Mastering the PGP/PGPX Interview: A Comprehensive Debrief

Effective coaching for MBA interviews demands comprehensive handholding and knowledge of MBA admissions that can significantly enhance your performance in these interviews. Several of the alumni interviewers you collaborate with while preparing for PGP interviews may not possess strong coaching skills specifically tailored to MBA admissions interviews. This distinction is what sets apart applicants who excel in MBA interviews from those who perform at a mediocre level, despite interview preparation with alumni experts.

I’ve thoroughly studied the most effective approaches to prepare my applicants for PGP interviews, spanning a wide age range from 21 to 37. Here are my top three tips that can genuinely alter the way the admissions committee perceives you during an interview.

1. Strategize your interview to impress, not just answer the questions (aka Don’t follow the crowd.)

Imagine yourself at a cocktail party hosted by the ISB admissions committee, surrounded by accomplished and well-rounded guests. Your influential hosts, the admissions panel, are likely to remember only a select few among the attendees. In this scenario, would you kick off your introduction by reciting a list of your promotions and academic achievements?

If your introduction typically begins with something like, 

I am an Electrical Engineer by profession, and I did my undergrad from…,

 it might not be the most engaging approach from an interviewer’s perspective.

Such an introduction could potentially reduce the conversation to a competition for the title of the best engineer or IT specialist in the MBA cohort. Instead, consider infusing personal elements into your responses.

Here’s an example from one of my 22-year-old ISB PGP applicant (and admit) who had barely completed two years of work experience (not an EEO):

I am a fifth-generation farmer and the first-generation engineer in my family. Growing up, when I saw my grandfather set up a battery manufacturing plant in our village to address electricity outages in the area, I was deeply inspired by the profound impact that engineering can have on improving lives and decided to build my career as an engineer…

With an introduction like this, any skilled interviewer would be eager to delve further into your life, relationships, and experiences. By connecting your journey to family dynamics, cultural context, or sources of inspiration, you provide interviewers with a richer understanding of who you are. Ultimately, this approach can make them genuinely invested in your success.

2. Dont underprepare your goals narrative or industry insights

More than half of the rejections in PGP programs can be attributed to poorly articulated goals. Additionally, the goals essay serves a secondary purpose: it provides insights into your personal qualities, distinctive experiences, values, and traits that set you apart.

MBA admissions committees are drawn to applicants who exhibit genuine passion for their career objectives. It’s only human to respond to enthusiasm. Projecting a well-defined reason for the MBA makes your enthusiasm much more credible and personal.

For instance, stating, 

I need PGP to advance my career and broaden my skills

 lacks the same level of enthusiasm as the following example:

I’ve recognized that my strong technical skills as a Computer Science Engineer are ideally suited for Product Management roles. However, in my interactions with business development teams at Company X, I’ve often encountered gaps in my understanding of the macro and microeconomic forces that shape businesses. To excel in establishing product-market fit, I realize the need for a comprehensive PGP experience that will enable me to emerge as a Product leader equipped with greater business acumen and a deep understanding of market dynamics. With ABC school’s strong presence in the Indian tech industry, I eagerly anticipate leveraging its network through treks and the XYZ leadership development program to gain immersive exposure to startups in the LMN sector and learn from the industry’s best.

An inability to define your goals effectively not only impacts your application but also hinders your ability to explain why a particular B School is the perfect fit for you. The crucial connection between your goals and the school’s resources that can support them becomes missing.

Confidently and articulately answering questions about your goals is possible only when you’ve engaged with professionals in your target industry and role, thoroughly examined the skills needed, and assessed future growth prospects in the context of your long-term aspirations. Discuss the specific companies you aspire to work for, your evolving roles and responsibilities, and the nuanced details of the projects that will demonstrate your expertise. Prepare to impress the interview panel with your well-researched insights about a particular company and your informed perspectives on current industry developments.

Industry Insights

MBA applicants should demonstrate a good understanding of the industry relevant to their prior work experience, career goals and the sectors they are interested in. Demonstrating industry knowledge during an MBA interview can make you a more attractive candidate. Here are some key industry insights applicants could leverage during the interviews (you need not knwo all, but could surely use a few during your discussions):

1.Market trends: stay abreast of current market trends, including growth areas, emerging markets, and potential upheavals. Discuss how these trends could impact the industry you are targeting.

2.Competitor Landscape: Understand the key players in the industry, their market share, and their competitive strategies. Identify key competitors and their strengths and weaknesses.

3.Regulatory Environment: know the basic regulatory environment affecting the industry. Discuss any recent regulatory changes or challenges facing the sector.

4.Technological Advances: Highlight technological advances that are relevant to your industry. Explain how these innovations are driving change and creating new opportunities.

5.Consumer Behavior: Know your target audience or customer base. Understand consumer preferences and behaviors and how they might evolve.

6.Global perspective: Consider the global reach of the industry. Discuss international markets, expansion strategies, and potential challenges related to globalization.

7.Supply Chain and Logistics: If applicable, demonstrate knowledge of supply chain and logistics management in your industry. Discuss strategies for efficiency and cost reduction.

8.Sustainability and ESG: Address environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues if relevant to your industry. Many industries are increasingly focused on sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

9.Financial Performance: understand key financial ratios and performance indicators relevant to your industry. Discuss profitability, growth, and financial challenges.

10.Industry Challenges: Be prepared to discuss challenges specific to your chosen industry. This may include topics such as skills shortages, cybersecurity threats, or changing customer expectations.

11.Mergers and acquisitions: If applicable, explain recent mergers, acquisitions, or partnerships in the industry. Explain how these developments are impacting the competitive landscape.

12.Leaders and Influencers: name prominent leaders, influencers, or thought leaders in your industry. Mention how their work has influenced your career goals or perspective.

13.Emerging Opportunities: Highlight emerging opportunities or niche areas within your industry that you find exciting and where you see growth potential.

14.Research companies: If you are applying to a specific business school, research their connections to your target industry. Mention relevant partnerships, alumni success stories, or resources they offer.

15.Personal Relevance: Finally, connect your industry knowledge to your personal and professional goals. Explain how your MBA education aligns with industry trends and enables you to make a significant contribution.

3. Anticipate and Prepare Yourself for Analytical ‘Trick’ Questions

In the IIM A PGP interviews, my applicants have been asked unexpected questions ranging from the formula for electrical equations to trigonometry.

The objective of the trick questions is to see how the applicants respond to something they may have seen back in their careers or education under pressure situations. In any case, if you work with a coach who understands the thought process of an MBA interviewer, about 80% of the trick questions can be well prepared for.

At ISB, not every PGP interview will involve a case study or estimation question, however, if you are a relatively young applicant with about 2 to 3 years of work experience, there is a good chance that you will be asked a case-based question about your professional background or future aspirations. This is an opportune time to demonstrate both your industry knowledge and maturity to make a positive impression on the panel.

As an example, one of my admitted mentees who barely completed 2 years of work experience when he applied to ISB (not an EEO) was asked a case study on designing the warehouse inbound process. The applicant laid out a clear thought process as this type of question was discussed during our mock interviews. It is best to anticipate the questions after discussing them with an expert and prepare for everything and anything!

Regardless of your experience, the panel may ask you a guesstimate or a case question to observe your reasoning process. Take this challenge in stride and hold your ground firm as you walk the panel through your thoughts and ideas.

4. Anticipate and prepare a repository of situational and personality questions and Extra Curricular

The interview panel will most likely ask you situational questions to assess your leadership and team-building potential and to see how you respond to pressure situations at work.

Leadership in an MBA interview simply means that you take personal responsibility for something in a group situation to achieve a positive result that would not have happened without you.

Leadership questions go something like this: “Tell us about a situation where you had a conflict at work. How did you resolve it?” or “How did you get a foothold in a French team without speaking the language fluently?”

Here are some ideas you could use to embellish your repository of situational or leadership stories. You may use frameworks like STAR or CARL to structure better

1. Were the team’s goals clearly defined from the start, or were they partially undefined?
2. How did you go about setting the team’s goals? What communication strategies did you use?
3. What specific methods did you use to ensure the project went as expected?
4. What steps did you take when the project got out of hand?
5. Do you recall moments when you intentionally changed your leadership style to deal more effectively with people/obstacles? How did you determine your approach and did it work?
6. Did you have to “work your way up” to the project and get supervisors to adopt your methods. How did you secure acceptance? Why did you believe your methods worked?
7. What type of interpersonal communication skill proved most effective for you? And why?
8. What tactics did you use to motivate people?
9. What aspect of your personality or leadership skills would you change during this project if you could? (reflect on weaknesses or failures.)

Hobbies & Extracurricular

You may not always be asked about your hobbies and extracurricular activities. In that case, you can always take the initiative to steer the conversation toward something that will enlighten the panel.

I always advise applicants, 

“Think about what you want to tell the panel about yourself, your X-factor. Do not wait to be asked pertinent questions. Take control and direct the discourse! No one on the panel wants to have a boring conversation, so make a good impression by being spontaneous and exciting. “

How else would you expect to be able to speak about your rise in the ranks of the local Toastmasters, your skydiving or mountaineering adventures, the book fundraiser you organized in your hometown, or the tailoring business you started to supplement your family’s income? Pocket all the potential gain from this opportunity to interview for PGP.

The most important aspect of preparation is to practice interviewing! Working with an experienced MBA admissions interview coach can significantly increase your readiness for admissions interviews. With his or her experience, you can ensure that you understand what the panels are looking for, and you can formulate tailored responses that highlight your potential.

Reach out for a free profile assessment and sign up for comprehensive interview preparation or end to end guidance on B School applications.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Your Comment*




    × Chat With Us