A few years back, after the first time I had interviewed people from campus, I had written a blog post about the experience. That post had ended up ruffling a few feathers, inviting angry comments from placement committees that it was my duty to make sure I read all the drivel they put out on their CVs and that the process I had followed was wrong.
Today I had an opportunity to be on the “other side” of another process I had gone through over a decade back – IIM admission interviews. This had nothing to do with my teaching position at IIMB; they had called for volunteers from among the alumni to help out with the admissions and I had put up my hand and thus went.
So there were two sessions, in each of which nine applicants were supposed to turn up. As it happened, only five and six respectively turned up, making our job easier. This is surprising since back in my days (2004) for most IIMs, most of the people who had applied would turn up for the interviews. The only IIM interview where I saw low attendance was Kozhikode (it was in Chennai, unlike others which were in Bangalore) where attendance was little over 50%.
The good news is that the group discussion (GD) has been done away with. It never really served much purpose anyway, and the IIMB Admissions Committee probably realised that. It is possible that GDs biased admission in favour of the more vocal and assertive, and I’m not sure if it was a great thing. Anyway, good riddance. The GD has now been replaced by a written test. Applicants are given a question they must comment on in writing. This is to test both their analytical reasoning skills and their written communication. I think that’s a great thing. We didn’t have to evaluate that though .
Coming to the interview itself, after the first few interviews I realised that there is a simple metric the professors use while judging a student. This is essentially a version of the O’Hare test used by investment bankers (banker bankers, not traders) to recruit. In the O’Hare test you evaluate if you’ll be able to get along with the applicant if you are stranded in a long layover with him/her. More generally, in a job interview you are testing if you’ll feel comfortable working with the applicant.
In a B-school admission interview, you evaluate if you want the student in your class. There are certain features that make for good students, and judgments of these vary from teacher to teacher of course. And decisions on whether to admit a particular student is made based primarily on whether the interviewing professor wants to see the student in class.
For example, if the student doesn’t display much energy, you’ll worry if she will participate enough in class. If the candidate is too loud and aggressive, you’ll fear that she may be a disruptive influence in class. If the candidate is stupid, then you know she’ll add no value to the class, and might hold back the class with her stupidity. If you think the candidate cannot work in groups, you’ll worry for her potential classmates who might have to team up with her for projects!
A similar list of examples can be produced for the other side. So essentially it boils down to this one thing – if you are going for an admission interview, you should be able to convince the interviewers that you will be an asset to the class that you’ll be sitting in, and that they should take you for that! Everything else is subordinate to this!
There are no other pertinent observations I can make without a breach of some kind, so I’ll stop here.