Academic Knowledge

No matter how job-oriented your motives are behind pursuing an MBA, the program is in itself academic in nature. Even the interview panel, in most B-schools, are essentially professors/faculty members who themselves are from academia. Hence, your academic knowledge matters to them. That said, be thorough with all the major subject areas of your Undergrad studies and revise your concepts. If you happen to be someone with low work experience, you should definitely be prepared to be tested on your academics.

Paradigm #4 — Work Experience

In all probability, this paradigm will span at least over 30% of your entire interview time with any B-school you plan to appear for. Hence, I cannot stress enough how important this area of preparation is. The Work experience paradigm deals with anything and everything you do at your current and prior workplace(s). You must be thorough with the impact of your work, the business model of the company you work with, the major players in the current business landscape, notable personalities in the company, and the latest news and developments in the company as well as the business domain of your company at large.

Paradigm #5 — Current Affairs

As the name suggests, this paradigm of preparation revolves around the knowledge of the major news and happenings in the country as well as around the world. While your knowledge about the latest events is important, what’s more important is your opinion of the events. For instance, while knowing about the proceedings regarding the three controversial farm laws are important, you are expected to provide your well-reasoned opinion on their adoption if asked so. Hence, follow the current news closely for gaining knowledge and read newspapers and editorials for building opinions. Even if you’re someone who stays out of touch with current affairs, try gaining as much knowledge as you can, but these questions are not make-or-break from the interviewer’s perspective. Moreover, it is advisable to be well-versed with popular economic concepts like Repo rate, inflation, business cycles, etc.

While these paradigms do not subsume each and everything that you might be questioned about in the interview, preparing along these lines would prepare you well for over 80% of the topics that would appear in your interview discussion. It is crucial for you to understand the interviewer’s expectations of you as an MBA aspirant. While you’re not expected to be an omniscient wizard, you’re expected to be a well-informed individual and professional who is aware of oneself and the important things happening in the ecosystem you’re a part of. Do not shy away from appearing for mock interviews, either with your GD-PI mentor or your friends who have already been through the process. Depending on your level of preparation, I suggest doing 3–10 mock interviews before appearing for the real thing.

MBA interview prep is a limitless topic and I could go on and on with my about it, but I’ve tried to holistically consolidate all the important aspects of it in a crisp manner. Before I pivot toward the final segment of the guide, here’s a tip.

Tip #15 — While it is crucial to be well-prepared for all the various paradigms of possible interview questions, refrain from over-preparing and cramming the answers. Keep revising your answers and make sure they flow naturally in your responses. Always remember, Confidence is the Key!

I was pretty confident with my interview prep this time. The mock interviews I did with IMS, Shreyas, and Tejas went well. It was time to surf the real waters now. The interviews were conducted in an online mode during my time owing to the pandemic.

The first interview was with IIM Lucknow. Contrary to the norm, my interview with IIML was pretty chill and short. The panelists were two middle-aged professors who questioned me about the mythological history and significance of Sangam, as I was staying in Prayagraj during that time. While I had decent knowledge about the modern history of Prayagraj, I knew little about the concept of Samudra-manthan, which was the answer being expected of me. Further, I was questioned a bit on my professional and educational background.

The second interview was with IIM Bangalore, the Institute I had been targeting for a long time. Historically, IIMB interviews are said to be very in-depth and arduous, and mine was no different. The panel consisted of a very senior professor, a middle-aged one, and an IIMB alumnus. I was heavily questioned around my career aspirations, work profile, and my reason for pursuing an MBA. All these questions stemmed directly or indirectly from the SOP I had written for IIMB. The interview was a long and tough one that went for about 45 minutes.

The final one was the most coveted Well-known Institute of Management in Western India, for which I had to travel to Delhi. The interview was conducted at a video conferencing center in Connaught Place. I was scheduled for the morning batch, which consisted of about 12 candidates. The process began at 9AM sharp with the 20-minute long AWT. The topic was to analyze a scenario where an engineering student named Ashish wishes to pursue further studies right after his graduation, whereas his father wants him to gain some work experience before taking a decision around his further education. A few points were given in favor of both sides of the argument. Our answer sheets were collected and the interviews began shortly. I was third in line for the interview.

We were provided with light breakfast as we waited for our turns. I interacted with a few candidates there, all of whom were mostly from IITs. I began thinking, being a shortlist among the CAT toppers, if I had to etch out my nameplate at one of the CRs in IIMA, I had no choice but to ace the interview. Historically, IIMA interviews are supposed to be as random as they can get. So, there’s not much point anticipating anything. I was snapped out of my musing as my name was called.

I took a sip of water, and thanked the invigilator there who wished me luck. I entered the VC room and found two professors on separate TV screens, and another screen where I could see myself vividly. I sat in front of a table where I could find a pen and plain paper along with a bowl of toffees.Toffees are a mystical artifact of the IIM interview room. It is said that if you’re offered a toffee by the panelists at the end of the interview, chances are you will be selected. Although, this is not a rule at all, as there have been plenty of cases which are exceptions to this phenomenon.

The panel included two male professors, one in his 50s(P1) and the other in his 40s(P2). The elder professor seemed friendlier and began with the pleasantries. The interview began:

P1: What do you do at your firm? Which project did you work on before the current one? What is your firm’s revenue model? How would you explain the AdTech business model to a layman? Who are the major competitors of your firm?

A. Answered all the above.

P1: Why do I automatically see ads of products I searched online on Tata Cliq(say), on different platforms like Facebook? Isn’t this a breach of User Privacy?

A: Talked about contextual advertising and slashing of third-party cookies by Google Chrome to stop contextual targeting online.

P1: Mention a few learnings you got from your work experience of 3+ years.

A. Tech & Business knowledge. Task prioritizing and time management. Work etiquettes and widening perspectives.

P2: What are the major challenges to contact tracing in terms of the Covid Pandemic?

A. Answered mentioning the Arogya Setu app initiative by the GoI.

P2: Should location monitoring be considered a privacy breach? Suggest some new technological measures that the Government can take in containing the rising corona cases.

A. Got a little stuck with these. Mentioned redesigning containment zones using heatmaps of corona cases. The interviewer was not very convinced.

P2: What type of data do you work on at your firm? Are you using statistics for data transformations?

A. Told I’m involved with data processing and not data analytics. Know very basic Statistics only.

P2: What are standard errors?

A. Don’t know, Sir.

P2: Argument: Given a mean of the height of 100 boys at IIMA as 5ft. 7 in. and a mean height of 100 girls at IIMA as 5ft. 4in. I made a conclusion that boys at IIMA are 4 inches taller than girls. What is your take on this?

A. Told that we should also be considering the distribution of heights before making the conclusion. Standard Deviation might help.

P1: Explain your take on the AWT about Ashish’s decision. Have you gone by a similar logic in your own life while making decisions for JEE or MBA?

A. Answered.

P1: What are your hobbies?

A. Table Tennis and Fiction writing.

P1: What type of fiction do you write? What is contemporary fiction? How do you get inspiration for your stories?

A. Answered all the above.

The P1 interviewer seemed satisfied with my answers. He thanked me for the discussion and asked me to take a toffee before leaving the interview room.

I was satisfied with my IIMA interview, as I had confidently answered over 90% of the questions. I felt a huge load off my mind as I was done with all the prep and all the interviews. I visited my undergrad friend Raju that evening who lived in Delhi. That was a fun reunion week, and I met my other friends Priyanshu, Tejas, and Samuarth there as well. What followed next was a long spell of excruciating wait for the final results and everyday glimpses of the Pagalguy discussion forums. The results were awfully late that year. It was the evening of May 14, 2021, exactly a year from now, when I’m drafting this post that the Pagalguy threads and Telegram groups lit up with an influx of heavy traffic. I prayed to God, opened the IIMA official website on my laptop, and logged in to access the final results.

The felicity of that moment is beyond my capacity to capture in words.

Hitchhiking my way through a bittersweet period of about 18 months, against all odds, I finally carved my rightful place amidst the legendary Red Brick Walls. I cracked the WIMWI, the college of every CAT aspirant’s dream.

I end this guide with a final tip.

Never stop believing in yourself. Never stop Dreaming!

The End.

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A daydreamer, articulating his virtual primer of intriguing fictional stories borne out of imagination and longing.

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Aditya Gupta

Aditya Gupta

A daydreamer, articulating his virtual primer of intriguing fictional stories borne out of imagination and longing.

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