Friday, January 23, 2004

Interview Prep

Q)Tell us something about yourself that is not present in your application?

Picked it up from a email
I think this is largely a "Why should ISB take you over somone else?"

*If you have an IT or Engineering background, I would not dwelve on
your assignment because chances are majority applicants with same
background have done something similar.

*You may want to focus on anextracurricular. Focus not so much on the activity per se but what it taught you. Interviewers want to know what you learnt from the activity and how you matured or grew as a result of it.

*Talk about failure if need be, but make sure you conclude the failure with a positive remark.

In a nutshell, focus on something, personal or professional, that distinguishes you from others and gives the interviewer insight into your character. Not all Leaders are successful, but they learn from their mistakes and have character.

Interview Prep

Why do B-Schools ask the question -"Why MBA" ?
A business school uses the interview sessions to reinforce and
reconfirm the impression they have formed after reading through the
application material. Thus when they ask "Why MBA?" They
already know the answer but they want to confirm that you are really
clear about the things you have written.

What else?
They can also use the session to iron out the doubts they have about
the logic in the essays or other part of the application. Suppose the
committee finds that a candidate has a great academic record, good
GMAT and persuasive essays but they see that although the candidate
passed out of college 7 years ago yet he has just 5 years of work ex.
In this case the committee would look out for an explanation about
how this could happen.

Lastly but most importantly they would look whether the candidate has
a matured personality. Does he handle tight situations gracefully? Is
he instantaneous in his thoughts? Are the ideas well structured and
presented? Is he overly simplistic or complicated in his ideas? Does
he think before he talks?

All the questions asked by the interview committee broadly fall in these three groups.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

How to prepare for ur Interview (ISB)

This email was posted by Kashyap Kompella, a ISB-04 passout.

Okay, thru the academics,GMAT, work-ex/resume, essays, awards et al you told a lot about yourself to the adcomm.So, they have a reasonable idea about you ( as much as it is possible to know about a person thru these data-points)

Now, what else do you want them to know about you during the interview?

Pick the top 3 things you absolutely want the adcomm to know and try to get those points across during the course of the interview. Since many others have said the duration was very short - planning this ahead can be useful.

If you are not able to steer the conversation towards the topics you want, you can even use the time at the end of the interview when the adcomm asks if you have any questions to say something like
"I have a few questions for you but before that I want you to know a , b , c"
and then move on to the questions you have for them.

One thing to keep in mind :
Your responses to the questions they ask will depend on whether they have read all your essays, resume etc or not. If they already have read the application thoroughly, they already have the context, so you can briefly re-affirm what you said there and throw in
additional information. If not, then you will have to structure your answers differently.
So during the first few minutes, you may want to get a feel for how much on top of your application they seem to be and go from there.

Also, if you have not sent a CV but just filled in the space in the application form, take a few copies of the CV with you.(I don't know if they themselves ask you to bring copies of the CV
for F2F interview - take them along anyway)

One should also try strive for unity-in-application i.e. the interview should corroborate and
not contradict what you've written in the essays or what you've said to the previous questions.
Naturally, a thorough reading of the application essays and a resume review should be done and think about the responses to anticipated questions

Before the interview, I did a bit of introspection and research on the for the possible questions from the essays etc. In addition to those here is a list of questions I jotted down for my interview preparation.

-Tell me about yourself?
-Can you walk me thru your resume?
-What are your strengths?
-What are your weaknesses?
-What are your career goals, and how will our program help you achieve them?
-How can/What can you contribute to the ISB experience ?
-Why do you want an MBA? Why now? Why ISB?
-What others schools are you applying?
-What would you do if you don't get in?
-What are your expectations from the course?
-What are your short-term and long-term goals?
-Where do you see yourself in 5/10/20 years?
-What do you like/dislike about your job?
-Tell me about a failure situation and what you learned from it.
-Tell me about an ethical dilemma you faced and how you resolved it.
-Tell me about a difficult team situation and how you dealt with.
-Tell me about a leadership role you played
-Whats your working style?
-Do you work well in teams or individually?
-What are your leisure activities/Hobbies?
-What has been your biggest achievement so far?
-What kind of manager are you?
-How would your colleagues describe you?
-How would your managers describe you?

Plan your responses two-three levels deep i.e responses to questions that arise based on the answers you give. (Example : Q.What is your hobby? A.Reading Fiction. Possible questions: Why? What do you read? What are fav. books/authors? Why? etc)

In addition, questions based on current affairs, trends in your field etc.

If your performance in acads has yo-yoed, think about how you are going to handle questions on that.

They seem to be throwing this at IT types - How are you different from similar IT male wolves? (I personally think this is oxymoronic - similar & different? but they want to know how you stand out)

I tend to get better with practice - if you are like that too - you may want to practice a few mock sessions with friends,family etc.

Also, think about a few intelligent questions you may want to ask them.

A few notes on Why ISB?
I guess a majority are going to say the same : Good faculy, latest curriculum, big corporate support, decent value for money etc. Well, you can score a few points by going beyond the obvious. I decided to pretend I had a deep knowledge of the program and know what I am
getting myself into etc. You'll have to decide what works - do a bit of research on the prof.s in your interest-areas and tell them how it fits in with your goals.

Your goal should be to play to your strengths.For example, if you have worked in a very big firm - highlight the prestige etc.If you worked for a start-up, tell them how you get to wear a lot
more hats in a small firm than in a bigger firm.If the start-up you worked for tanked, tell them what are the lessons learnt from the failure etc.

There have been friendly interviews and ones where they tried to stress you out.
Be prepared for both.

Despite all the planning, it may not go according to script - but if you prepare well and are satisfied that you gave your best shot - you can atleast sleep in peace.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Learning from Failure.

Q) I am applying to a school which is asking for a failure essay. Now the only failure I remember is the one subject I failed in my B.Tech due to certain reasons.Otherwise I have an OK academic record. So will it reflect badly on my academics ? Should I write some other imaginary failure ?

* Remember you are applying for an MBA education where your peers are going to have an avg work ex of 5-6 years. Some from middle management (maybe even more) level. For them 'failure' is more related to failure at work.There is every chance that these professional have forgotten that they had failed a course during their school days!!
* B schools like ISB want to recruit leaders and make them better leaders!! So as a school, when they are asking you a question about failure they want to understand what leadership potential you exhibited during such times of crisis or when things do not go as per your 'plans' or what did you LEARN from it. Writing about a failed course in your school becos of (say) viral fever ........ What can i infer about u from this. Every student regardless of his 'potential' will face failure if he has severe viral fever!! Moreover what can you say you learnt from this....
* B schools are looking for professionals who by very definition want to succeed in life by learning out of everything they do and that happens to them. They are very focused in their goals and hence everything that is written in the application will have some tangible connection to their goals. Essays are a means to show to the adcomms that 'you' are one such professional. By writing 'imaginary' stuff, the adcomms who are masters of this will just read through it and your credibility will be instantly lost.
* Remember, adcomms consider this very 'inability' to identify your own failure as a 'FAILURE'. So do not fall into that trap.
* Just to help you get started,
a) think about something you were very passionate about but just could not get the desired results becos you overlooked the whole picture
b) Think about a communication gap becos of your assumptions etc that led to a failure
c) Think about a time when you could not make the deadline becos you did not plan in advance
d) Remember something about how you messed up a relationship (professional is better) becos you messed up with the choice of words or flow of thoughts etc

The bottom line is - The failure incident must have a lesson that you have learnt and you are practicing now and which would be very useful in you future business career!!


Regardless of the number of years of work experience you may have. The honesty with which you present your failure(s), along with a candid account of how you are the better for it/them, will demonstrate a level of maturity and self-knowledge that I believe the admissions committee will value.


Well...sombody aiming for ISB got dinged......Had a pretty good profile:GMAT 690 and 3 yrs Intl Work ex.Phew !must have been a terrible situation for him....
This is one of the most painful moments..Believe me, a failure always hurts !
Anyway, this is what the adcom wrote to the fella...

"The Admissions Committee has completed its review of your application for admission to the ISB. Despite your many merits as a candidate, I regret to inform you that we are not able to offer a place in the class beginning April 17, 2004.

Several members of our Committee carefully evaluated your application in the following areas: work
experience, career plans, academic, extracurricular and community involvement, leadership and
interpersonal skills. Decisions are based upon an evaluation of your individual strengths and
weaknesses, as well as your qualifications relative to those of our applicant pool.

Please note that this decision is not a reflection of your personal qualities and achievements or your
potential for success in management, but merely a reflection of the limited number of seats in the

I certainly wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours, and thank you for your interest in the


Points to note:
1."qualifications relative to those of our applicant pool" : Apply early...IT guyz have heavy competetion.I have to make an attempt at R1 for ISB.
2.Work experience, career plans, academic, extracurricular and community involvement, leadership and
interpersonal skills ---> Very Very imp....

Friday, January 16, 2004

B-School Essays
Writing essays is one of the most difficult task of of a B-school application process.But there is one big advantage. If u ever feel that you should write an autobiography, the research u do on urself for ur B-School application ur work very simple :)
A good amount of research should be done.Iam reading the Richard Montauk book these days.Have to position myself and then work on marketing myself better.This is tough but I have to do it. The early I start, the easier things would become for me.

Here'z a candidates witty attempt of making himself unique.
Here is another one.



I have my GMAT scheduled for the first week of February. However,there are certain reasons because of which I am cancelling the test. Being an Indian, a loss of 145 $ is a huge amount for me....But if I can get a score of 720+ in my GMAT, this sacrifice would be of some worth..

Anyway, here is some more info for GMAT prep.

Verbal (Excellent site)

All stuff to download
(Click on the weird characters you see. Most of them are working links to files)

Online tests/dnload tests
The chinese pages could be translated by using the translator at

gmattutor and gmat_downloads are good.

Will add more to this page later.

Top B-school coming up in Chennai :

Looks like this school is going to be set on the lines of ISB. Would definitely apply to it. It is supposed to "specialise in offering fast-track high intensive management programmes with a special focus on entrepreneurial strategy and the art of running family businesses." Lets wait and watch.

Reco Letters -Some questions answered.

a)What should be the ideal length for a reco letter? 1 page, 2 page.... !
Doesn’t matter. What is important is everything that is written should be relevant and to the point. If the person recommending you has lots of things to write about you, let it spill over to more than a page.

b) Should the recommender comment on each characterisic of the candidate with examples...Like Leadership skill,sense of humor, managerial capabilities....
Examples will certainly help!

c)Does the educational qualification of the recomender matter?
i) Lets say, if the recommender has had a mgmt degree from IIM will it be a plus ?

Of first importance is the amount of work the recommender has done with you and his suitability to judge you. Yes qualifications do enhance the credibility of the person and his recommendation!

ii)A supervisor/client with technical qualification might comment on the candidates managerial capabilities. Will the adcom take his comments seriously ?

Yes it will. Guess not all managers have a MBA, especially in Indian IT companies J:). Besides, MBA is not a pre-requisite for giving a recommendation.

The reason why I ask this Q is bcoz the adcom would definitely want to know if the candidate can handle the worklad at an MBA course and if the supervisor recommending him has an idea about it.

Good question. The recommender can draw a parallel from your abilities at work, examples where you have performed under pressure and stress. If the recommender is an MBA or say has a good Masters degree, it will help.

c)Will the ISB recco letter format have some boxes where the recommender needs to tick?
It had a matrix last year where your abilities were requested to be ranked on a relative scale. But wonder how this matters?

d)Recco letters - Typed or Neatly handwritten...Which one is better.?
Whatever is preferred by the recommender. If you have a say in it, ask for a neatly typed out one, signed on a letterhead.

e)If I plan to write my essays and reco myself (and get the reco signed by my manager), how important is it to choose a different writing style ?
In other words, can the adcom find out that both have been written by the same individual ...and what if it does find out ?

First of all, get the consent of the recommender before you write the reco on behalf of him. Choosing a different writing style will help, as ideally, these recommendations should be written by the recommender on his own and sent directly to the school without your knowledge of the content of the recommendation. But it is known that some recommenders prefer you writing it thanks to their busy schedule at work. However busy he is, ensure that he reviews it, changes it as he wishes and ensures that he understands what is in the reco. I know isolated cases in the past when the adcomm has taken to effort to contact the recommender for clarifications about the applicant. So do ensure that the recommender knows whats in the reco if he wants you to write it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

What is so special in these B-Schools

Harvard Business School
Harvard is obsessed with leadership, and they are looking for indications of
leadership ability in each of their candidates. This can be in the form of managerial
work experience, extracurricular activities, or initiative taken in other forms. What
is more important than demonstrated leadership is to convince them that you have
the capability for taking on great responsibility and taking charge of a situation in
the future. Harvard is considered the #1 general management school by US News
(and most of the world), so personal well-roundedness is key.

Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
Kellogg believes that teamwork is what builds great organizations, and the ability to
work with, and co-exist with others in the business school environment is their
primary screening criterion. Kellogg is ranked as the #1 school for marketing, so
communications ability and softer skills are more valued here – and expected – than
at other top programs. As was mentioned earlier, the interview has a different nature
at Kellogg than at other schools, and they want to see if you are the Kellogg “type”,
and excited about their program specifically.

MIT Sloan School of Management
Sloan wants to admit a class of innovators. What is most important is to convince
the admissions committee that your career will involve having a great impact on
your organization or industry, and that you have the creativity and courage to take it
on great challenges. Sloan is ranked the #1 school for technology, operations
management and quantitative analysis, so strong business analytical skills are
expected, but communications ability is what distinguishes successful applicants.

Stanford Graduate School of Business
With the highest average GMAT score in the world and the lowest acceptance rate,
Stanford is the most difficult business school to gain admission into on the basis of
numbers alone. That being said, they have a very diverse class mix and a balance
curriculum that emphasizes both hard and soft skills. The key to admission is
convincing the committee that you are bringing something unique to the class.
While Stanford is not ranked #1 in any sub-specialty, it is strong in many areas.

Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
The Wharton School is ranked as the #1 school in finance and accounting, and their
emphasis is definitely on business fundamentals. Although the class has the same
number of years of work experience as at other top programs, the average age
skews a little higher, and thus maturity is definitely valued by the admissions
committee. The admissions committee at Wharton is looking for talented, hardworking
individuals that have achieved a great deal but are not arrogant about it.

Think about it
The cost of applying to a B-School is virtually nothing when compared to the cost of an MBA education. And the cost of the education miniscule when compared with your earning potential over a lifetime (depending on where you get in)
More importantly, it is your life - Your time needed to complete applications,two years in school and a career. So explore all options and maximize your opportunites.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Reco Letters

This guy made it to ISB..His views on whether a reco letter on the letterpad is the right thing or not.

Options in decreasing order of preference:
1. Company letterhead
2. Attaching business card
3. On simple plain paper without a business card

While even (3) is acceptable, try to go for (1) or (2). One of my recommender was reluctant in using the letterhead. I requested him to attach his business card.

I actually told my evaluators; who are all working in the same company as I am in; the following -
1. Do not use the company letterhead for this evaluation
2. Sign on each and every page of the evaluation, including the seal of the envelope
3. Put your official contact info - email-id, phone, address on the evaluation
4. Expect to be contacted by the Ad-Comm

On the cover-letter of my application, I mentioned the same and told the Ad-Comm that if they feel it necessary, they are free to contact the Evaluators. Additionally, I also happened to be talking to one of the Ad-Comm in person, and they validated that this is not an issue at all.

Other tips I can give you are:
1. Essays are usually required as double spaced, but in Word you can set the spacing as 1.9, 1.8 etc. It looks just the same as double spaced, but gives you atleast an extra line or two.

2. Margins are not specified, so I reduce them to about 1 inch on all sides, which still looks good and the essay fits in one page with space to spare.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Books to Read

How to Get Into the Top MBA Programs
by Richard Montauk

If u have loads of questions about B-School application process and have no answers,this is THE book that u should read...Itz got everything from A to Z.

Note: I felt that one must read this book atleast a year before he/she starts applying to a B-school. It helps u plan maximize his chances. (Atleast has helped me improve my chances !)

1pg resume
Words to use in one's resume

Here are a few words that one should use in his resume to demonstrate leadership/management qualities. This definitely will help.


What constitutes a 1pg resume

I read this at the ISB yahoo-groups.Ramki, a student of ISB 2004 has provided some superb inputs on what to write in ur resume.....(This isn't copyright violation....Itz a database of information!)

A one page resume is all about trade offs. I know we all are tempted to put in every little detail, but put yourself in a third person's shoes and look at each and every point in your resume. Critically evaluate each point in terms of how well it is written and whether it conveys anything useful for the person reading it.

Everytime you find something that doesn't not convey anything new to the person reading it, cut it. Even if it was your greatest achievement, a resume is more of a "marketing document" where you put in what the intended reader wants to see.

For example, you may have some amazing java certifications, but whats the use unless I know what difference it made to your work and your company.
Many times, people ask, how do I bring out leadership in my resume, especially when I have not held leadership positions. Holding leadership positions does not convey leadership. I am picking up from a talk given my Dr. Pramath Sinha here at ISB. Leadership is all about how you made a
difference to a situation or a company.
Leadership is not, "I was the captain of my college football team". Leadership is, "Led my college football team to its first victory at the university level tournament in 5 years". To demonstrate leadership, often, we make trade offs, compromises, sacrifices and in the process inspire people to perform.

--Write about difficult situations you were in and how you overcame them.
--Write about how your presence and your work brought about a difference.
--Write about the sacrifices, risks or difficult trade offs you made in life.
Such things will interest the person looking for leadership potential.

Quantify as much as possible, like putting numbers on your performance
("among top 5 in 200" or "Saved Rs.500000 by introducing new processes").

--Cut the unnecessary adjectives. Don't seem as if you are praising yourself. Don't put adjectives on your achievements that have been appreciated by others unless you are quoting something. Make everypoint crisp and to the point.

--Organize your resume, according to what the resume reader wants to see.
For ISB, I would put work experience, academic achievements and extra curricular activities in that order. I wudnt waste space in my contact details at all. I would bullet everything I am writing and not write stories but just pick out the important points.

In short, every point in your resume should be a bombshell, conveying something interesting about you. You will have a line or two, here and there with redundant stuff, but otherwise, every point should pack a punch.
All this easier said than done, but at least it should get you thinking on different lines.

Good luck

I know where to start from now :)...Round of applause for Ramki !!

SP Jain Institute of Management and Research is one of India's premier B-School.Unlike the other Indian B-schools that solely use CAT as the deciding factor for one's selection,SP Jain looks at the entire package...Essays,Workex etc.

Here are the essays questions that were asked this year. I would be filling my form this weekend.
I wrote CAT but the exam was cancelled. :-(. Iam not sure if I will be in India in February to write the exam.

a)What does success mean to you? Success for many used to mean

b)What are your principal interests, if any, outside your academic pursuits and/or career? How have they influenced your personality?

c)Give a detailed description of your career goals and how this course would help you attain them.

d)If you had a choice, what aspect of yourself would you like to change?

e)What do you think are your family values?

f)Describe a situation where you, as an individual, set your sight on a difficult target and saw it through to completion despite obstacles?

g)Give an example of how you worked effectively in a team to accomplish an important task.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

What to do?

I want to do an MBA from an intl B-school. What are the things I have to do.?
Here is my attempt at answering some of the questions.

a)GMAT : Take the GMAT...An exam that tests one's verbal,quantitative and analytical ability. B-schools say that the GMAT score is just one of the criterion for the admission chances.
Personally speaking, it is a very important thing. If u don't have a very good academic record or if u are from a very competetive pool (An Indian IT male competing with the guyz from IITs),a good GMAT would definitely help. The GMAT is a pretty expensive one(225$). And u don't want to retake the exam again and again ....Therefore, prepare hard and give it ur best shot. If the scores are not too low, forget about retaking and work on the other parts of the application. Remeber,One has to give a honest shot at GMAT. I have not taken the exam till now because Iam not convinced yet.

b)Evalutaion Letters/Letter of Recommendations:
Someone who has observed u well and is capable enough to judge ur leadership and managerial skills should do the evaluation. The evaluator need not be a bighsot.What matters is how closely has he interacted with u at work.There is a lot of homework to be done on this front. This is one stage of ur application process wherein u have no control. Planning and selecting the right evalutaor is of prime importance.

c) Essays:
Why an MBA ? Case Study problem. Where do u see urself post MBA? Describe a situation where u demonstrated leadership skills....? Team work demonstrated.
Every B-school will have essays where one has to let his creative juices flow and write essays that will distinguish him/her from others.

d)Extra Curricular Activities /Community Service: Something that will tell that u are a true achiever,that you care about the society.....

e)1 pg resume A marketing document that should be so good that once the adcom reads it ,they should think that u are one of the prospective students.

More later.....I have to do all the above and the thought of it makes me feel dizzy. :) Applying for MBA is a marathon process....One has to be focussed throught the process... :)

Hi.....Itz Jan 11,2003 today ...This blog will continue till the day I get into a B-School.

Why this blog?
If u are from India and aiming for the IIMs there are tons of ppl who would be able to guide you.
But if you are one of those who plan to do an international MBA (or want to get admitted to ISB), there are a lot of things you would have to keep in minde .I had no idea when I started my preperation ....However,over a period of time, I have collected some information about the whole process. The reason for me creating this blog
a) I would be able to put all the important stuff I gather across various websites,yahoo groups into one place.A source of reference for me
b) It would help me track my progress and would always remind me of ultimate goal.
c)Any person new to the application process could get some inputs from here.

Why the name,Eklavya-MBA?
In Indian Mythology,Eklavya was a young boy who had great desire to learn the art of archery.Near his house,Eklavya installed a clay idol of Dronacharya,took self-lessons in the art of bow and arrow and mastered the art.
I aspire to do an MBA from a B-School.There are moments when I feel life would have been simpler if somebody told me how to go about the process of applying to a B-school. This blog is a teacher for me.
Like Eklavya,I would like to master this application process. My ultimate aim for maintaining this blog: To get into all the B-Schools that I apply. They say that life does not offer u many choices. But I would like it to atleast provide me the choice of the B-School that I would like to get into.

Who am I?
An Indian,Male....Yes, from the IT industry.